Archive for March, 2011

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

March 30, 2011

If it’s almost April, it’s time for a whole host of openers for Washington anglers.

For starters, there’s the April 1 trout opener on numerous Columbia Basin and Okanogan lakes.

Then there’s the April 2-3 statewide youth turkey hunt.

And then the April 7-9 razor clam dig which also brackets the Mariners’ home opener.

It’s followed by the April 9 spring Chinook reopener on the ….

Oh, wait, never mind on that one.

There’s the April 15 start to the general turkey season and some spring bear permit hunts followed the next day by lings out of Neah Bay.

After that there’s another clam dig scheduled April 19-23.

Yep, April’s quite the month for openers for Washington outdoorsmen.

Wait, what’s that? You say I missed one?

Oh, that’s right — only the biggest opener of all, lowland trout!

Here are some great ideas on how to tackle the fishing side, courtesy of WDFW’s Weekender:

NORTH SOUND

Thousands of anglers are gearing up for the lowland lakes trout opener in late April, but many remain focused on the marine areas of Puget Sound, where blackmouth salmon fisheries are still under way.

As March comes to a close, fishing continues to be slow for most anglers targeting blackmouth, said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “For the most part it has been a real grind for anglers fishing Puget Sound,” he said. “But there have been a few bright spots. One angler recently caught a 27-pound hatchery chinook in the San Juan Islands and several participants in the recent Anacortes Salmon Derby did pretty good as well.”

A total of 101 fish were weighed during the Anacortes Salmon Derby, which took place March 26-27. Mike Campion of Bellingham took home the $15,000 grand prize with his 18.96-pound fish. Patrick Barton of Bellingham hooked a 18.74-pound salmon that was good enough for second place and $5,000, and Brett Engholm of Bellingham was awarded $2,500 for his third-place fish, which weighed in at 18.44 pounds.

“While anglers definitely have to put in some time on the water, it can be worth it for an opportunity to catch a large blackmouth,” Thiesfeld said.

Anglers fishing marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon. Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 9 is open only through April 15, while Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is already closed to salmon fishing.

Freshwater anglers looking to cast for trout will soon have numerous lakes to choose from. The lowland lakes trout season gets under way April 30, when many lakes – stocked with thousands of legal-sized trout – will open for fishing. Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on WDFW’s website.

Anglers should note that the halibut season gets under way in May. The 2011 recreational halibut seasons approved for Washington’s marine areas are:

* Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 will open May 5, three days a week, Thursday through Saturday until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or until July 17. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 5 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept.30, whichever occurs first. The 2011 catch quota is 15,418 pounds.
* South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores): Marine Area 2 will open on May 1, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays. During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open Sunday only (May 22). Beginning the following week the fishery will resume the Sunday, Tuesday structure until the quota is reached. The northern nearshore area will be open seven days per week, until the quota is reached. The 2011 catch quota is 43,500 pounds.
* North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 12, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 21. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen the week of June 2. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 16. The 2011 catch quota is 108,792 pounds.
* Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles, Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open May 5 through May 29. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 26 through June 18. These fisheries will be open three days a week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 2011 combined catch quota for these areas is 58,155 pounds.

All areas that will be open to halibut fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, a possession limit of one fish while on the vessel, and a possession limit of two fish in any form once the angler is on the shore.

Halibut fishing will remain closed in marine areas 11 (Tacoma) and 13 (southern Puget Sound) to protect three species of rockfish listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

April will see the traditional opening of the statewide lowland lakes trout fishing season, the expansion of lingcod fishing on the north coast and two proposed razor-clam digs on ocean beaches.

If marine toxin tests are favorable, WDFW will proceed with a razor-clam dig in early April at Long Beach and Twin Harbors. Tentative opening dates and morning low tides:

* April 7 (Thursday), 9:37 a.m. (0.1 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors
* April 8 (Friday), 10:19 a.m., (0.2 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors
* April 9 (Saturday), 11:07 a.m. (0.4 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors

Later in April, razor clammers could have another opportunity. Tentative opening dates and low tides for that dig are:

* April 19 (Tuesday), 8:07 a.m. (-1.8 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors
* April 20 (Wednesday), 8:54 a.m. (-1.7 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors
* April 21 (Thursday), 9:42 a.m. (-1.4 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks
* April 22 (Friday), 10:33 a.m. (-0.8 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks
* April 23 (Saturday), 11:27 a.m. (-0.2 feet); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks (Digging allowed until 1 p.m.)

No digging will be allowed after noon on any of the razor-clam beaches, except on April 23 when digging is allowed until 1 p.m. on the four beaches. Fishery managers agreed to an extra hour of digging April 23 because low tide won’t occur until 11:27 a.m. that morning, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

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 harvester’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

Noting that 2010-11 state fishing licenses expire March 31, Ayres reminds diggers age 15 or older that they must purchase a 2011-12 license to participate in the April openings. Various licenses, ranging from a three-day razor-clam license to a multi-species combination license, are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Also on the coast, the lingcod fishery is under way in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 2 (Westport-Ocean Shores) and 3 (LaPush). Beginning April 16, Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) also will open for lingcod. For more information on lingcod fishing regulations, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

Meanwhile, fishing for blackmouth is still an option. Marine Areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait) are open through April 10, although Marine Areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon), 12 (Hood Canal) and 13 (South Puget Sound) will remain open through April 30.

Anglers fishing marine areas 11 and 12 have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook. Those fishing the Strait of Juan de Fuca – marine areas 5 and 6 – and Marine Area 13 have a daily limit of one salmon.

In freshwater, anglers still have an opportunity to hook wild steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula. As in years past, anglers may retain only one wild steelhead per license year on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Wild steelhead retention continues through April 30 on most of those rivers. The exceptions are the Clearwater, Hoh and Quinault rivers, where wild steelhead retention runs through April 15. Anglers should be aware that portions of the Dickey River closed in mid-March. For more information on steelhead fishing regulations, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

Lake fishing opportunities expand at the end of the month, when the lowland lakes trout season gets under way. Many lakes – stocked with thousands of legal-sized trout – open for fishing April 30. Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on WDFW’s website.

Anglers should note that the halibut season gets under way in May. The 2011 recreational halibut seasons approved for Washington’s marine areas are:

* Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 will open May 5, three days a week, Thursday through Saturday until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or until July 17. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 5 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept.30, whichever occurs first. The 2011 catch quota is 15,418 pounds.
* South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores): Marine Area 2 will open on May 1, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays. During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open Sunday only (May 22). Beginning the following week the fishery will resume the Sunday, Tuesday structure until the quota is reached. The northern nearshore area will be open seven days per week, until the quota is reached. The 2011 catch quota is 43,500 pounds.
* North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 12, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 21. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen the week of June 2. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 16. The 2011 catch quota is 108,792 pounds.
* Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles, Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open May 5 through May 29. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 26 through June 18. These fisheries will be open three days a week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 2011 combined catch quota for these areas is 58,155 pounds.

All areas that will be open to halibut fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, a possession limit of one fish while on the vessel, and a possession limit of two fish in any form once the angler is on the shore.

Halibut fishing will remain closed in marine areas 11 and 13 to protect three species of rockfish listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Marine Area 12 will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.

SOUTHWEST

Anglers have at least through April 4 to catch and keep marked, hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River. Fisheries for shad and hatchery-reared steelhead – which run concurrently with the spring chinook season – are also scheduled to close at the end of the day April 4 on the lower river.

But those fisheries could reopen before an updated run forecast is adopted in late April or early May, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Our first job is to determine how the catch through April 4 stacks up against the harvest guideline,” LeFleur said. “Right now, we are tracking fairly close to our projections, so any additional fishing time in April will probably be fairly limited.”

As of March 27, anglers had caught and kept 3,331 spring chinook below Bonneville Dam, including 2,650 that count against the harvest guideline of 7,750 upriver fish. Rough conditions – including high, turbid water – hindered fishing in many areas, but catch rates rose quickly during the final week of fishing, as more fish arrived in the lower river.

For that reason, LeFleur estimates that three-quarters of the catch will be taken during the last week of March. “Catch rates have increased during the last week and we could come close to reaching the guideline by April 4,” she said.

But lower-river anglers could get another chance to catch spring chinook in May, once fishery managers update the run forecast. While the preseason forecast projected a return of 198,400 upriver fish, the fishery has been managed with a 30 percent “buffer” to guard against overestimating the run.

“If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look toward providing additional days of fishing on the river later in spring,” LeFleur said.

News of any additional fishing days will be announced on the department’s website, the Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500), the Region 5 hotline (360-696-6211*1010) and through local news media.

The fishing area in the lower river extends from Buoy 10 upriver to Rooster Rock for boat anglers, and to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam for bank anglers. When the fishery is open, anglers can retain one marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon as part of their daily limit.

Above Bonneville Dam, the fishery will remain open to chinook retention through April 24 between the Tower Island powerlines below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam.  Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines located about 6 miles below The Dalles Dam through April 24. Anglers fishing above Bonneville Dam can retain up to two marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon or hatchery steelhead as part of their daily limit.

While salmon and steelhead fishing will be closing in the lower Columbia River, WDFW Fish Biologist Joe Hymer has some other suggestions:

* Fish a tributary: This is the time of year when anglers start picking up increasing number of spring chinook in the Cowlitz, Lewis and Kalama rivers. Winter steelhead are still providing lots of action on the Cowlitz – especially near the trout and salmon hatcheries – and summer steelhead are moving into several other tributaries to the lower Columbia River. Note that the lower East Fork Lewis River and the Lower Washougal River open to steelhead fishing April 16. Check the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet for current rules before you go.

* Head upriver: In April, the daily number of spring chinook passing Bonneville Dam usually jumps from hundreds to thousands of fish, which move into the Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day pools and a number of tributaries in between. Wind River, Klickitat River and Drano Lake are all good bets for spring chinook in April. Walleye fishing is also picking up in The Dalles Pool and the John Day Pool.

* Catch some trout: Hundreds of lowland lakes open for trout fishing April 30 throughout the state, drawing tens of thousands of anglers out for their first cast of the year. While most lakes in southwest Washington are open year-round, “opening day” does mark the start of trout fishing in such perennial favorites as Mineral Lake (Lewis County), Swift Reservoir (Skamania County) and the Rowland Lakes (Klickitat County). Meanwhile, fishing is already good for kokanee running 12-15 inches in Merwin Reservior on the North Fork Lewis River.

* Fish for sturgeon: In the last days of March, catch rates for legal-size sturgeon showed a marked improvement in the lower Columbia River below Bonneville Dam. The Dalles and John Day pools are also producing some legal-size fish. Higher flows over Bonneville (to benefit out-migrating juvenile salmon) should further energize sturgeon, who like the water high and dirty. Note, however, that the Sand Island Slough near Rooster Rock will be closed to fishing at least through April 30..

* Dig some razor clams: WDFW will open two morning razor-clam digs in April if marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat. In addition to a dig tentatively scheduled April 7-9 at Long Beach and Twin Harbors, WDFW also hopes to open those beaches for clam digging April 19-23 and two others – Copalis and Mocrocks April 21-23. Final word on those digs will be announced about a week ahead of time, once the results of the marine toxin tests are available. For more information, see the WDFW razor clam webpage.

Anglers and clam diggers over age 14 are reminded that a 2011-12 license is required to participate in any of the April openings, since 2010-11 licenses expire March 31. Licenses ranging from a three-day razor-clam license to a multi-species combination license are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

FAR EASTSIDE

Some of the region’s best fishing will begin at the end of the month with the lowland lakes season opener on April 30, but there’s plenty of good fishing to be had until then.

“Some waters that open in late-April that are well-stocked, such as Badger, Williams, West Medical, Fishtrap, Fish, and Clear lakes, will likely be excellent again,” said Chris Donley, district fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “But until then, try some March 1-opening waters or year-round fisheries.”

Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County is producing 18- to 22-inch rainbow trout on chironomids and other flies, Donley said. Regulations at Coffeepot Lake include is selective gear rules (no bait, artificial flies and lures only, knotless nets), a minimum size limit of 18 inches and daily catch limit of one trout.

Liberty Lake, in eastern Spokane County, “boomed at ice-out,” with catches of brown trout that ran 16 to 25 inches, Donley said. Liberty still has lots of good fishing for both those trout and, as the water warms, some of the earliest yellow perch and crappie.

Downs Lake in southwest Spokane County just received some hatchery “catchable-size” (9 to 12 inches) rainbow trout, and is fishing well for largemouth bass. Downs also has yellow perch and crappie.

Medical Lake, near the town of the same name in southwest Spokane County, has brown and rainbow trout.

Catch-and-release fishing for both rainbow and cutthroat trout at Amber Lake has been “awesome,” Donley said. Amber is under selective gear rules and shifts to a catch-and-keep season on April 30 when the daily limit will be two trout of at least 14 inches. Rainbows with clipped adipose fins caught at Amber must be released even after April 30.

A year-round fishery, Rock Lake in Whitman County, is consistently a good spot for catches of both brown and rainbow trout.

Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, said that year-round Lake Roosevelt keeps producing big rainbows most days, with kokanee on some days. Baker also notes Deer Lake in southern Stevens County, which opened March 1, is finally warming and likely producing some catches of rainbow and lake trout, with bass, crappie, perch catches not far behind.

“Most fishing lakes in the northeast district won’t open until April 30, and even then, some at higher elevation may still have pretty cold water temperatures, if not some ice or snow.” Baker said. “But the usual good producers will be the ones to plan on fishing late in the month.”

In Stevens County, those include Waitts, Loon, Deep, Cedar, and the Little Pend Oreille chain of lakes, plus Potter’s Pond and a few selective gear fisheries such as Bayley, Rocky and Starvation lakes. In Ferry County, traditional favorites opening in late April include Ellen, Davis, Swan and Trout lakes, plus fly-fishing-only Long Lake. Pend Oreille County waters opening April 30 include Diamond, Frater, Big Meadow, North and South Skookum, Marshall and Sacheen lakes.

In the south end of the region, the Tucannon River impoundments, on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area, have been producing nice rainbow catches since the March 1 opener. Area Manager Kari Dingman said Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes are all well-stocked with hatchery trout and slowly warming up as spring advances. Beaver Lake has water depth and vegetation growth issues that preclude it from viable fish stocking this year.

April 18 is the deadline to register for the May 7 Kids’ Fishing Event at Clear Lake in Spokane County. For details on the registration form, see the Youth Fishing 2011 Event Calendar on WDFW’s website.

NORTH-CENTRAL

About three dozen lakes throughout the region open to fishing or shift to catch-and-release on April 1.

The bulk of those fisheries are in the Columbia Basin where WDFW District Fish Biologist Chad Jackson predicts a “fair to good” season, depending as always on weather. All but one are within or adjacent to the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge south of Potholes Reservoir, and over half are planted with either spring and/or fall rainbow trout fry.

“Those who traditionally fish the April 1 opener should note that North and South Teal lakes will not be fishable this year because we treated those lakes last fall to remove carp and other spiny rays to restore the trout fishery,” Jackson said.  “We’ll be stocking them with fingerling rainbows later this spring so fishing should be good for next year’s opener.”

There are lots of other fishing spots to try now and the best may be Dry Falls Lake, the only one of the April 1-opening waters not in or near the refuge. It’s located in Sun Lakes State Park, northeast of Park Lake and west of Coulee City in the north end of Grant County.

Jackson says anglers should expect to catch 13- to 14-inch yearling rainbows with carryovers 18 inches or greater on opening day at Dry Falls Lake.  A total of 10,150 rainbow, 756 tiger trout, and 1,026 brown trout fry were stocked there in 2010.

“Just remember that Dry Falls has a selective gear regulation and a one trout daily bag limit,” Jackson said.  As defined in the Sportfishing Rules Pamphlet, selective gear is only unscented artificial flies or lures with one single-point, barbless hook, bait prohibited, and knotless nets.

Other April 1 opening waters in the Columbia Basin include:

* Upper and Lower Hampton lakes, in Grant County north of Othello on the refuge, stocked with 28,507 and 5,047 rainbow trout fry in the spring, respectively; Lower Hampton also received a trout fry plant of 4,500 in the fall. Lower Hampton should produce 12- to 14-inch yearling trout catches, probably an average of about three per angler; Upper Hampton may have larger fish, but the catch rates will probably again be slow.
* Pillar-Widgeon chain of lakes in Grant County on the refuge, stocked with trout fry in the spring as follows: Pillar – 2,500; Gadwall – 750; Snipe – 600; Shoveler – 750; Cattail – 1,500; Poacher – 150; Lemna – 450; Hourglass – 300; Sago – 300; and Widgeon – 1,650.  Access to this lake chain is just southeast of Soda Lake. Try either the entire chain or at least three or four of the lakes to catch some 12- to 13-inch yearlings and carryover trout in the 18-inch or better range.  Shore fishing is available at most, but consider packing in a float tube to increase chances for success. The best tend to be Widgeon, Sago, and Pillar, but all can produce well.
* Hutchinson and Shiner lakes on the refuge in Adams County with excellent largemouth bass and bluegill fishing.  Only non-motorized boats are allowed.
* Coyote, Bobcat, and Hayes creek ponds, located just south of Morgan and Halfmoon lakes, on the refuge in Adams County.  These ponds are relatively small and shallow, warming up quickly for good largemouth bass fishing
* Deadman Lake located just off McManamon Road next to Halfmoon Lake, on the refuge in Adams County, for bass and other warmwater species fishing.

In the north end of the region, in Okanogan County, a few other fisheries open April 1. Bob Jateff, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist, said Spectacle Lake – nine miles southwest of Tonasket – should be good for rainbow trout in the 10- to 12-inch range. During the month of April, Spectacle will receive up to 800 one- to two-pound triploid rainbows.

Washburn Island Pond, located four miles east of Brewster on the Columbia River, offers largemouth bass and bluegill fishing starting April 1. A Colville tribal license is required if fishing from shore, but not if fishing from a boat. No internal combustion engine boats are allowed, only electric motors.
Jateff notes several Okanogan lakes switch to catch-and-release, selective gear rules, and electric boat motors only on April 1:

* Davis, Cougar, and Campbell lakes, located within the Methow Wildlife Area near Winthrop, with rainbow trout 10 to 12 inches and carryover fish up to 15 inches; small graveled boat launches at all three; could still have some ice during the first part of April.
* Rat Lake, located north of Brewster, with rainbow and brown trout 10 to 12 inches; WDFW access site with concrete boat ramp; should be thawed out by first week in April.
* Big and Little Green lakes, located five miles northwest of Omak, with rainbow trout 10 to 13 inches; WDFW access site on Big Green with concrete boat ramp;  should be thawed out by first week or two in April.

Many more Okanogan County lakes will open April 30 to provide good trout fishing, including:

* Pearrygin Lake, near Winthrop, with rainbows 10 to 12 inches and carryover fish up to 15 inches; up to 500 triploid rainbows (one to two pounds each) will be stocked before the opener; boat launching facilities available at State Park, resort and WDFW access site.
* Conconully Reservoir and Lake, near town of Conconully, with rainbow trout 10 to 12 inches and carryover fish up to 15 inches; boat launching available at State Park and resorts at both lakes.
* Blue Lake, located within the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, with rainbow trout 10 to 16 inches and some brown trout also available; selective gear rules, electric motors only; camping and gravel boat launch sites.
* Big Twin Lake, near Winthrop, with rainbow trout 12 to 16 inches; selective gear rules and electric motors only; resort and WDFW access site with gravel boat launching facilities.
* Chopaka Lake, near Loomis, with rainbow trout 12 to 18 inches; fly fishing only and no boat motors allowed; Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campsites and gravel boat launch.
* Aeneas Lake, near Tonasket, with rainbow trout 12 to 16 inches, brown trout up to 18 inches; fly fishing only and no boat motors allowed; WDFW access site with camping and gravel boat launch.

SOUTH-CENTRAL

This is the time of year that area anglers start thinking seriously about trout, because the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is planting plenty of fish in local waters right now. Thousands of catchable-size trout are scheduled to be planted in Columbia Park Pond, Dalton Lake, Powerline Lake, Quarry Pond, Marmes Lake, and other lakes in April. Many lakes are also being stocked with jumbo trout, weighing over a pound apiece.

“This is a good time to get outdoors and celebrate spring by catching some fish,” said Paul Hoffarth, a fish biologist for the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). ”Thousands of fish around southcentral Washington are just waiting to be caught.”

A complete trout-planting schedule for southcentral lakes and ponds is available on the WDFW website.

Hoffarth reminds anglers over the age of 14 that a 2011-12 fishing license is required to fish for trout and other species after March 31, when 2010-11 licenses expire. Licenses ranging from a three-day razor-clam license to a multi-species combination license are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Most steelhead sport fisheries are now closed in the Columbia and Snake rivers, although a “bank only” fishery adjacent to WDFW’s Ringold Springs Hatchery near the Tri-Cities is open April 1 through April 15. The daily limit is two hatchery steelhead along the Franklin County shoreline from the WDFW marker a quarter-mile downstream from the Ringold irrigation wasteway outlet to the marker a half-mile upstream from Spring Creek.

