Archive for the ‘EDITOR’S BLOG’ Category

OSP Seeks Tips In Roseburg Whitetail Poaching

April 20, 2012

(OREGON STATE POLICE FISH & WILDLIFE DIVISION PRESS RELEASE)

Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife troopers from the Roseburg Area Command office are asking for the public’s help to solve the poaching of a white-tailed deer found in a pasture northeast of Roseburg. A reward is offered by the Oregon Hunters Association for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in this case.

On April 13, 2012, OSP troopers found the carcass of a white-tailed doe deer shot and left to waste in a pasture near Whistler Lane Road about ten miles northeast of Roseburg.

A reward of up to $500 is offered by the Turn-In_Poacher (TIP) program for information related to this investigation. Lead investigators are Trooper Jason Stone and Senior Trooper Wayne Merritt. Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact Trooper Stone at (541) 817-4472 or email tips to Jason.A.Stone@state.or.us.

Pierce Co. Man Charged With Nearly 40 Counts Of Bear Baiting

April 20, 2012

A middle-aged Pierce County, Wash., man has an arraignment hearing in an Okanogan County court later this month on nearly 40 counts of illegally baiting in and killing multiple black bears in the upper Methow Valley over the past two years.

In either a testament of James Erickson’s innocence or a show of his attitudes towards game laws, photos of a very large bruin that game wardens allege he poached over food scraps still remained prominently and publicly posted on his Facebook page as of this morning.

“Killed over bait minutes before that shot,” says Sgt. James Brown of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. “The bait is about 30 yards to the right of the picture from the meat pole.”

He claims that Erickson would haul in a mix of restaurant scraps, day-old food and salmon to attract bears to his property backed up against the Okanogan National Forest in the Rendezvous area.

“It looked like he might have contacts in the restaurant industry,” Brown says.

Baiting bears has been illegal in Washington since 1996, when it was outlawed by a statewide initiative.

Erickson’s attorney says the state is making a mountain out of a mole hill and that he will enter a not-guilty plea for his client at the April 30 pro forma hearing in Okanogan.

All totaled, Erickson was charged last week with 34 counts of baiting, four counts of unlawful big game hunting in the second degree, and one count each of unlawful transport, second degree spotlighting, third-degree possession of stolen property – a trail cam – possession of a body-gripping trap, and possession of a duplicate tag.

Brown says WDFW also seized the large-caliber rifle the defendant allegedly used to kill the Facebook bear late last summer, and his 2007 Chevy Suburban which hauled the carcass to a Westside butcher as well as transported bait.

Erickson did not immediately respond to Northwest Sportsman’s request for a comment, but his attorney downplayed the charges.

“When the case comes to trial, most of the air will come out of the balloon,” says John Brangwin of Woods & Brangwin in Wenatchee. “I think (WDFW) cast too big of a net – there may be some violations, but it’s not the crime of the century.”

He says the case will turn on whether leaving out food which wildlife happens to come upon and feed on is illegal.

“What’s the crime – shooting the animal or putting the material out there?” Brangwin says.

He also suggested that wardens put so much time and money into watching Erickson that they had to justify it somehow, and thus all the charges.

FOR SIX YEARS, goings-on at the defendant’s “hunting” cabin between Little Cub Creek and Cub Creek, about 14 miles up the Chewuch River valley from Winthrop, have been on local game warden Cal Treser’s radar, says Sgt. Brown.

“Citizens had been telling the officer that the camp had a revolving door of participants, all Western Washington residents, who used the camp as a base of operations to commit big game violations, allegedly in and out of season,” he says.

Trying to get to the bottom of secondhand stories of deer poaching, an undercover officer made several contacts with the group over the years and was told about “many supposed violations,” but Brown admits WDFW also unable to see anything first hand.

Over time it also became clear that folks at the cabin were “keenly aware” of uniformed game warden presence in the area and “were taking many steps to avoid detection of their activities,” says Brown.

To break the case Treser needed a little luck.

That came last summer when Brown says Treser learned that a bear bait station on Erickson’s property could be seen from Forest Service land. That site also featured a trail cam, and since the possible violation was in “open view,” Treser was able to get a search warrant to access the camera and its card.

Brown says that that then gave Treser ample opportunity over a period of several months to check on what was happening at the site.

“Many of the pictures showed (Erickson) coming by and dumping baits out,” says Brown.

Photos also showed bears coming in and bears being killed, he alleges.

The images gave WDFW enough evidence to serve search warrants on Erickson’s cabin and his house in eastern Pierce County.

Forensic analysis of computer files, including “hundreds” of photos, eventually led to not only the charges against Erickson, but also three immediate family members.

They were charged with a total of six counts of baiting and four counts of unlawful big game hunting in the second degree.

Two other individuals, apparent family friends if Facebook photos are any indication, were also charged with a total of three counts of baiting and three counts of unlawful big game hunting in the second degree.

Another two people are mentioned in court papers but were not charged.

Arraignment dates have not been set for the family members or friends, according to information from Okanogan County.

Brown expressed disgust at the suspects’ alleged manner of bear hunting. He says that most of the animals were “shot from the comfort of an Adirondack chair on the porch of the cabin,” and that 20 pages of a 150-page-or-so diary recovered at the building also allegedly indicate that some bruins were killed before the shooters had even put on their shoes.

Under state law, baiting is a gross misdemeanor, subject to fines and hunting license revocation for up to five years.

Really, Stop Coming Here, Please!

September 1, 2011

I’ve gotta hand it to you: You are persistent, checking for updates on this page. Sometimes that can be a good trait. Take ad sales, for example.

But really, like I said before, I’m not going to be posting any new blogs over here.

It’s now all over at http://nwsportsmanmag.com/.

What have you been missing out on over there?

Here are some recent headlines:

Week On The Water Yields Plenty, Fun
Humpies Slayed, Smoked
Great Season At Buoy 10
Pinks Arrive, Wolves, Poachers, Discover Pass
Brian Lull Loves Humpies, Or, Hump-ageddon 2011 Begins
Floor: Get Ready For September ‘Salmon Crescendo’
SW WA, Lower Columbia Fishing Report (9-1-11)
Gorgeous Steelhead Image
Pend Oreille Pike Discussed At Meeting

Your time is your own, of course, but I think I’m even going to stop trying to move you towards http://nwsportsmanmag.com/. Some cats you just can’t herd in the right direction (I am example No. 1 on this front, so please don’t take offense).

Anyway, check it out, please.

Seriously, This Blog Page Is Just Gonna Wither Away

August 24, 2011

Still lurking around this page looking for fresh Northwest hook-and-bullet info?!?!

It’s just not gonna happen.

No more reading articles on Washington and Oregon salmon, steelhead, deer, elk, pike — the whole menagerie — here anymore. We’ve moved completely over to nwsportsmanmag.com.

Same content, just a new base of operations.

Move along now.

Unsubscribe.

Unfollow.

Scram.

Beat it!

AW
NWS

New Blog Site For Northwest Sportsman

August 23, 2011

Dearest NWSWordpress Reader,

Perhaps you came to this page today looking for the latest fishing or hunting news from around the Northwest.

Or maybe recent game warden follies (if we could only share what weren’t supposed to receive this morning).

Or changes to the regulations (they’re opening Snake Chinook!?!)

… And look at that, the lazy editor hasn’t posted a single new item since Aug. 19.

Three and a half days!

Eighty-four hours!

Intolerable!

Over the weekend, Buoy 10 went completely off the fuh-reakin’ hook — numbers and size; guide Jim Stahl hauled in four 30-pounders on Sunday alone.

Pinks squirmed towards Seattle and Everett in bigger and bigger numbers, and they’re saying it’s the All Time Best Humpy Year out in Sekiu.

ODFW and egg-cure makers reached a voluntary agreement on sulfite levels in the companies’ mojo.

Pugetropolites can’t grasp the crabbing regulations.

Wolves are confirmed in the Mt. Emily Unit in Northeast Oregon.

Rosendo Guerrero handed out 500 grocery bags to anglers on the Puyallup and people are still leaving junk on the river’s banks.

And this page is silent?!

Bereft of comment?!

The editor can’t even manage to post a press release?!?!

What. The. Hell.

Ahem, OK, yeah, it looks like I’m slacking, but here’s the reason: Over the weekend our Tech Dude migrated our WordPress blog onto our revamped Web site, nwsportsmanmag.com.

NEW NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN WEB SITE.

For the past two and a half years and 1,739 blog entries, we typed here and the verbiage and photos would be posted here and somehow magically appear over there.

Now, we’re typing there and all the content will be published on that page.

Even better, that site now has an archive of all the stories that were here.

Before, they would just  … fall off that page after a couple weeks and be gone forever due to page-load optimizing that set limits on how many articles appeared online at any one time.

It was silly.

For the few folks who subscribed to this WordPress blog, or followed it on their lunch breaks or, heck, obsessively clicked on it through the day, thank you for reading, I do appreciate it.

We had good times, and saw some stories get crazy click counts … and a lot of others that I’ll forever wonder, why did I spend so much time on that?

But not much is going to happen here from now on. Again, the action will instead be over at nwsportsmanmag.com.

Same great (or at least marginally intelligible editor psycho babble) content, just a new home.

R.I.P., NWSWordpress.

AW

Buoy 10 Producing

August 19, 2011

Northwest Sportsman is descending on Buoy 10 — Buzz Ramsey’s there for the weekend, Tim Bush is heading there, Terry Otto was out yesterday, Larry Ellis is coming up on Monday — and it looks like their timing is perfect!

And how’s the mouth of the Columbia fishing?

Otto just filed this report from Thursday’s action:

“We got four fish the first hour, two in the mid-day, and got five in a quick super bite in the afternoon,” says the Sandy, Ore., scribe.

He was fishing with Buzz and ended up keeping seven, including five Chinook and two clipped silvers.

“We also released two wild coho, one dark tule Chinook and a nice ‘Nook we caught after we all were limited on kings. Top fish was near 30; I hooked four of the ‘Nooks,” he says.

OTTO AND BUZZ WITH TERRY'S FIRST KING. (TERRY OTTO)

Otto’s first king bit not 30 minutes into the trip.

Meanwhile, somewhere else on the coast of the eastern Pacific, Mark Veary of Hillsboro, Ore., and a buddy were out in their kayaks at what is only described as “tidewater” and scored a pair of Chinook, including a 22-pounder.

“We had this place to ourselves and were home by noon,” the tight-lipped angler says.

FISHING MORE PROTECTED WATERS AFTER HIS TRIP 50 MILES OUT OF NEWPORT LAST WEEK, MARK VEARY SCORED THIS 22-POUNDER AT TIDEWATER. (SCOTT BRENAMIN)

A Little Too Much Coffee, Perhaps …

August 19, 2011
Outdoor reporters, sheesh, if they’re not hyper about some upcoming fishery, they’re declaring The End Is Near because some stat somewhere has their drawers up in a bunch.

Or, ahem, maybe that’s just me.

Just 19 days ago, with possibly the best one-day creel ever for a single dock at Sekiu, I was like, “I’m not quite ready to declare WDFW’s projection of a 6-million-humpy return null and void, but, ummm …”

Ummm, as in, “HOLY @#$%@% !@##% $!@#$%@$ @%$@$#%@$%@, THE HUMPIES ARE COMING!!!!!!!!!!!! ELEVENTY JILLION OF ‘EM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Fast forward two weeks and about 60 miles east to the catch hauled into Everett’s 10th St. launch last Sunday, 173, and I’m leaving voice mails along the lines of this to Steve Thiesfeld in Oly: “Hey, uhh, Steve, this is, ummm, Andy, Northwest Sportsman, dude, where are the humpies?!?!”

One hundred and seventy-three is just one-sixth of how many were tallied on the same mid-August Sunday in 2009’s run.

Pretty soon I’m searching Google News for “2011 pink salmon return,” “pink salmon return late?” “pink salmon return off,” “pink salmon run collapse,” “pink salmon biologists worried,” “pink salmon biologists fretting,” “pink salmon biologist found slumped over drunk in office, before noon,” “pink salmon biologist’s life remembered,” “pink salmon biologists flee to Canada en masse,” etc.

Canada is where we actually find Steve T. today — total coincidence, though.

WDFW’s Puget Sound Salmon Manager is up in Richmond, B.C., for a Pacific Salmon Commission Fraser River Panel meeting, and this morning forwarded me an 16-page document with all sorts of catch stats, charts, tables, eye-catching colored lines, etc., etc., etc

It’s just a total blizzard of scientific and mathematical data that, for a Wazzu English major, is almost totally inscrutable, but it boils down to: pink salmon movement through the Strait of Juan de Fuca is on the upswing, the massive Fraser run is on schedule, and, seriously, breathe through your nose, Walgamott, before hassling overworked state staffers.

(PACIFIC SALMON COMMISSION FRASER PANEL)

“I suspect that some of the stocks might be a bit late, but will be increasing shortly,” Thiesfeld says. “If they are lower than forecast anywhere, it would be the northern S rivers, as catches have been fairly good in Area 11 so far.”

There are also interesting signs off the Washington coast. The inseason catches out of Westport and LaPush are well over tallies for the entire 2009 and 2007 seasons and above 2007 at Neah Bay though about 2,500 below ’09’s total catch.

Those fish are probably headed to the Northern S’s — the Skagit, Stilly and Snohomish systems, once the epicenter of Hump City for Pugetropolis residents.

That’s shifted south in recent odd-years, to the Central and South Sound. Area 11 is off Tacoma, where over 900,000 are expected back to the Puyallup, Nisqually and smaller streams. Just over 2.75 mil are forsoothed to return to the S’s.

Another 2.2 million are forecast for the Duwamish/Green, a fishery which begins today — and hey, look at that, somebody is all excited about it on the front side.

Give it about a week and then you’ll probably get some hits googling “pink salmon editor fretting.”

It’s Official: Record July Steelie Catch

August 19, 2011

Lower Columbia steelheaders bonked a record number last month, and just missed topping the all-time “handle” mark for July as well.

According to fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, Washington and Oregon anglers kept 8,549 steelies in July 2011 from Bonneville Dam down to the mouth, over 300 more than the previous record set in that monster run year, 2009.

That year saw 8,221 retained while last July fell just eight fish short of tying that mark.

“Last month’s 15,897 total steelhead handled (kept and released) missed the record by just 37 fish — 15,934 in 2009,” Hymer adds.

The incredible fishing has continued right into August. Earlier this week he announced that fishermen had handled 11,639 steelhead, a record for August by 590 fish (a mark also set in 2009).

It’s likely that this year’s higher, cooler Columbia is making the fish more available to bank anglers, and that we’re also dialing in how to fish dyed prawns.

Pink-a-geddon About To Hit Seattle

August 18, 2011

First two things that happened at the office this morning: A pink-salmon-fishing-report request for the Snohomish, and a pink report from the as-yet-to-open Duwamish.

Relax, Cenci, the latter was just word that our Brian Lull saw a couple splashing there this morning, the first time he’s seen jumpers along the Seattle river on his way back and forth to work this summer.

