Of Octopus, Halibut And Chinook

My two kayak kolumnists are pushing the envelope in terms of what you can catch from Tupperware — Bryce Molenkamp hauled up a freakin’ giant octopus this past weekend — but another member of the plastic Navy may have pushed the bounds of good sense.

An angler going by the name Fishnut from the Marysville, Wash., area reports going at least 4 miles offshore to fish for halibut on Partridge Bank at the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Saturday.

He says sea conditions were good and a game warden who “boarded” his vessel was relieved to see he had good safety equipment.

All totaled, he reported pedaling (some kayaks are paddle-powered, others by pedals) 15 to 20 miles out and back to Whidbey Island, but didn’t get any bites.

We’re sure that Fishnut took all due precautions and that the weather window was ideal before Saturday night’s rains came in, and it’s true that you can die in the surf right next to shore, but still … ahem, no need to be the Northwest’s first kayak fishing casualty and put a cloud over the sport.

Back to that weird catch. Molenkamp, of Shoreline, Wash., was also out for halibut with a whole gang of kayakers at Neah Bay when he thought he snagged the bottom.

But it gradually gave way and pretty soon he had a big octopus suctioned to the bottom of his Hobie.

Pictures and underwater video detail the battle with the 5-foot-long, eight-armed denizen of the deep.

I have to admit never looking up the regs for this species, but giant octopus retention is open year-round, daily limit one. The regs state that they can only be caught by hand or with an instrument that doesn’t puncture them, except that they can also be kept when fishing with a hook and line. Marine Area 12, Hood Canal, is closed to, umm, octopussing — or whatever it might be called.

BRYCE MOLENKAMP (CENTER) AND HIS GIANT OCTOPUS. (NORTHWESTKAYAKANGLERS.COM)

Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for WDFW, terms them an occasional catch made mostly by halibut and lingcod anglers.

“They’re a pain to throw back, because every time you try to lift them up, they sucker down,” he says.  “Easiest if you can coax them into a bucket, then hold the bucket over the side upside down in the water. In short order, they’ll make a run for the bottom. Some guys just hang on to them for halibut bait.”

On the springer front, some bad news and some good.

The Columbia is now running at 430,000 cubic feet per second at Bonneville Dam, but before it hit that level, there were at least some fish caught following Sunday’s reopener on the lower river.

Here’s the report issued earlier today by ODFW fish checkers:

Gorge Bank: Weekend checking showed three adipose fin-clipped spring chinook adults and 15 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook jacks kept for 46 bank anglers.

Gorge Boats: Weekend checking showed one adipose fin-clipped spring chinook adult and five adipose fin-clipped spring chinook jacks kept, plus two unclipped spring chinook jacks released for three boats (five anglers).

Troutdale Boats: Weekend checking showed 18 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook adults and 11 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook jacks kept, plus seven unclipped spring chinook adults and two unclipped spring chinook jacks released for 50 boats (132 anglers).

Portland to Longview Bank: Weekend checking showed 30 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook adults, 23 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook jacks and nine adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus four unclipped spring chinook adults, five unclipped spring chinook jacks and one sockeye released for 195 bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Boats: Weekend checking showed three unclipped spring chinook adults kept, plus one unclipped spring chinook jack released for four boats (eight anglers).

Estuary Boats: No report.

Well upstream of the estuary, WDFW today announced a closure as well as an opening that’s sure to please Don Talbot and the boys in the Wenatchee Valley.

The Ringold stretch of the Columbia north of the Tri-Cities will close as of 9 p.m. Friday, May 20, due to very low returns so far — none to the trap and very few age-5 fish in the sport fishery, which has been open since May 1.

Icicle Creek will open this Saturday, May 21, for spring Chinook, limit three per day, minimum size 12 inches. According to WDFW, an in-season analysis estimates 9,000 are headed back to the smallish stream near Leavenworth, including 6,000 adults and 3,500 jacks.

So far, though, only 2,874 Chinook have made it past Rock Island Dam, the first dam below the Wenatchee River into which the Icicle drains.

The open area begins 500 feet below the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery and 800 feet above the mouth. Salmon with a round hole or holes punched in their tail, however, must be released, and there is a night fishing closure.

ICICLE CREEK IS SMALL, BUT THIS YEAR'S RUN IS EXPECTED TO BE LARGE. SCOTT FLETCHER SHOWS OFF A NICE ONE LANDED DURING THE 2009 SEASON. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

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