Meanwhile, spring chinook salmon will be moving into the area in increasing numbers throughout the month of April. On the Columbia River, anglers can keep two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery chinook per day through April 24 from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. The lower Yakima River opens to spring chinook fishing May 1.

“Springers usually start arriving in fishable numbers around the middle of April,” Hoffarth said. “Anglers should keep an eye out for emergency rules that open and close fishing on short notice.” For updates, he recommends checking the department’s website, the Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500) and local news media.

Sturgeon anglers are also advised to stay abreast of new regulations. As of late March, anglers could still catch and keep legal-size sturgeon in Lake Umatilla (John Day Dam to McNary Dam), but that fishery will close as soon as the 500-fish quota for those waters is reached.

Rather catch warm-water fish? Catch rates should continue to improve on area rivers for smallmouth bass, channel catfish and walleye in April right through spring.

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Mack’s Hires Ed Fields As Operations Director

March 30, 2011

(MACK’S LURE COMPANY PRESS RELEASE)

Mack’s Lure Company, a national fishing tackle manufacturer with headquarters in Wenatchee, Washington, is proud to announce that Ed Fields has been appointed as Director of Operations for the company.

Mack’s Lure Company has been producing lures, to include the world famous Wedding Ring Spinner, since 1969.

Asked about his new position Fields states, “For a product to withstand the test of time it needs several key components.  The products need to be able to do what they were designed to do and there needs to be a strong company with dedicated employees supporting their products.”

Fields continues by saying, “Mack’s Lure has been producing lures for over 40 years for two reasons: Number 1: THEY CATCH FISH!  Number 2:  The Company stands behind their products.

“That is exactly why I feel blessed to be here.  As Mack’s Lure moves forward with new and inventive products in the years to come the goals established back in 1969 remain the same:  Quality products – plus service –  equals satisfied customers.  That will never change.  You have my word on it.”

 

50K Triploids Set To Be Stocked In WA Lakes

March 30, 2011

A total of 50,000 triploids will once again be planted in Washington lakes this spring, including nine new ones in Central and Western Washington.

The trout, which average 1 1/2 pounds according to WDFW, will be released mostly in April in the lead-up to opening day, but thousands are also going in in May, including follow-up stockings at a number of Region 4 waters.

All totaled, 108 lakes will be stocked with the voraciously feeding sterile trout.

Here’s the skinny on the fat fighters:

2011 Triploid trout stocking plan
Region 2011 lakes County Surface Acres Current Mgnt. Season & Special Regs Number of Fish Stocked Total
April Total May Total
Region 1 Fishtrap Lake Lincoln 196 Trout O. D. 1,851 0 1,851
Diamond Lake Pend Oreille 754 Mixed O. D. 703 0 703
Badger Lake Spokane 244 Trout O. D. 666 0 666
Clear Lake Spokane 401 Mixed O. D. 696 0 696
West Medical Lake Spokane 235 Trout O. D. 1,851 0 1,851
Williams Lake Spokane 319 Trout O. D. 1,036 0 1,036
Deer Lake Stevens 1163 Mixed O. D. 2,073 0 2,073
Loon Lake Stevens 1119 Mixed O. D. 1,036 0 1,036
Bennington Lake Walla Walla 52 Trout Y-R 510 0 510
R1 Total 9 lakes 10,423 10,423
Region 2 Roses Lake Chelan 131 Trout Y-R 500 0 500
Beehive Chelan 60 Trout O. D. 180 0 180
Wapato Lake* Chelan 186 Trout O.D. 500 0 500
Jameson Lake* Douglas 332 Trout O.D. 800 0 800
Canal* Grant 92 Trout Y-R 0 700 700
Deep Lake Grant 107 Trout O. D. 300 0 300
Heart* Grant 26 Trout Y-R 0 175 175
Perch* Grant 15 Trout O.D. 100 0 100
Vic Meyers* Grant 12 Trout O.D. 100 0 100
Windmill* Grant 37 Trout Y-R 0 270 270
Spectacle Lake Okanogan 315 Trout O.D. 800 0 800
Pearrygin Lake Okanogan 192 Trout O.D. 500 0 500
Alta Lake Okanogan 187 Trout O.D. 588 0 588
Patterson Lake Okanogan 143 Trout Y-R 525 0 525
R2 Total 14 lakes 4,893 1,145 6,038
Region 3 Columbia Park Pond Benton 7 Mixed Y-R,
YFA
147 0 147
Dalton Lake Franklin 60 Mixed Y-R 344 0 344
Powerline Lake Franklin 50 Mixed Y-R 423 0 423
N. Fio Rito Lake Kittitas 39 Mixed Y-R 740 0 740
Lost Lake Kittitas 145 Trout Y-R 0 1,014 1,014
Mattoon Lake Kittitas 27 Mixed Y-R 521 0 521
Clear Lake Yakima 265 Trout Y-R 1,377 0 1,377
Dog Lake Yakima 60 Trout Y-R 0 427 427
Leech Lake Yakima 40 Trout Y-R, F 0 725 725
Mud Lake Yakima 4 Trout Y-R, S 74 0 74
Myron Lake Yakima 13 Mixed Y-R, S 206 0 206
Tim’s Pond Yakima 1 Trout Y-R 39 0 39
R3 Total 12 Lakes 3,872 2,167 6,039
Region 4 Lone Lake Island 92 Trout Y-R, S 0 393 393
Angle Lake King 102 Mixed Y-R 442 147 589
Beaver Lake King 63 Mixed Y-R 245 0 245
Green Lake King 255 Mixed Y-R 442 196 638
Meridian Lake King 150 Mixed Y-R 442 196 638
Rattlesnake Lake King 112 Trout Y-R, C&R 491 0 491
Sawyer Lake King 279 Mixed Y-R 491 196 687
Egg Lake San Juan 7 Trout Y-R 175 0 175
Hummel Lake San Juan 36 Trout Y-R 152 0 152
Mountain Lake San Juan 198 Trout Y-R 0 447 447
Campbell Lake Skagit 370 Mixed Y-R 525 280 805
Clear Lake Skagit 223 Mixed Y-R 702 0 702
Heart Lake Skagit 61 Trout O.D. 1,205 0 1,205
Lake Erie Skagit 111 Trout O.D 1,455 0 1,455
Pass Lake Skagit 98 Trout Y-R, F, C&R 0 162 162
Vogler Lake Skagit 4 Trout O. D. F-C&R 0 59 59
Cassidy Lake Snohomish 125 Mixed Y-R 442 0 442
Flowing Lake Snohomish 135 Mixed Y-R 382 0 382
Gissburg Ponds Snohomish 37 Mixed Y-R 0 393 393
Howard Lake Snohomish 27 Trout O.D. 455 0 455
Martha Lake (Warm Beach) Snohomish 58 Mixed Y-R 275 0 275
Roesiger Lake Snohomish 297 Mixed Y-R 501 0 501
Silver Lake (Everett) Snohomish 102 Mixed Y-R 393 0 393
Tye Lake Snohomish 40 Trout Y-R 196 0 196
Lake Padden Whatcom 152 Trout O.D. 2,517 0 2,517
Squalicum Lake Whatcom 33 Mixed Y-R, F 0 162 162
Toad Lake Whatcom 30 Trout O.D. 835 0 835
Terrell Lake Whatcom 438 Mixed Y-R 569 250 820
R4 Total 28 lakes 13,332 2,882 16,214
Region 5 Battle Ground Lake Clark 30 Trout Y-R 256 0 256
Klineline Pond Clark 11 Trout Y-R 256 0 256
Horseshoe Lake Cowlitz 80 Mixed Y-R 608 0 608
Kress Lake Cowlitz 30 Mixed Y-R 352 0 352
Merill Lake Cowlitz 344 Trout Y-R, F, C&R 224 0 224
Northwestern Reservoir Klickitat 97 Trout O. D. 256 0 256
N. Rowland Lake Klickitat 40 Trout O. D. 928 0 928
Kidney Lake Skamania 12 Trout O. D. 224 0 224
Wahkiakum Co. Ponds Wahkiakum 6 Trout Y-R 96 0 96
Carlisle Lake Lewis 20 Trout O. D. 315 0 315
Fort Borst Park Pond Lewis 5 Trout O.D., YF 372 0 372
Mineral Lake Lewis 277 Trout O.D. 687 0 687
S Lewis Co. Park Pond Lewis 17 Mixed Y-R 580 0 580
R5 Total 13 lakes 5,154 5,154
Region 6 Aberdeen Lake Grays Harbor 64 Trout O.D. 77 45 122
Failor Lake Grays Harbor 65 Trout O.D. 100 59 159
Sylvia Lake Grays Harbor 31 Trout Y-R 74 45 119
Vance Creek Pond #1 Grays Harbor 10 Mixed O.D., YFA 66 0 66
Gibbs Lake Jefferson 37 Trout Y-R, S, C&R 70 0 70
Teal Lake* Jefferson 15 Trout Y-R, S 30 0 30
Kitsap Lake Kitsap 238 Mixed Y-R 493 0 493
Mission* Kitsap 88 Trout O.D. 190 0 190
Panther Lake Kitsap 100 Trout O.D. 220 0 220
Benson Lake Mason 82 Trout O.D. 170 0 170
Haven Lake Mason 69 Trout O.D. 150 0 150
Island Lake Mason 108 Trout Y-R 0 230 230
Phillips Lake Mason 110 Trout O.D. 230 0 230
Tee Lake Mason 38 Trout Y-R 0 0 0
Wooten Lake Mason 70 Trout O.D. 150 0 150
Trails End (Prickett) Mason 74 Trout Y-R 0 160 160
Tiger Mason 103 Trout O.D. 230 0 230
Bradley Lake Pierce 13 Mixed Y-R 100 100
Clear Lake Pierce 155 Mixed O.D. 100 100 200
Lake Kapowsin Pierce 512 Mixed Y-R 90 0 90
Ohop Lake Pierce 236 Mixed O.D. 165 150 315
Rapjohn Lake Pierce 56 Mixed O.D. 100 100
Silver Lake Pierce 138 Trout O.D. 100 100
Spanaway Lake Pierce 262 Mixed Y-R 190 0 190
Steilacoom Lake Pierce 313 Mixed Y-R 100 0 100
Tanwax Lake Pierce 173 Mixed O.D. 200 200 400
Clear Lake Thurston 173 Mixed O.D. 196 147 344
Lawrence Lake Thurston 330 Mixed Y-R 196 147 344
Long’s Pond Thurston 10 Mixed Y-R, YF 147 147 295
McIntosh Lake Thurston 116 Mixed O.D. 196 0 196
Offutt Lake Thurston 200 Mixed Y-R 196 98 295
Ward Lake Thurston 68 Mixed O.D. 196 79 275
R6 Total 32 lakes 4,224 1,908 6,132
Statewide 108 Lakes
C&R = Catch and Release
F = Fly Fishing Only
O.D. = Opening Day
S = Selective Gear Rules
YF = Youth Fishing
YFA = Youth Fishing (and ADA)
* New triploid trout lake

Family Fishing Event At OR’s Cottage Grove Pond

March 30, 2011

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Families interested in angling can find a great fishing opportunity Saturday, April 9 at Cottage Grove Pond in Cottage Grove.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has contracted with Desert Springs Fish Hatchery to release 1,550 rainbow trout into Cottage Grove Pond, including 50 “one pounders” as part of the Family Fishing Event. These fish are in addition to several other trout releases at Cottage Grove Pond in the past month, and some of those fish should still be available. ODFW staff and volunteers will be on hand from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to provide access to fishing equipment and angling instruction.

Under Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations, anglers under the age of 13 can fish for free. A juvenile license is required for anglers 14-17 years of age. Juvenile angling licenses can be purchased for $9 from ODFW field offices and license outlets. All other anglers must have an Oregon adult fishing license.

“This event is for kids, so while the standard fishing regulations will apply, we would like to ask adults to leave the fishing to the young ones for a few hours,” said Erik Moberly, ODFW biologist.

Cottage Grove Pond is located off Row River Road east of Cottage Grove. From I-5, take the Cottage Grove exit (Exit 174). Head east on Row River Road about 1.5 miles. Turn north into the Cottage Grove Ponds parking area near the weigh station

Springer Catch Jumps By 2,000

March 29, 2011

What a difference a week makes.

Through March 20, boaters had kept all of 16 spring Chinook in the cold, murky waters of the Columbia from Cathlamet down.

In the week that followed, they bonked 472.

That from statistics released this afternoon by Washington and Oregon salmon managers.

Effort jumped sharply there as well, from a total of 520 boats through the 20th to 1,248 in the last week alone.

“It’s actually kind of shifted from up here,” says fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, “to Cathlamet.”

He points to improved water conditions and new fish downstream.

That said, 505 springers were kept in the Interstate stretch last week, which leads all comers in terms of effort and catch for the season — 1,064 kept for 6,321 boats and 15,790 anglers.

Overall through March 27, we’ve kept 3,331 adult springers and released 971 in 59,160 angler trips on the Columbia, Hymer says.

That’s a jump of 1,982 keepers and 23,429 trips since the March 20 run update.

Based on visual cues, Hymer says that 80 percent, or 2,649, of all the keepers have otherwise been headed beyond Bonneville. That means that 34 percent of the guideline of 7,750 upriver fish has been met.

Tonight, commercial fishermen will set their nets in the big river from the mouth of the Willamette down and are expected to catch 2,700 springers, with a range of 2,400 to 3,000.

That’s drawn some comments from sport fishing spokespeople, but Hymer contends, “The nets aren’t going to get them all — certainly not in four hours.”

So what’s a springer fiend who has Wednesday off to do, Joe?

Well, despite looooow catch rates last weekend — .07 springers a boat at checks in the Troutdale, Ore., area — Hymer suggests that river forecasts which call for dropping flows out of Bonneville tomorrow may prompt a bite in the area. Netting in the lower end of the river might also make some springers more snappy as well.

So far only seven springers have been caught in the waters immediately below the dam, where boat angling is not allowed. All but two had to be released because they were wild fish. For the year, 130 salmon have gone past Bonneville.

Overall, effort appears to be down this year compared to 2010, with only two-thirds as many boats counted on the river last Saturday compared to Saturday, March 27 of last year, according to Hymer. The run size is also forecast to be smaller and cold, murky waters have made for tougher fishing.

At roughly the same point last year, we bonked 4,220 for the same week, and had an overall catch of 6,682 with 1,011 released in 68,920 trips for the season.

Springer fishing runs through April 4 below Bonneville.

“There were also 490 steelhead kept and 375 released,” Hymer adds.

Columbia Springer Update

March 29, 2011

How murky has the lower Lower Columbia been?

So murky that one springer angler fishing the Cathlamet area last weekend decided to shorten up his 5-foot leader between Fish Flash and herring because otherwise he doubted any fish would even see his bait behind the flasher.

“Visibility sucked,” says Jim Uehara, who is also a manager in the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Inland Fisheries Division.

With all this winter’s rains, the Willamette and Cowlitz have both been mudding up the Columbia.

“I don’t think it was 3 feet, more like 2 1/2,” he says.

Uehara came home with two over two days, but says he had to cover ground and practically hit the fish on the head with his bait.

Indeed, the lower end of the mighty river has seen the best bite in recent days.

According to fresh data from ODFW, anglers fishing below the Wauna powerlines near Cathlamet averaged .60 springers a boat last weekend.

That’s about 50 percent better than fishermen in the Portland-to-Longview stretch, who averaged .39 Chinook a boat.

Those fishing the Troutdale/Camas area only managed .07 salmon a sled.

However, a little birdy tells us they’ve found some springers above Chinook Landing in very shallow water, though getting them to bite has proved to be another thing.

Bankies plunking the estuary also did better than their upstream compadres, averaging .13 springers vs .06 from Portland to Longview.

Here are the raw numbers from ODFW:

Troutdale Boats:

Weekend checking showed six adipose fin-clipped spring chinook kept, plus one unlipped spring chinook released for 102 boats (257 anglers).

Portland to Longview Bank:

Weekend checking showed 11 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and 14 adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus four unclipped spring chinook and two unclipped steelhead released for 245 bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Boats:

Weekend checking showed 80 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus 21 unclipped spring chinook released for 256 boats (726 anglers).

Estuary Bank: (Clatsop Spit to Wauna Powerlines):

Weekend checking showed one adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and two adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus one unclipped steelhead released for eight bank anglers.

Estuary Boats (Tongue Point to Wauna Powerlines):

Weekend checking showed 21 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus four unclipped spring chinook released for 42 boats (115 anglers).

Tonight, commercial anglers have a four-hour gillnet fishery between the mouth of the Willamette and the mouth of the Columbia.

The timing doesn’t sit so well with some sport fishing interests.

“To conduct this fishery is a tough time when you have one of the most important recreational fisheries in Oregon and Washington finally starting to do well,” Ed Wickersham of the Coastal Conservation Association told Allen Thomas of The Columbian.

Netters are expected to catch 2,700 springers, 58 percent of which are predicted to be fish headed to tribs above Bonneville Dam.

Sport fishing continues through April 4 below Bonneville Dam. Boat fishing is only allowed below Rooster Rock.

$156K In Elk Grants For WA From RMEF

March 29, 2011

(ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION PRESS RELEASE)

Elk research at Mt. St. Helens and habitat improvements on four national forests and other public lands in Washington headline a slate of projects selected for 2011 grants from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The new RMEF grants total $156,380 and affect Asotin, Cowlitz, Columbia, Garfield, Jefferson, Kittitas, Lewis, Pend Oreille, Skamania, and Stevens counties.

“Along with research on elk population densities and forage use at Mt. St. Helens, we’re also funding habitat projects like prescribe burns, forest thinning, weed treatments and guzzler installations. These projects could add well over 25,000 acres to the 391,805 acres that we’ve already helped to conserve or enhance for wildlife in Washington,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.

Nationally, RMEF hopes to impact about 100,000 acres in 2011 to reach the 6 million-acre lifetime mark in lands conserved or enhanced for elk and other wildlife.

Allen thanked RMEF volunteers and fundraiser attendees for building the organization’s grant coffers, saying, “Because of their amazing passion and generous support, a major conservation milestone is within reach.”

RMEF grants will help fund the following 2011 projects, listed by county:

Asotin County: Prescribe burn 1,200 acres to improve forage quality on elk summer range in Umatilla National Forest; enhance grassland habitat by treating new outbreaks of invasive weeds (rush skeletonweed, sulfur cinquefoil, spotted knapweed, etc.) countywide, plus targeted projects to reduce weeds on 938 acres and reseed native grasses along the Grande Ronde River and to treat Mediterranean sage on 300 acres of public land in the heart of Asotin County; continue multi-year project to treat 20,204 acres of weeds in the Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex.

Cowlitz County: Begin a two-year research project on forage quality and elk population densities in late-succession forest habitat surrounding Mt. St. Helens (also affects Lewis and Skamania counties); lime, fertilize and reseed native grasses on state lands in the Mt. St. Helens area.

Columbia County: Treat 1,100 acres of yellow starthistle and spotted knapweed to improve habitat for elk and other wildlife in the Jim Creek/North Touchet River area; treat noxious weeds on 1,450 acres in Robinette Mountain area.

Garfield County: Install 1,800-gallon guzzler as a critical wildlife drinking station on Abels Ridge in the W. T. Wooten Wildlife Area.

Jefferson County: Thin 247 acres of dense forest to improve forage in high-use elk areas in Matheny Creek area of Olympic National Forest.

Kittitas County: Redevelop nine springs as critical water sources for elk that winter in the arid Quilomene Wildlife Area.

Lewis County: Enhance elk forage areas by thinning (pre-commercial) forest plantations in the Davis and Greenhorn creek areas of Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Pend Oreille County: Improve elk forage areas by removing encroaching conifers using prescribed fire in Sullivan Creek area of Colville National Forest.

Skamania County: Treat noxious weeds and prescribe burn retired nursery fields to improve forage for elk and deer in the Wind River area of Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Stevens County: Rejuvenate browse vegetation for elk and reduce wildfire fuels by prescribe burning 355 acres in the Cottonwood Creek area of Colville National Forest.

Projects are selected for grants using science-based criteria and a committee of RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies and universities.

Partners for 2011 projects in Washington include Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, University of Alberta, other agencies, organizations, corporations and landowners.

Since 1985, RMEF and its partners have completed 449 different conservation and education projects in Washington with a combined value of more than $102 million.

Interstate Springer Flame Run

March 28, 2011

2 a.m.: Alarm goes off, miserable thing. But somewhere far to the south a sled loaded with herring, salmon rods and all the moose pepperoni I can eat will be waiting for me at 6 a.m., so crawl out of bed, turn alarm off and coffee pot on. Stare at toaster — perk, you mother. Wait, wrong appliance. Thank god I packed most of the truck last night because am unable to function mentally at this hour. Also, all the rustling around would have likely woken Amy and the boys up, and then I’d get the evil eye going and coming.