The Duwamish opens this Saturday, Aug. 20, from the 1st Ave. South bridge upstream to I-405, and if it’s like other Puget Sound rivers, plenty of humpies are already in and have somehow escaped the notice of Eagle Eyes Lull.

Sharp eyes inspecting the regulations pamphlet will also see that the inner Elliott Bay fishery below 1st St. opens tomorrow for Friday-Sunday fishing, and I have a sneaking suspicion it will be busy — especially the famous/infamous Spokane Street Bridge scene.

“Everyone lined up at Lincoln Park (in West Seattle) is waiting for it to open,” says Tim Bush at Outdoor Emporium (206-624-6550), a hop, skip, jump and couple leaps from Spokane Street and our office.

AT ITS BEST, THE SPOKANE STREET BRIDGE FISHERY OFFERS A GORGEOUS VIEW OF THE CITY AND MASSIVE NUMBERS OF EASY-TO-CATCH SALMON. (TERRY WIEST, SALMONUNIVERSITY.COM)

There, the trick is to cast and jig back 1/4-ounce leadhead jigs with a pink skirt, or small, holographic pink or straight pink Buzz Bombs.

Out on Elliott, spot jumpers and cast that tackle, or just drag small glo or pink hoochies 15 to 16 inches behind a white 8- or 11-inch flasher.

As with elsewhere in Puget Sound, single, barbless hooks are required in the saltwater and up to 1st St. Bridge.

While Ebay offers room to roam, it will be much more crowded at Spokane Street, charitably described as an “urban combat fishery.”

Asked about it, the local game warden Eric Olson laughs and says, “Spokane Street is …”

“It’s a zoo. It’s a blood bath. It’s ugly,” adds his boss, Mike Cenci, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Deputy Chief for enforcement. “It’s not much of an experience.’

ANGLERS FISH FROM THE PIER BELOW SPOKANE STREET BRIDGE. (TERRY WIEST, SALMONUNIVERSITY.COM)

He warns that his officers will be doing emphasis patrol there — “We’re already down there,” adds Sgt. Russ Mullins — and we can almost guarantee that the media will be shining a klieg light on the scene, as in this 2009 TV report that found its way all the way to stations in the Lilac City.

“It’s 100 to 130 yards long and you get 200-plus people all fishing on it at the same time,” says Olson, who is Seattle’s lone fish and wildlife enforcement officer. “Every officer in the area dreads it.”

Game wardens are at Spokane Street because it marks the pinch point between a low return of ESA-listed Chinook that led fishery managers to close king retention in the river and Elliott Bay for sport anglers; a massive 2-million-strong run of pink salmon; the first place bankies can really access humpies; crabbers; shady crabbers; thousands upon thousands of hooks; upstanding anglers hoping to limit out; fishermen of lesser character; illegal fish sellers and buyers; and other unsavory sorts who nonetheless may/will be painted by the media as us.

They’re not.

“Probably the biggest problem is the snagging,” says Cenci. “It’s essentially unsportsmanlike conduct when you’re snagging next to someone who is fishing legitimately. We’ve seen a few (snagged) Chinook that walk off.”

Unlike 2009, the last time the odd-year pinks came through, this season Chinook are off-limits altogether and anglers may not use bait or hooks that are wider than 1/2 inch from point to shank.

And there are additional rules — a night closure, forage-fish jig-gear ban, anti-snagging rule and stipulation that only salmon hooked inside the mouth can be kept from the 1st Ave. South bridge downstream to an imaginary line between SW Hanford Street on the mainland and Harbor Island.

There are similar restrictions on up the Duwamish/Green as well to be aware of.

Officers with excellent optics are there to make sure everything is on the up and up — or as much as they possibly can.

“We try and ensure an orderly fishery,” says Cenci.

Already this humpy season, there have been some lowlights at Browns Point Park near Tacoma.

“People have been leaving garbage, hooks, broken glass and even defecating in people’s yards!” reported Tom Pollack at Sportco (253-922-2222) in Fife on SalmonUniversity.com.

WDFW sent three officers out, and Cenci says that the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office “graciously” tasked several deputies to work the area as well.

Perhaps that took care of the problem, perhaps the arrival of pinks in the Puyallup River around the corner did.

“It’s been outstanding,” reports Randy Anderson, also at Sportco. “In the river, they’re doing really well.”

The “loads and loads of people” are doing best drift-fishing Corkies and yarn, primarily in pink shades, he says.

A few kings have been hooked as well, making quick work of trout-sized tackle.

As for Snohomish River pinks that I mentioned at the top of this blog, a buddy emailed this morning wondering about where to hit it this weekend. According to Ted’s Sports Center (425-743-9505), it’s fishy throughout, from Langus Waterfront Park in Everett up to the Highway 522 bridge.

“In the lower river, 2 and 21/2 inch Buzz Bombs and Wannabees have been overall the lure of choice. In the upper portion of the river pink lead head jigs with pink, pink and white or white tails of marabou or lead heads with squid bodies of the same color combinations,” the Lynnwood shop’s blog reports.

That said, last weekend’s catches out of Everett at the mouth of the Snohomish were, well, on par with 2007. On a mid-August Sunday at this point of 2009’s whopper run, six times as many were brought back to the 10th St. ramp (1,070 on Aug. 16, 2009 vs. 173 on Aug. 14, 2011).

The Everett Herald‘s longtime outdoor reporter Wayne Kruse reports the big run may be stalled out of Port Angeles and the eastern Straits. A Canadian news service speculates that the return to southern BC waters may be two weeks late.

With the Duwamish opening and more pinks entering the Puyallup and Snohomish Rivers, we anglers have the opportunity to improve upon our tarred image from 2009’s salmon runs.

Even if the TV reporters are distracted by the latest news of the moment and pay us not a lick of attention, pick up yours and others’ trash, don’t poop anywhere but in a pooper, don’t snag, don’t overlimit.

Follow the rules, don’t trespass, be courteous to fellow fishermen, landowners and other river users, don’t take crap from those who would cloud our reputation.

In short, be a good sportfishing ambassador.

RMEF Issues 2011 Elk Hunting Forecast

August 17, 2011

We’re still hoping to hear back from some Northwest big game biologists for the latest news, but this morning the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation released its annual hunting forecast.

It says that while harsh winter, habitat issues and wolves are driving numbers of wapiti down locally, the Missoula-based organization is “optimistic” about 2011’s hunts, which begin as early as Aug. 27 in Oregon and Sept. 6 in Washington for general-season bowhunters.

WASHINGTON HUNTERS DRAWN FOR QUALITY HUNTS LIKE OBSERVATORY AND PEACHES RIDGE STAND A CHANCE OF TAKING WHOPPER BULLS, LIKE THIS ONE STEVE ALLEN DOWNED LAST SEPTEMBER. (RUGER PHOTO CONTEST)

And looking at the broader, longterm picture of recovery and expansion of elk herds and hunts across North America and the “surge” of record trophies in recent years, RMEF says this “may indeed be the Golden Era of elk hunting.”

As for those wolves, the organization includes a special note in its forecast, noting that in recent years, animal-rights activists have “blatantly” misrepresented its statistics “to prop up their argument for keeping wolves perpetually on the Endangered Species List.”

RMEF Fires Back On Wolf Groups’ ‘Disingenuous’ Use Of Its Data

“It’s a fact that where wolves are concentrated, elk herds are being impacted,” maintains RMEF. “Calf survival rates in certain areas are too low to sustain herds for the future. Wolves must be managed, same as elk. In spite of the misuse, RMEF believes these data are valuable to hunters and will continue to provide them.”

Here are RMEF’s forecasts for Northwestern states and British Columbia:

British Columbia
Elk Population: 63,000
Bull/Cow Ratio: 25-30/100
Nonresidents: $180 license plus $250 elk permit, must hire a guide
Hunter Success: N/A
Highlights: Rocky Mountain elk herds are thriving, with the agricultural zones in the Peace River region a great bet. For a backcountry experience, look to the Omineca region in north-central BC. If you’ve always dreamed of hunting a trophy Roosevelt’s bull, the stars are aligned for a great season. No limits or quotas have changed since last season, and limited-entry tags are still a tough draw at roughly 35/1. Outfitters are allotted a percentage of those tags and you can bypass the long odds by booking a hunt. The $430 cost for a license and permit is a relative bargain. Visit http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw.

Idaho
Elk Population: 103,000
Bull/Cow Ratio: 23/100
Nonresidents: $155 license, $417 elk tag
Hunter Success: 19 percent
Highlights: The Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness is being hammered by wolf predation exacerbated by a long slide in forage quality. Elk populations are far below management objectives in the Lolo and Selway zones and slightly below objectives in the Sawtooth zone. Elk and hunting aren’t what they used to be in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, either. Statewide, elk tag sales fell from 92,565 in 2008 to 84,765 in 2010–a decline of about 8 percent. But not all the news from Idaho is bad. Populations at or above objectives in 20 of 29 elk hunt zones, and the statewide population actually broke a long plummet and grew by 2,000 animals from last year. Hunters should look to the southern and western portions of the state, as well as areas like the Owyhee-South Hills Zone, where hunters can now chase antlerless elk August through December. Visit http://www.fishandgame.idaho.gov.

Montana
Elk Population: 150,000
Bull/Cow Ratio: 5-25/100
Nonresidents: $812
Hunter Success: 16 percent
Highlights: The biggest news for nonresidents is the 37 percent jump in the price of an elk permit. A ballot initiative last November abolished 5,500 outfitter-sponsored licenses and forced all nonresident hunters into the drawing. For those who drew a bull tag in the Bear Paws or Big Snowies, the higher fees could be money well spent, as the bulls there are growing old and big. Winter was tough in parts of central and eastern Montana, but elk in the legendary Missouri River Breaks came through fine. Hunters would be smart to look at Region 3, which yields almost 50 percent of the annual elk harvest, including some big bulls. Wolves have taken a brutal toll on some herds. In the Danaher Basin of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, cow/calf ratios are just 9/100, down from a long-term average of 24/100. Herds in the West Fork of the Bitterroot and the lower Clark Fork watershed are in steep decline, and the famed northern Yellowstone herd continues to plummet. Visit http://www.fwp.mt.gov.

Oregon
Elk Population: 125,000 (65,000 Rocky Mountain, 60,000 Roosevelt’s)
Bull/Cow Ratio: 19/100 Rocky Mountain, 13/100 Roosevelt’s
Nonresidents: $141 license, $501 tag
Hunter Success: 16 percent Rocky Mountain, 12 percent Roosevelt’s
Highlights: Much of eastern Oregon saw record snowfall in the mountains, and biologists are hopeful that elk populations came out unscathed. Bowhunters can prowl most of the east side with only a general tag. For rifle hunters, nearly everything east of the Cascades is permit-only, save for a second-season rifle hunt in a few units of the northeast. Roosevelt’s elk tags are still over-the-counter (except for the far northwest and southwest corners), herds are strong and there are some beasts on the hoof. This season, hunters 17 and under are required to wear a hunter orange hat or vest when hunting any big game with any firearm. Visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us.

JEREMY ALLAN BAGGED HIS FIRST ELK EVER, THIS 6X6, LAST YEAR WHILE HUNTING THE OCHOCO WITH A BOW. (RUGER PHOTO CONTEST)

Washington
Elk Population: 55,000-60,000
Bull/Cow Ratio: 12-20/100
Nonresidents: $434 (will increase to $497 before season starts)
Hunter Success: 8 percent general, 39 percent for special limited-entry permits
Highlights: The state’s elk population is divided about evenly between Roosevelt’s in the west and Rocky Mountain elk to the east. In the famous Blue Mountains of southeast Washington, resident and nonresident hunters alike will find over-the-counter spike tags readily available. Highly-prized permits for branch-antlered bulls will be far tougher to come by. The Yakima herd has improved and this year the area has increased antlerless permits. In the Mount St. Helens area, managers are still trying to decrease herd numbers with more special permits for antlerless elk. Both nonresident and resident hunters should take note that elk tag fees will jump nearly 15 percent effective September 1 to help cover budget shortfalls. Visit http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/hunting.

CHAD WHITE OF SHELTON, WASH., TOOK THIS COW LAST YEAR. (RUGER PHOTO CONTEST)

Wyoming
Elk Population: 120,000
Bull/Cow Ratio: 23/100
Nonresidents: $591 permit, $302 cow-calf permit, $1,071 special permit
Hunter Success: 44 percent
Highlights: Last year, hunters harvested 25,600 elk, up from the five-year average of 21,000. Biologists say mature bulls continue to thrive in most hunting units and the statewide population remains above management objectives. The dark exception is the state’s northwest corner. Elk numbers in the Clark’s Fork and Cody herds are still down due to predation and poor habitat. The Jackson herd that summers in Yellowstone is well off the mark, too, and managers are being conservative on tags. Roughly half the hunting units just outside the park have set quotas, one is closed and rest are limited to antlered elk only. Visit http://www.gf.state.wy.us/wildlife/hunting.

For longer versions of each state’s forecast, and for states and provinces beyond our region, go to RMEF’s Web site.

Aug. Columbia Steelhead Catch Already A Record

August 16, 2011

If you’re a Northwest state fish and wildlife agency that, oh, say, decided to pimp the summer steelhead fishery on the Lower Columbia this year, you hit a home run.

The month is only half over, but there’s already a new record “handle” on the big creek.

So far in August, Oregon and Washington anglers have caught 11,639.

And that comes on the back of a possible record-tying July fishery.

It tops the previous high mark for August set in 2009, The Year Of The Monster Run, by 590 fish.

Not all 11,000-plus fish have been retained, of course. The stats include hatchery steelhead kept as well as unclipped ones anglers are required to release.

Fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver reports that last week sport fishermen caught 6,295 summer-runs, keeping 3,826 and releasing 2,469.

July’s handle was also estimated to be pretty high and creeping towards the record of 16,000, but final numbers have not come in yet, he says.

Earlier this year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife set up a Web site targeting the fishery, with maps of hot beaches and expert tips. Northwest Sportsman has also been running articles in our magazine and blog on the scene.

Hymer says it’s probable that higher, cooler flows this year may be keeping steelies within range of bank anglers in the lower river. Typically by this time of year, warmer water pushes them deeper.

“In addition, I think anglers are getting it dialed in with the dyed prawns,” he adds.

Since July 1, a total of 195,231 steelhead have gone over Bonneville Dam. The run forecast is for 390,000 A- and B-runs destined for the upper Columbia, Eastern Oregon and Snake system.

However, the Columbia’s flows appear to be slowing fisheries further upstream.

“I spent the day in the (Columbia) Gorge last Thursday, checking out three fisheries — Drano (Lake), White Salmon (River) and Herman Creek. None of them has the anywhere near the numbers of fish that there should be, and the steelhead that are being caught are being taken at the mouths, and not up in the streams,” reported Northwest Sportsman contributor Terry Otto today.

Hymer says that overall last week Lower Columbia anglers made 14,213 fishing trips, landing 498 Chinook and releasing eight silvers.

“In general, boat angler effort is increasing and steelhead bank angler effort downstream of Longview is decreasing: however, steelhead catches increased last week overall,” he told fishheads in an email blast this afternoon.

Puyallup Pinks: Switch ‘Flicked’ On

August 15, 2011

Total wild guess: There will be pinks in the lower Puyallup when it opens tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 16.

OK, so that’s not exactly crazed speculation.

A) There are copious amounts of humpies in the saltwater below the mouth of the Pierce County river.

And B) Anglers are already catching ’em in the glacial-flour waters of the Puyallup above there.

Jason Brooks, Northwest Sportsman‘s Tacoma-area detector of all things fishy, was on the open stretch of the river near Meridian Street bridge in the town of Puyallup with his buddy and their young sons and reports a number hauled away to local barbecues and smokers.

WDFW’s freshly minted weekly catch stats today show 457 brought back to the Redondo ramp and 249 to the Point Defiance launch on Saturday.

If I’m reading the state creel data correctly — and I’m warning you, the burger I had for lunch is making me pretty drowsy and this cup o’ Joe ain’t kicking in very fast so I could be wrong — the Redondo tally might be the best for this time period all the way back through 2001.

Other areas of Puget Sound are seeing strong catches as well, though maybe behind 2009’s.

While the Puyallup from Freeman Road to the Carbon River has been open since Aug. 1, the stretch from the 11th St. Bridge just off Commencement Bay up to Freeman opens manana. Here’s Brooks report from just above there:

“It’s like somebody flicked a switch on!

I hit the Puyallup River on Saturday morning for an hour near the confluence of the White River and only saw one fish hooked up, and lost by a fellow fisherman. Then on Sunday afternoon I got a call from my fishing buddy, Brian Chlipala, who said that the hole a bit lower in the river off of North Levee Road just downstream of the Meridian Street Bridge was on fire.

I was like, yeah, right, I’ve heard this before — after all yesterday sucked.

Sure enough, droves of fisherman were lined up shoulder to shoulder and several had fish on!

(JASON BROOKS)

(JASON BROOKS)

We let the boys hang out on the beach, throwing rocks, poking guts, and splashing in the shallows, which is what kids are suppose to do in August (not sit inside and play video games, thanks Mother Nature for this crappy summer…). It wasn’t long and Brian — who thought it would be fun to use a trout rod — hooked up.

(JASON BROOKS)

At the end of the day I went two for four … I must say so far this year these pinks are a bit bigger than the last run that came through in ’09. Adam had a heck of a time holding up the two fish for a photo, but he was all smiles.

HEAVY HUMPIES! (JASON BROOKS)

A few guys on the river even handed their rods off to Adam to reel in some fish for fun, and stated, “That’s what pink fishing is all about.”

It is already your usual combat fishery in the open waters above Freeman Road. But when the lower river opens tomorrow it should give the fisherman a bit more elbow room, and let’s hope nobody flips the switch off.

Brooks explains that the advantage to tomorrow’s opener is “two-fold” — first crack at fresh fish milling around the river and the chance for a bit more elbow room for anglers above there.

As for what he was using yesterday, he ran a test between two ways to drift fish, one more legitimate than the other.

“I used a size 12 red rocket Corky and a piece of cerise glo bug yarn on a size 2 hook and about 3 feet of leader. I then refused to sweep my gear or yank on the slide, and man they hammered it! I only set the hook once the grab was so strong that I had to set it to keep my rod from being yanked from my hands,” Brooks says. “All four fish I hooked were inside the mouth, not on the outside. I will admit, even in the glacial silty water I was a bit surprised.”

He says that the man next to him hooked 10, but on a long leader with a sliding weight setup.

Taking River Fishing, Part 3

August 12, 2011

I’ve been hesitant about getting River into fishing – a strange admission for an outdoor magazine editor to make, I know.

Here I am giving you all sorts of ideas on where to go with you and yours, and neglecting– nay, avoiding – to take my 4-year-old out.

It’s been over two years since our first trip (Northwest Sportsman July 2009). Our second was this past April.

Then again, if you read about that trip on this blog, you may have had the same reaction another hardcore angler had to my peripatetic son: “Your kid is cute as heck, but you have effectively scared me from breeding.”

For me, fishing is largely a solitary pursuit, alone time in the outdoors where I move at my own pace, go where I want, eat and drink when I need.

Fishing is freedom.

And frustration.

Memories from my early angling career center around inscrutably tangled fishing reels. Surely “Zebco” must be the name of Minoan and Makah deities who’ve bedeviled fishermen through the ages.

Do I want to relive my father’s hassles? I haven’t been so sure.

River, though, has shown increasing interest in angling.

For awhile now he’s picked up sticks and used them as rods to catch invisible fish. So it was time.

Around 2:30 or so that May day, we went down to Seattle’s Green Lake and rented a rowboat, dudded up in our lifejackets and pushed off from the breakwall.

After tying on a streamer pattern that has been good to me in the past at the lake on similar overcast days, we began trolling.

As you might imagine, however, there’s not much to do in a bare-bones, 8-foot-long plastic tub for a squirmy kid – especially one who didn’t bring his Thomas trains or books. The bubbles trailing behind the boat held his attention for only so long and then he needed to investigate what it was like to sit next to me.

No fun, it turns out, when an oar hits you in the chest.

He was quickly off to the front of the boat.

And then next to me again – at least until an oar swept him back into the stern.

Green is well-stocked, so after about 15 minutes I gave up on the Bugger and tied on a leech, and when that didn’t work, went to a Carey Special. It didn’t work either, even though we were in a spot that did me good last spring.

Hmmm, I thought, checking my watch – we were due back at the boat rental at 4 p.m. – might just have to go with metal. With that I tied on a Dick Nite, cast out and grabbed the oars.

I don’t mean for this to sound like an ad for the lure maker, but the rainbows quickly began grabbing the red-and-white spoon. The first slipped the hook on River, but the second he reeled to the boat by himself.

I lifted it in, showed it up close to a very excited son, took the hook out and then released the gasping fish back into the lake.

River immediately and loudly wailed.

“What?” I said, dumbfounded.

He’d wanted to keep it, he sobbed.

Then it hit me: I’d just let my kid’s first fish go.

His first ever.

The one you bonk – no matter its size or species or how it was caught – take a picture and send it to grandparents and magazines and post on Facebook.

Whoops.

I tried to rationalize. River, it’s too small, it’s still a baby, it needs to grow, we can’t keep all of them.

It sorta worked – or at least the tears quit – but now I had to catch another and was up against the clock. It was just before 4 and I knew Amy would be waiting back at the dock. I began to paddle us that way, but my hopes were low: We’d covered this water already with nary a strike.

But the spoon got bit again. I handed the rod to River, but as he reeled, the fish got away.

So did the next.

And the next.

The hour and dock grew closer.

We lost yet another.

I was getting desperate – at least River was fighting fish, but criminy, what had I done?!? If our luck didn’t change, his takeaway from the day probably would be that fishing is just a grand tease without reward!

There was no turning back either: I could see Amy on shore and we were already late.

We cruised into the shallows and I – the worst outdoor dad in all of history – gave up hope.

But then, by a miracle, one last rainbow bit. I set the hook hard and River determinedly reeled and reeled, the fish splashed and ran, Amy and I cheered him on, and then, as we hit the bulkhead, with a quick lift, I brought the fish into the boat.

Phew.

Turning to Amy, River proudly exclaimed, “Mama, I caught a fish!” and in that distracted moment, I thumped the 8-incher – the toughest, best catch I’ve ever been a part of.

RIVER AND HIS UNUSUAL FISH HOLD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

We took a mess of pics with it draped over his arm – he didn’t want to hold it – and then he announced he wanted to put it in the bathtub and keep it as a pet.

It took awhile to convince River the trout was now dead – but he readily ate it up for dinner.

It’s trite, but in turning his first fish back as well as failing on our first two trips, I think we both caught something larger in the end.

NWS Kayak Guys Catch Tuna, Shark 50-plus Miles Out

August 9, 2011

UPDATED 7:49 A.M. AUG. 11, 2011 WITH PICS: Conditions on the open Pacific were “sporty,” but yesterday three anglers fishing in their kayaks over 50 miles out of Newport, Ore., caught albacore tuna, a successful end to the first time the tactic of “mothershipping” has ever been attempted on this part of the ocean.

“The weather was marginal but we pulled it off,” reports Mark Veary of Hillsboro, Ore., today. “Bryce is the man — first blood and most fish.”

Bryce would be Bryce Molenkamp of Shoreline, Wash. He hauled two tuna aboard his yellow pedal-powered Hobie, the first while actually just letting line out, Veary says.

We can’t say with absolute certainty, but that probably makes Molenkamp the first angler to ever catch an albie from a ‘yak in the North Pacific.

Allen Sansano picked up one too, and while Veary had also dreamed of hooking into a “30-plus-pound edible outboard motor,” he settled for battling a 4- or 5-foot blue shark.

Still, it’s likely that that catch is a first for a Northwest kayak angler as well.

“Beautiful animal up close,” Veary adds.

He and Molenkamp write a kayak fishing column for Northwest Sportsman magazine. In the current issue, Bryce talks Puget Sound pink salmon, and in September’s, Mark details the quiet approach to Oregon estuary coho.

BRYCE MOLENKAMP WORKS HIS PEDAL-DRIVE KAYAK ON THE PACIFIC OUT OF NEWPORT, ORE. (BRYCE MOLENKAMP)

"THE LITTLE SPECK -- THE AMBUSH -- WAS THE ONLY THING I COULD SEE," RECALLS MOLENKAMP WHILE FISHING OVER 50 MILES OUT OF YAQUINA BAY FOR ALBACORE EARLIER THIS WEEK. (BRYCE MOLENKAMP)

THE FIRST OF TWO TUNA FOR MOLENKAMP. (BRYCE MOLENKAMP)

The culmination of four years of thinking and planning that began while Molenkamp gave seminars during the Seattle Boat Show, the trio and a camera crew rode out of Yaquina Bay early yesterday morning aboard a “mothership,” the 43-foot Ambush, captained by Dick Pickett. It’s an approach that is used by some San Diego, Gulf Coast and Florida charters to put kayak anglers onto pelagic species.

“There have been a lot of captains in the past who said they were open to give it a shot,” Molenkamp said for our blog announcing the trip late last week, “but something always fell through in the end.”

This trip’s big question mark was the weather. While conditions closer to Newport on Monday were good enough that my wife took our two sons, ages 4 years and 20 months, out on a successful whale-watching charter off South Beach, further out the seas were more active.

“Winds were consistent 10 to 15-plus knots, ocean was 4 to 5 feet at 8 seconds or less — confused seas with a herds of sheep roaming from time to time,” says Veary.

Much of the trip was spent searching for a good bite. When one was finally located, the kayaks were dropped onto the ocean and the men fished out of them for an hour and a half.

And how did it feel fishing over something like nearly a mile of water and with Sapporo the next landfall?

“The distance from shore definitely plays into all your anxieties leading up to the moment you step off the swimdeck” of the charter boat, says Veary. “Once I was in my kayak, I felt right at home.  The only thing on my mind was getting my gear in front of a fish.”

That said, support from the mother ship was “critical” for the trip, and he lauds the skipper’s work.

“I can’t say enough good things about Capt. Pickett and his wife Peggy. He had thought through the logistics well and worked with us to optimize the time we had. His enthusiasm for fishing and for what we were doing was palpable,” Veary says.

Fishing out on the open ocean in small boats is not new in the Northwest. After all, Makah whalers of old are said to have rowed their cedar canoes up to 100 miles off the Washington coast. But as the sport of tuna fishing has grown over the past decade, the only choice for anglers wanting to do battle with albacore was whether they were going to do so standing up in a big charter or a large sport boat.

Now, with Molenkamp, Veary and Sansano proving that albacore can be caught from and tow around glorified Tupperware boats, a whole new tactic may blossom out of one of the newest fisheries to develop in the Northwest.

As the guys say, enjoy the sleigh ride.

Tuna Mothership To Depart Newport With NWS Kayak Guys

August 5, 2011

UPDATE 4:39 P.M., AUG. 10, 2011: The fellas made their run, and we detail the results here.

Pass over the Yaquina Bay Bridge and you just might see a charter boat zapping out into the open Pacific with an unusual cargo: six kayaks.

The Ambush will be carrying the sea-worthy shells out to where blue and green water mix and the signs and surface temperatures are right, and then Capt. Dick Pickett and crew will throw the fledglings overboard.

Scrambling in afterwards will be my kayak columnists, Bryce Molenkamp of Shoreline, Wash., and Mark Veary of Hillsboro, Ore., as well as four other anglers.

There, perhaps some 50 miles or more out and with no land in sight, the swarm of yellow and blue boats and dry-suit-dudded guys will then go on the hunt for tuna.

While practiced out of San Diego, the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, it may be the first time this approach has ever been tried by Washington and Oregon’s growing fleet of ‘yak fishermen.

“As far as I know, this will be the first attempt at mothershipping out of the Northwest for albacore,” says Bryce. “As a matter of fact, if Mark can back me up, I think this will be the first mothership out of the Northwest at all.”

“I’m hoping to tie in to a 30-plus-pound edible outboard motor.”

–Mark Veary

Somewhere in the mid-2000s I became aware of kayak fishing in our region. One September the Everett Coho Derby offered prizes for the biggest silver caught aboard one, and in my initial post-derby blog for the now-defunct Washington Fishing & Hunting News I failed to note the category whatsoever.

If I recall correctly, Allen Sansano — he of the insane Alaskan salmon shark quest — emailed about my oversight, and afterwards, intrigued, I ran a two-part Q&A series in the magazine on the sport. One of the guys I interviewed was Bryce who at 6-foot-7 might also be the world’s tallest kayak angler.

BRYCE MOLENKAMP UNTANGLES A COHO FROM THE NET ON A PEACEFUL LATE SUMMER DAY ON TILLAMOOK BAY. (MARK VEARY)

One of Northwest Sportsman‘s original columnists, he began writing for me in early 2009 and was joined later that year by Mark. Together they’ve detailed how to approach almost everything that swims or crawls in Northwest waters, from the finer points of hauling Dungeness crab pots aboard to trolling spinners and prawns for spring Chinook in the Multnomah Channel, from braving the legend of Buoy 10 for fall brights to dodging debris for winter sturgeon in the Willamette, and from yarding lingcod out of the nearshore rocks to how to kause extreme krappie karnage from a kayak.

Bryce’s latest piece in our August issue is all about catching pink salmon in Puget Sound while in our upcoming September issue, Mark details the quiet approach to coastal coho.

Indeed, they and the boyz at Northwestkayakanglers.com have shown that there’s not much you can’t harvest out of Tupperware. It doesn’t count in the Web site’s angler of the year contest (Bryce finished first last year, Mark fourth), but this spring Bryce brought in an octopus, of all things, and last winter Mark found several gents who use their craft for duck hunting.