2:55: Lock the front door (at least I think I do), jump in truck and head south under stars and a half moon way over to the east. Have high hopes — am leaving my wretchedly unlucky blue cooler in the shed and taking a different blue cooler which just smells fishy.

2:56: Realize that I once again forgot to bring CDs to listen to on the 360-mile-round-trip drive. Curse. Well, lemons from lemonade: What better time to catch up on world events than 3 in the morning? Tune in the BBC World Service to catch up on the whole Libya bombing thing.

4:30ish: Rain begins somewhere in Lewis County; gets worse the closer to the Columbia I get. Typical. On a springer flame run last March with Andy Schneider I drove through first a blizzard then a torrential downpour.

5:47ish: Arrive at 42nd St./Gleason ramp off the west end of PDX, pull into lot above trailer parking area. Rain coming down good. Am so sick of rain, nothing but rain and snow for five straight months. ENOUGH! Even worse: a cold east breeze out of the Gorge. Decide to wait just a wee bit before joining Buzz in his boat — after all, he did say to meet him between 6 and 6:30 a.m. Hopefully he remembered his rain gear.

6:00ish: In lieu of the weather, I throw on two more layers of fleece, my waders and boots, life vest and a rain coat. And inside my pack is a backup rain coat. Writer Terry Otto arrives and parks next to my rig. Emerge from truck and start yapping with him. He was out with Buzz the day before and says they hooked their four springers — including a 26-pounder — in very shallow water close to shore.

GUIDE DAVE CASTELLANOS WITH A FRIDAY SPRINGER THAT WENT OVER 26 POUNDS ON A HANDHELD RAPALA DIGITAL SCALE. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

6:15ish: Dressed like — as Terry would later put it — fat, bloated ticks, Otto and I slip-slide down through wet ivy, across parking lot and over to the dock.

6:20ish: Meet up with Buzz — that would be Buzz Ramsey, the well-known Northwest salmon and steelhead fishing guru who is our captain in the Fisherman’s Marine/Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association’s Spring Fishing Classic derby. Also coming, Andy Martin, the Brookings-based guide, and Dave Castellanos, the Smith River, California-based guide. I am in good company: All totaled there is something like 75-plus years of salmon-slaying experience on board. As for me, I could be a stringer for the Unaccomplished Angler blog or something.

We’ll be fishing the Interstate stretch of the Columbia, scene of some pretty hot fishing the past few seasons. The drill here is dragging herring downhill. Back in the 2008 season, Swanny murdered the springers here on naked 6- to 8-foot-long leaders, 8-inch droppers and chartreuse and blue cutplug herring — no attractors.

Since then, Fish Flashes have really come on. In this cold, murky water, Buzz is betting on chartreuse FFs (last November his company, Yakima Bait, bought Big Al’s, which manufactured the flasher) and chartreuse-dyed cutplugs.

And while Pautzke’s, Pro-Cure and Atlas-Mike’s battle it out for springer scent supremacy in the pages of STS, Buzz is curing his worms in new mojo from Berkley (which he pro-staffs for). His recipe calls for:

1-1/2 quart distilled water
1 cup kosher salt
1/3 bottle Gulp! Alive spray
1/3 bottle Berkley Bio Dip (available in chartreuse, orange, red and blue)

As he later notes, it accounts for six springers in two days.

(BUZZ RAMSEY)

But that’s getting ahead of our story slightly.

6:50ish: It’s funny, sometimes you go to great lengths to go fishing, but then the fishing’s relatively close at hand when you get there. This is one of those cases. After my o’dark fifteen wake-up and 3-hour, 180-mile drive to catch a Chinook, we blast off from the wharf and go … all of 1,000 yards downstream. Not even 20 yards off the breakwater of the Tyee Yacht Club, we dunk our junk into about 24 feet of water.

The rig consists of slider or spreader bar with a 16-inch-or-so dropper line to 8-ounce cannonballs, a foot or so of line to the flasher (I’m using the big daddy model, the others are using 8-inchers, if I recall) and then a 5-foot leader to the cutplug hooked on the first of a two-hook setup.

From the yacht club we troll downhill towards a wing dam protecting the top end of Tomahawk Island, and then across the face of it in all of — no joke — 7 feet of water at times.

RIGHT ABOVE THE WINGDAM ABOVE TOMAHAWK ISLAND, WE WERE FISHING ÜBERSHALLOW FOR SPRINGERS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It is here that the crew hooked one of their fish yesterday. We adjust our lines to keep the weights occasionally ticking bottom.

Sideways against the pilings that protect Tomahawk Island is a 25-foot-long-or-so cabin cruiser. It’s clearly seen better days and looks like someone had been trying to enclose the back end before it went adrift and wrecked. We wonder about Oregon’s salvage laws, but the yellow police line tape around it seems like it’s there to dissuade such attempts.

LATER, I WOULD VIEW IT AS A NICE LITTLE FIXER-UPPER I MIGHT MOVE INTO TO HIDE MY SHAME. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

7:11: Andy Martin posts a pic of the boatload of us on Northwest Wild Country’s and my magazine’s walls.

7:45ish: Terry hooks something, but it ain’t a fish. We spin the boat around and he reels in a rope. I try to untangle his hook from it, but have to reach for my serrated CRKT knife which is handily buried under 38 layers. After cutting the hook free, I yard the rope in and pull up a very nice sand anchor someone donated to the Columbia. Too bad I can’t weigh it for the derby.

8ish: On our third or fourth pass on that inside line, a rod goes off — on another boat, and a bit further out. The net comes out, the first one we’ve seen of the morning. We polish off most of a box of donuts.

8:30ish: Count boats — see roughly 80 or so between the interstate bridges. Doesn’t seem like as many as there “should” be at this point of the season, but then again, the previous Saturday’s count was 40 percent below the same point from the 2010 run, it’s a smaller return and they’re not here in good numbers yet. The 126th, 127th, 128th and 129th springers of the year will go through Bonneville today; the ten-year average calls for 143.2 to go through on March 26 alone. The next day, 282 on average have over the last decade; only 1 does.

9ish: Rain stops, but it’s still windy and cold. Guys reach for extra layers. Did I mention it would be nice to one day not have to fish in 57 fleeces?

9:25ish: We break out the moose pepperoni. Goooooooooooooooood stuff. Reach for seconds. And thirds. And make sure to store open sack next to me after it returns from back of boat. Guy in neighboring Alumaweld shouts out he wants some too. Feign deafness — shoo, go away. Fortunately, the women of the Mountain View Canoe Club paddle past us in their outrigger canoes, distracting him. Pepperoni from Buzz’s northern BC monster is safe.

WHILE WE GNAW ON STROKE-INDUCING FOOD PRODUCTS, THE GALS FROM THE MTN. VIEW CANOE CLUB STROKE THEIR WAY PAST. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

9:55: Apparently, the fish are also safe. Cell phones and iPhones come out, in search of a better bite.

DIALING FOR DINGERS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

10 or so: A rod goes off, once again in another boat, and back out near where the other one bit. So far, those are the only two nets we’ve seen all morning.

But that tells us something too. Yesterday’s inside slot isn’t performing, so on subsequent passes we move out and fish the deeper water on the outside of a little buoy below the yacht club down to the north end of the wingdam.

10:51: A rod goes off — I’m watching it as it does. It’s Martin’s. It bounces once in his hands, then jumps a couple more times. He rises and fights what turns out to be a very, very nice springer. We catch glimpses of its big head and broad tail. With how slow fishing is, a springer this size can get us somewhere in the derby.

BUZZ STANDS BY WITH THE NET EARLY ON IN THE FIGHT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

If it wasn’t a native.

The unclipped adipose fin means we have to turn it back to continue its upstream journey. Buzz unbuttons the fish and turns it loose.

We’re also a bit closer to the wingdam than I’m comfortable with, but Buzz is in no rush. He picks up the kicker, turns the key on his 200-horse Mercury — and it doesn’t start. Hits it again, doesn’t start. We drift closer to the wooden teeth. He primes the big motor, it doesn’t start. Finally, the fourth time and about 20 feet from the pilings it fires up and we dash out of there. Later, he tells us about bringing a boat over the bar 108 miles downriver from here, green water all over the place and a Coast Guard boat in the middle of it all on standby. That had been scary, he says.

OTTO CUTS INTO A HERRING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Noonish: We’re talking about Skagit summer/fall Chinook again, the biggest kings in Washington. I did a story on that fishery when it opened up for the first time in 17 years back in 2009. Then I look over at my rod and, holy shit!, there he is! I jump up, grab the rod out of the holder and fight the springer. Please don’t have a fin, please don’t have a fin, I pray. It tears upstream, I tighten the drag, then there’s nothing. I reel down and it’s still there, but coming right at the boat — reel, reel, reel. It turns and goes parallel to us. I see it and oh, it’s a nice one — 26.16 pounds easy. Oh my goodness, the new blue cooler really IS fishy! Buzz is ready with the net — only the fourth time one has been raised in our vicinity — the guys have their cameras going, and I’m about ready to win a derby sponsored, in part, by STS.

The fish dashes back upstream, and then comes off.

Boys, just drop me off at that old wrecked cabin cruiser, I’m thinking, I’m gonna become a hermit.

This raises memories of the first time I ever saw Buzz in person; a friend and I lost a springer right in front of him at Drano back in the early 2000s.

The afternoon: We make a mess more passes but see no more nets. We do see plenty of sailboats, however. There’s some sort of race going on and one plays chicken momentarily with our sled. Bring it, buddy, I think, but the skipper wusses out and weaves out to sea.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Ugly rain squalls appear on the southwestern horizon, so in a bid to outflank them we zip upstream to the bottom of Lemon Island and fish the channel edge. Dive back into the pepperoni.

2:45ish.: Time is running out if we’re going to weigh a springer for the derby, but if anyone can pull a Chinook out of nowhere, it would be Buzz. He tells us a story about catching one on a jig.

In North Dakota.

While ice fishing.

This is like 9th level Buddhism or something. I mean, who else do you know who’s ever caught a Chinook ice fishing?!?!? The man is one with Oncorhynchus.

3:10: But even as icy as the wind has been at times today, we’re not ice fishing. We call it, pull up to the dock at Donaldson Marine for a tankload of non-ethanol fuel. There we run into the gent who was nearly blown up a year ago. Martin, Otto and Buzz were just downstream when it happened and saw parts of the 32-foot Wellcraft go flying into the air before the boat immediately sunk.

The man, Gary Krueger, tells us he’s lucky to have lived through it. If, like usual, he’d been forward at the moment the boat’s owners had tried to turn the second motor on and which sparked the explosion, he probably wouldn’t be filling our tank this afternoon.

There’s still a chunk of the boat’s fiberglass shell buried in the building alongside the dock, and you can see what appear to be burn marks on the siding.

GAS HOUND. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Krueger adds that a week later, a guy who apparently mistook his poleholder for his gas tank had 10 gallons of gas pumped into his boat — and then wanted to drive off with it sloshing around. Was refused. Krueger didn’t trust that his guardian angels’ singed wings had healed.

3:30: Arrive back at ramp. Quizzed by ODFW fish checker. Quiz back. She tells me that today’s score is 10 fish for 70 boats. Figure two guys a boat minimum with up to six in some and that’s a fish for every 20 rods, if not worse. We’re pretty lucky to have had two on, and six over two days. Scott Weedman of Three Rivers Marine arrives and indicates he’ll be fishing downriver.

BUZZ RAMSEY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

3:50: Arrive at derby HQ and check leaderboard. Of course the largest salmon — brought in by Jeremy Toman’s boat — is all of one-one hundredth of an ounce smaller than the one I hooked, mentally measured and lost. Damnit, don’t remind me. Drown sorrows in a cup of Bud Light.

As for other results, Eric Wiegele’s boat brings in 105.6 pounds worth of sturgeon, including the derby’s biggest, a 54.6-pounder, and wins first place in that portion of the contest.

Jeff and Josh Gaylor and Anthony Herrara land two kings @ 44.6 pounds total to win the salmon part of the derby. Guide Josh Leach, a Northwest Sportsman mag advertiser, and crew actually catch one more springer, but come up 5 pounds short. Guide Darren Hoberg’s boat weighs in the second place springer, a fish just over 25 pounds.

And David Daglanzer of OC wins the raffle for a drift boat.

CONTESTANTS CHECK OUT ALL THE WHITE SPACE ON THE LEADER BOARD. A TOTAL OF 18 SALMON AND NINE STURGEON WERE WEIGHED. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

SADLY, THERE IS NO CONSOLATION PRIZE FOR FISH LOST NEXT TO THE BOAT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

4:03: Take pictures of fish awards, see there is none for Almost Landed the Derby Winner. Out of spite consider leaving unlucky blue cooler amongst the stash of prizes. Say hello to Liz Hamilton of NSIA, briefly consider joining dinner line, but with 180 miles to go, bail around 4:30.

7:23: Arrive home.

Test Fishery Finds Increasing Numbers Of Springers

March 28, 2011

UPDATE: 9:27 A.M., MARCH 29, 2011: Allen Thomas has an article in today’s C0lumbian on tonight’s commercial fishery.

A Saturday night-Sunday test fishery on the Columbia River between Tongue Point and the mouth of the Lewis yielded 102 spring Chinook, the most of the season and twice as many has have been landed in that stretch in all five of the previous nettings.

And with that, salmon managers approved a four-hour commercial fishery Tuesday night on the river from the mouth up to Kelley Point, which is at the mouth of the Willamette.

They estimate it would catch 2,700 springers, of which 1,581 would be upriver-bound kings, or 85 percent of the quota available before a possible run update.

“Delaying the fishery would increase the likelihood that full fleet fisheries would be even shorter in duration, or may not occur until after a run size update (early May),” says a fact sheet distributed early this afternoon.

The increased catch is a good sign also for sport fishermen who have seen relatively slow fishing.

“(Worst) Springer season I have seen in years but still managed to go 2/3… what the heck!” guide Bill Swann posted on his Facebook page last Friday afternoon.

Around 3:30 p.m. this past Saturday, an ODFW fish checker at the 42nd St./Gleason ramp said she’d counted 10 springers for 70 boats.

That day’s Spring Fishing Classic saw a total of 18 salmon weighed in by 95 teams. Our boat hooked two, landing one, on chartreuse Fish Flashes and chartreuse cutplugs fished 1000 yards downstream of the ramp.

A BEAUT FOR CRAIG HULTGREN, LANDED IN THE INTERSTATE EARLIER THIS MONTH. HE WAS FISHING HERRING WITH FRIEND BARRY DUBNOW, WHO ALSO HAD TO RELEASE A WILD HOG THAT DAY. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

That said, the sport catch appears to be ticking along as predicted, according to fishery managers.

“Catch rates began to improve last week, and reports indicate the improvement carried through the week-end. Improving river conditions and increased fish abundance are contributing to improving angler success,” the fact sheet says. “Based on catch to date, and catch projections, the recreational fishery below Bonneville Dam will remain open as scheduled through April 4. The states will continue to monitor sport catch and will provide an update on lower river sport catch through March 27 this week.”

catch projections appear to be ticking along as predicted, according to fishery managers, who add that it is picking up.

Big Horn Show Promoter Happy With Event

March 25, 2011

It was an “outstanding” show, says Wanda Clifford of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council about last weekend’s Big Horn Show in Spokane, ranking “right up there with our best.”

She says between 28,000 and 29,000 tickets were taken at the gate. Tallies “were up on Thursday and Sunday from previous years.”

“We account for this based on the $5 Dave Smith day on Thursday and the $1 off on Sunday,” says Clifford, the council’s full-time executive director.

That said, INWC’s moose raffle apparently only sold half as many chances at a four-month-long hunt as last year’s inaugural raffle, 1,000.

Ten percent of the proceeds stays with the club for conservation projects, the rest returns to WDFW.

“Better some than nothing at all,” says Clifford.

“As for the Big Horn Show, that’s another story. This show ranked right up there with our best,” she says.

The gate count is one way to judge its success, but Clifford looks to the “positive comments, happy show attendees, and vendors that have already booked their booths for next year.”

It was the 61st edition of the show.

No Foolin’: Scoop On WA’s 4-1 Opener Lakes

March 25, 2011

A little birdie gave me a call this morning about wolves in Washington. One thing led to another — critter captures, WDFW’s Facebook page, the state legislature — and pretty soon I found myself in possession of the scoop on the Eastside’s April 1 trout opener lakes.

Amazing what you sometimes stumble onto in this job when you keep folks yapping.

This info will also appear in next week’s Weekender, but if you want to plan your trip a wee bit further in advance, here is what to expect when next Friday rolls around, courtesy of WDFW fisheries biologists Chad Jackson and Bob Jateff.

Take it away, Chad:

On Friday April 1st approximately 31 waters will open to recreational fishing for trout and warmwater fish (i.e., bass and panfish).  With the exception of Dry Falls Lake, all waters are located either within or adjacent to the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge (CNWR) south of Potholes Reservoir.  Dry Falls Lake is located just northeast of Park Lake.  Over half (n=18) of the April 1st opening day lakes are planted with either spring and/or fall trout fry.  Aside from Dry Falls Lake, fishing within the CNWF overall is expected to be fair to good.  Anglers should take note that North and South Teal lakes will not be fishable this opener (please view the below summary for these two lakes).

Dry Falls Lake:

This “quality water” is located northeast of Park Lake within the Sun Lakes State Park.  Fishing success on the opener is usually linked to weather conditions the couple months prior to the opener.  If weather conditions prior to the opener are cold and winter like, then fishing tends to be on the slow side.  Nevertheless, anglers should expect to catch 13-14 inch yearling rainbows with carryovers 18 inches or greater on opening day.  Brown and tiger trout are also planted into Dry Falls Lake.  A total of 10,150 rainbow, 756 tiger, and 1,026 brown trout fry were stocked into Dry Falls Lake in 2010.  Anglers looking to fish Dry Falls Lake on the opener should note that this water has a selective gear regulation and a 1 trout daily bag limit.  Please check the current sport fishing rules pamphlet for a definition of selective gear regulation.

 

DRY FALLS LAKE IS ONE OF NUMEROUS WATERS OPENING IN EASTERN WASHINGTON ON APRIL 1. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Upper and Lower Hampton Lakes:

In 2010, Lower Hampton Lake fished pretty well on opening day with catch rates slightly over 3 fish per angler.  Fish size was good with yearlings ranging between 12-14 inches and a few carryovers in the 16-17 inch range recorded in the creel.  Few anglers fished Upper Hampton last opener catching few fish.  Angler who did fish Upper Hampton Lake experienced poor catch rates, but fish size was large (>16 inches).  For 2011, anglers should focus their efforts on Lower Hampton Lake and again should expect to catch 12-14 inch yearling trout.  I would encourage anglers to try Upper Hampton Lake, but if fishing is poor I’d move down to Lower Hampton Lake.  Upper and Lower Hampton lakes were planted with 28,507 and 5,047 trout fry in the spring, respectively.  Lower Hampton Lake also received a trout fry plant of 4,500 in the fall.

North and South Teal Lakes:

ANGLERS SHOULD BE AWARE THAT NORTH AND SOUTH TEAL LAKES WILL NOT BE FISHABLE ON THE OPENER.  NORTH AND SOUTH TEAL LAKES WERE CHEMICALLY REHABILITATED LAST FALL TO REMOVE CARP AND OTHER SPINY RAYS TO RESTORE THE TROUT FISHERY.  FINGERLING RAINBOW TROUT WILL BE STOCKED THIS SPRING.  FISHING SHOULD BE GOOD DURING THE 2012 OPENER.

Pillar-Widgeon Lake Chain:

The Pillar-Widgeon Lake Chain includes (running north to south) Pillar, Gadwall, Snipe, Shoveler, Cattail, Poacher, Lemna, Hourglass, Sago, and Widgeon lakes.  This entire lake chain is stocked with rainbow trout fry during the spring.  Total trout fry stocked in each lake is as follows:  Pillar (2,500), Gadwall (750), Snipe (600), Shoveler (750), Cattail (1,500), Poacher (150), Lemna (450), Hourglass (300), Sago (300), and Widgeon (1,650).  Access to this lake chain is located just southeast of Soda Lake.  Anglers looking to fish this chain of lakes should visit either the entire chain or at least 3-4 of the lakes during their outing. Anglers who are persistent should expect to catch some very nice sized yearling (12-13 inch) and carryover trout (≥18 inches).  While shore fishing is available at most of these lakes, anglers might consider packing in a float tube because it will increase their chances for success.  Usually the best lakes in the chain tend to be Widgeon, Sago, and Pillar, however, that doesn’t mean anglers should turn away from the other lakes.