MARK VEARY SHOWS OFF A VERY NICE FISH HE TROLLED UP WITH A STICKBAIT. (MARK VEARY)

But there’s one species that’s always been a wee bit out of paddling range, even on the years when the warm currents have brought the tuna schools within sight of the jaws at Westport and that pinchneck of a port known as Depoe Bay.

“A venturesome minority will always be eager to get off on their own, and no obstacle should be placed in their path; let them take risk, for God sake, let them get lost, sun burnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches-that is the right and privilege of any free American.”

Adventure is just bad planning.”

–Edward Abbey and Roald Amundsen quotes prominently displayed on the home page of Northwestkayakanglers.com

Bryce says he’s been thinking about loading a boat full of kayaks and kayak anglers for the past four years or so, but it hasn’t come together until this summer.

“There have been a lot of captains in the past who said they were open to give it a shot, but something always fell through in the end,” he says.

Weather or mechanical issues could always scrub this attempt too, says Mark, but anticipation runs high.

“This week has been a wash at work,” says Bryce, a graphic designer by trade, owner of a clothing and gear company called The Slayride and a regional editor of Kayak Angler magazine. “I’m just too damn excited.”

THIS 7-FOOT STURGEON GAVE MOLENKAMP A HELLUVA FIGHT FROM HIS 'YAK. (KARL STOMBERG)

Same goes for Mark, a process engineer and father of three young kayak anglers.

“I’m looking for a wake-throwing sleigh ride,” he says. “Most of the fish we catch in the Northwest either sound or make short, drag-burning runs. I’m hoping to tie in to a 30-plus-pound edible outboard motor.”

Citing potential competition, they’re on the cagey side about certain details of the trip, but we can say that they’ll be packing their gearstows with plugs like Rapala’s big X-Raps to cast as well as iron jigs and plastic swimbaits to drop in front of hungry albies.

VEARY, ON TILLAMOOK BAY IN THE MORNING. (BRYCE MOLENKAMP)

That’s the rough game plan anyway.

“We know how to attack this with a boat, but the kayaks are really going to make us have to adapt to a new strategy,” says Bryce. “It’s the first time this has been done so it’s really uncharted waters for everyone on the trip.”

Odds of success? Shoot, I dunno (knocking on wood). But one thing is for sure, I’m glad I’ll be pedaling my Hobie because it’s able to handle the most challenging conditions that can be thrown at a kayak angler.

–Bryce Molenkamp

Adds Mark, “If all goes well, this trip will pave the way for other charters to add mothershipping trips. I know there are a lot of Northwest kayak anglers chomping at the bit for these doors to be busted down.”

While the guys will assuredly be wearing floatation gear and taking all the necessary precautions, here’s hoping that on their trip the Pacific echoes the meaning of Bryce’s 2 1/2-year-old daughter Kylah’s name: “gentle ocean.”

Bears, Kings, Bass And More

August 4, 2011

I’m on deadline, again, but with the Blue Angels bombing around Seattle, I thought I’d take a little break and post some reader pics that have arrived at Northwest Sportsman World HQ of late.

The hunter hunted — or at least successfully avoided: For the past few weeks Devin Schildt has been sending me a mess of trail cam shots of his well-populated deer and bear honey hole somewhere in the Greater Monroe, Wash., area.

Last night he was wandering around the clearcut a bit after dinner time looking to fill his bear tag. As he walked past the cam, it fired off an image of him at precisely 6:38:40 p.m.

Looks like Devin’s heading into bigger timber, and what should come rumbling down his trail but his quarry. Barely — forgive the pun — 20 minutes later, a bruin can be seen standing almost exactly where he was, hanging out for 10 minutes or so.

(DEVIN SCHILDT)

(DEVIN SCHILDT)

Persistence pays off: She sat in a springer boat five weekends in a row with nary a nudge from a ‘Nookie, but that didn’t dampen Mandie Arai-Greene’s interest in fishing with hubbie Alex Greene. The Camas couple packed up the fish rig and headed for Idaho’s Horsethief Reservoir recently, and there Mandie landed her very first fish.

“She has been putting in an honest effort to try and understand why I enjoy it and spend so much time on the water,” reports Alex.

We think the smile shows they’ll enjoy many more times on the water.

(WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Tapped in: Kevin Bye found some superb tiger muskie fishing at Washington’s Lake Tapps last Friday.

The Puyallup angler reports boating three of the notoriously hard to catch hybrids over four hours of fishing, with son Brett even getting to tussle with the toothy ones.

“Fishing near weedbeds seem to be the ticket,” Bye reported. “I was using a crankbait but I’m guessing that many other lure options will do the trick.”

He also sent along a shot of a muskie that went 43 inches by 19 inches and which he caught at Tapps in late July.

(WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Give and yee shall receive (steelhead): A few weeks back Jason Harris was cool enough to share some of his hot spots on the Nestucca to a wandering hook-and-bullet magazine editor, and the Oregon coastal river repaid him with a nice summer-run.

“This chromey weighed just shy of 8 pounds and 24.5 inches. He hit — rather inhaled — a sand shrimp tail with a small pink Corky. Hooked and lost a second one an hour later,” the McMinnville angler says.

(WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Shades of green at Silver: My buddy Chris Spencer has been sending me updates throughout the spring and summer on his bass fishing adventures — well, at least his adventures anyway.

Bassin’ in Southwest Washington and on the Lower Columbia has been a little tough this year what with cool weather and water.

But the Longview ironworker finally got it dialed in up on Silver Lake. Fishing right after a local club’s derby he got seven bites, including some follows on a big ol’ Sebile swimbait I sent him, before sticking a 3-4 pound largie on a Senko.

“One thing I learned last time I went out is it doesn’t hurt to park the boat and stay put for awhile. If it looks fishy, it probably is fishy. Take your time and try a couple confidence baits in several presentations and you’re going to get bit,” Spencer says.

(CHRIS SPENCER)

Shades of bronze on the Ump: While Spencer was slowly working his way through the weeds in Washington, Justin Falk and Sara Crawford were floating the Umpqua, bronzing their bods while casting for bronzebacks. They ended up with a nice stringer.

(SARA CRAWFORD)

(JUSTIN FALK)

B10 Schmee-10, A-10’s where it’s at (at least for a moment): Never mind how his “buddy” described his fish-finding skills (it has to do with a certain type of bushy-tailed tree-dwelling rodent and a type of seed), Clay Schurman can now claim to be among the relatively few anglers who caught Chinook during the first half of this season’s Central Puget Sound mark-selective fishery.

He landed this nice one on a flasher and hoochie off Jeff Head in Area 10 last Saturday.

Tim Bush at Outdoor Emporium reports that the best gear this season has been glow-in-the-dark squids and glow Ace Hi Flies.

(CLAY SCHURMAN)

Zimm’s summer: Then there’s Stacy Zimmerman of East Wenatchee who caught her first-ever salmon, this summer king, near Rocky Reach Dam while fishing with friend (and big buck killer) Garrett Grubbs.

“It was a little hectic at first with just me and her in the boat, trying to get all the gear in, control the boat,” Grubbs reports. “She did great reeling in the salmon and did well when it was time to net it.”

(WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Something didn’t agree with him?: And to bring this full circle back to bears, the trail cam of a friend of mine captured this pint-sized compost-pile raider whose meal of rotten lettuce, stale coffee grounds and lord knows what else Eric stuffs in there appears to have caught up to it rather quickly.

102-plus Pounds Of Record Fish In Idaho

August 2, 2011

A nearly 35-pound trout caught in Southeast Idaho early last week was not a triploid rainbow trout. Rather, genetic testing revealed it was a cuttbow.

“We did verify that it was a hybrid,” said David Teuscher, Idaho Department of Fish & Game regional fisheries manager in Pocatello. “It had a cutthroat trout mother and a rainbow trout father.”

MARK ADAMS AND HIS RECORD IDAHO RAINBOW-CUTTHROAT TROUT. (DAVID TEUSCHER, IDFG)

At a whopping 34.75 pounds, 41 1/8 inches long and 27 1/8 inches around, the trout, caught by angler Mark Adams of Pocatello at American Falls Reservoir on July 26, is the new state record for that category in IDFG’s books.

According to Rich Landers at the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the fish was caught on a jig and 10-pound-test line.

It is also 10 pounds heavier than the previous high mark for cuttbows, a 24-pound, 35 1/2-inch-long, 24 1/2-inch-around specimen caught at Lake Pend Oreille in 1991.

Where Adams’ fish came from is not entirely clear, though there are at least two distinct possibilities: It was born in a hatchery (several state facilities produce hybrid cuttbows) and released into the reservoir; it was produced in the wild upstream of American Falls and settled in the lake.

Either way, it’s a “first generation” hybrid, meaning its mama was 100 percent cuttie and daddy was 100 percent ‘bow.

Looking at the fish’s gonads, Teuscher termed them “underdeveloped” and said there’s a high probability it was sterile, which would point to a hatchery origin. Many cuttbows produced in the wild are “viable,” he says.

“The origin is unknown,” Teuscher says. “It could be from a number of origins, including a hatchery.”

Scientists were able to determine from the fish’s otolith that it was just 6 years old, meaning it clearly benefited from life in the massive lake.

“It’s one of the most productive reservoirs in the state,” says Teuscher, pointing to prolific insect life.

Meanwhile, 200 miles downstream from American Falls and two days after Adams hooked his whopper, Scott Frazier II of Kuna, Idaho, took a 67-pound common carp during a bowfishing tournament at CJ Strike Reservoir.

It measures 47 inches long and 34 1/2 inches around, tops the previous state record by 20 pounds and according to IDFG, is only a few pounds under the all-tackle world record for the species.

According to a press release from the agency, Frazier and his partner in the tourney Brian Pokorney initially estimated the fish they spied 5 feet below the surface at around 30 pounds.

SCOTT FRAZIER (RIGHT) AND FISH AND GAME STAFFER JOE KOZFKAY POSE WITH THE NEW STATE RECORD COMMON CARP. THE FISH WEIGHED IN AT 67.65 POUNDS, SURPASSING THE FORMER STATE RECORD BY NEARLY 20 POUNDS. (EVIN ONEALE, IDFG)

He plans to have the fish mounted and hung on his wall.

“This is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever experienced,” he said, according to the press release.

SCOTT FRAZIER (LEFT) AND BRIAN POKORNEY TAKE CENTER STAGE WITH THE NEW STATE RECORD COMMON CARP TAKEN BY FRAZIER DURING THE IDAHO BOW FISHING ASSOCIATION’S STATE CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT AT C. J. STRIKE RESERVOIR. AT 67.65 POUNDS, THE CARP SURPASSED THE FORMER STATE RECORD BY NEARLY 20 POUNDS. (TIFFANY PAYNE)

Whoa — Big Pink Catch At Sekiu

August 1, 2011

WDFW has just posted their weekly creel sampling for Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca and one particular number stands out.

Make that three, actually.

Five-six-six.

As in, 566.

That’s how many pinks were tallied at just one of the docks in Sekiu yesterday.

While that is small potatoes for how many are hauled into Everett’s 10th St. ramp When The Run Is On — 2,256 alone on Aug. 29, 2009 — some very rudimentary quick-and-dirty data mining shows only one day comes anywhere close to that all the way back to the year of our pinkness 2001. On Aug. 11, 2007, 513 came into Olson’s.

All totaled on Sunday 772 of the odd-year salmon got a lift back to one of Olson’s two ramps as well as Van Riper’s, both in Sekiu.

“That was the number — I double checked them,” says Larry Bennett, WDFW’s creel checker based in Port Angeles.

He notes that Chinook catches there have been “pretty decent” as well.

Adds Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager, “Half a (Chinook) per boat — not bad. Beats one out of ten in Puget Sound.”

So why the high pink catch?

“It could have been anything,” says Thiesfeld, speculating, “Maybe the weather was nice and (anglers) stayed out longer.”

He says that in past years, sport and commercial data “clearly” shows pods of fish moving through the area on certain days, but if anything, the weekend should have been down based on test fishing by the Pacific Salmon Commission on the Vancouver Island side of the Straits across from CQ.

Right now, anglers on the U.S. side can keep two hatchery Chinook and two pinks (or four pinks total) and that may be keeping the pink catch down. However, king retention ends Aug. 15, and with that, Bennett forecasts higher humpy sackage.

I’m not quite ready to declare WDFW’s projection of a 6-million-humpy return null and void, but, ummm … better get yourself a copy of the August issue of Northwest Sportsman to get your fair share. It’s on newsstands now!

Dash To The Point!

August 1, 2011

Pinks in deep South Sound!

At least a few pods.

Northwest Sportsman contributor Jason Brooks hit the Dash Point Pier in Federal Way on Saturday with his young son Ryan and filed the following report and pics:

I took Ryan to Dash Pt on Sat from 11 a.m.  to 1 p.m. and we saw about 10 pinks landed with about as many lost while trying to be hoisted up to the pier.

We primarily went to put in Ryan’s new crab pot, which he got after last weekend’s crabbing up at Grant’s beach house. Last weekend we only got two rock crab and Ryan ate them both, so I got him one of those folding crab pots and he just wanted to put it out so bad and catch some crab. We got one barely legal rock crab, which he promptly ate for lunch.

Anyway, the crabbing sucks off the pier, but while there (at low to incoming tide) four schools of pinks went by — what a frenzy! Three to four fish on at a time! See attached photos.

GOT A RED ROCK! (JASON BROOKS)

LET THE BOMBING BEGIN! (JASON BROOKS)

ANGLERS ARE OUT IN FORCE ON A SUNNY SATURDAY AT DASH POINT TO BRING HUMPY BACK UP ONTO (AND OVER) THE WALL. (JASON BROOKS)

PINKER ON! (JASON BROOKS)

AIRLIFT! (JASON BROOKS)

CLEANING THE CATCH. (JASON BROOKS)

Watch WDFW’s Puget Sound creel stats for updating on recent days catches.

Nearly 35-pd. Rainbow Landed In SE ID Lake

July 27, 2011

UPDATE AUG. 2, 2011: Genetic testing found this fish to be a rainbow-cutthroat hybrid. IDFG also aged it at 6 years old. For more, see this story.

A rainbow over 14 pounds heavier than the standing state record — and bigger than any other U.S. record, it appears — was landed in Southeast Idaho this week by a Pocatello angler.

Mark Adams, a 41-year-old Union Pacific locomotive engineer, caught the 34.74-pound trout out of American Falls Reservoir on the Snake River Monday morning.

MARK ADAMS AND HIS NEARLY 35-POUND RAINBOW TROUT. (DAVID TEUTSCHER, IDFG)

The initial investigation by David Teuscher, the regional Idaho Department of Fish & Game fisheries manager in Pocatello, is that it has triploid-like sex organs.

Triploids are fish that have been sterilized during incubation. Instead of producing eggs or milt, the fish puts its energy into eating and getting big. Idaho has largely switched to planting triploids since the early 2000s to prevent hybridization with native cutthroat trout.

“I looked at its gonads and they were underdeveloped and characteristic of a triploid female. But we’re going to verify that,” Teuscher says.

He overnighted DNA material to IDFG’s genetics lab to make a final determination.

ADAMS' TROUT ON THE TAILGATE. (DAVID TEUTSCHER, IDFG)

However, whether it’s a rainbow or sterile rainbow won’t matter for the record book, Teuscher says, pointing out that the standing record, a 20-pound, .02-ouncer caught in 2009 is also probably a triploid.

Washington also bundles its rainbow and triploid rainbow records together. The high mark is a 29.6-pounder caught in 2002 from Rufus Woods Lake, where the trout are grown commercially but released intentionally and unintentionally.

The largest U.S. rainbow trout on record is a 33-pound, 1.6-ounce specimen caught in the big-fish water below Lake Koocanusa in Montana’s Kootenai River in 1997, according to a compilation at Landbigfish.com. A Saskatchewan lake has yielded at least two triploids in 40-pound range, including a 48-pounder in September 2009.

Initially Adams thought he was into a carp, according to a news report. It took him a quarter hour to land it. A friend urged him to get it weighed.

“They just realized what they had, put it in a cooler and raced to the nearest certified scale,” Teuscher says. “We verified the weight.”

At 41 1/8 inches long, the fish is proportionally more like a regular rainbow than the football-like profile of triploids.

“It’s a beautiful fish on top of being that huge,” says Teuscher. “It’ll be interesting to see what the genetics work tells us.”

And it will be interesting to see if American Falls puts out any more whoppers.

A headline that ran last year with a pic of the standing record, Michelle Larson-Williams’ fish, says it all: “More monster rainbows likely remain in the American Falls Reservoir and Snake River.”

Teuscher says IDFG has been tracking catches there since the early 2000s. They began to see a number of 4- to 7-pounders one year which translated into 7- to 10-pounders the next, then 13s and in 2009, three over 19 pounds.

“I don’t know how much bigger they’ll get,” says Teuscher. “This might be it.”

But he allows that water conditions at the 56,000-surface-acre — “It’s so huge that a fish can swim around in it for 10 years without being touched by an angler,” he told the Associated Press — relatively shallow irrigation reservoir look good going into winter.

“We’re set up for more things to come,” he says.

The fish’s otolith, also submitted for testing, will reveal how old it is.

A press release will likely be issued later this week or early next after genetics testing comes back, Teuscher says.

ANOTHER VIEW OF ADAMS' FISH. (DAVID TEUTSCHER, IDFG)

The largest trout ever caught in Idaho was a 37-pound Kamloops-strain rainbow from Lake Pend Oreille in 1947. The largest hybrid rainbow-cutthroat was a 24-pounder, also at LPO. The largest char was a 57 1/2-pound Mackinaw caught in 1951 at Priest Lake.

Game Warden Saves Trapped Man

July 26, 2011

One day he’s taking out a massive poaching ring that’s depressed deer populations east of Springfield, the next he’s saving a man whose head is trapped against a truck tire like a wheel chock.

Whether it’s a case of divine intervention or just a knack for “being in the right place at the right time” — which did lead to his being named Oregon’s 2008 fish and wildlife officer of the year — it’s amazing how OSP trooper Marc Boyd and Myrtle Creek, Ore., resident Mike Martin crossed paths against all odds last Friday night.

OREGON STATE POLICE OFFICER MARC BOYD ACCEPTING THE AWARD FOR 2008 FISH AND WILDLIFE TROOPER OF THE YEAR. (OSP)

To quote at length from today’s Eugene Register-Guard:

For at least 20 minutes on Friday night, Mike Martin of Myrtle Creek tried desperately to catch the attention of passing motorists on Row River Road, south of Dorena Lake.

It’s quite difficult, he found, to get anybody to notice you waving an arm when it’s dark outside, you’re in an unlit driveway and your head is wedged underneath the front tire of a Chevy pickup.

“I had one side of my face completely shoved into the gravel the whole time,” Martin recalled. “I thought I was going to lay there and die in the dark.”

But Martin survived after his attempt to inspect a mechanical problem went horribly wrong, thanks to what he can describe only as “a miracle” that arrived in the form of Oregon State Police Trooper Marc Boyd.

The trooper offered a similarly supernatural explanation for how he ended up in a position to help save Martin’s life.

“I’m not a religious man, but it was like divine intervention, because I shouldn’t even have been down there in the first place,” Boyd said.

State police don’t normally patrol the Dorena Lake area southeast of Cottage Grove. But the agency obtained federal grant money to keep an eye on recreation sites around the reservoir, and that’s why Boyd was there on Friday night.

Boyd said that just before 9 p.m. he spotted a car swerving in a lane. Rather than continue around the lake, Boyd decided to follow it onto Row River Road.

Moments later, he saw — or sensed — something unusual in a driveway about 12 feet off the road.

“I must have caught a glimpse of something,” Boyd said. “I thought to myself, ‘What did I just see?’ So I backed up and there (Martin) is with his head stuck underneath his (pickup).”

For the rest of this story, go here.

Here’s OSP’s press release on the incident:

A Dorena-area man is crediting the help he received from an Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division trooper and some citizens for saving his life Friday night.  MIKE D. MARTIN, age 58, was seriously injured and treated at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend after his head became trapped underneath the wheel of a pickup in his driveway until the trooper found him and worked with others to free him.

On July 22, 2011 at approximately 9:00 p.m. OSP Trooper Marc Boyd was working overtime patrolling in the Dorena area checking US Army Corps of Engineers parks and recreation sites.  Boyd was driving an OSP pickup eastbound in the 37000 block of Row River Road following a vehicle he was preparing to stop when he thought he saw something unusual out of the corner of his eye.  Boyd stopped and backed up, and in the darkness he saw a pickup about 12 feet from the road in a driveway with a man’s body lying on the ground next to the front driver side wheel.

After Boyd got out and approached the pickup, MARTIN said he needed help because his head was trapped under the wheel after it rolled backward while he was looking underneath it.  MARTIN was conscious, in obvious pain and in need of rescue as soon as possible.  He was home alone and said he tried unsuccessfully in the dark for about 20 minutes to get the attention of other passing motorists before Boyd stopped.

Blocking the highway with the OSP pickup, Boyd got help from at least two other people, identified as George Swain from Dorena and Stan Severe from Junction City, who stopped because the road was blocked.

Boyd attached a tow strap to the OSP pickup and gently moved MARTIN’s pickup about a foot away from his head.  Swain and Severe helped steady the tow strap while monitoring MARTIN’s position on the ground.  After pulling the pickup away, Swain got in and kept his foot on the brake for about 30 minutes to keep it from rolling again.

Boyd notified OSP dispatch of the situation, requested medical and LifeFlight response and started initial emergency medical care.  South Lane County Fire & Rescue and LifeFlight both responded to the scene and took over before LifeFlight transported MARTIN to Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend.  He he had surgery for several hours Friday night and was reportedly discharged from the hospital on Sunday.

Boyd was also 2008 Shikar-Safari Club International game warden of the year for Oregon and was part of 2010’s OSP’s team of the year.

Pike Caught In Lake Roosevelt

July 22, 2011

UPDATED 3:09 p.m., July 25, 2011: On Friday, July 22, a fisherman on upper Lake Roosevelt caught a northern pike, a species fishery managers worry will spread further down the Columbia River system.

The fish was landed by walleye angler Davey McKern of Kettle Falls.

DAVEY McKERN HOLDS A PIKE CAUGHT IN LAKE ROOSEVELT, A SPECIES STATE FISHERIES MANAGERS ARE CONCERNED ABOUT. (DAVEY MCKERN)

Jason Bauer of Northwestwalleye.com forwarded the photo to Northwest Sportsman. He reports that he’s heard rumors of the nonnative species being caught of late in the Northport area, just above where the Columbia becomes Lake Roosevelt.

That’s also not far below the mouth of the Pend Oreille River, which has a growing Esox population. Illegally introduced in that river’s Montana namesake, the Clark Fork, years ago, pike have made their way down through Idaho and there are now enough in the Newport to Ione stretch that anglers actively target them — and state and tribal biologists are fretting.

“Our immediate concern is predation on native westslope cutthroat and bull trout,” Bill Baker, a WDFW district fish biologist in Colville, told us earlier this year as he prepared for meetings with local anglers, “but native salmon, steelhead and other species also could be at risk if pike migrate downstream and establish populations in the Columbia River. We’re also concerned about northern pike populations establishing in other Washington waters.”

While bucket biologists are suspected of bringing northerns to a pair of unnamed Spokane County lakes, 2011 has seen spectacularly high snowpack runoff from the Rockies that probably pushed the pike out of the Pend Oreille, into the Columbia and then into Roosevelt.

“That is probably a three-year-old fish that was washed downstream from the Pend Orielle River during the high flows they have been experiencing,” said WDFW warmwater fisheries manager Bruce Bolding. “It is somewhat alarming but not unexpected. The three-year-olds are one of the big year-classes in the Pend Oreille River now.”

He said it appeared like the pike was “well fed.”

It’s not the first caught in the Columbia Basin. Several years ago, one was landed near Moses Lake by a Puyallup angler. It was unclear whether it was transported to the lake in a livewell or came through the basin’s irrigation system by itself.

In a large article in our May issue, Leroy Ledoboer wrote about the potential spread of pike down the Columbia, home to the Lower 48s best salmon and steelhead runs, and why that isn’t exactly a slam-bam deal either:

Already pike have entered Boundary Dam Reservoir, their next stop below (Box Canyon) dam, and Canadian anglers have even caught pike in their free-flowing stretch of the Pend Oreille. From there it’s a straight shot into the Columbia River and Lake Roosevelt.

“At a 2010 Boundary Reservoir bass tournament, they said every boat caught at least a couple pike,” Connor says, “so yes, they’re in there, but I don’t believe we’ll get a fraction of the pike we have in Box Canyon. It’s just a totally different reservoir, with sheer rock walls, over 200 feet deep in places, with only a few potential spawning areas.”

When more pike filter into Lake Roosevelt – as no doubt they will – Connor doesn’t think they’ll turn into a real threat there either. That lake’s tremendous water fluctuations should make spawning nearly impossible.

“Adult pike can live in almost any water, as long as they have forage fish,” he explains, “but they need certain conditions to propagate. That’s why Long Lake pike haven’t exploded. A few always filter in from Lake Coeur d’Alene, find fantastic forage and get huge fast, but they don’t spawn.

“The problems will come when pike get beyond Lake Roosevelt into other Columbia River reservoirs. We’ve identified what looks like excellent pike spawning grounds in a number of these reservoirs, almost all the way to the mouth. If this happens and they gobble up thousands of salmon and steelhead smolt, we’re talking about impacting a several-billion-dollar fishery.”

A blog last summer, Pend Oreille Pike Explosion, is one of the most read pieces on our Web site

Baker Lake Sockeye Tips

July 22, 2011

So, you wanna put some socks in the box at Baker — may we be of assistance?

With nearly 6,200 trucked up to the North Cascades lake (catch code: 825) so far this summer — most just this week — here’s a roundup of articles and fishing info for the season that opens tomorrow, July 23, for three-adult-sockeye limits and fishing with second rods — provided you have the two-pole permit in hand.

Mr. Wayne von Krusenheimer of The (Everett) Herald:

Baker Lake looks like a bent finger, pointing toward the east, and the best fishing last year was on the upper “joint,” between the bend and Noisy Creek, over the old river channel. Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said a rule of thumb is to start at a depth of 15 or 20 feet and to drop deeper at 10 feet per hour. He said that for the first couple of weeks, most of the fish will be caught between 20 and 60 feet, on a very slow troll.

Rig with a size “0” big-ring dodger in chrome, 50-50, or UV glow or pearl, 12 to 18 inches of 30-pound leader, and tandem 2/0 hooks in red or any combination of red, orange, pink, or glow. Dress the hooks with krill or shrimp scent, and perhaps a piece of prawn on the top hook. Mini-hoochies in pink or UV pink also will catch fish, John said.

Mr. Doug Huddlesteinhausenstadt of the Bellingham Herald:

Trolling is the most effective method for these newly arrived fish. For terminal tackle try the bare red Gamakatsu hook, a pink mylar hoochie (squid) or a large bright streamer (bucktail) pattern all towed behind a medium to large flasher, depending on visibility at depth.

Adjust speed and depth until you start getting strikes. Also these fish are likely to congregate in schools and therefore will readily show up as sonar sets as aggregations of larger blips. They may also gravitate to a thermal layer or single depth though with as much snowmelt water as is coming into the lake it may not be stratifying according to temperature.

Look to the old natural lake section above Boulder Creek where the water chemistry may be more conducive to the sockeye.

Mr. Mark Yuasagerode of the Seattle Times:

As for tactics to catch sockeye, (WDFW biologist/angler) Barkdull says to go with what was best last summer.

“I would start with where you left off last year as for the gear type used,” Barkdull said.

The pink mini hootchie squid seems to be one of the go-to things to use, and some were also catching them on kokanee gear or Smile Blades with a couple of red beads down on a leader then baited the hooked with a piece of pink dyed shrimp.

The traditional two bare 2/0, 3/0 or 4/0 red, blue, pink or black hooks on a short 9- to 12-inch leader trailed behind a 0-size chrome dodger also worked and caught its fair share of fish.

The best area last summer was in the middle of the lake or right off Noisy Creek.

The preferred depth will be 30 to 45 feet, and to your boat troll very SLOWLY.

Last year the thing that might have made it tough to fish (especially with colored bare hooks) is the lake had a bit of glacial color. It was a whitish/bluish tint of color.

Both Northwest Wild Country and The Outdoor Line radio shows promise live reports from experts on the water tomorrow.

And lastly — and for more reasons than one — a certain Mr. A. von Walgamottingentalberburgberg in two previous posts and in the July issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine:

CONCRETE, Wash.—Read through the fishing rules and you’ll come across this line for Baker Lake: “SOCKEYE To be determined pending inseason update.”

Despite the regs’ ambiguousness, it’s “pretty likely” there will be a season, only the second ever on the pretty lake in Washington’s North Cascades. Several thousand were caught last summer by anglers using gear and tactics similar to those used on the state’s other two some-summers sock hops, Lakes Washington and Wenatchee, and it may go annual.

“We’ve had a lot more smolts going out and that really helps the odds right there – having the juveniles in the first place,” says Brett Barkdull, the district fisheries biologist for the state Department of Fish & Wildlife.

That’s a function of all the salmon enhancement work that Puget Sound Energy has done on the Skagit River tributary as part of their relicensing agreement to operate Baker and Shannon Dams.

In the 1990s, the hydropower utility built a spawning beach on Baker Lake and improved it recently. Two years ago it dunked a floating fry-collection system into the lake at the dam and immediately set a new record for downstream migration (343,000, the bulk of this year’s returning adults), a mark that was overtopped last year by 150 percent. And a new fish trap on the Baker River and hatchery facility on the lake came online last summer.