Warmwater Fishing Options:

On April 1st, there are a number of lakes and ponds within the CNWR that offer excellent bass and panfish fishing.  Probably the best opportunity is at Hutchinson and Shiner lakes.  Since their rehabilitations in 1997, these two lakes have developed into quality warmwater fisheries for largemouth bass and bluegill.  Anglers should note that only non-motorized boats are allowed on these two lakes.  Other options include the Coyote, Bobcat, and Hayes creek ponds located just south of Morgan and Halfmoon lakes.  These ponds are relatively small, shallow, warm up quickly, and offer good fishing for largemouth bass.  Another option for warmwater anglers might be Deadman Lake located just off McManamon Road next to Halfmoon Lake.

And now, Mr. Jateff, your take on April 1 waters in Okanogan County?

Spectacle – should be good for rainbow trout 10-12 inches, up to 800 triploid rainbows 1-2 lbs each will be planted during the month of April

Washburn Island Pond – located 4 miles east of Brewster on the Columbia River – contains largemouth bass and bluegill, boat ramp, Colville tribal license required if fishing from shore, but not if you are fishing from a boat, electric motors only

Okanogan lakes that switch to catch and release, selective gear waters on April 1:

Davis, Cougar, and Campbell – located within the Methow Wildlife Area near Winthrop, fishing should be good for rainbow trout 10-12 inches with carryover fish to 15”,  catch and release only, selective gear rules, electric motors only, small graveled boat launches at all three lakes,  check first before coming over since all of these waters will still have ice on them during the first part of April

Rat – located north of Brewster, WDFW access site with concrete boat ramp, rainbow and brown trout 10-12 inches, should be thawed out by first week in April

Big and Little Green – located 5 miles NW of Omak, WDFW access site on Big Green with concrete boat ramp, rainbow trout 10-13 inches, should be thawed out by first week or two in April

WA Legislature Update

March 25, 2011

A bill that extends hound hunting for cougars in select Eastern Washington counties for another five years is one step closer to passage today.

Earlier this week, seven of 13 representatives on a House committee said Substitute Bill 5356 should be passed, and yesterday it was sent to the Rules Committee for a second reading. If it doesn’t get held up there, it would go to the floor of the House for a vote. It has already been passed out of the Senate.

Chasing the wild cats with dogs was made illegal with passage of Initiative 655 in 1996 — a majority voted in favor of it in all 39 counties of the state — but afterward, cougar complaints spiked.

Since 2004, a “pilot” project has allowed limited hunts in Okanogan, Ferry and other counties. It has twice been extended. Without another, the program would end after 2011.

Governed by a permit and quota system, this past season a total of 84 permits to kill 72 cougars (but only 28 females) were available to put in for in five counties. Hunting opened back on Dec. 1, but is now closed as quotas have been met in all the units.

The House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources’ recommendation came a week after it had a public hearing. Those testifying in favor included two game managers at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, three representatives from the farming community and state Senator Bob Morton. They argue that there have been fewer cougar complaints since the program began and it allows for more selective harvesting of trophy males than by so-called boot hunters who may happen into a cougar during deer or elk season and kill it regardless of sex or size.

Those opposed included PAWS, Conservation Northwest and a private citizen. They said that hunting destabilizes populations and leads to more trouble-making orphan males. More of CNW’s arguments are posted online.

Chairman Brian Blake, a Southwest Washington Democrat, joined the six Republicans on the House committee in voting in favor of the bill while the other six Democrats all voted against it.

Earlier this month, the bill was recommended for passage on a 5-1 vote by the Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources & Marine Waters, and then the full chamber on a 37-11 vote which saw numerous Democrats join most Republicans in favor of the bill.

Another bill that would have extended the hound hunting program indefinitely, HB 1124, has not made it out of the House.

In other legislative news, HB 1340, which would strengthen penalties for so-called wildlife spree killings, has made its way through one chamber of the legislature and is also awaiting action in the Senate’s Rules Committee.

SB 5661, requiring rather than merely encouraging commercial fishermen to report lost gear within 48 hours, was placed in the Senate’s X File and is dead, a supporter says.

And earlier this week, WDFW warned that without passage of the Discover Pass (SB 5622 and HB 1796), some fishing and hunting access sites may have to be closed due to lack of General Fund money for maintenance.

A bill still in progress, the pass would force users to pay $30 to access WDFW, DNR and State Parks lands that are managed for “outdoor recreation or fish and wildlife conservation,” according to a Senate staff summary.

Hunters and anglers would be charged just $7, but that price break would only extend to WDFW lands — and it appears that 84 percent of that money would actually go to State Parks. We’d need to buy the $30 job to fish and hunt on affected DNR lands and fish on state parks.

After lawmakers asked WDFW to determine which facilities are in danger of closing if the bills aren’t passed, the agency drew up a list of criteria to figure out which wildlife areas and water access sites it might have to shut the gate.

According to spokeswoman Madonna Luers in Spokane, WDFW would grade towards properties which are used more so by nonhunters and nonanglers.

One example she gave was camping areas at Wooten Wildlife Area, which she says are mostly used by partiers who descend on summer weekends and often leave messes that must be cleaned up for safety, aesthetic and liability reasons.

It is, of course, also home to the Tucannon Chain of Lakes, eight bank-only fisheries which open March 1 for trout angling, and is a good jumping-off base for turkey hunters.

Another closure possibility is the boat launch on Liberty Lake east of Spokane. In summer, she says it is used exclusively by Jet Skiiers and waterskiiers who also apparently aren’t aware that they need to buy parking passes.

“And that’s what we’re trying to target,” says Luers. “Hunters and fishers have been carrying the load.”

And, finally, lurking out there still is SSB 5669, which would merge WDFW, State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office into a Department of Fish, Wildlife and Recreation. Not much has been written about it since late February when Senators tweaked the original bill to retain the Fish & Wildlife Commission’s oversight of WDFW.

Today is the last day for lawmakers to read committee reports from the opposite house, except material from budgetary and transportation committees.

OR Cabezon Limit Set To Drop From 7 To 1

March 25, 2011

For the next handful of days, you can still keep as many as seven cabezon a day out on Oregon’s briny blue, but starting April 1, the limit drops to one.

The new rule stretches the season through Sept. 30 without a quota, which has governed past years’ fisheries, and led to a July 23 closure last year when the harvest cap of 15.8 metric tons had been met

April 1 through Sept. 30 is also the period that bottomfish anglers must stay within the 40-fathom line, defined by waypoints.

According to a press release from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildife, fisheries scientists assessed cabezon numbers for the first time in 2009. Based on the results, there’s a new federal harvest cap off  Oregon starting this year 2011. The seasonal sub-bag limit is intended to allow year-round fishing for cabezon, while staying within the federal harvest cap, ODFW says.

“If carefully released, cabezon have an excellent survival rate,” Lynn Mattes, ODFW’s project leader for marine recreational groundfish fisheries, said in the press release. “Both the cabezon anglers keep and the fish that die after release count toward the federal harvest cap, so, like with any other fish you can’t keep, careful release is important.”

Mattes’ agency also reminds anglers that along with the 40-fathom restriction, the Stonewall Bank Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation Area is closed for bottomfish and Pacific halibut at all times. Both closure areas are to reduce the likelihood of anglers’ catch of yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish, which may not be retained at any time, ODFW says.

For the waypoints and maps defining both the 40-fathom line and Stonewall Bank YRCA visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/finfish/groundfish_sport/sport%20fishing/index.asp.

First Double-digit Day At Dam

March 24, 2011

OK, so maybe I’m watching the 2011 spring Chinook run a weeeeeeeeeeee bit too close (work with me here, it’s a distraction from watching the wolf wars too closely), but I couldn’t help but notice that Tuesday saw the year’s first double-digit day at the dam.

Barely.

Ten springers were counted at Bonneville Dam on March 22.

Man, that seems late in the year, I thought.

Turns out it ain’t, though.

I started working the DART site, and since 1990, at least four other runs had a later first double-digit day.

2006 (April 12, 12 springers)

2005 (April 6, 15 springers)

2007 (March 27, 10 springers)

1996 (March 24, 12 springers)

Most years seemed to see the first 10-plus fish over the dam in the first three weeks of March.

The earliest I found was 2001, when 10 Chinook poked their noses over the dam on February 25.

That whopper run’s first triple-digit day was March 19 (416) and first quadruple-digit day March 30 (1,200).

OK, that’s a wee bit more information than anybody actually needs, but for what it’s worth …

 

Columbia Springer Manager Not Worried About Forecast So Far

March 23, 2011

The dam count sucks, test fisheries have been so poor that the commercial guys skipped netting this week, there’s a surprising lack of those beefy 5-year-old Willamette springers in the catch, and now a cranky Oregon blogger is wondering if salmon managers based their 2011 preseason Chinook forsoothery on last year’s shad count or something.

But is Cindy Le Fleur, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Vancouver-based Columbia River salmon supervisor, pulling her hair out over this year’s run?

Not exactly.

“I wouldn’t say I’m worried about our forecasts,” she said yesterday when I called to talk about how this season is progressing.

Actually, I was wondering if we might get an extension on the season — hey, it never hurts to ask — which is otherwise slated to run through April 4 below Bonneville Dam.

As of March 20, we’d retained only 1,187 of the 7,550 upriver-bound springers available for harvest, leaving 85 percent of the guideline for the last 15 days of season.

LeFleur pointed out that the catch usually picks up at the end of this month and in April, so putting an extension on season from this vantage point would be pretty tricky.

“Let’s see where we’re at when we get closer,” she allowed.

As it stands, managers will take a look at the run size in late April and reconsider any openings.

Anglers have been buoyed in recent days by mellower flows out of Bonneville; a picture Brandon Glass posted to his Facebook page yesterday shows two beauts in the box, and the guide reports releasing another and losing a fourth at the boat.

“I hope this catching gets better fast before were kicked off the river!!!!” Glass posted.

I asked LeFleur if she was surprised by how the fishery has progressed so far, to which she laughed heartily.

(That’s how biologists commonly respond to most of my questions, so I wasn’t taken aback by it.)

“The first half of March is slow anyway,” she said, though added that the February catch of 280 — the second best since 1978 — was surprising.

Overall, Snake/Drano/Upper Columbia fish have been dominating the catch, representing 88 percent all of the springers that have gone into fish boxes. That’s odd because around one-third of all the springers predicted to enter the Columbia this year are bound for the Willamette, and about 60 percent of its run is forecast to be those early-returning 5-year-olds.

One of her office mates yesterday said it would be a surprise if all those older kings were late to the ball.

So, Cindy, what’s up with that?

“That’s partly due to where the catch is occurring,” she pointed out.

According to the latest estimate, just over 50 percent of the boat tally has come from the Interstate, between I-205 and the mouth of the Willamette.

The Willamette as well as Cowlitz have been ugly, and that’s shown up in catch estimates. Boaters have kept all but 43 of their fish below the mouth of the Lewis.

While sledders are dominating the catch, one interesting note from the data is that 160 summer steelhead have been landed by plunkers on the Oregon shore from, basically, Prescott down.

Alls Well Below Wells Dam

March 23, 2011

If the success a steelheadin’ newb had last weekend is any indication, you may want to make a run to the Columbia River below Wells Dam sometime over the next 81/2 days.

With season there scheduled to close after March 31, Northwest Sportsman contributor Jason Brooks headed back to his old stomping grounds and filed the below pics and report:

Usually before a fishing trip I can’t sleep, but for some strange reason I didn’t toss and turn too much on Friday night. However, I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm set at 3:30 went off, so I guess I was a bit excited to head east over the mountains. The 10 o’clock news the night before showed how Snoqualmie pass was at a standstill with fresh snow dumping down, but as I headed over it at 5:00 it was bare with ice.

Finally, and after picking up Chad along the way we were on the shores of the Columbia below Wells Dam. Andy Byrd and his dad, Mike, were already there and Andy greeted us with news that they already landed a native fish in the 8 pound range. Of course Andy had to rub it in a little bit by saying how his dad, who lives in the Yakima area, has never caught a steelhead, so Andy handed the rod over to Mike after the fish took the jig tipped with Pautske Fire Cured shrimp on the first cast!

We continued to work the water, which is very intimidating as the river is so big here and within a few minutes I look over to see Mike Byrd fighting his second fish of the day! This one he hooked all by himself, drift fishing a corky and some shrimp. A nice little fish about 5 pounds made its way to the shore and there was that darn high fin again.

SEASONED STEELHEADER MIKE BYRD WITH HIS SECOND OF THE DAY -- AND ACTUALLY JUST HIS SECOND EVER. (JASON BROOKS)

About an hour later, Chad’s dad Bruce Hurst was busy talking about the day’s events and how the weather was incredible when he looked back at his bobber and realized it was a foot underwater. Fish on! This time this nice fish, the biggest of the day as it would turn out, was clipped and he slid the hatchery hen onto the bank. As I was taking some photos I told him to hold it up to show off its red side and it began to wiggle a bit. Bruce lost his grip and dropped it back into the river…but I felt a bit guilty since I asked him to hold it up, and I jumped in, corralled the fish back to shore where Andy grabbed it for Bruce. The photo session ended real quick with a bonk on the fish’s head with a rock and tethered to a rope.

HEY, WHERE'D MY BOBBER GO?! BRUCE HURST WAS CHATTING ABOUT THE WEATHER WHEN THIS STEELIE PULLED HIS FLOAT DOWN LAST WEEKEND ON THE COLUMBIA BELOW WELLS DAM. (JASON BROOKS)

Just then another local shows up and goes about a 100 yards below us. Five minutes later that guy lands a fish. Then 10 minutes after that he lands another one! That’s it, I drove 200 miles, and have thrown the jigs with shrimp all morning, what the heck is this guys secret…I walked over and he was more than happy to let me know he was drift fishing eggs…and of course I left all my eggs at home, for summer runs in a few months…I kept telling myself, don’t let $5.00 worth of jigs be the difference of catching or skunking a trip as I bought a few extra’s of a “special” color the day before at Outdoor Emporium. Of course leaving eggs at home made me feel like a fool once again.

An hour later Chad and I were mulling over the idea of heading up to the Methow when Bruce was talking with us about how the fishing was pretty good where we were at. Just then Bruce’s bobber goes back down and he fights his second fish of the day. This one was just like Mike Byrd’s second fish, a small high fin’er and raced off to the might Columbia after the hook was slipped out.

Chad and I were a bit frustrated so we decided, “What the heck” let’s go to the Methow. We hit the lower end for a while, and it seemed everyone we talked to said how they caught a few earlier in the day but all were natives…something fishy about that. All I do know is that right now is a great time to hit the big river below Wells Dam for steely’s before it closes at the end of the month.

CHAD HURST EXPLORES THE LOWER METHOW. (JASON BROOKS)

The next day I get a text from Andy with a photo of Mike. The message said something like “Dad went back out today by himself and got another one…”

Oh, and driving from Tacoma to Pateros and back to Tacoma after a full day of fishing is a very long day, and knocks the crap out of your immune system, as I have a head cold from hell now…maybe I need to call in sick tomorrow and hit the Cowlitz…

Bugle For Green Berets, Other Servicemen Available

March 23, 2011

(ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION PRESS RELEASE)

More than 1,800 pre-paid memberships to one of America’s premier wildlife organizations are waiting to be claimed by active U.S. servicemen and women with an interest in elk, hunting and conservation.

Supporters of the 178,000-member Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) paid for these memberships as a thank-you to those who are defending our nation.

An RMEF membership ($35) includes a year’s subscription to Bugle magazine and other benefits, with proceeds supporting the nonprofit organization’s work to conserve habitat for elk and other wildlife.

Learn more at http://www.rmef.org.

To claim a membership, simply go to http://www.rmef.org/military and sign up.

This offer from RMEF is good while supplies last.

Colville Man Wins WA Moose Raffle

March 22, 2011

If you’re a moose hunter and live in a town starting with the letter C, make sure you buy a raffle ticket for next year’s drawing.

Colville’s Lloyd Hoppner was drawn as this year’s winner of the Washington moose permit, raffled off by the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council this past Sunday.

Last year, Harry Williamson of Chattaroy won it, the first given away that way.

Hoppner’s hunt will run Sept. 1-Dec. 31 and he can chase bulls — or cows or calves should he so desire — in all of the state’s open moose units. He can use any legal weapon.

Tickets were on sale for $10 and were available at INWC’s office and the Big Horn Show. Proceeds go to WDFW and help fund the club’s big game, upland bird, hunter ed and other projects.

Winners are also still be eligible to get drawn for WDFW’s once-in-a-lifetime special permits, according to INWC executive director Wanda Clifford.

Columbia Springer Update (3-22-11)

March 22, 2011

The latest catch stats show that an estimated 1,349 spring Chinook have been kept by Lower Columbia River anglers through March 20, including 531 bonked in the last week and 1,069 for the month.

At roughly the same point last year, 2,462 had been retained for the season.

"VERY TOUGH FISHING, BUT STILL MANAGED TO FIND THEM," REPORTED GUIDE BILL SWANN ON HIS FACEBOOK PAGE YESTERDAY. (SWANNY'S GUIDED FISHING)

Fifty-four percent of the boat catch has been hauled aboard between I-205 and the mouth of the Willamette — the Interstate stretch — while 28.7 percent have come from there down to the mouth of the Lewis.

Despite a forecast of at least 300,000 springers headed back to the Willamette and Upper Columbia/Snake tribs, it has not been an ideal start to season. Anglers have been battling cold, high, muddy conditions.

Last week, flows at Bonneville were as high as 245,000 cubic feet per second. Though they’re now running around 200,000, that is still 33 percent higher than the 10-year average, according to data from fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver.

He also points out that water temperatures at the dam are running 40 to 41 degrees, well below the 10-year average of 44 to 45 degrees.

The Willamette has also been fugly — and there’s a worrisome lack of that river’s 5-year-olds in the fish box so far. Around 60 percent of the 104,000 spring Chinook forecast back there are expected to be that older age-class salmon, but 88 percent of all the springers kept on the Columbia so far have been identified as headed to tribs beyond Bonneville.

“Typically, Willamette 5-year-olds are early returning. It would be kind of a surprise that they would be so late,” says Hymer.

Runoff from the Cowlitz may also be affecting the Cathlamet-area fishery. Just 26 have been caught by boat anglers below the mouth of the Washington trib.

A total of 32 springers have been retained by bank anglers, 22 from the Oregon shore below the Cowlitz, 10 on the Washington side between Vancouver and Kalama. At this point last year, 185 had been kept by plunkers of both states.

Anglers have made an estimated total of 35,731 trips to the river this season, and have caught around 15 percent of the 7,750 available in the upriver springer guideline.

“Salmonid effort more than doubled from the previous week with 931 boats and 514 bank anglers counted during the Saturday March 19 flight,” Hymer wrote in an email sent out to fishheads. “However, effort down about 40% from the same time last year (1,634 boats and 824 bank anglers).”

Another potential sign of fish abundance in the Columbia is that a commercial fishery for this week was canceled when a Sunday test netting yielded only 17 Chinook.

The Bonneville count is also lagging, at just 6.39 percent of the 10-year average through yesterday (74 vs. 1,158.1).

Then again, at this time last year, only 122 had gone through Bonneville. Through May 31, 2010, a total of 244,423 were counted there, and that run ended up being the third largest on record.

And anglers are looking ahead to milder flows in the mainstem.

“After the water dropes its amazing how the bite comes back and we start catching again! Bonneville please keep the water coming down!” wrote guide Brandon Glass on his Facebook page yesterday.

“I’m betting a BBQ springer dinner that catch rates will start to soar next weekend — especially with another week without gillnets in the river,” adds Andy Schneider, Northwest Sportsman‘s Chinook hound.

This Saturday, the Spring Fishing Classic will be held on the Columbia as well as Willamette, Sandy and Clackamas.

Reaction To Wolf Settlement

March 22, 2011

“It has not fixed the problem,” Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation CEO David Allen told The Missoulian‘s Rob Chaney in the wake of last Friday’s word that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and 10 environmental groups had reached a settlement on wolves in the Northern Rockies.

“Read my lips: No deals,” adds an editorial forwarded to Northwest Sportsman by Dale Denney, the Northeast Washington hunting outfitter. “Of course wolf groups want to make this deal, they come out on top. Right now they know they are losing in congress, they are hoping this deal is made so they don’t lose control of having wolves on the ESA and the ability to go back to court.”

He supports Montana U.S. House Rep. Denny Rehberg’s HB 509.

“My bill will fix this mess once and for all,” says Rehberg in The Missoulian‘s article.

“I’m for any plan that will put wolves back under Montana’s control, where they belong,” Montana Senator Max Baucus told the Helena Independent Record. “… But the fight isn’t over, and I won’t stop until we find a common-sense solution to Montana’s wolf problem that brings certainty to our ranchers, famers and hunters.”

“Who really cares what a bunch of attorneys say about wildlife management?” said Don Peay of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife to the Salt Lake Tribune. “Congress needs to act so wildlife managers, not federal judges or attorneys from environmental or hunting groups, manage wildlife.”