The hatchery and gravel beach could produce as many as 11 million fry a year, 400 percent above the previous capacity, PSE says.

And while this year’s probable fishery is based off a forecasted return of 23,954 sockeye, the utility boldly predicts that – with another collector placed on the reservoir below Baker in 2013 – runs of “50,000 to 75,000 are not unrealistic to expect in coming years.”

If there’s a caveat anywhere, it’s that managers are not quite sure how many fish the lake can produce and how many are needed back to ensure escapement goals are met.

In the meanwhile, Barkdull places the odds of a run of 5,000 or fewer back this year at 15 percent, a return of 5,000 to 10,000 at 30 percent and a repeat of last year at 40 percent.

“If they return to the lake at the survival rates we’ve seen over the past 20 years, we could have anywhere between from roughly 5,500 to 95,000,” he laughs. “Now, I doubt both those numbers – they’re both unlikely. Anywhere in the 10,000 to 30,000 range is more likely.”

Nearly four-fifths will return as two-salts while one-fifth will be threes, with the remainders one-salts, fours, fives and sixes, he says.

If the run is as good as 2010, Barkdull says he’ll try and get a three-fish limit for anglers.

LAST SEASON on the 3,100-acre impoundment below iconic Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan, there was an extreme catch inequality: You were either among the few haves or the many have-nots. Call it socke-alism, but we aim to redistribute the wealth here.

“It’s a technique fishery. If you get it figured out, they bite pretty good. You gotta have the right presentation and the right speed and the right depth,” says Barkdull, who admits to being “just barely in the haves.”

One private boat in particular seemed to have it dialed in perfectly.

“They were a machine out there,” he says.

Afterwards, he chatted up one of the crew and was told that not only did the bite change by the day, but by the hour.

RYAN BENNETT was also amongst the havemores, perhaps because of how he focused on boat speed, bait size and how water flowing through the upper lake affected his setup.

CLIENTS OF GUIDE RYAN BENNETT WITH A LIMIT FROM LAST SEASON. (REAL DEAL GUIDE SERVICE)

“I was throwing the wind socks out to keep my speed down,” says the owner of Reel Deal Guide Service (360-840-1155). “There’s the current in the lake. I think that threw people – dodgers spinning instead of turning.”

Fishing exclusively with downriggers, he targeted water as little as 11 feet down early in the morning to as deep as 67 feet. He used an 8-inch Sling Blade from Shasta Tackle, but pulled a Gary Miralles, modifying the dodger.

“I peeled the stickers off and fished it in all chrome,” he says.

Bennett tried all the usual baits, but the ol’ red-hook trick that sockeye anglers learned from a commercial fisherman working the San Juans decades ago – and helped along to widespread fame by our Dave Workman, then on the desk of Washington Fishing & Hunting News – didn’t work as well.
“I caught them on all the standards, but the fish came on larger presentations,” Bennett tips.

So, what, a U20 FlatFish?

“A little bit, a little bit, but not a whole lot.”

Bennett is loath to give all his tricks away, but says he stuffed pink Silver Horde Gold Star Mini Sardine FG 193s with dough bait.

“I was just literally rolling up PowerBait into a ball, just like trout fishing, and shoving it in the squid,” he says.

John used bait at times as well, a sand shrimp or cocktail shrimp on a double-barehook setup.

As with other sockeye anglers, he too stresses the slow approach, from .7 to 1.2 mph speed over ground.

“An electric motor is almost a must,” John says.

By the end of the season he says he was adding a Mack’s Lures Smile Blade, which turns at very slow speeds, in front of his hooks.

That said, sockeye are flukey fish. Kicking up his speed a half a knot one day, Barkdull suddenly found himself in fresh socks.

“We sat there and limited in front of 80 other boats not catching anything. Just that little change, four in a half an hour,” he says.

John adds that you can go with or without scent, but if you do use it, try shrimp or krill.

IF 2011 FOLLOWS 2010, the best spot will be about halfway down the shank of Baker Lake’s dogleg right.

“About 99 percent of the fish were in front of Noisy Creek,” says John.

That could be a function of depth, water temps, where the fish were staging for the final leg of their spawning run or just where somebody saw or heard someone else catch a fish and pretty soon the whole fleet converged on the upper end of the lake.

He started closer to shore and gradually moved out, following the fish, even dropping his gear as far down as 110 feet to nab one.

But Noisy’s not the only spot.

“I spent a few evenings on the water, and you could catch fish in other places,” hints Bennett.

Though the lake is 9 miles long, its boat ramps are well spaced, with two near the dam, two at midlake and one near its upper end. The best launch with the most parking – PSE’s Kulshan – is the furthest away from the hot spot.

“It’s a 6- or 7-mile run, but it’s nothing in the morning,” says Barkdull.

John says it’s best to make your initial run in daylight as there are islands and snags “in areas you typically wouldn’t expect them – like right in the middle of the lake.”

The closest ramp to the action, Shannon Campground, only has a handful of parking spots, and – unlike last year – only those spending the night there will be able to use it.

“We’re limiting it to those folks who are camping there, figuring they’re fishing anyway,” says Jon Vanderheyden, the U.S. Forest Service’s district ranger.

The fishery’s popularity last year caught him by surprise, and he’s now scrambling to satisfy families out for a quiet campout in the mountains and the large numbers of anglers who want to get on the water for the first-light bite.

“We had folks running around at 5:30 in the morning looking for parking spots. There were definitely some ticked-off campers,” he says.

Vanderheyden says that workers have paved and striped additional parking at the Panorama Point Campground and are hoping to do similar at Horseshoe Cove.

“Once one fills up, you’re going to have to go to another launch,” he says.

There will likely be increased Forest Service patrols and ticketing for parking in bad spots.

USFS PAMPHLET SHOWING RULES FOR BAKER LAKE, LARGELY OWNED BY THE FEDS. (USFS)

One other thing of note is that while USFS will not issue any new commercial guiding permits for Baker, five guides who were granted one-year permits last summer will be allowed to use theirs until they expire.

“It’s going to take a little while for all of us to work the bugs out. It’s good to see a fishery, but we’ve got to respect the users and the resource,” Vanderheyden says.

With the sockeye runs that PSE and Barkdull expect in the future, angler cooperation will go a long way to keeping things running smoothly for all parties. NS

Fishing Tonight

July 20, 2011

For the past couple months I’ve been dreaming about last weekend.

The Missus and boyz would be down in Sacto visiting family and I’d be free to do anything.

Steelies, salmon, rainbows, watch out!, right?

Ahem.

Someone else noted the absence of those little tool-stealers, my father-in-law.

Jürgen figured it would be a fantastic time to come up from Newport and work on some projects we’ve got going around the house.

There’s the wrap-around wooden bench, the drain pipe installation, the concrete resurfacing, the rock-wall repair operation, and the hawthorne hacking.

So he arrived last Wednesday and that, of course, kiboshed my fishing plans.

Well, that, the deadline for the August issue and a bit too much beer and soccer consumption.

But anyway, as much as I feel that my carpentry skills — err, “complete lack of carpentry skills” is a more apt descriptor — actually would slow his pace, I felt a wee bit guilty about abandoning him for the waters.

Amy had also impressed it upon me to stick around and help.

It’s our house, after all, and stuff’s gotta get done before the fall rains come. Jürg’s also almost 70 and some of the work better matched my skill set — breaking rocks, digging dirt, mixing concrete, cutting branches.

Plus it would be cool to just get to know the guy better.

Our relationship got off to an odd start back in the mid-2000s. When I was wooing his daughter, we all met up at this hep Portland restaurant for lunch and, without saying a word to me, he spent the entire meal drawing (he’s an artist — go here, buy some stuff, help out our inheritance).

Since then Jürgen’s become more talkative, and this past weekend, he regaled me with stories from his younger days about surviving for a month in Morocco on octopus and shellfish he caught with his own hands, decoding Warsaw Pact signals for the West German army, sleeping in ditches and fields in Italy and Greece, and the winching skills of his friend, Roberto, who lives on the Alsea River and whose help we could have used with that $%@$@%#$@^@@#$%@$% hawthorne.

We ate well — salted meat products — and drank well — nothing but Deutsche Bier, danke — and enjoyed a night out at The Ould Triangle on Greenwood with its Irish owner, Michael, whom Jürgen had met on a previous trip up here (thanks, Michael, for the free glass of Radeberger!).

After the day’s work it was cool to sit out on the half- then nearly finished wooden bench at dusk and yap with Jürgen while watching the sky for bats for Amy’s future bathouse — a project that literally didn’t get off the ground.

We did get a lot done — I even got to operate some power tools! — then he left yesterday. So now, with Amy, River and Kiran due back tomorrow, I’ve got an evening’s worth of fishing ahead of me.

My original plan was to jet out to Reiter for summer-runs, but that’s an hour’s drive in the absolute best of conditions, longer with other cars on the road, even longer with the evening commute.

Much closer is the Edmonds Pier where I could bomb for summer kings moving through, though the tides are kinda messed up for that tonight (or, more likely, my understanding of the tides and Chinook fishing is what’s messed up — I’m sure it will be epic there).

If it were mid- to late August instead of mid-July, I’d hit Spokane Street, Golden Gardens or any of the parks along the Central Sound for pinks (they have yet to move into Pugetropolis in any real numbers — just checked for myself and reader John S. at the Big B).

I’m thinking something else, though.

This morning, as I drove to work down Aurora, I glanced over at Green Lake and saw a bathtub with an electric motor trolling down the west shoreline.

So that’s what I’m gonna do later this afternoon: Go home, put the Chinook steak in the fridge on the counter to defrost for dinner later, load up my boat, gather my gear — thought I’d lost it, but by a miracle of foresight, I had put the tackle where it should actually go — and head out for trout.

Might not be the world’s sexiest destination, but it’ll satisfy that fishing jones.

See you on the water.

It’s Official: Baker To Open 7-23

July 19, 2011

Baker Lake fishery managers have just officially announced that sockeye season starts this Saturday, July 23.

Daily limit at the North Puget Sound reservoir is three adult sockeye salmon that exceed 18 inches in length from the log boom barrier at Baker Dam upstream to the mouth of the upper Baker River, according to a press release from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.

The two-pole endorsement will be allowed here, according to a WDFW e-reg notice.

All other salmon and bull trout must be released.

State fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull says this year’s return is expected to meet spawning production goals. As of today, July 19, 8,285 sockeye had returned to hatchery facilities at the lake.

CHUCK SPANI AND THE BOYZ BLEW UP BAKER LAST SUMMER. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

“About 3,600 of those sockeye salmon have been released into Baker Lake,” said Barkdull in a press release. “We expect that number to continue to increase as we approach Saturday’s opener.”

He reminds anglers that the Baker and Skagit rivers remain closed to salmon fishing.

For more on Baker Lake sockeye, see WDFW’s Web page on it.

For more on how to fish it, see our July issue, on newsstands now, and yesterday’s blog.

As for that other Cascades sockeye pond, Lake Wenatchee, no salmon have crossed Tumwater Dam on the Wenatchee River so far this season. Fisheries biologist Chad Jackson says that the run appears to be two to three weeks late. The 10-year average is for 6,648 to be across the dam by now.

The escapement goal there is 23,000 and Jackson says a run of 26,500-plus is needed for a meaningful fishery.

And, just for poops and grins, what’s the latest on that other-other summer sock hop, Lake Washington? This year’s run has nearly met the preseason forecast — 33,404 have gone through the Ballard Locks as of July 13 — but more than 10 times that number are needed for a fishery.

Next year, baby, next year.

Kings Beat The Crap Out Of This Plug

July 18, 2011

Deep inside almost every angler’s tackle box is a plug or other lure that looks like it’s seen better days.

It’s an old battler, looks like it got in a scrape with a grizzly bear — or two — maybe it’s missing an eye, there’s more bare skin than paint, should probably be on painkillers at any rate.

But it’s there still — and actually, most likely stationed at the front of the box — because it’s just got that wiggle that salmon and steelhead can not resist.

So it goes with this image of a toothworn banana plug sent to us today by Buzz Ramsey.

(BOB TOMAN)

“Bob wants a new one,” writes Buzz about the Mag Lip, made by his company, Yakima Baits.

According to the email he forwarded from Bob Toman, the well-known Portland-area guide, it accounted for a whopping 43 Nushagak salmon in just two days late last month.

That timeframe corresponds to a spike in fish counts on the sonar and with reports out of another camp on the Alaska river, Jake’s.

(BOB TOMAN)

Got a similar veteran plug in your tackle box? Send it to me at andy@nwsportsmanmag.com and I’ll post it here with Kirby Cannon’s deadly lure.

Writes the Portland salmon junkie:

Andy, this Kwikfish has counted for many, many Chinook jacks and 17 adult Chinook and four steelhead and six sockeye — had to pull the tags out to check. Well, it might have something to do with the sardines that I cure.

KIRBY CANNON'S KILLER KWIK. (KIRBY CANNON)

The Deadline Cometh (That Bastard)

July 15, 2011

How close are we at Mission Control to giving birth to the August issue of Northwest Sportsman? By six industry-standard measures, it is imminent.

1) There are now six different coffee mugs on my desk  — light blue, yellow, rainbow, dark blue, another yellow one and a white one …

1a) … And they’re in the early stages of forming a second story.

2) My bladder is beyond full.

3) Visible surface area of my actual desktop is down to approximately 10 percent — it’s almost completely buried under the abovementioned coffee cups; lures and dodgers and odd swimbaits; notebooks full of chicken scratchings that will be all but undecipherable next week; random sheets of paper, stray sheets of paper, enough recyclable paper to put production at a pulp mill on hold for at least a couple hours; so many magazines that I worry about weight limits and the screws holding this whole thing up; maps; tupperware containers; binders full of true-life death-defying tales from Hells Canyon; and criminy, I could go on and on, but it’s deadline!

4) There are two different computers going, one with the live layouts, one with my email and all sorts of other distractions (somebody block stinkin’ YouTube, please!).

5) The ratio of curse words to other words is roughly 1:1, if not 2:1 at certain moments.

6) And ad sales reps now have time to natter about hot sockeye bites on the Peninsula that cause me to have to make time-consuming phone calls that basically reveal the aforementioned ad sales rep should’ve been there yesterday, or two weeks ago on the front end of the run.

Oh, go anyway, you got me into this mess, you buggers — no, wait, come back, I need some help with a Deschutes steelhead headline!!!!!!!

Killin’ Me With Kings

July 13, 2011

Devin Schildt, Todd Girtz, Derek Knowles, Kevin Klein, Jim Klark — have you no common decency? Can’t you see I’m trying to work here, trying to get out the August issue of Northwest Sportsman?!?!

Apparently not, because you’ve been killing me with these pics of kings.