In a far more moderate tone, Andrew McKean, hunting editor of Outdoor Life (and a former coworker of mine at Fishing & Hunting News), says, “It’s looking like wolves will once again be managed as wildlife: by restrained public hunting.”

That’s his “optimistic conclusion” after the Fish & Wildlife Service and 10 of 14 plaintiffs involved in litigation over Endangered Species Act protections of wolves in the Northern Rockies announced a settlement that would, among other things, move day-to-day management of packs back to Idaho and Montana. That would open the door for another hunting season in those states.

Under the deal, the animals would remain protected in Washington, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming — the first three states’ wolves would be addressed under a new rule on the status of wolves in the region. It also requires the Service to work with the Cowboy State to craft an acceptable plan and continue to monitor populations for five years, and would prevent the groups from suing the government until March 31, 2016.

However, the settlement is dependent on a federal judge’s OK — the same judge who in August 2010 relisted the species across the region … after he said in summer 2009 that hunts could proceed — and doesn’t bind the four groups that didn’t agree to it.

But perhaps the quartet want to continue the game of nuclear brinkmanship with ESA.

McKean had some thoughts on the proposed agreement:

·     Mess with ESA under advisement – The rift among wolf advocates stems from how to deal with congressional legislation that would remove wolves from the federal endangered species list. Remember, wolves are only the most polarizing of the hundreds of species under federal protection. Environmental groups are afraid that if wolves are removed from federal management by congressional decree, then the underpinnings of the entire Endangered Species Act might unravel. What’s to stop Piedmont landowners from working with their congressional delegation to remove protections from the Virginia long-eared bat? Or to remove ESA protection from Klamath Basin suckers because California irrigators manage to elect representatives receptive to their cause? Love or hate the ESA, but if it offers protection only to those species without a political constituency, then the whole notion of science-based wildlife management suffers. If there’s a problem with the ESA, deal with its structure. Don’t selectively remove certain critters just because the political climate makes that a popular decision.

·     Marginalize the zealots: This goes both ways. The most extreme environmentalists have been marginalized – that’s what this settlement tells me. Now the anti-wolf groups need to do the same. The “shoot, shovel and shut-up” bunch that advocates vigilante killing of wolves needs to be quieted, and the reasonable middle ground of responsible hunters needs to be tasked with managing wolves.

As for wolf advocates, one spokesman thinks the settlement would ease the way for a population of 1,000 wolves in Washington and Oregon in a decade to a decade and a half.

“Then you’re going to start to see wolves in Nevada, Utah, California,” Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity told the Associated Press (via the LA Times). “We could really repopulate the West.”

Sure you could.

If the West was nothing but forested mountains.

And there weren’t hundreds of thousands of succulent calves and sheep wandering around.

Nor any trucks or trains for the wolves to walk in front of.

Or poachers’ crosshairs.

And nobody living here.

But I guess we all need our saviors — and bogeymen.

Ghost Net Bill Meets X File

March 21, 2011

A bill addressing ghost nets in Puget Sound and the Straits has been X-filed.

That means, unfortunately, it ain’t going anywhere in the Washington Legislature any time soon.

SB 5661 would have required commercial fishermen to report lost gear within 48 hours. Currently, they’re only encouraged to call it in. According to one of the bill’s main proponents, Bear Holmes, secretary for Puget Sound Anglers, all of two nets have been reported since 2003.

The bill was sponsored by Senators Sharon Nelson, Craig Pridemore, Dan Swecker, Scott White, Bob Morton and Joe Fain, three Democrats and three Republicans, and had a hearing before the Senate Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee.

It was passed out of there on a 7-0 vote and was put on the floor of the Senate for a second reading but then X-filed.

So what in THE heck does it mean to be X-filed?

Explains a legislative Rules Shorthand Guide:

After certain cut-off dates, as a house-keeping measure the Senate Rules Committee sometimes places bills no longer eligible for consideration in the “X-File”.  This removes them from calendars, and the daily status sheet, keeping those lists from becoming too long and unwieldy.  They usually remain in the X-File until the end of the biennium.

“Yes, 5661 is DOA, I’m afraid,” says Holmes. “We made it through the Senate Natural Resources Committee and through Rules and we even had support from WDFW, but it didn’t get to the floor for a vote before the gavel dropped.”

He indicates there may be other ways to get the winch rolling on the issue.

SW WA Fishing Report (3-21-11)

March 21, 2011

(REPORT COURTESY BIOLOGIST JOE HYMER)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Overall we sampled more anglers but catch rates were worse than the previous week.  We sampled our first Chinook of the season at Cathlamet and Kalama.

Last week we sampled 2,656 anglers (including 946 boats) with 116 chinook and 5 steelhead.  Boat anglers averaged a Chinook kept/released per every 19.4 rods based on mainly completed trips.  Almost all of the catch was sampled from the Lewis upstream.  There was one lucky bank angler out of the 447 sampled that had kept a spring Chinook.

Ninety-two (79%) of the Chinook caught were kept.  Fifty-two (84%) were upriver stock based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI).    Four (80%) of the steelhead caught were kept.

The Dalles and John Day pools – Bank anglers are catching some steelhead.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – A couple boat anglers in the Vancouver area caught legal size fish.

The Dalles and John Day pools – Bank anglers are catching some legals in The Dalles Pool as are boat anglers in John Day Pool.

WALLEYE AND BASS

The Dalles Pool – Including fish released, boat anglers averaged 1.3 walleye per rod.  Some bass were also caught.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers averaged a walleye per every 2.6 rods when including fish released.  No effort was observed for bass.

 

‘Quite A Little Zoo’ – Bison In Wallowas Too

March 21, 2011

UPDATE MARCH 24, 2011 10:06 A.M.: A RANCHER HAS STEPPED UP TO CLAIM THE BISON, THE EAST OREGONIAN REPORTS

A couple summers ago when the Missus, Son No. 1 and I camped out at Wallowa Lake, a fishing guide told me about an antelope that had come through the region.

OK, this ain’t exactly pronghorn country, I thought, but then again, there are also somewhere around five dozen moose wandering Oregon’s high, wide and relatively unpopulated upper righthand corner.

Then there are, of course, the Imnana and Wenaha wolf packs which, as they grow, are giving the ranching community more and more fits.

And now comes word that there’s a small herd of wild — or at least feral — bison running around the edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

Yeah, bison — buffalo — those great, shaggy beasts from the Old West of yore, nearly shot into extinction, now farmed for lean meat.

“Quite a little zoo, huh?” independent biologist Kendrick Moholt told Richard Cockle of the East Oregonian in a piece that was picked up by the mothership, The Oregonian. “They are successfully calving. They are breeding.”

BEST BISON HABITAT IN WALLOWA COUNTY? WELL ... APPARENTLY IT'S NOT THE BUFFALOESQUE GRAZING LANDS OF THE VALLEY, BUT THE BACKCOUNTRY OF THE MOUNTAINS THEMSELVES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It’s unclear exactly where the 25 or so animals came from — so far no rumors of sneakie/greenie biologists illicitly running them out of livestock trailers in the dead of daytime — but apparently, the bison have been around for awhile.

Cockle’s article indicates they may have escaped from a ranch along the Wallowa River eight years ago.

They are private property and considered domestic animals — similar to peacocks and llamas, said Rodger Huffman, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health and Identification Division.

Bison found grazing on private or public lands without grazing rights are trespassing, Huffman said. That makes for a thorny issue in this case because the herd has no owner.

Nobody appears to be stepping up to claim them either (then again, would I want a half-wild buffalo in my stock trailer and then corral?).

“Bison are not classified as game animals or wildlife, so ODFW has no management authority over them,” says agency spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy in Salem. “In Wallowa County, there are not enough for ODFW to be concerned about their impacts on habitat. One problem we have seen is at some hunting camps in the fall. Some hunters bring horses with them into camp. When everyone leaves camp, the bison will wander in and eat the hay meant for the horses.”

Interesting stuff.

Tri-Cities Man In Heap Of Poaching Trouble

March 18, 2011

Meet The Dishonor Roll’s latest inductee: Jason Locke, who was fined a total of $11,345 after pleading guilty to poaching a bull elk and putting his wife’s tag on it.

That according to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, which says that $6,000 of the fine was for illegally killing a trophy-caliber animal.

But that’s not all. WDFW says that the 37-year-old Kennewick man is also facing poaching charges in Chelan County, and allegations that he guided Columbia River steelhead trips without a commercial license.

And could lose his hunting and fishing privileges for two years and forfeiture of elk meat and hunting and fishing equipment seized as evidence in those cases.

According to the agency, game wardens got an anonymous tip that last October Locke had killed two bulls in the Blue Mountains and claimed one of them using his wife’s permit tag — a no-no under state law. He plead guilty March 9 in Columbia County District Court.

The informant also told WDFW that Locke had killed a buck deer near Chelan in 2009 using his wife’s permit tag, according to a press release issued this afternoon.

That allegation has lead to charges in Chelan County District Court of three counts of unlawful big game hunting and one charge of unlawful transportation of wildlife. He could face up to $6,000 in fines there, including a $4,000 criminal wildlife penalty assessment for taking a trophy-size buck, says WDFW.

In addition, Locke has been charged in Benton County District Court with unlawfully guiding fishing trips on the Columbia without a license and making a false report regarding fish and wildlife. Both are gross misdemeanors, punishable by fines of more than $2,000.

That case, which WDFW investigated in conjunction with the Oregon State Police, has been forward to the U.S. Coast Guard, since Locke also did not have a required Coast Guard license to guide commercial fishing trips, says the agency.

Two other men involved in the elk case — David E. Myles, 50, of Richland, and Brian E. Badgwell, 40, of Pomeroy – earlier pleaded guilty to charges of unlawfully transporting wildlife, according to WDFW.

USFWS Announces Wolf Settlement; Up To Court To OK; RMEF Reviewing Terms

March 18, 2011

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 10 of the 14 plaintiffs involved in litigation over Endangered Species Act protections of wolves in the Northern Rockies today announced a settlement that, pending a Federal court’s OK, would move day-to-day management of packs back to Idaho and Montana, where it was in 2009 before a U.S. District Court judge’s ruling last summer relisted the species across the region.

The deal comes as pressure mounts in Congress to legislatively delist wolves. It would not affect Washington and Oregon’s small but growing populations.

There’s a whole lot of material for everyone to go over on the weekend, and among the groups that will be reviewing what just happened is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

“We are reviewing the settlement terms and evaluating both the benefits and consequences,” said David Allen, president and CEO of the Missoula-based organization. “Simply rolling the clock back to 2009 isn’t going to fix the problem. The science has been clear for more than a decade—wolves are fully recovered and states need authority to manage them. For that to happen, we are still going to need Congress to step up and provide the real solution.”

Last week, USFWS released data that showed that for the ninth straight year, wolf numbers in the Northern Rockies have met biological recovery goals.

Meanwhile, below is the Service’s press release, terms of the agreement and Q&A on it.

Also, immediately below are links to early stories cranked out by newspapers, a joint statement by the Sierra Club and other litigants on the settlement, a statement from Earthjustice, which had been representing the plaintiffs as a whole but had to step away when most wanted to settle, and reaction at The Wildlife News blog.

http://missoulian.com/news/local/article_8e9e0458-5193-11e0-b42d-001cc4c002e0.html

http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/news/breaking_news/groups-settle-over-wolf-recovery-in-idaho-and-montana/article_d990a7f4-5193-11e0-a1c0-001cc4c002e0.html

http://www.magicvalley.com/news/state-and-regional/article_eb1bda12-5197-11e0-b629-001cc4c03286.html

http://action.sierraclub.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=200144.0

http://earthjustice.org/blog/2011-march/fight-to-protect-gray-wolf-shifts-to-capitol-hill

http://wolves.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/some-groups-settle-on-wolf-delisting-lawsuit-others-dont/

(U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE PRESS RELEASE)

PRESS RELEASE (TERMS OF AGREEMENT, QUESTIONS & ANSWERS BELOW)

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reached an agreement with the majority of plaintiffs, including Defenders of Wildlife, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and eight other conservation organizations, to settle ongoing litigation over a Federal District Court’s 2010 decision to reinstate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.

If approved by the court, the settlement offers a path for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to return management of the recovered wolf populations in Idaho and Montana to the states while the Service considers options for delisting gray wolves across the Rocky Mountain region, where population levels have returned to biologically recovered levels.

“For too long, management of wolves in this country has been caught up in controversy and litigation instead of rooted in science where it belongs. This proposed settlement provides a path forward to recognize the successful recovery of the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains and to return its management to States and Tribes,” said Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes.

“I am pleased that the negotiations resulted in this important agreement,” said Acting Service Director Rowan Gould. “The proposed settlement has the potential to return management of wolves in Montana and Idaho to the states and tribes and will also enable the Fish and Wildlife Service to use our limited resources to address other species in need of recovery actions.”

Under the terms of the settlement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to address the delisting of wolves in the region in the future as a distinct population segment, rather than on a state-by-state basis. The parties are requesting that the court allow the 2009 delisting to be reinstated in Montana and Idaho on an interim basis, in accordance with approved state management plans, until a full delisting can be completed for the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population. The parties are agreeing that they allow these steps to move forward, up to and including a potential delisting of Rocky Mountain wolves, without resorting to further litigation.

“I want to recognize the great work of Deputy Secretary Hayes, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the entire negotiating team, and all those who worked with us to find a common-sense way forward,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

Separate negotiations are ongoing between the Service and the State of Wyoming in an effort to reach agreement on a management plan for wolves in that state. If a mutually acceptable management plan for wolves in Wyoming can be developed, then the Service will be able to proceed with delisting proceedings addressing wolves throughout the northern Rocky Mountains.

The delisting provided for under this agreement does not extend to the small wolf populations in eastern Oregon and Washington, or to Utah, where there are not believed to be any resident wolves. FWS intends to address the longer term status of wolves in Oregon, Washington, and Utah when it issues a new rule addressing status of wolves across the Northern Rocky Mountain region. FWS will work with state officials in Oregon, Washington and Utah in the meantime to address any wolf management issues and retains the option to consider reclassifying wolves from “endangered” to “threatened” in those states in order to provide more management flexibility.

The Service and the plaintiffs have agreed to take other actions that will clarify implementation of the ESA and ensure that a recovered wolf population continues to be sustainably managed under approved state management plans. Additional terms of the proposed agreement are available here.

The ESA provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife and plants. This landmark conservation law has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species across the nation and promoted the recovery of many others.

Additional background information on the settlement is available here.

TERMS OF AGREEMENT

Terms of Proposed Agreement regarding Endangered Species Act (ESA) Protections for Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

As part of the terms of the proposed settlement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the plaintiffs have agreed to take actions to clarify implementation of the ESA and to ensure that a recovered wolf population continues to be sustainably managed under approved state management plans. The settlement agreement becomes effective only after court approval. The additional actions include:

The parties will jointly ask the federal district court to stay its prior order so as to reinstate, in the states of Idaho and Montana, the 2009 rule removing wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain Region from the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

The Service will withdraw a September 2007 Department of the Interior Solicitors M-Opinion interpreting the meaning of the phrase “significant portion of its range” under the ESA.

The Service will continue to work with the State of Wyoming to reach agreement on a wolf management plan that provides adequate protection for wolves should they be delisted within the state’s boundaries. Until such an agreement is reached, the Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to manage wolves in Wyoming.

Upon receipt from Wyoming of a mutually acceptable wolf management plan, the Service will publish a proposed rule to designate and delist a Northern Rocky Mountains Distinct Population Segment DPS) that replaces the 2009 rule.

The Service will base its proposed and final delisting determination on the ESA’s five statutory listing factors and on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available. The Service may, prior to proposing delisting, consider reclassification of wolves that remain on the list within the Northern Rocky Mountains DPS.

The plaintiffs have agreed not to challenge any final rule designating and delisting any DPS prior to March 31, 2016. Further, they have agreed not to petition to list either the Northern Rocky Mountains DPS or any wolf population within the NRM DPS within the next three years.

The Service will continue to monitor the wolf population and gather population data for at least five years. Within four years of the date on which the court approves this agreement, the Service will seek an independent scientific assessment of whether wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains are being managed in a way that reasonably assures the continued presence of a sustainable, genetically connected population of wolves within the Northern Rocky Mountains DPS for the foreseeable future.

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

1. What is being announced today?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reached an agreement with the majority of plaintiffs, including Defenders of Wildlife, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and eight other conservation organizations, to settle ongoing litigation over a Federal District Court‟s 2010 decision to reinstate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. If approved by the court, the settlement offers a path for the Service to return management of the recovered wolf populations in Idaho and Montana to the States while the Service considers options for delisting gray wolves across the Rocky Mountain region, where population levels have returned to biologically recovered levels.

2. What are the terms of the settlement?

(SEE ABOVE)

3. What is the 5-factor analysis contained in the ESA?

Under the Endangered Species Act, a species is added to the list when it is determined to be endangered or threatened because of any of the following factors: The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; Disease or predation; The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; The natural or manmade factors affecting its survival If a listed species is considered for delisting or downlisting, the same analysis of these five factors is performed. If any of these five factors remain as a threat, the species cannot be delisted, although it may be downlisted if the threat or threats have been sufficiently reduced.

4. What is the significance of the phrase “significant portion of the range?”

The Endangered Species Act describes two categories of declining species of plants and animals that need the Act‟s protections – endangered species and threatened species – and provides these definitions:

ENDANGERED – any species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range;

THREATENED – any species that is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

The ESA contains no explicit definition of what constitutes “significant portion of the range” of a given species. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) must nonetheless interpret this phrase in making decisions to list or delist species. The interpretation is important because it influences the determination about whether a species should be listed or delisted.

5. Why is the Service withdrawing the existing Solicitor’s Opinion interpreting Significant Portion of the Range?

On March 16, 2007, the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior issued a formal opinion, “The Meaning of „In Danger of Extinction Throughout All or a Significant Portion of Its Range,‟” M-37013 UU.S. DOI 2007 (M-Opinion). Under the M-Opinion, if a species is found to be threatened or endangered in only a significant portion of its range, protections are applied only to that portion of the range. The legal interpretation spelled out in the M-Opinion has been rejected by the two District Courts in which it has been argued: Defenders of Wildlife et al. v. Salazar, CV 09-77-M-DWM and Greater Yellowstone Coalition v. Salazar, CV 09-82-M-DWM, concerning the decision to delist northern Rocky Mountain wolves except in Wyoming, and WildEarth Guardians v. Salazar , 2010 U.S. Dist. Lexis (D. Ariz. Sept. 30, 2010), concerning FWS‟ 2008 decision on a petition to list the Gunnison‟s prairie dog (73 FR 6660).

6. What happens now? What geographic area is included?

The parties are requesting that the court reinstate the 2009 delisting in Montana and Idaho on an interim basis, with management in accordance with approved state management plans, until a full delisting can be completed for the Rocky Mountain wolf population. The parties are agreeing that they allow these steps to move forward, up to and including a potential delisting of Rocky Mountain wolves, without resort to further litigation.

The delisting provided for under this agreement does not extend to the small wolf populations in eastern Oregon and Washington, or to Utah, where there are not believed to be any resident wolves. FWS intends to address the longer term status of wolves in Oregon, Washington, and Utah when it issues a new rule addressing status of wolves across the Northern Rocky Mountain region. FWS will work with state officials in Oregon, Washington and Utah in the meantime to address any wolf management issues and retains the option to consider reclassifying wolves from “endangered” to “threatened” in those states in order to provide more management flexibility.

7. What is the current population of gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains?

The 2010 Interagency Annual Report for the Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct Population Segment (NRM DPS) of gray wolves shows little change in the population or distribution of wolves from 2009. The report, which is compiled and released annually by cooperating federal, state and tribal agencies, estimates that the population contained at least 1,651 wolves in 244 packs and 111 breeding pairs at the end of 2010. Current levels exceed the minimum population recovery goal (>300 wolves) and the minimum breeding pair recovery goal (>30 breeding pair). The end of 2010 marked the 11th consecutive year the NRM population has exceeded numeric and distributional recovery goals.

8. Who are the Settling Plaintiffs?

Defenders of Wildlife
Natural Resources Defense Council
Sierra Club
Center for Biological Diversity
Hells Canyon Preservation Council
Greater Yellowstone Coalition
Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance
Oregon Wild
Cascadia Wildlands Project
Wildlands Network (formerly the Wildlands Project)

9. Who are the non-Settling Plaintiffs?

Alliance for the Wild Rockies
Humane Society of the United States
Friends of the Clearwater
Western Watersheds Project

Possible Wolf Poo, Tracks Found On Colville Reservation

March 18, 2011

Colville biologists are anxiously awaiting word back from a genetics lab on a sample of canine poop they sent in earlier this winter.

Joe Peone, director of the Colville Fish & Wildlfe Department in Nespelem, says some “pretty good-sized” tracks were found with it and now they’re wondering if a couple wolves are wandering their 2,100-square-mile North-central Washington reservation.