TODD GIRTZ WITH A HEFTY CHINOOK CAUGHT EARLIER THIS WEEK OUT OF LA PUSH. (TODD GIRTZ)

CORY BRAY WITH ANOTHER LA PUSH KINGER FROM EARLIER THIS WEEK. (TODD GIRTZ)

A BRUTE AND A RESPECTABLE CHINOOK CAUGHT DURING LAST WEEKEND'S DERBY IN THE SAN JUANS. (KEVIN KLEIN)

ANOTHER BEAST OF THE NORTH, CAUGHT DURING THE PSA DERBY. (KEVIN KLEIN)

A WHALE OF A TYEE CAUGHT OUT OF WHALE CHANNEL RECENTLY BY JEFF KNOWLES OF MAPLE VALLEY. (JEFF KNOWLES)

RAPHAELA PULERA AND HER FIRST SALMON, THIS NOOK CAUGHT ON FLAT SEAS OUT OF WESTPORT LAST SUNDAY. (JIM KLARK)

... AND THE DEATH BLOW, THIS SAN JUANS BEAUT -- SARAH BAKKEN AND HER CHINOOK FROM LAST WEEKEND. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

If you’re looking for more than eye candy in this blog, here’s the very latest ocean catch report from WDFW’s Wendy Beeghley:

Columbia Ocean Area (including Oregon)

The all-species recreational salmon fishery in the area between Cape Falcon, OR and Leadbetter Point, WA opened on June 26 operating under a sub-area quota of 33,600 coho and a sub-area guideline of 7,400 Chinook.  During the week of July 4, a total of 1,358 coho and 341 Chinook were landed. Through Sunday, July 10, 2,454 coho (7% of the sub-area quota) and 631 Chinook (9% of the sub-area guideline) have been landed.   No pink have been landed in this area.

Westport

The all-species recreational salmon fishery in the area between Leadbetter Point and the Queets River opened on June 26 operating under a sub-area quota of 24,860 coho and a sub-area guideline of 16,900 Chinook.  During the week of July 4, a total of 721 coho, 654 Chinook, and 135 pink were landed.  Through Sunday, July 10, 1,430 coho (6% of the sub-area quota) and 1,370 Chinook (8% of the sub-area guideline) have been landed.

La Push

The all-species recreational salmon fishery in the area between the Queets River and Cape Alava opened on June 26 operating under a sub-area quota of 1,700 coho and a sub-area guideline of 1,350 Chinook1.  During the week of July 4, a total of 161coho, 138 Chinook, and 63 pink were landed.  Through Sunday, July 10, 311 coho (18% of the sub-area quota) and 176 Chinook (13% of the sub-area guideline) have been landed.

Neah Bay

The all-species recreational salmon fishery in the area between Cape Alava and the US-Canada border opened on June 26 operating under a sub-area quota of 6,990 coho and a sub-area guideline of 3,200 Chinook.  During the week of July 4, a total of 279 coho, 215 Chinook, and 569 pink were landed.  Through Sunday, July 10, 705 coho (10% of the sub-area quota) and 400 Chinook (13% of the sub-area guideline) have been landed.

Another Great Trip Out Of Westport

July 13, 2011

Editor’s note 1: Following up on his trip there in late June, our ad salesmen Jim Klark returned to Westport last weekend for salmon fishing and filed the following blog.

By Jim Klark

You will learn three things by reading this blog.

1.) Pick the right day and fishing out of Westport can be more like Mexico than you think.

2.) White king salmon do exist in the waters around Washington.

3.) Pinks are showing up all over Northwest waters.

As summer heats up, so does the ocean fishery in and around Washington and Oregon. This last Sunday I fished out of Westport and found that the salmon and tuna fisheries this year shows a lot of promise.

As of this writing, albacore, although spotty, can be found within 40 miles of the coast and in the next few weeks the marauding fish will start biting in earnest for anglers. While tuna are open every day out of this port, salmon is a Sunday-Thursday fishery with a daily limit of two (only one Chinook, release wild coho).

SUNRISE OVER THE WESTPORT BOAT BASIN. (JIM KLARK)

As day broke with an amazing sunrise and mild temps, things got even brighter as the 18 of us anglers enjoyed a flat, calm day on the waters off Westport. Yes, that’s right — flat and calm. In fact, many boats saw T-shirt weather and mill-pond-flat water. Mike Harris, captain of the Fury, allowed that it even reminded him of Mexico.

That thought went through the minds of many as at 6:30 a.m. the first salmon of many that day was netted, reminding us that we need not check our passports.

RAPHAELA PULERA SHOWS OFF A NICE CHINOOK -- HER FIRST EVER SALMON -- CAUGHT ABOARD THE FURY LAST SUNDAY. (JIM KLARK)

Mixed into the catch were several pinks, which are also being landed in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and are retainable starting this weekend in the Nooksack River.

Several wild silvers were caught and released by this group and as the fish count piled, up we proceeded to another “hot spot” that Harris knew of away from the rest of the many boats that dotted the water this amazing day. As soon as we dropped our lines into the water four fish were hooked — all big kings. A gentleman on the starboard side of the boat netted a fish close to 28 pounds.

“Do you have your derby ticket?” the captain asked.

Westport offers a jackpot for the biggest king salmon caught each weekend. For a $5 investment in a ticket, and a little luck, you can walk away with a $500 jackpot.

As I pondered this, line suddenly screamed off my reel and after a 15-minute dance around the rail of the boat, I was rewarded with a 24-pound wild king.

THE AUTHOR AND HIS RARE WHITE KING. (JIM KLARK)

We later found that this was indeed a “white king.” The flesh of these fish is white in hue rather than the orange we usually see in salmon. About 1 percent of the salmon population shows this color variation. No one knows for sure why, but I’ve seen them in Southeast Alaska, and in speaking with several people in the industry, there is belief that many come from the Fraser River in B.C.

As we returned to the docks, somewhat sunburned, we found that the day out of Westport had been one of the most rewarding of the year for many others as well.

Oh, and how’d that 28-pounder place in the jackpot? Well, unfortunately for the angler, the winning fish that day was almost 30 pounds.

Anglers, don’t forget the Washington Tuna Classic is Aug. 27. This IGFA offshore qualifying event helps several charity groups including the Wounded Warrior Project and the Northwest Harvest Foodbank. You can register online at washingtontunaclassic.com.

There are plenty of great places to stay and eat in Westport – motels, hotels, RV parks and even roomy condos like the Ocean Shores Condos.

You can get more information by visiting beachcombersnw.com.

Editor’s note 2: Wendy Beeghley, WDFW’s fish checker for the coast, generally echoes Jim Klark’s hot report.

“Relative to the previous weekend, it was awesome,” she reports late this morning. ” People in private boats did especially well. It was over a fish a rod, not quite a limit. A lot of Chinook, nice Chinook.”

She says that on Saturday, anglers were doing well out of Ilwaco, but except for those who headed north on Sunday, it faded, but picked back up on Monday.

Overall, effort has been down, but as the reports hit the street and we come into the better fishing period, that’s picking up, she says.

Still, if you’re in Pugetropolis and don’t have the gas money to head for the coast but want to get out for salmon, this Saturday, July 16, marks the Central Puget Sound mark-selective Chinook fishery in parts of Areas 9 and 10. The past couple openers, the best bite has been at Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend.

But also consider the San Juans, which have been stupid-good for big Chinook. A 35-pound hatchery king won last weekend’s Bellingham Puget Sound Anglers derby.

Deserving Sentence For OR Deer Poachers

July 13, 2011

UPDATE: The Eugene Register-Guard reports July 16, 2011, that five more members of this poaching ring have pled guilty after reaching an agreement on lesser charges and sentenced. One person still has to face to justice.

A big tip of the cap to the Lane County court system — as well as the hard work of the Oregon State Police who made the massive case.

In an “unusual” — but well deserved — sentence handed down yesterday, a pair of Springfield deer poachers will be spending the next four deer seasons in jail.

When you’re heading into the Oregon hills come October, Shane Donoho, 37, and his father, Rory Donoho, 60, will be sitting in the county klink for 90 days after pleading guilty to a criminal conspiracy that, state police allege, killed over 300 deer the past half decade — 30 times the bag limit for the area they poached in had they been hunting lawfully.

ANTLERS SEIZED AT THE HOMES OF SHANE DONOHO AND RORY DONOHO, BOTH OF SPRINGFIELD, ORE., THIS PAST JANUARY. (OSP)

There are indications that the family has been poaching for generations.

According to an article in today’s Eugene Register-Guard, which broke the news of the case back in February:

“Shane Donoho said the poaching goes back as far as he can remember, that he was taught by his father, Rory, who was taught by (Shane’s) grandfather,” [Lane County Prosecutor Jay] Hall said in court. The day he and police served a search warrant at Rory Donoho’s home, the prosecutor noted, a 6- or 7-year-old grandchild in footed pajamas offered to show the officers how to hunt a deer.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to hold your spotlight in your left hand and kind of rest your rifle on top of it,’” Hall recounted. The prosecutor said he asked the boy why he needed a spotlight to hunt deer, and the child replied: “Because it’s dark outside and they’ll stop and look at you.”

As part of a plea deal that avoided longer jail terms for a range of felony racketeering and other charges, Shane, convicted on 82 counts, must pay $42,000 in restitution to Oregon, do 400 hours of community service “including speaking to hunting groups,” where I’m sure he’ll face a very warm welcome and was “ordered … to undergo counseling for a hunting ‘addiction’ as directed by his probation officer,” according to the paper.

The elder Donoho was convicted on 57 counts and must pay $20,000 in restitution, the paper said.

Both have been banned from hunting for life.

Previously, their accomplice Miguel Kennedy, 26, pled guilty to identity theft (four counts); forgery in the second degree (two counts); unlawful loaning or transfer of hunting tag; and racketeering and was sentenced last week to eight months in jail, $800 in fines and three years on probation, according to the Register-Guard.

The paper’s story today discusses how Kennedy “helped them ‘bring the scheme to a new level by stealing his ex-girlfriend’s identity in order to create a completely fake hunter profile.'”

For a large article in our June issue, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist told Northwest Sportsman that deer numbers in the Gate Creek and Hagen Mountain area, where the Donohos poached, were off.

“The habitat is better than the deer numbers indicate,” Brian Wolfer said. “There aren’t the same number of deer there as you see in other parts of the unit” with similar habitat.”

That was echoed by OSP’s investigating trooper Marc Boyd who said, “… In the areas that the Donohos frequented during this long criminal conspiracy, you would have a hard time finding any deer,” according to the Eugene daily.

The paper also reports that the Donohos “forfeited to the government 19 rifles, 1,600 pounds of processed and frozen game meat, and 106 pairs of trophy antlers valued at between $180,000 and $400,000.”

Six others, who’ve all plead not guilty to misdemeanor charges, still await trial. They are:

Gerald S. Donoho, 64
Laura A. Donoho, 36
Sandra L. Shaffer, 59
Danny M. Hawkins, 60
Mary S. Normand, 61
Shawn Stone, 48

This morning, OSP issued a press release on the case:

Two additional suspects sentenced in one of Oregon’s most notable poaching operations,  Shane and Rory Donoho of Springfield, Oregon, pled guilty Tuesday to multiple felony and misdemeanor crimes in Lane County Circuit Court.

The case was investigated by the Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division troopers from the Springfield Area Command with assistance from, Albany, Bend, Oakridge, Florence and Roseburg offices. The 15-month investigation into the poaching operation also led investigators to multiple other crimes including Identity Theft, Computer Crime and Racketeering.

In April 2011, Shane and Rory Donoho, along with seven other people, were indicted by a Lane County Grand Jury on numerous criminal charges including wildlife crimes, Identity Theft, computer crimes and racketeering.  The men were arraigned April 28 in Lane County Circuit Court.

The investigation led by Trooper Marc Boyd of the OSP Springfield Area Command office alleges a long criminal conspiracy involving the illegal harvest of approximately 300 deer in the McKenzie wildlife management unit over the last five years.  Search warrants served at three separate locations during January 2011 in both Springfield and Eugene led to the seizure of 18 hunting rifles, 108 sets of antlers, timber company keys, numerous hunting licenses and tags, approximately 1600 pounds of processed wild game meat, and two whole unlawfully taken cow elk.

The two ring leaders identified below pled guilty July 12, 2011 in Lane County Circuit Court and were sentenced on the following charges:

* SHANE E. DONOHO, age 37, from Springfield
– Identity Theft (5 counts)
– Unlawful Take of Big Game (5 counts)
– Unlawful Possession of Game Mammal
– Unlawful Hunting of Antlerless Elk
– Unlawful Possession of Big Game Parts (50 counts)
– Forgery in the Second Degree
– Computer Crime (10 counts)
– Racketeering

SHANE DONOHO was sentenced to:
– 360 days in jail in four 90-day segments beginning on October 1, 2011 through 2014 – – – 5 years probation with strict guidelines
– 400 hours community service
– Forfeit 14 seized firearms, meat and antlers
– Pay $42,000 restitution to ODFW
– Pay $3,200 restitution to OSP
– Lifetime hunting license suspension

* RORY E. DONOHO, age 60, from Springfield
– Unlawful Loaning of Big Game Tag
– Unlawful Borrowing of Hunting Tag (3 counts)
– Identity Theft
– Unlawful Take Antlerless Deer
– Unlawful Possession of Big Game Parts (50 counts)
– Racketeering

RORY DONOHO was sentenced to:
– 360 days in jail in four 90 day segments beginning October 1, 2011 through 2014
– 5 years probation
– Forfeit all seized firearms
– Pay $20,000 in restitution to ODFW
– Lifetime hunting license suspension

The offenses occurred during 2009 and 2010 in Lane County on both Bureau of Land Management and private timber lands.  The wildlife unlawfully taken and/or possessed included Black tail Deer, and Elk.

The investigation revealed a long time criminal enterprise primarily involving the unlawful take of Black Tail Deer. Many of the deer were taken to fill tags for people who either do not hunt or who had their identification stolen for the purpose of illegally obtaining hunting licenses and tags in their name.  A break in the case came when one of the victims of identification theft received an ODFW big game tooth envelope in the U.S. mail and contacted the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to advise them of their mistake.  The initial investigation indicated hunting licenses and tags were bought in the reporting person’s name without their consent or knowledge.

OSP Fish & Wildlife Division troopers served search warrants with the assistance of BLM law enforcement, Lane County parole and probation, the Lane County District Attorney’s Office and OSP patrol troopers. The Lane County Sheriff’s Office forest deputies also assisted in the recovery of the two cow elk unlawfully taken the same day a search warrant was served.

Due to meat inspection protocols the meat seized can not be utilized for human consumption and will be donated to various wildlife rehabilitation facilities. The firearms will go to the Division of State Lands to be sold at auction with the proceeds going to the common school fund.

Cases involving illegal conduct such as this should be reported to the Turn-In-Poachers (TIP) line (800-452-7888) for the protection and future enjoyment of our natural resources.