Biologists have tried howling surveys, setting up trail cams and deploying scent traps, but have come up empty so far, he says.

The tracks and fecal material came from the Sanpoil River valley, about halfway between the river’s mouth on Lake Roosevelt and the reservation’s northern boundary, Peone says.

Acknowledging that dogs stray around too, he says there have been reports of wolves on the reservation over the past six to eight years, though nothing’s been confirmed.

About 20 miles north of the Colville’s north edge, there have been two separate recent reports of wolf sightings from the Malo area, according to a source at Conservation Northwest.

It’s not surprising given the fact that for decades wolves have been wandering through Washington, as state Department of Fish & Wildlife records show, and the Grand Forks, BC, area, 20 miles north of Malo, is also seeing wolf reports, according to a provincial biologist.

It hasn’t been until the last three years, however, that any have been confirmed to shack up and raise a litter. The most recent data from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says that at the end of 2010 Washington had a minimum of 16 wolves east of Highway 97 in two packs — including 12 in the Diamond Pack of east-central Pend Oreille County.

That figure doesn’t include wolves on the Oregon border in the Blue Mountains or the two or three left in the Lookout Pack west of the highway in western Okanogan County.

Peone says the tribe “doesn’t want (wolves) here based on feedback from Idaho.”

There, the Lolo elk herd has seen a significant decline in numbers due to wolf predation, and the Idaho Department of Fish & Game is asking USFWS for permission to seriously reduce pack numbers. Experts say that declining habitat quality is also an issue.

“Our first priority is providing sustenance, fishing and hunting opportunities,” says Peone.

His department is now able to offer tribal members 55 moose permits a year, up from just five over a decade ago when the hunt began, he says.

The success rate in 2010 was 90 percent, and it averages 80 percent, he says.

Tribes elsewhere in Washington have similar concerns about wolves (see Letters, Government in comments on WDFW’s draft management plan).

ELSEWHERE ON THE WOLF FRONT, there’s word of a split among the plaintiffs whose case led a federal judge to relist wolves in the Northern Rockies last summer. Ten of the 13 groups involved in the lawsuit want to settle while three others do not. That has forced their collective attorney, Earthjustice, to remove itself from the case.

“The reason for seeking the settlement, according to representatives from some of the organizations, is they fear that legislation introduced in Congress to delist wolves in the northern Rockies would set a precedent for political action on other listed species,” reports the Helena Independent Record.

OR Halibut Seasons Set

March 17, 2011

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission today set the 2011 sport halibut seasons for the Oregon Coast.

Oregon halibut anglers will enjoy slightly more fishing opportunity in 2011 thanks to a 12 percent increase in the harvest quota set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, according to Gway Rogers-Kirchner, ODFW marine fishery manager.

JASON HARRIS SHOWS OFF A HALIBUT CAUGHT OUT OF NEWPORT IN 2008. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

The popular central coast halibut fishery from Cape Falcon just north of Manzanita to Humbug Mountain near Port Orford, will be open inside the 40-fathom line (defined by waypoints) seven days per week, May 1 through Oct. 31 or until the 13,800-pound quota is met.

The all-depth fixed dates for the spring season are May 12-14, 26-28, June 2-4 and 9-11. Backup days are June 23-25, July 7-9 and 21-23. The spring catch limit is 115,578 pounds.

The summer season opens every other Friday and Saturday through Oct. 29 (Aug. 5-6, 19-20, Sept. 2-3, 16-17, Sept. 30-Oct. 1,  and Oct. 14-15 and 28-29)or until the entire central coast, all-depth season combined (spring and summer) quota of 158,705 pounds is taken.

The spring halibut fishery for anglers out of Columbia River ports, fishing the area from Leadbetter Point, Wash., to Cape Falcon, Ore., will open May 5. The season will continue three days per week, Thursday-Saturday, through July 16 or until the 10,793-pound quota is met. The summer fishery opens Aug. 5, three days per week, Friday-Sunday, until Sept. 30 or until the spring and summer combined quota of 15,418 pounds is met.

South of Humbug Mountain the season also opens May 1 and is open seven days a week through Oct. 31.

The Commission also approved the 2011 commercial Pacific sardine fishery. The harvest guideline set by the Pacific Fishery Management Council is down 30 percent from 2010, reflecting a continuing downward trend in sardine populations.

In addition to setting halibut seasons, the Commission approved nine Access and Habitat projects worth $835,402. These grants will open 74,414 acres of private land to public hunting access and improve wildlife habitat on 1,515 additional acres.

The Commission also approved $706,114 for 16 restoration and 18 enhancement projects under the Restoration and Enhancement Program.

Finally the Commission formally adopted the temporary rules that had been in place for the 2011 sturgeon seasons on the Columbia and Willamette rivers.

The Commission, in a special teleconference meeting, today considered an abbreviated agenda of items originally scheduled for the March 11 meeting in Florence. That meeting was cancelled due to tsunami warnings on the Oregon Coast. Others items on the March 11 agenda will be considered at the April 22 meeting in Salem.

The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in Oregon. It meets monthly.

ODFW: Unclear Why Captured Wolf Died After Release

March 16, 2011

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The exact cause of death for the Imnaha wolf found dead in early March is unclear.

Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory ran several tests on the carcass looking for injuries, disease and toxins but test results did not point to a specific cause of death.

The only abnormal finding was some internal hemorrhage in the wolf’s chest cavity. Forensic analysis did not point to a clear cause of the hemorrhage but biologists believe the hemorrhage may have contributed to the wolf’s death.

While the cause of the wolf’s death is unclear, wildlife managers acknowledge that capture-related deaths of wildlife can happen.

Wildlife managers take several steps to reduce the risk of injury during capture efforts, including blindfolding the animal (to protect eyes and reduce stress), cooling or warming the animal as needed, providing sedatives when necessary, and having a veterinarian on site.

All the above steps were taken with this wolf. According to the veterinarian and wildlife biologists at the capture site, no problems were observed when the wolf was released. Radio tracking data indicated that the wolf recovered and traveled at least five miles after the collaring.

Big Horn Show On Now

March 16, 2011

The 51st annual Big Horn Outdoor Recreation Show runs through the weekend, and sportsmen and sportswomen from around the Inland Northwest should be in for a treat.

Even now, hunters are bringing their trophy racks to the grounds of the Spokane Interstate Fair and Expo Center for scoring, and one that will be on hand is LaFawn Sutton’s 170 1/8 Pope & Young whitetail, shot last September while in velvet by the North Spokane lass.

Rich Landers wrote about her hunt last weekend, and today has an image on his blog of one nice shoulder-mounted elk being moved into Trophy Territory alongside other big-racked bruisers.

There’s plenty more to the show, put on by the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, of course (see below ad in this month’s Northwest Sportman). It opens at noon on Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, closing at 8 p.m. all except Sunday, when it’s over at 4 p.m.

Admission is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and students (and one ticket gets you access to all four days should you run into anyone really chatty — ahem, Jim Nelson) and free for kids 6 and under.

There are ticket deals (again, see the ad below), and if you swing by the Northwest Sportsman booth, we’ll hand you a free magazine (provided Brian Lull, our sales manager who is headed there now, doesn’t have to trade them for gas to make the long haul from Seattle to Spokane).

Word On WA Halibut Seasons

March 16, 2011

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

This year’s recreational halibut seasons will be similar to 2010 in Puget Sound, but may allow for more days of fishing off the coast under new catch quotas adopted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

This year’s quota for Washington, Oregon and California is 910,000 pounds, up 12 percent from 2010. In Washington, sport anglers will be allowed to catch 216,489  pounds of the big flatfish compared to 192,699 pounds last year.

Those increases will improve fishing opportunities in coastal waters of Washington and other West Coast states, said Heather Reed, coastal policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

AN ANGLER HAULS A FLATTIE ABOARD IN THE EASTERN STRAITS. (RON GARNER)

In Puget Sound, where the sport catch has exceeded area harvest guidelines for the past two years, this year’s higher sub-quota also helped to avert further cutbacks in fishing opportunities, she said.

“This year’s quota, together with shorter seasons adopted last year, will bring the catch more in line with the allowable harvest,” Reed said. “We took a big step toward stabilizing the fishery last year, and the higher quota will help to accommodate the growing popularity of halibut fishing in Puget Sound.”

This year’s catch quota for Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca is 58,155 pounds, up from 50,542 pounds in 2010.  Like last year, most areas of the Sound will be open for halibut fishing three days a week – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – except as noted below.

Marine areas 6 through 10, extending from Low Point to the Southworth Ferry Dock, will be open May 5 through May 29. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 26 through June 18.

Halibut fishing will remain closed in marine areas 11 (Tacoma) and 13 (southern Puget Sound) to protect three species of rockfish listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.

In coastal areas, the structure of the coastal halibut season will be similar to last year, said Reed, noting that fishing seasons in marine areas 1-4 will remain open so long as there are halibut remaining to be caught under the area quotas.

“This year’s coastal quotas are up by more than 17,000 pounds,” Reed said. “Depending on catch rates during the course of the season, that could translate to extra time on the water in some areas.”

All areas open to fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, a possession limit of one fish while on the vessel, and a possession limit of two fish in any form once the angler is on the shore.

The 2011 recreational halibut seasons approved for Washington’s marine areas are:

* Columbia River (Ilwaco):   Marine Area 1 will open May 5, three days a week, Thursday through Saturday until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or until July 17. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 5 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept.30, whichever occurs first. The 2011 catch quota is 15,418 pounds.

* South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores):   Marine Area 2 will open on May 1, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays.  During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open Sunday only (May 22). Beginning the following week the fishery will resume the Sunday, Tuesday structure until the quota is reached. The northern nearshore area will be open seven days per week, until the quota is reached. The 2011 catch quota is 43,500 pounds.

* North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay):   Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 12, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 21. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen the week of June 2. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 16. The 2011 catch quota is 108,792 pounds.

* Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound:   Marine areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles, Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open May 5 through May 29. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 26 through June 18. These fisheries will be open three days a week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 2011 combined catch quota for these areas is 58,155 pounds.

For additional information, call the Fishing Hotline at (360) 902-2500 or check the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/creel/halibut/ .

What’s Fishin’ In OR (3-16-11)

March 16, 2011

All right, whomever was googling “world record kokanee” and “9 pounds, 10.7 ounces” last week, you got me all fired up.

When those search terms led to our site, I thought, Holy smokes, has someone topped Ron Campbell’s mark?!?!!?

In a panic I called biologist Bill Knox to find out if Wallowa Lake had yielded yet another behemoth of a landlocked sockeye.

No new record that he knew of, though Knox, stationed at ODFW Enterprise, did hear a report of an 8-pounder caught earlier this winter. Another tweetie bird reported a 6-pounder of late.

I’d kinda assumed all the big ones had spawned last season, so will we see another spring of stupendous sox?

That remains to be seen.

But for now, other opportunities abound around Oregon (sheesh, Andy, any way to allay all the alliteration already?), as highlights from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report show:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Several area lakes and reservoirs have been stocked this spring – just in time to take the family fishing over Spring Break.
  • Striped bass, stripers, are moving into tidewaters for spawning on the Coquille, Smith and Umpqua rivers.
  • High water levels have slowed steelhead and spring chinook fishing on many rivers. Fishing should improve when river levels drop.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • North Coast lakes: Cape Meares, Smith, Tahoe, Spring, Lytle, South, Town, Hebo, Coffenbury, Cullaby, and Lost lakes, and Vernonia, Lorens and Nedonna ponds were scheduled to be stocked this week. Weather (snow) could affect stocking of higher elevation lakes.
  • Mid-Coast Lakes: The 2011 trout stocking schedule is available online. The first stocking of rainbow trout started in February and will extend into June. The week of March 14th will see many water bodies stocked and can be a good time to get out and catch a few trout. The schedule can change with out warning depending on equipment availability and weather conditions.
  • Tillamook Bay: Sturgeon fishing is fair. Higher flows may attract more fish to the bay. Fish sand shrimp on the bottom near the channel edges during the outgoing tide. Move often to find fish if you are not getting bites.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • The trout stocking program is now in full swing, and several local ponds are scheduled to receive some two-pound trout this week. Those ponds receiving the larger fish are: Canby, EE Wilson, East Freeway, Junction City, Huddleston, Mount Hood, Roaring River, Walling and Walter Wirth.
  • A few confirmed reports of spring chinook landings in the Willamette River have been reported and angler effort is increasing.
  • While sturgeon retention on the Willamette River closed March 17, the river remains open to catch-and-release fishing.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Relatively consistent flows and possible blue wing olive hatches make the Crooked River a good destination for trout and whitefish. But be sure to check river levels before making a trip.
  • March can be a great month to fish Haystack Reservoir near Madras.
  • Spring hatches have begun on the lower Deschutes River near Maupin, offering good dry fly opportunities during mid-day.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • The lower Owyhee River is ice free. While fishing has been slow, a March skwala hatch could ignite the bite.
  • The ice is clearing on Thief Valley Reservoir and there are reports of some very large trout being caught.
  • The ice is breaking up on many area reservoirs, which can lead to some good fishing in open waters but dangerous conditions on unsafe ice. Anglers should use caution.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Steelhead fishing on the John Day River has been good between rainstorms.
  • Steelhead fishing on the Umatilla River continues to be good.
  • Spring trout stocking was started last week at McNary, Hatrock and Tatone ponds — all should provide good trout fishing though out the spring months.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Spring chinook angling should improve once the water temperature rises a few degrees and the local tributaries drop and clear. The area between the I-5 Bridge and Rooster Rock opened to boat angling on Tuesday March 1, and bank angling is currently allowed between Buoy 10 and Bonneville Dam.
  • Sturgeon angling remains slow in The Dalles and John Day pools, but should improve as the water temperature increases.

Willamette, Channel Sturg Retention Closed

March 16, 2011

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today that the sturgeon retention season on the lower Willamette River downstream from Willamette Falls, including Multnomah Channel and the Gilbert River, is now closed.

AMONG THE LAST KEEPER STURGEON RETAINED ON THE WILLAMETTE SYSTEM, THIS ONE, CAUGHT LAST WEEKEND. RETENTION SEASON IS NOW CLOSED. (MARK VEARY)

ODFW closed the season following creel survey analysis that indicated harvest was at or near the pre-season guideline of 2,550 sturgeon following the last fishing day on March 12.

The season had been open three days a week since Feb. 17.

Catch-and-release sturgeon fishing is still allowed on the lower Willamette River, and retention is still allowed on the Columbia from the mouth of the river upstream to Bonneville Dam and from The Dalles Dam to McNary Dam.

Anglers are reminded that all sturgeon fishing, including catch-and-release, is prohibited between the I-205 Bridge and Willamette Falls from May 1 through Aug. 31 because that section of the river has been designated as a sturgeon spawning sanctuary.

Columbia Springer Update 2 (3-15-11)

March 15, 2011

Anglers have kept at least 818 springers on the Lower Columbia through last Saturday, an increase of 254 from the previous week.

Fishing has been hampered by cold water and fugly conditions that have also led commercial fishermen to ask managers to delay tomorrow evening’s planned fishery below Kelly Point. Sport catches averaged only one springer for every 10 or 11 boats in some of the best areas.

That said, guide Brandon Glass reports on his Facebook page that he landed a 25-plus-pounder while fishing earlier today with his pa, Jack,  and Buzz Ramsey.

That’s a pretty meaty springer, and is likely a 5-year-old.

According to managers, nearly 90 percent of the kept salmon — only one adipose-fin-clipped Chinook can be retained per angler a day — had been headed to tribs above Bonneville.

Boaters have retained a total of 281 since Feb. 1 between the mouth of the Willamette and the I-205 bridge, better known as the Interstate stretch.

Another 153 have been kept between the Willamette and Lewis mouths.

Oregon bank anglers are now in the lead with 12 springers hauled ashore, all between Rainier and Puget Island, roughly speaking, while Washington shoremen have taken seven home, three from below Bonneville, four from Vancouver to Woodland.

According to biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, 9 percent of the sport quota of 7,750 upriver-bound springers has been taken.

There have been just over 21,100 angler trips this season.

Last year through March 17, anglers had only landed a total of 800 springers, keeping 700, of which 68 percent were headed for lower-river tribs like the Willamette.

Herring Helper, And A Wee Bit More

March 15, 2011

So, 1,400 posts and 22 months after they handed me the keys to this blog, guess what I just discovered today?

That little symbol next to Upload/Insert that looks kinda like frames from a video means I can post, um, videos.

To borrow a line I overheard one angler tell another at a lake once, I may be slow, but I’m sure not fast.

So what sort of videos am I now going to post links to, you might ask?

Well, fishing ones, of course, most notably a recently posted tutorial from guide Bill Swann on curing up herring for springers with a little salt, a little sugar, a little water, a squirt of Mrs. Stuarts and a bottle o’ blue Pautzke’s Nectar …

… and then, since this is like the best college hoopies call ever, Gus Johnson’s call of Isaiah Thomas’ “cold-blooded” J at the buzzer in OT …

… and then, since this is like the best soccer — err, football — goal ever, I went off in search of Wayne Rooney’s bicycle kick last month against Manchester City…

… and then Thiery Henry’s game-winning goal in the 2006 World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil …

… and then John back here at the Mother Ship plunked a mess of pages for copy editing down on my desk, reminding me, ahem, we work at a fishing and hunting pub and it’s deadline week.

Columbia Springer Update

March 15, 2011

(REPORT COURTESY TANNA TAKATA, ODFW)

  • Spring chinook angling should improve once the water temperature rises a few degrees and the local tributaries drop and clear.  The area between the I-5 Bridge and Rooster Rock opened to boat angling on Tuesday March 1, and bank angling is currently allowed between Buoy 10 and Bonneville Dam.
  • Sturgeon angling remains slow in The Dalles and John Day pools, but should improve as the water temperature increases.

 

Cold water temperatures and poor weather conditions continue to slow down the salmonid catch rates.  Boat anglers in Troutdale averaged 0.10 spring chinook caught per boat, while anglers in the Portland to Longview area averaged 0.09 spring chinook caught per boat.  Bank anglers in the Portland to Longview area averaged 0.01 spring chinook and 0.07 steelhead caught per angler.

Gorge Bank:

No report.

Gorge Boats:

Weekly checking showed no catch for two boats.

Troutdale Boats:

Weekend checking showed three adipose fin-clipped spring chinook kept, plus two unclipped spring chinook released for 50 boats (112 anglers).

Portland to Longview Bank:

Weekly checking showed one adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and four adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus one unclipped spring chinook and 13 unclipped steelhead released for 244 bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Boats:

Weekend checking showed eight adipose fin-clipped spring chinook kept, plus three unclipped spring chinook released for 122 boats (288 anglers).

Forecast Good For Idaho Springer Season

March 15, 2011

(IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME NEWS RELEASE)

Idaho Fish and Game plans to propose spring seasons on Chinook salmon fishing to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission in late March.

This year is not expected to be as good as last year, but the 2011 Chinook salmon return is on track to be the sixth best year since 1980. The fish are still out in the Pacific Ocean, but the forecast for numbers of returning fish are similar to 2008 and 2009.

Northwest fish managers estimate that about 198,000 Chinook bound for waters upstream of Bonneville Dam will enter the Columbia River this year – last year the number was 315,300.

Of those, 66,400 hatchery fish and 24,700 wild fish are predicted to head up the Snake River. Last year’s actual return was 134,200 hatchery fish and 35,600 wild fish.

Based on those preseason forecasts, Idaho fish managers expect 37,840 hatchery fish and 19,760 wild fish to cross Lower Granite Dam. They estimate that about 20,500 fish will return to Idaho hatcheries in the Clearwater, lower Salmon and lower Snake drainages.

As fish pass federal dams on their way up the Columbia and Snake rivers, information from PIT tags – passive integrated transponder – allows fish managers to adjust preseason estimates.

Fish managers estimate that about 7,300 would return to hatcheries in the Clearwater drainage; 11,200 to hatcheries in the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers; and 2,000 to hatcheries in the Snake River below Hells Canyon dams.

That means an estimated 2,000 Chinook would be available for nontribal recreational anglers in the Clearwater; 4,200 in the lower Salmon and Little Salmon; and about 800 in the Snake River below the Hells Canyon dams.

In years past, Chinook seasons have opened in late April.

Winter Schminter, First Summer Back To Cow — SW WA Fish Report (3-14-11)

March 14, 2011

(REPORT COURTESY BIOLOGIST JOE HYMER)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Boat anglers are catching some steelhead around the trout hatchery.  We also sampled a “confirmed” summer run steelhead caught from the lower river.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 108 winter-run steelhead and one spring Chinook adult during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released the spring Chinook adult and 23 steelhead into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek, and they released 17 winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 6,640 cubic feet per second on Monday, March 14. A flow increase to promote downstream migration of juvenile salmonid outmigrants in the Cowlitz River is scheduled for a twelve hour period on Tuesday, March 15. Water visibility is three feet.

Kalama River – Light effort.  River has been turbid.

Lewis River – Light effort.  A few spring Chinook have been reported caught.

Anglers should be aware that March 15 is the last day to fish for steelhead on Abernathy, Cedar (Clark Co.), Germany, Mill (Cowlitz Co.), Rock (Skamania Co.), Salmon (Clark Co.) creeks and on the Coweeman, Elochoman, Grays, East Fork Lewis and Washougal rivers.

Wind River and Drano Lake are scheduled to open for spring chinook March 16 with a limit of two chinook per day. Expect fishing to be slow at first with only 41 fish across Bonneville Dam through March 11.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Overall catch rates and locations were similar to the previous week.  A few more lower river stock were sampled the past couple days in the Vancouver area and the first fish of the season was sampled from the bank in the area just below Bonneville Dam.

Last week we sampled 2,105 anglers (including 719 boats) with 98 chinook and 6 steelhead.  Boat anglers averaged a Chinook kept/released per every 17.1 rods based on mainly completed trips.  All of the catch last week was sampled from the Lewis upstream.  There was one lucky bank angler out of the 462 sampled that had kept a spring Chinook.

Seventy-three  (74%) of the Chinook caught were kept.  93% were upriver stock based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI). Four (67%) of the steelhead caught were kept.

The NOAA River Forecast Center is forecasting mainstem Columbia flows to sharply increase starting this afternoon.

COLUMBIA — BONNEVILLE DAM  (BONO3)

 
       Observed                Forecast / Trend    
Date       Time  Inflow     Date       Time  Inflow
           (PDT)  (cfs)                 (PDT)  (cfs) 
 

03/14/2011 0100     213300       03/14/2011 1100     311520

03/13/2011 0000     238300       03/14/2011 1700     331840

03/12/2011 0000     221000       03/14/2011 2300     335320

03/11/2011 0000     228900       03/15/2011 0500     349740

03/10/2011 0000     232500       03/15/2011 1100     362450

03/09/2011 0000     203200       03/15/2011 1700     354680

03/08/2011 0000     221500       03/15/2011 2300     338700

03/07/2011 0000     193200       03/16/2011 0500     324650

03/06/2011 0000     197700       03/16/2011 1100     316940

03/05/2011 0000     230900       03/16/2011 1700     318200

03/04/2011 0000     219100       03/16/2011 2300     322880

03/17/2011 0500     324840

03/17/2011 1100     322720

03/17/2011 1700     315100

The Dalles and John Day pools – Boat anglers are catching some steelhead.

Bonneville Dam to Oregon/Washington Border – Effective March 16 through April 24, open to fishing for hatchery Chinook, hatchery steelhead, and shad. Bank fishing only from Bonneville Dam to Tower Island powerlines located about 6 miles below The Dalles Dam. Up to 2 hatchery adult Chinook or hatchery steelhead or one of each may be retained per day. Release all salmon other than hatchery chinook.

Expect fishing to be slow at first with only 41 fish across Bonneville Dam through March 11.  Recent 10-year average is almost 350 fish.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – One lucky boat angler in the Kalama area had caught a legal size fish.

The Dalles Pool – Slow for legal size fish.  Through February, an estimated 71 (23.7%) of the 300 fish guideline had been taken.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers are catching some legals.  An estimated 277 (55.4%) of the 500 fish guideline had been taken through February.

WALLEYE AND BASS

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers are catching some walleye.  No effort observed for bass.

John Day Pool – Including fish released, boat anglers averaged a walleye per every other rod.  No effort observed for bass.

TROUT

Klineline Pond – Bank anglers averaged just over a catchable size rainbow per rod.  Planted with 2,000 half-pound rainbows March 9.

Silver Lake near Castle Rock – Planted with 7,920 catchable size rainbows March 8.

Battleground Lake – Planted with 3,000 over half-pound rainbows March 7.

Lacamas Lake near Camas – Planted with 6,380 half-pound browns March 8.

2-lbers. Planted For Spring Break

March 14, 2011

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Spring break is just around the corner, and it’s a perfect time to take the kids fishing. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is stocking the following lakes and reservoirs with plenty of legal-sized rainbow trout in time for spring break.

Coos and Curry counties: Bradley Lake, Empire Lake, Johnson Mill Pond, Powers Pond, Butterfield Lake, and Eel Lake. In Curry County, Floras and Garrison lakes will each get 500 two-pound trophy trout.

Douglas County: Ben Irving, Cooper Creek, Galesville, Herberts Pond, Loon Lake, Marie Lake and Plat I Reservoir. Herberts Pond anglers are asked to remove any weeds or vegetation from their gear to avoid spreading invasive milfoil to other waterbodies.

Jackson and Josephine counties: Expo Pond, Lake Selmac, Lost Creek, Willow Lake and Reinhart Pond. Agate Lake, stocked in February with legal-sized and 100 larger private hatchery trout, also offers warmwater fishing for black crappie and largemouth bass. Applegate Reservoir was stocked with 600 trout weighing two to three pounds each.

Check the ODFW trout stocking schedule at www.dfw.state.or.us

Kayak Kolumnist Nabs Keeper Sturg

March 14, 2011

Weekend report from Mark Veary, our kayak fishing columnist based in Hillsboro, Ore.:

I thought sturgeon season was going to pass me by this year. Luckily, I had last Friday scheduled off work. As it was probably the last weekend for sturgeon retention, there was no question what I’d do with the time.  Sorted through lots of shakers before finally putting this keeper in the boat.

(MARK VEARY)

As for Veary’s bait, he ain’t revealing much — figuratively and literally.

He says he’s barely covering his hook with the morsel of meat, which he says that when rigged looks not unlike that the Swiss surrealist artist H.R. Giger might conjure up.

Clam Dig This Weekend On WA Beaches

March 14, 2011

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Clam diggers today got a green light to proceed with a four-day razor-clam dig scheduled to begin Saturday, March 19, on four beaches.

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

Four beaches – Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks – will open for digging at noon March 19. However, because of a seasonal shift in the tides, digging will be restricted to the hours before noon March 20-22.

The dig will start at four beaches March 19-20, then continue at two beaches – Long Beach and Twin Harbors – March 21-22.

No digging will be allowed at Kalaloch Beach, located inside Olympic National Park.  The National Park Service, which manages that beach, has closed clam digging at Kalaloch for the rest of the season due to low harvest levels.

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, advises prospective diggers to pay particular attention to the shift in digging times during this month’s razor-clam opening.

“It gets a little tricky scheduling digs at this time of year, but the goal is to arrange openings during the best clam tides,” Ayres said. “The split schedule also provides an opportunity for back-to-back digs the evening of Saturday, March 19, and the morning of Sunday, March 20.”

He also notes that the annual Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival is scheduled March 19. Information on the festival is available at http://www.2011clams.com/ .

Digging days and low tides for March are:

* Saturday, March 19, 7:04 p.m. (-0.1 ft); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks.
* Sunday, March 20, 7:36 a.m. (-0.5 ft); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks.
* Monday, March 21, 8:23 a.m. (-0.9 ft); Long Beach, Twin Harbors
* Tuesday March 22, 9:12 a.m. (-1.0 ft); Long Beach, Twin Harbors

Under state 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. Diggers age 15 or older are required to have a valid 2010-11 license to participate in the March dig.

Ayres reminds diggers that WDFW is tentatively planning another razor-clam opening April 7-9 until noon each day at Long Beach and Twin Harbors if marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat. Because current licenses expire March 31, diggers will have to purchase a 2011-12 license to participate in that dig.

WDFW also expects to announce additional digging opportunities in April, so diggers may want to take that into account when they go to purchase a license,” Ayres said.

Various licenses, ranging from a three-day razor-clam license to a multi-species combination license, are avaiIable online (https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/ ), by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

The four beaches opening to razor-clam digging this month include:

* Long Beach, which extends from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point.
* Twin Harbors Beach, which extends from Cape Shoalwater 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.

N. Rockies Wolf Numbers May Be Leveling Off

March 11, 2011

Numbers released by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service today show that the overall wolf population in the Northern Rockies declined slightly in 2010 from where it was at the end of 2009, but is at roughly the same number of packs, remains biologically recovered and may be leveling off.

Perhaps the news will calm a region roiling with wolf fever — perhaps not.

In the federal agency’s 2010 annual report, it stated that there were a minimum of 1,651 wolves in 244 packs and 111 breeding pairs in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, and a small part of north-central Utah as of Dec. 31, 2010.

In 2009, there were at least 1,733 wolves in 242 packs and 115 breeding pairs.

“The apparent decline was solely due to a lower minimum population estimate in Idaho,” the Service reported.

There, where hunters were able to kill 188 in late 2009 and early 2010, the population declined 20 percent. The Service suspects “the difference in wolf numbers in Idaho was partly due to loss of radio-collared wolves and reduced monitoring effort in the inaccessible rugged forested mountainous terrain in central Idaho wilderness areas.”

In Montana, Wyoming, Washington and Oregon, the numbers “increased slightly (~9 percent) from 2009,” the Service says.

That masks a large jump in percentage for Washington (a 200-plus percent increase) and Oregon (50 percent), though actual numbers in both are fractions of other states in the recovery area.

 

WOLF POPULATIONS IN MONTANA, IDAHO AND WYOMING AT THE END OF 2010. (USFWS)

Ed Bangs, Fish & Wildlife’s wolf recovery coordinator, has been suggesting to me that the Northern Rockies population is about as big as it’s going to get if not decline because the best habitat has already been occupied. The report states:

“Data collected in 2010 about wolf distribution, numbers, packs, and breeding pairs; livestock depredation, compensation, and wolf control; and apparent declines in prey populations in the most remote areas in the NRM DPS that have the lowest rate of livestock conflict and the longest history of pack persistence (YNP and central Idaho Wilderness), suggest the NRM DPS wolf population may be stabilizing or even starting a slow decline to some as yet undetermined lower equilibrium based on natural carrying capacity in suitable habitat and human social tolerance.”

 

THICK BLACK LINE INDICATES AREA OF THE NORTHERN ROCKY MOUNTAINS DISTINCT POPULATION SEGMENT (NRM DPS). NORTHWEST MONTANA, CENTRAL IDAHO AND YELLOWSTONE RECOVERY AREAS ARE INSIDE IT. (USFWS)

It’s the 12th annual report USFWS has posted — a collaboration with several Indian nations, state fish and wildlife agencies and the National Park Service — and this one gives the most details yet about Washington and Oregon’s wolf packs (see below).

It also details:

Across the region, while depredation payments remained at the same level as 2009 — confirmed cattle losses were basically the same (199 to 193) — sheep and dog losses were “much lower” compared to 2009 (249 and two to 749 and 24).

It reports that 12 fewer wolves had to be “controlled” than the previous year (260 vs. 272).

“In 2010 Montana, removed 141 wolves by agency control; Idaho removed 78 by agency control and another 48 by public hunting; and in Wyoming, 40 wolves were removed by agency control. No wolves were removed by agency control in Oregon or Washington. A lone depredating wolf was killed by agency control in Utah,” the Service says.

The report states that as of Dec. 31, 2010, there were:

374 wolves in the Northwest Montana Recovery Area (319 in 2009)

501 in the Greater Yellowstone Recovery Area (455 in 2009)

739 in the Central Idaho Recovery Area (913 in 2009)

Broken down by state in the overall recovery zone, there were an estimated minimum of:

566 wolves in Montana (524 in 2009)

343 in Wyoming (320 in 2009)

705 in Idaho (843 in 2009)

16 in Eastern Washington (five in 2009)

21 in Eastern Oregon (14 in2009)

Outside the region, there is only one pack, the Lookout Pack near Twisp, Wash., and the Service reports it didn’t raise pups in 2010. Its radio-collared alpha female went missing in May.

Here’s more from the report specific to Washington and Oregon:

Washington Pack Summaries
Inside Northern Rocky Mountain DPS

Northeast Washington – Wolves continue to re-colonize northeast Washington from northwest Idaho and southeast British Columbia (Table 7). During 2010 Washington Department of Wildlife (WDFW) confirmed 1 new pack, bringing the number of packs in eastern Washington from the Northwest Montana Recovery area/British Columbia to 2. A third pack known as Cutoff Peak, divides its time between Idaho, British Columbia, and Washington. Based on information from summer monitoring, Cutoff Peak probably dens in northern Idaho. The 2 confirmed Washington packs in the NRM DPS (Diamond and Salmo) contained a total of 16 wolves at the end of 2010.

Diamond Pack – In late July 2009 the breeding male of the Diamond Pack was captured and radio-collared (WA-398M) making this the second confirmed Washington pack since the 1930s. During summer 2010 WA DOW caught and marked four yearling wolves (WA-376F, WA-378M, WA-380F, WA-382F) and caught and released a pup of the year. WDFW documented 6 pups on several occasions during the summer and counted 12 wolves in this pack at the end of the year making this pack a breeding pair. Approximately 24% of Diamond pack‟s territory is in Idaho.

Salmo Pack – In late August 2010, WDFW caught and collared a 50-lb pup of the year with a standard VHF collar. This is a newly documented pack that is spending most of their time in far northern Washington with occasional forays into British Columbia. WDFW observed four adult-sized animals on several occasions this winter. It is unknown whether this pack dens in Washington. Because only 1 pup was confirmed, the pack was not considered a breeding pair in 2010.

Southeast Washington – Sightings of wolves and their sign have been reported in the Mill Creek watershed area of southeast Washington and the adjacent portion of northeast Oregon, consistently since 2008. There were multiple credible reports of three wolves using this area during 2010. WDFW considers this a probable pack which likely re-colonized SE Washington/NE Oregon from the Central Idaho Recovery Area.

Outside Northern Rocky Mountains DPS
Lookout Pack – In July 2008 a breeding male and female were captured and radio-collared near Twisp, WA, representing the first confirmed wolf pack in Washington since the 1930s . Genetic testing indicated the breeding male might have originated from a coastal/southern British Columbia and the breeding female came from northern British Columbia/Alberta border or wolves reintroduced into central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park from that area of Canada. They were the first confirmed wolf pack in Washington since the 1930s. The pair produced 6 pups in summer 2008 and 4 in 2009. During spring 2010, the female was observed to be pregnant and was using a den. Several weeks after the estimated date of parturition her signal was lost and she was no longer observed in the vicinity of the den. The pack did not use any of its previous rendezvous sites and the radio-collared male ranged widely. Based on tracks and observations he appeared to be alone most of the summer. At the end of calendar year 2010, observations by WDFW indicate there are still 2-3 wolves occupying Lookout pack‟s territory.

 

2010 ANNUAL REPORT. (USFWS)

Oregon Pack Summaries
Inside Northern Rocky Mountain DPS
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ORFW) confirmed 2 breeding pairs of wolves in 2010. The Imnaha pack (15 miles east of Joseph, OR) produced a minimum of 6 pups in 2010. In February, 2010 three radio collars were deployed within the pack including a GPS collar. The pack was involved in livestock depredations from May through December and 8 calves confirmed killed in 2010. One member of the pack dispersed in December and the Imnaha Pack had 15 members at year-end; 6 of them pups.

Wolves also continue to inhabit the Wenaha Unit of northeast OR (20 mi west of Troy, OR). In August 2010 a Wenaha pack member was radio-collared by ODFW. In September, the newly collared wolf was found shot, leaving the pack again without a radio-collared member. A minimum of 3 pups was confirmed in 2010 and the minimum estimate for the Wenaha pack is 6 wolves. Both confirmed OR packs are within the NRM DPS that was delisted from the ESA in 2009 but relisted in August 2010.

The spread of wolves into Eastern Washington and Oregon is just one more piece of evidence that Canis lupus is recovered in the region.

And with them has come wolf angst, notably a anti-wolf march in La Grande yesterday by an estimated 60 protesters and word that another may descend on Salem, point-counterpoint vitriol wherever wolf or even tangentially-wolf-related articles appear online, opinion pieces such as “Predators at the door” in the Wenatchee World yesterday, and introduction of numerous wolf-related bills in the legislatures of the Beaver and Evergreen States — including one in Washington that would require state senators and representatives to sign off on WDFW’s management plan before the Fish & Wildlife Commission approved it.

Meanwhile, Carter Niemeyer, a retired federal biologist who worked extensively on wolf issues in Montana and Idaho in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s for USFWS and USDA Wildlife Services, is on a slide and speaking tour to publicize his self-published book, Wolfer. Last night before a crowd of 40 to 45 in Olympia, he countered some of the myths about wolves and where those that were reintroduced into Yellowstone and Central Idaho in the mid-1990s came from. He also said that he agrees with Bangs that it’s time to move on, time for the animals to be delisted — though not legislatively — and time for the states where populations are recovered to manage them on their own.

Currently, wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act, put back there following a federal judge’s ruling last August that wolves can’t be delisted in parts of their Northern Rockies range but not others. Since then, Congressmen have introduced numerous bills to delist them.

In its annual report, the Service reminds readers, “Minimum recovery goals (an equitably distributed wolf population that contained at least 300 wolves and 30 breeding pairs in Montana, in Idaho, and in Wyoming for at least three successive years) have been exceeded in the Northern Rocky Mountains Distinct Population Segment every year since 2002.”

“By every biological measure the NRM DPS wolf population is fully recovered,” writes the USFWS. “Resident packs appear to saturate suitable habitat in the core recovery areas and dispersing wolves routinely travel between them and Canada and successfully breed. Consequently, genetic diversity in the NRM DPS is very high and will almost certainly be maintained solely by natural dispersal at a population size less than half of current levels. The three subpopulations function as a single large NRM DPS meta-population. In addition, the NRM DPS is simply a 400-mile southern extension of a vast western Canadian wolf population that by itself contains over 12,000 wolves. Lone dispersing wolves continue to routinely travel beyond the core recovery areas and a few even go outside the NRM DPS.”

 

(USFWS)

(USFWS)

(USFWS)

OVER A SEVEN-MONTH PERIOD BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 2008 AND APRIL 2009, A FEMALE GRAY WOLF COVERED 3,000 MILES, CROSSING PARTS OF FIVE STATES, BEFORE DYING BY POISONING IN COLORADO. (USFWS)

OR Ocean Opens March 15 For Chinook

March 10, 2011

Fishing for Chinook out of Garibaldi, Depoe Bay and elsewhere along the Beaver State’s Central and South Coasts opens next Tuesday — just don’t expect an Oregon Tuna Classic-style blastoff.

“My model says seven fish,” says Eric Schindler, ODFW ocean salmon sampler in Newport, half jokingly about how many salmon will be brought back to the dock this month.

This afternoon the agency announced that ocean waters from Cape Falcon just north of Manzanita to Humbug Mountain near Port Orford will be open March 15-April 30 for kings.

The season comes thanks to a return to near-average forecasts for Sacramento fall Chinook, allowing for more fishing opportunity this year, he says.

Coho must be released, and anglers fishing out of Tillamook Bay are reminded that only adipose fin-clipped Chinook salmon may be retained when fishing inside Tillamook Bay and offshore waters within the 15-fathom depth contour between Twin Rocks and Pyramid Rock.

Citing data from spring seasons between 2002 and 2007, Schindler says that March’s high catch is six with an average of three for an average of 50 angler trips while April’s high mark is 155 and average is 44 for 200 angler trips.

“It’s an opportunity for people who like to go fishing and want to spend some time out on the ocean,” he says.

That said, the Chinook tend to be well offshore and weather windows fleeting, he says.

The area from Humbug Mountain to the Oregon-California border will remain closed during March and April.

Seasons after April 30 are being developed at this time, he says.

Massive Fines, Loss Of Hunt Privileges For 3 Trophy Poachers

March 10, 2011

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

Two recent court dispositions for cases involving the unlawful taking of trophy sized elk and deer are examples of penalties facing violators since increase fines took effect in Oregon in January 2010.

6X7 + 4X6 = $30,978 IN RESTITUTION AND FINES FOR THREE OREGON TROPHY ELK AND DEER POACHERS -- WHO ALSO ARE SITTING OUT THE NEXT THREE HUNTING SEASONS. (OSP)

According to Oregon State Police (OSP) Senior Trooper James Halsey, the first case started in September 2010 when OSP Fish & Wildlife Division troopers from the Albany and Salem offices investigated a report that Adam M. Schreiber, age 28, from Alsea, had unlawfully taken a spike bull elk and a 6×7 bull elk during the 2010 General Archery Season west of Alsea.

The investigated led OSP Fish & Wildlife troopers to arrest Schreiber for Exceeding Bag Limit of Bull Elk, Hunting on Enclosed Cultivated Lands of Another, and Unlawful Possession of Elk Antlers.  Troopers seized the 6×7 bull elk and spike elk along with an additional set of branch elk antlers.

Under new penalties that took effect January 2010, the 6×7 bull elk qualified for the increased trophy fines.  Any bull elk with at least 6 points on either side qualifies for a trophy fine of $15,000.

In early March 2011, Schreiber entered a guilty plea in Benton County Circuit Court and received fines totaling $15,202, received a three year hunting suspension, and forfeited all evidence seized during the investigation.  The $15,000 trophy fine will be paid as restitution to the Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW).

The second case started in October 2010 when OSP Fish & Wildlife Division troopers from the Albany office investigated a report that two Lebanon residents were in possession of a large 4×6 blacktail deer killed earlier during the day it was reported.

The investigation identified Seth Lawrence, age 22, and Kyle Immel, age 23, as suspects found in possession of the illegally killed deer.  Lawrence and Immel were subsequently charged with Unlawful Possession of a 4×6 Blacktail Buck Deer.  The deer and Immel’s rifle were seized as evidence.  Under the new penalties, any buck deer with at least four points on either side qualifies for a $7,500 trophy fine.

In November 2010, Lawrence and Immel entered guilty pleas in Lebanon Justice Court and were ordered to split the $7,500 trophy fine to be paid as restitution to ODFW.

In addition, Immel was sentenced to pay a total of $4,138 in fines, received a three year hunting suspension, and forfeited his rifle.  Lawrence was sentenced to pay a total of $4,138 in fines, received a three year hunting suspension, and forfeited the trophy buck.

How To Make An Editor Cry, Tactic 678

March 10, 2011

Send him a pic of a big steelhead from a river that he had a story on how to catch big steelhead from for the March issue, but pulled because he wanted to get lots of springer stuff in and, oh, yeah, went like fuh-reakin’ super-long on an antelope story that sucked up, hell, half the magazine.

Just got this message from Chris Shaffer of Pautzke Bait Co.:

“Live from the Cowlitz…Chad Manning catches a 17 pound steelie with Lee Barkie of NW River Fishing on a glob of BorX O Fire cured row. The river is high and off colored, but we’ve managed three on row (and have photos of em) since we started at 8:30.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T”

The big meanie also sent this image:

(CHRIS SHAFFER)

Wah.

Coastwide Ocean Salmon Options Released

March 10, 2011

(PACIFIC FISHERY MANAGEMENT COUNCIL NEWS RELEASE)

The Pacific Fishery Management Council today adopted three public review alternatives for the 2011 salmon season off the West Coast of the United States. The Council will select a final alternative at their next meeting in San Mateo, California on April 9-14.

“We are glad to see three alternatives calling for much better fishing south of Cape Falcon, due to strong forecasted abundance of Sacramento River and Klamath River fall Chinook,” said Pacific Council Chairman Mark Cedergreen. “While we will have significant ocean seasons off Washington and northern Oregon, we still have some conservation solutions to work on for the salmon stocks in this area.”

Washington and Northern Oregon (north of Cape Falcon)

Sport Season Alternatives

Ocean sport fishery alternatives north of Cape Falcon in Oregon and off the Washington coast have mark-selective coho quotas ranging from 54,600 to 79,800 that start in late June and run into September (last year, the quota was 67,200 marked coho). For Chinook salmon, quotas range from 32,000 Chinook to 52,000 Chinook (last year, the quota was 61,000 Chinook). Two alternatives include a mark-selective Chinook fishery in June, and one alternative includes mark-selective Chinook requirements early in the all salmon fishery. Two alternatives also allow one or two pink salmon to be retained in addition to the standard two salmon bag limit in areas north of Leadbetter Point.

Commercial and Tribal Season Alternatives

Non-Indian ocean commercial fishery alternatives north of Cape Falcon include traditional Chinook seasons between May and September. Chinook quotas for all areas and times range from 25,000-45,000, greater than the 2009 quota of 20,500 but less than the 2010 quota of 56,000. The marked coho quotas range from 10,400 to 15,200 (compared to last year’s quota of 12,800). One alternative includes the potential to allow non-mark-selective coho retention in late August or September.

Tribal ocean fishery alternatives north of Cape Falcon have Chinook quotas ranging from 35,000 to 55,000 and coho quotas ranging from 30,000 to 50,000; similar to last year’s quotas of 55,000 Chinook and 42,500 coho.

Background for Area North of Cape Falcon

North of Cape Falcon, Columbia River hatchery coho returns in 2010 were larger than forecast, but still below average. Columbia River Chinook returns were generally near or above forecast, and above historical averages.

The 2011 Columbia River tule Chinook forecasts are mixed, but overall above average. The hatchery coho forecasts for the Columbia River are slightly lower than last year while the forecast for Oregon coastal natural (OCN) coho is similar to last year’s actual return and the second highest forecast since 1996.

Oregon (South of Cape Falcon) and California

Sport Season Alternatives

Oregon ocean recreational alternatives include both mark-selective and non-markselective coho fishing seasons starting in June or July and running into August or September.

Ocean Chinook fishing alternatives in the Brookings/Crescent City/Eureka area open in May and continue through September 5. For the Tillamook, Newport, and Coos Bay areas, seasons will open March 15 and run through September or October.

Commercial Season Alternatives

Commercial Chinook salmon season alternatives in the Tillamook, Newport, and Coos Bay area will open April 15 and generally run through August, although some alternatives reopen for the month of October. Oregon season alternatives in the Brookings area all have a May 1-31 season and monthly quota fisheries for June, July, and August.

California season alternatives in the Eureka/Crescent City area range from monthly quota fisheries in June through September to entirely closed. All alternatives in the Fort Bragg area include open seasons in August and September, while quota fisheries are included in June and July for some alternatives. All alternatives in San Francisco and Monterey include openings in May, July, August and September, and two alternatives include short openings in June.

There are no alternatives that include commercial coho seasons south of Cape Falcon in 2011.

Background for Area South of Cape Falcon

In 2008, poor Sacramento returns led to the largest salmon fishery closure on record. While the 2009 forecast was better than the previous year’s, the season alternatives were extremely limited. In 2010, alternatives improved, with the first commercial fishing season off California in three years. This year, abundance is predicted to increase substantially, sufficient to provide robust fisheries and exceed the conservation goal of 122,000 – 180,000 spawning adult salmon.

In 2006, the Pacific Council established a rebuilding plan for Klamath River fall Chinook after three years of low spawning returns. Since that time returns have increased, and in 2010 were sufficient to meet the Council’s criteria for declaring the stock rebuilt. The 2011 Klamath River Fall Chinook forecast is near average and will allow opportunity for ocean and river fisheries while achieving the minimum spawning goal of 35,000 natural adult spawners.

Management Process

Public hearings to receive input on the alternatives are scheduled for March 28 in Westport, Washington and Coos Bay, Oregon; and for March 29 in Eureka, California. The Council will consult with scientists, hear public comment, and revise preliminary decisions until it chooses a final alternative at its meeting during the week of April 9 in San Mateo, California.

At its April meeting in San Mateo, the Council will narrow these alternatives to a single season recommendation to be forwarded to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for their final approval before May 1.

All Council meetings are open to the public.

Council Role

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 for the purpose of managing fisheries 3-200 miles offshore of the United States of America coastline. The Pacific Council recommends management measures for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

On the Web

Pacific Fishery Management Council: http://www.pcouncil.org

Ocean Salmon Options For WA Season Posted

March 10, 2011

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Anglers fishing along the Washington coast will see a lower catch quota for chinook salmon this year even though the total number of fish expected to return is higher.

Three ocean salmon-fishing options approved today by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) establish a lower harvest range for chinook to protect weak salmon stocks – particularly those returning to the lower Columbia River. The PFMC establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

Despite an expected increase in chinook abundance, the federal panel approved tighter restrictions to protect wild salmon stocks and meet conservation goals, said Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Our first priority is to meet crucial conservation objectives for wild salmon,” said Anderson, who represents WDFW on the management council. “The ocean options approved today are designed to meet or exceed those goals.”

Anderson said two of the options include recreational mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook that would begin in early June. If implemented, mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook would open ahead of the traditional recreational fishing season for the second straight year.

Mark-selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon, which are marked with a missing adipose fin, but require that they release wild salmon.

About 760,000 fall chinook are expected to return to the Columbia River this year, nearly 108,000 more chinook than last year’s forecast. A significant portion of that run – about 250,000 fish – is expected to be lower river hatchery chinook, which traditionally have been the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

For coho salmon, the ocean quota could be similar to or slightly lower than last year’s harvest guideline, said Anderson. This year’s forecast of 362,500 Columbia River coho, which account for a significant portion of the ocean catch, is similar to the 2010 projection.

The PFMC is expected to approve final harvest guidelines for this year’s recreational ocean fishery in mid-April. The three options announced today establish parameters for state and tribal fishery managers in designing this year’s fishing seasons.  The recreational fishing options are:

* Option 1 – 52,000 chinook and 79,800 coho;
* Option 2 – 42,000 chinook and 67,200 coho; and
* Option 3 – 32,000 chinook and 54,600 coho.

Using these options as a framework, fishery managers will work with stakeholders to develop a final fishing package that provides opportunities on healthy salmon runs while meeting conservation goals for weak salmon populations, said Anderson.

“Our goal is to provide a full season of fishing for chinook and coho,” Anderson said. “But to accomplish that we will likely need to use management tools such as restricting the number of days open each week and adjusting daily bag limits.”

The PFMC last year adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 61,000 chinook and 67,200 coho salmon.

Under each option for this year, the ocean recreational fishery would vary:

* Option 1: The recreational salmon fishing season would begin June 4 with a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in marine areas 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay). In Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco), the season would begin June 11. The selective fishery would run seven days a week, with a daily limit of two salmon, through June 25 or until 12,000 hatchery chinook are retained.
The recreational salmon season would continue June 26 in all coastal areas for chinook and hatchery coho. Anglers would have a daily limit of two salmon. In marine areas 2, 3 and 4, anglers would also be allowed to retain two additional pink salmon.

* Option 2: The recreational salmon fishing season would begin June 11 with a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in all ocean areas. The fishery would run seven days a week, with a daily limit of two salmon, through June 25 in Marine Area 1 and through June 30 in marine areas 2, 3 and 4 or until 12,000 hatchery chinook are retained.
The recreational salmon season would open for chinook and hatchery coho June 26 in Marine Area 1; July 1 in marine areas 3 and 4; and July 3 in Marine Area 2. Anglers fishing those marine areas would be allowed to retain one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. Anglers also would be allowed one additional pink salmon each day in marine areas 2, 3 and 4.

* Option 3: Recreational salmon fisheries would begin with mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook and hatchery coho. Those fisheries would get under way June 24 in marine areas 3 and 4; June 26 in Marine Area 2; and July 3 in Marine Area 1. Wild chinook retention would be allowed beginning in late July.

More details on these ocean options, including proposed fishing days per week, are available on PFMC’s website at http://www.pcouncil.org/ .

Chinook and coho quotas approved by the PFMC will be part of a comprehensive 2011 salmon fishing package, which includes marine and freshwater fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas. State and tribal co-managers are currently developing those fisheries.

The co-managers will complete the final 2011 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with the PFMC process during its April meeting.

Meanwhile, public meetings are scheduled in March to discuss regional fisheries issues. A public hearing on the three options for ocean salmon fisheries is scheduled for March 28 in Westport.

Fishery managers will consider input from the regional discussions during the “North of Falcon” process, which involves planning for fishing seasons in Washington’s waters. Two public North of Falcon meetings are scheduled for March 15 in Olympia and April 5 in Lynnwood. Both meetings will begin at 9 a.m.

More information about the salmon-season setting process, as well as a schedule of public meetings and salmon run-size forecasts, can be found on WDFW’s North of Falcon website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/ .

564 Springers Caught In Columbia So Far

March 9, 2011

Anglers have kept 564 spring Chinook on the lower Columbia River this season through last Sunday, most of which have been bound for tribs above Bonneville Dam.

Another 107 have been released.

That according to stats from stats junkie Joe Hymer, a biologist stationed in Vancouver.

“Through March 6, there have been an estimated 13,452 angler trips. 508 (90%) of the Chinook kept were upriver origin based upon sampling for Visual Stock Identification,” he reports in an email sent out this afternoon.

“It isn’t like everyone’s catching them,” confirms Buzz Ramsey this afternoon, though he and Eric Linde nabbed one and lost one today in the Interstate stretch.

They launched out of 42nd Street/Gleason by PDX and trolled herring and Fish Flashes downhill above I-5 at tide change.

“We hooked the two real close together,” Ramsey says.

ERIC LINDE AND BUZZ RAMSEY WITH THEIR MARCH 9 INTERSTATE SPRINGER. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

He reports 20 to 25 trailers in the parking area. One angler who came in ahead of them phoned back to say that his boat was the 20th checked and the first with a springer.

Hymer says that the total of 280 springers caught in February is the second highest tally for the month since 1978, when 294 were retained.

However, March’s first six days alone topped last month by four. It also saw the Columbia open for fishing above the I-5 bridge.

Last year, it appears that all of 128 were bonked in February.

AMONG THE ESTIMATED 564 SPRINGERS CAUGHT SO FAR, THIS ONE BY RYAN ROBINSON IN THE DAVIS BAR AREA. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Almost all of the catch so far has been by boaters. Only seven have been kept by shore anglers, and all of those on the Washington side.

The best area — or at least most productive at any rate — has been what managers call River Section 3, the water from the mouth of the Willamette up to the I-205 bridge area. A total of 181 have been retained there.

Second best is the water from the Willamette to the mouth of the Lewis. Sixty-one have been kept in that reach.

It’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, but the catch is above last year’s pace. Last March Hymer reported, “From Feb. 1-March 14, 2010, there have been an estimated 21,500 angler trips with 800 chinook handled from the lower Columbia mainstem sport fishery below Bonneville Dam.  698 (88%) of the chinook caught were kept.  68% of the chinook kept were lower river stock based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI).”

Hymer reports that 52 steelhead have also been kept this season, 117 let go.

The Bonneville Dam count sits at 29 through March 8; the 10-year average through yesterday is 160. Last year, only 10 had gone past it by this time.

What’s Fishin’ In OR (3-9-11)

March 9, 2011

They read like names from a phone book, and if you’re a Western Oregon angler,  we suggest you call on Benson, Coffenbury, Garrison, Hagg, Huddleston and Sheridan.

They’ve all been recently planted or will be stocked this week with trout.

AMONG THE NUMEROUS WESTERN OREGON WATERS PLANTED WITH TROUT, WEST SALISH POND IN GRESHAM. (RICK SWART/ODFW)

But if bigger beasts be what yer after, may we also suggest springers on the Columbia, Willamette/Multnomah and Rogue and steelhead in Northeast Oregon?

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

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Bradley Lake, Powers Pond, Empire Lakes, Saunders Lake and Johnson Mill Pond were all stocked with legal-sized trout the first week of March.
  • The first spring chinook of the year have been caught on the lower Rogue River; the bite will pick up again once water levels drop.
  • The upper Rogue River above Big Butte Creek is in great shape for winter steelhead fishing.
  • Several lakes and reservoirs in the Umpqua district have received their first stocked trout of the year including Lake Marie, and Ben Irving, Plat I and Cooper Creek reservoirs.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Henry Hagg Lake near Forest Grove is now open to fishing and was stocked last week with 18,000 legal-sized rainbow trout. Large brood trout released earlier in the year should also be available.
  • Sturgeon retention fishing is now open on the Willamette and anglers have reported that the fish are hungry and biting. The daily bag limit is one white sturgeon with a fork length of 38 to 54 inches.
  • A few confirmed reports of spring chinook landings in the Willamette River have been reported and angler effort is increasing.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Relatively consistent flows and possible blue wing olive hatches make the Crooked River a good destination for trout and whitefish. But be sure to check river levels before making a trip.
  • March can be a great month to fish Haystack Reservoir near Madras.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • The lower Owyhee River is ice free. While fishing has been slow, a March skwala hatch could ignite the bite.
  • The ice is clearing on Thief Valley Reservoir and there are reports of some very large trout being caught.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Steelhead fishing on the John Day River has been good between rainstorms.
  • Steelhead fishing on the Umatilla River in the Pendleton “urban” fishery has been good with folks fishing before and after work. It’s some of the best steelhead fishing on the Umatilla in years.
  • Water levels in the Wallowa and Imnaha rivers have been at fishable levels and steelhead fishing has been good despite the cold weather.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Salmonid angler effort continues to rise; however, catch rates slowed down this past weekend due to the cold water temperature.  On Saturday’s (3/5) flight, 475 salmonid boats and 115 Oregon bank anglers were counted.  Most of the effort continues to be upstream of St. Helens.
  • Troutdale Boats: Weekend checking showed 11 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook kept, plus three unclipped spring chinook released for 51 boats (111 anglers).
  • Portland to Longview Boats: Weekend checking showed 25 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook kept, plus six unclipped spring chinook released for 211 boats (501 anglers).

 

Cabela’s Announces May 5 Opening At Springfield

March 9, 2011

Cabela’s has announced that their brand-new store in Springfield — the first in Oregon — will open Thursday, May 5, 2011, at 4 p.m.

Located on the sight of a former furniture store at 2800 Gateway Street, company officials say the building has “undergone a dramatic renovation to reflect Cabela’s traditional outdoor theme inside and out. Museum-quality wildlife displays, historic memorabilia, trophy animal mounts will be featured throughout” the 58,000-square-foot facility.

More than 200 employees have been hired to stock and staff the store with products the Sydney, Nebraska-based firm says have been “chosen specifically for the Pacific Northwest outdoor enthusiast.”

Shoppers will also find a “gun library, fly fishing shop, bargain cave” and other sections.

The outlet is being managed by Bob Fabbri, described as an “avid hunter of high country mule deer” who “also enjoys outdoor photography and horseback riding.”

It will be open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Cabela’s also has 32 stores across the Lower 48 and southern Canada, including outlets in Lacey, Wash., and Post Falls and Boise, Idaho, plans to open five more locations, including Springfield, soon. Among the largest is a 235,000-square-foot facility in Texas.

It also operates a popular catalog business.

Last month the company reported increased fourth-quarters sales in late 2010 vs. the same period in 2009.

Further Details On NW WA Skinned Wolf Case

March 9, 2011

If it weren’t for the nose of Mishka, a specially trained Finnish bear dog, game wardens might never have found the skinned carcass of a wolf in eastern Skagit County in September 2009.

New details about the case emerged today from Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife officer Capt. Bill Hebner in Mill Creek.

He says “several” anonymous tips led officers to search along a road in the Bacon Creek drainage, off Highway 20 between Marblemount and Newhalem.

“It was next to impossible to find it,” Hebner says. “We could smell something dead, but even so, couldn’t find it. The next day we came back with one of our Karelian bear dogs and he found it within seconds.”

It’s believed the wolf was illegally shot near Rainy Pass, further up Highway 20 in extreme eastern Skagit County, skinned elsewhere and then the carcass was dumped.

“We have identified two suspects. We’re hoping more information will come forward,” he says.

WDFW’s tip hotline is (877) 933-9847.

Penalties for shooting a wolf ranges up to $100,000 and a year in jail.

Mishka is one of three Karelians the agency uses to scare the bejesus out of bears that have roamed too close to homes, and find animal parts and poop. He was extremely important in a fall 2007 case that busted a Woodland, Wash., man for poaching a trophy elk inside Olympic National Park. Following Robert Hurst’s guilty plea in January 2010, I reported on it in our March 2010 issue:

IF IT HAD BEEN a state case, (WDFW enforcement officer) Brian Alexander feels he could have had it wrapped up with the framer’s words, but the federal prosecutor “wanted specific things before he charged,” he says.

So he and others spent 600 man hours searching the extremely rugged terrain for a kill site, but unsuccessfully.

What they needed, it turns out, was a good nose moreso than sharp eyes.

WDFW biologist Rocky Spencer, who tragically died on the job in 2007, had a Karelian bear dog, Mishka. Ownership passed to enforcement officer Bruce Richards, and in early August 2008, the pair were brought in because of Mishka’s nose for bones.

They and Alexander began at the bottle and went downhill into Litchy Creek. Almost immediately Mishka found two bones with saw marks underneath forest debris.

“Brian said, ‘Jeez, Bruce, when I heard that, my heart leapt from my chest!’” Richards recalls.

From previous statements, they knew that a large chunk of the bull’s neck had been cut off during the pack out. At that point, Alexander’s GPS told them they were over three-quarters of a mile inside the park.

A bit further down he found bone, and then Mishka hit the jackpot – vertebrae with connective tissue.

“And that’s what made the DNA case,” says Richards. Adds Alexander, “That was the tipping point for the Feds.”

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service lab in Ashland, Ore., matched the tissue with the sample Alexander had taken from the bull’s head 11 months before. Even further downhill they found an arrow and more bone.

WDFW OFFICERS BRIAN ALEXANDER, BRUCE RICHARDS AND MISHKA ON THE SCENE WHERE ELK BONES WERE FOUND INSIDE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, A DISCOVERY THAT BROKE OPEN A POACHING CASE AGAINST A WOODLAND, WASH., MAN. (WDFW)

“He’s been very useful,” says Capt. Hebner, “many different applications.”