Deck, Bloodied

July 11, 2011

It’s a wee bit early, but anglers are beginning to catch albacore off the Washington coast.

Just got a fishing report from John Keizer at Saltpatrol.com who teamed up with Rob Tobeck of The Outdoor Line for a little tuna run yesterday, Sunday, July 10.

JOHN KEIZER BROKE IN THE 2011 TUNA SEASON WITH 10 OVER THE SIDE OF HIS SALT PATROL BOAT. (SALTPATROL.COM)

They headed 40 miles southwest of Westport, found “water was as flat as a mill pond” as well as “several jumpers chasing bait.”

“Stop and dropped live bait hooked up a couple,” Keizer says. “Worked the area around 46.27.020 X 124.57.570  — 59-62 degree water and caught 10 tuna.”

Besides live bait — see the July issue of Northwest Sportsman, on newsstands now, for the lowdown — the well-known Washington saltwater angler reports catching tuna on jigs and swimbaits, and by trolling.

He says most of the fish went from 20 to 28 pounds, “nice size for this time of year!”

CAP'N KEIZER HOLDS UP AN EARLY-SEASON ALBIE OUT OF WESTPORT. (SALTPATROL.COM)

Wendy Beeghley, a Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife catch sampler in Montesano, says fishing usually gets going by the third week of July, but anglers are getting better and better at catching tuna and going out earlier and earlier.

“We just started seeing them last week,” she says. “Not a lot of numbers — 10 in a catch, that was the biggest.”

Says Keizer, “Let the season begin!”

UPDATE: Ambush Charters out of Newport, Ore., has posted pics of an alba-haul from yesterday on their Facebook page.

First Shot At River Pinks This Sat.

July 11, 2011

Say you’re a shore-bound humpy fanatic who CAN NOT WAIT for the August and September river openers in Puget Sound — what do you do?

Well, you could join Andrew Moravec, formerly of Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville, Wash., who’s been catching the humpbacked ones up in Cordova.

Or you could save your Alaska air miles and just drive to Bellingham come this Saturday, July 16.

The Nooksack River just north of the city limits opens that day for pinks, daily limit four, and there should be some salmon in already.

Actually, when I read Doug Huddle’s column late last week that humpers opened this weekend, I was like, “No freakin’ way, that’s gotta be a misprint in the regulations or something,” so I immediately called the district fisheries biologist (and one of Huddle’s old coworkers) and asked what was up.

The longtime B’ham Herald outdoor reporter was, of course, correct

“They’re far and away the earliest returning population we have in Puget Sound,” says Brett Barkdull. “By September 1st, the fishing is over. They start spawning in mid-August and are done by mid- to late September. They’re done and gone by the time the rest of the run in Puget Sound is just getting started.”

The earliest the Skagit opens for the odd-year salmon is Aug. 1 while it’s Aug. 16 on the Snohomish, lower Skykomish and Puyallup, Aug. 20 on the Duwamish, and Sept. 1 on the Stillaguamish, middle and upper Skykomish and Carbon. Some runs stay worthwhile into early October.

So, what’s the deal with the Nooksack’s early-timed return?

It’s like that old beer slogan from the other end of Puget Sound — it’s in the water.

Mt. Baker’s huge ice sheets known as Coleman, Mazama and Deming Glaciers feed two of the Nooksack’s three forks, keeping them cold all summer — if not all year — long.

Barkdull says it has to do with “temperature units.” Each degree above 32 Fahrenheit represents a single unit, and pinks need to get their eggs in the gravel a certain number of them for the sacs to hatch into fry at just the right time that grits are available in the estuaries where the tiny salmon immediately head.

“Pinks in these really cold places spawn two months early, but the fry emerge at the same time as later spawners,” he says.

It’s the same deal with the Chinook that spawn in the glacial waters flowing off the northwest side of Glacier Peak in the Skagit system, Barkdull says.

So, I asked, what if Nooksack pinks said to hell with Mother Nature’s schedule and spawned at the same time as their humped brethren further south — when would the fry emerge from the gravel?

“May or June — and they’d be out of luck,” he says.

While the dreaded “ocean conditions” are a major determining factor for how many adult steelhead and coho return to Northwest streams, it’s inriver flows that affect pink numbers, he says.

For instance, a pair of monster October 2003 downpours — one of which completely soaked the second weekend of deer season in the Okanogan just to the east — dealt the Nooksack’s pink population a near death-blow.

“They were down to a couple thousand in 2005. We were concerned that with one more flood, they’d wink out on us,” Barkdull says.

They’ve since recovered, but the river’s population isn’t as robust as those elsewhere in Puget Sound. This summer’s return is forecast at 68,000, less than one tenth of how many are expected back to the Skagit and Stillaguamish, 5 percent of the Snohomish’s, and 3 percent of the Green’s.

Barkdull attributes that to lesser amounts of the right type of spawning gravel.

“The mainstem is poor for all habitat,” he says.

A glance around the valley — or rather above it — will tell you why perhaps that has come to be.

If there’s a drawback from an angler’s standpoint to the Nooksack humpies’ summer timing, it’s that it’s unlikely a new state record — let alone a 6-pounder — will come from it anytime soon.

“The early arrival screws them out of a couple months of good feeding in the ocean,” Barkdull says. “That last month is really, really important for salmon. The difference between a coho at Neah Bay in June and July is maybe 25 percent (in body weight).”

But then again, it also provides one of the year’s first shots at salmon in the rivers.

“It’s the first opportunity for Puget Sound pinks,” says Barkdull.

For more on how it’s done, the accesses, etc., check out Huddle’s excellent column.

Strong Early Showing Of Pinks In Strait

July 8, 2011

Tip of the cap to blog reader Matt who this morning drew my attention to the latest creel counts in the Strait of Juan de Fuca

He’d read my piece about an early showing of good numbers of pinks out of Westport and other coastal ports and  commented, “… The number of pinks caught out of Sekiu far exceed the number of pinks checked during the same week in 2009. Check them out, could mean nothing….could mean everything!”

So, indeed, I checked them out.

Between July 1 and 3, a total of 260 were brought back to the Olson’s and Van Riper’s ramps in Sekiu and the Ediz Hook at PA.

And how does that compare? I ran the numbers from similar early timeframes all the way back to when the New Pink Era began again in earnest, and came up with catches of:

46 over five days in 2009
74 over eight days in 2007
63 over three days in 2005
12 over six days in 2003
71 over six days in 2001

Who knows, maybe Larry Bennett and the boys are checking catches more fervently this year, maybe with higher gas prices there are fewer boats and they can get to everyone coming back to the dock, maybe the fish are here early, or, heck, maybe the forecast of 6 million to Puget Sound will be trashed.

Again, who knows. As Matt says, “Could mean nothing….could mean everything!”

BRITTANY AND BRIANNA NELSON WITH LIMITS OF PINKS CAUGHT AT SEKIU DURING THE 2009 SEASON, WHEN 9 MIL RETURNED TO PUGETROPOLIS. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

But for now, there be pinks biting in the Straits — along with coho as well as Chinook, M. Yuasa at the SeaTimes adds.

Post-vacation News Roundup

July 7, 2011

Summer is on hiatus a day at least around this part of the Northwest, but it was burned into me over the Fourth. Spent five beautiful days on the Oregon Coast and I’m still picking the sand out.

Fished the Nestucca, did the Three Capes scenic drive, built drip castles, made s’mores — a great time.

But now it’s back to work, and it looks like things have been hopping in my absence at News Control.

I figured WDFW would send this press release out while I was gone: They captured a lactating female wolf in the Teanaway area. What hasn’t been revealed yet is whether it is related to the Lookout Pack of the Methow Valley, further north in the Cascades.

CAUGHT ON CAMERA -- A TEANAWAY WOLF. (CONSERVATION NORTHWEST)

Here’s a roundup of articles on the announcement:

WDFW press release: Fourth state wolf pack confirmed

Washington’s fourth documented wolf pack has been confirmed through DNA tests on an animal equipped with a radio collar last month in Kittitas County.

Scott Sandsberry, Yakima Herald-Republic: State’s fourth wolf pack identified in Teanaway area

“It’s surprising how soon they showed up here,” said Anthony Novack, a deer-and-elk conflict specialist with the state wildlife department who has done extensive wolf research in Idaho. “It actually knocks my socks off to know that not only are they here, but they’ve paired up and they’re already breeding this soon after finding the Lookout Pack.”

Craig Welch, Seattle Times: New wolf pack confirmed — a short drive from Seattle

While individual wolves may have been spotted in that area for years, it’s the first documented evidence that an entire pack has returned to Kittitas County since wolves were exterminated in the first half of the 20th century.

Dave Workman, Seattle Gun Rights Examiner: WA hunters questioning origins of Teanaway wolves

But their primary concern is how wolves showed up in the Teanaway Basin, a wild region north of Cle Elum that is certainly hospitable to wolves and other wildlife, but a considerable distance from the Canadian border, and even from the Methow Valley where remnants of the Lookout wolf pack apparently still reside, despite poaching, which this column discussed.

Hunters last fall were reporting tracks and more from the area, including in this post by Meathunter: How many have seen wolves deer hunting

Turning to non-wolf-related news, other fishing and hunting-related pieces include:

An interesting Oregonian blog on: Clipping adipose fins on salmon might hurt fish’s ability to swim in rough waters, study finds

“Although extensive experimental evidence indicates that such removal has less impact than removal of other fins, our results indicate substantive caution in the removal of a sensory and functional trait on individuals already subject to major demographic and environmental impact,” the study reads.

An opinion piece by Billy Frank Jr. of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, who thunders: Fix Your Culverts, State of Washington

… State biologists estimated that every dollar spent in culvert correction would generate four dollars worth of additional salmon production. Recent studies confirm that fixing fish passage barriers provides us with a big bang for our money. Yet the state has dragged its heels. The agency with the most culverts, the Department of Transportation (DOT), has fixed less than 10 percent of its fish passage barriers over the past 50 years.

A Federal grant of nearly $1 million will help open access to private lands for fishing and hunting in several Eastern Washington counties: Washington secures nearly $1 million more under Farm Bill for hunting, fishing access

Don Larsen, WDFW private lands coordinator, said the new $993,231 grant will be used in three ways:

Provide incentives to private landowners to allow hunting on forested properties in Kittitas, Klickitat, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens and Yakima counties.

Work with landowners in Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Walla Walla and Whitman counties to improve habitat enrolled in both the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and WDFW access programs.

Initiate a “Feel Free to Fish” program in southeast Washington, paying private landowners for shoreline access to river fisheries.

Need some ideas on where to go fishing in Oregon this weekend? Well, I’ll tell you where I’d go if I was back on the coast: the hole right at Farmer Creek on the Nestucca. But I guess we can’t all crowd into that one, so for more, take a look at ODFW’s latest weekly Recreation Report:

Anglers out of Astoria landed one ocean-caught chinook for every two anglers and two out of every 10 anglers landed a coho. (Coho fishing opened June 26 off the Columbia River.) But for the rest of the coast ocean-caught salmon are still few and far between. Fishing for fin-clipped coho opens July 2 off the central coast.

Thinking about hitting the Lower Columbia? That part-time fish hack Joe Hymer filed the following brief:

SALMONID: During the first three days of July we sampled just over 1,200 salmonid anglers (including 146 boats) with 75 adult and 18 jack summer chinook, 102 steelhead, and 27 sockeye.  48 (64%) of the adult and 14 (78%) of the jacks were kept as were 67 (66%) of the steelhead and all but two (93%) of the sockeye.

STURGEON: Above Wauna, we sampled legals kept from Camas to Kalama.

SHAD: Based on mainly incomplete trips, bank anglers just below Bonneville Dam averaged just over 2.5 shad per rod.  Bank anglers off Steamboat Landing Dock in Washougal caught some fish as did boat anglers in the gorge and in Camas/Washougal.

 Hymer also sent out a note about the status of the summer Chinook and sockeye returns to the Columbia mouth:

Summer Chinook = 77,000 adults at the river mouth (Editor’s note: the preseason forecast was for 91,000)

Sockeye – stayed with preseason forecast of 161,900 at river mouth

 Kevin Klein up in the San Js sent this Chinook fishing report on the 5th:

There is “Good”, there is “Very Good”, and then there is “Crazy Good”. The  San Juans since the July 1st. salmon opener have been “Crazy Good”. I had a funny feeling that there would be Kings around, but couldn’t imagine this.

Fish are everywhere, North, South, East, and West. They are biting on everything, but feeding mostly on Candlefish. I have been using the “Tailwagger” and “4 lite” spoons by Silver Horde behind a Q-cove flasher with much success. However, these are hungry salmon, and hootchies and bait are also working.

CAROL DAVIS SHOWS OFF AN 18-POUNDER FROM THE JUANS, “ABOUT AVERAGE SIZE OF THE FISH AROUND,” REPORTS KEVIN KLEIN. (KEVIN KLEIN)a

Troll close to the bottom, elevated a bit more than blackmouth, but not much.I have caught a lot of clipped fish, and have actually just been releasing unclipped salmon, and keeping hatchery. That’s good to see. So are the multiple reports of big Chinook over 30lb.s. The upcoming Bellingham Derby could take a real monster to win it.

I had 5 fish to the boat on the morning of the 4th by 7 a.m., and this has been common. The San Juans are now “Ground Zero” for some of the best salmon fishing on the planet.

OK, I’ve gotta get to work now.

Evelynne Gets Her June Hog

July 1, 2011

There may be no more determined June Hog angler in the entire Washington and Oregon sport salmon fleets than one Evelynne Samwell.

Last month, she and her grandfather, Fred Clarke, went out for Chinook on the Lower Columbia River off Bachelor Island and things started off with a bang — and then a pop.

“Right off the bat I had a take down and lost it,” reports Fred, a Battle Ground, Wash., angler who reads Northwest Sportsman alongside Evelynne.

And of course over the next several hours, their UV pink K-15s with sardine wrappers went unmolested by salmon.

That lack of action can make even the most hardcore angler antsy and want to pull the hook on the whole trip.

For Evelynne, an experienced sturgeon angler, it provided a platform to analyze her grandpa’s knot-tying abilities.

(I’m having her do some step-by-step shots for a refresher photo feature for you in a future article, Fred.)

The afternoon wore on, but with nothing doing by 5, grandpa broke the news that it was time to bring ’em in and go home.

“But she was bound and determined she wanted to catch a fish,” says Fred, “so I left her rod in the water while I cleaned up the boat and reeled my rod in.”

As luck — persistence, really — would have it, don’t you know that Evelynne’s plug got bit.

“Literally at the last minute, her rod went down and she got her fish,” reports Fred.

EVELYNNE "NEVER GIVE UP" SAMWELL AND HER JUNE HOG FROM THE COLUMBIA. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

“She is 7, and really gets the whole fishing thing,” he says.

Damn straight she does!

I don’t know about you guys, but I think I know who I want on my Fisherman’s Marine-NSIA Spring Fishing Classic team next year!

Evelynne wasn’t the only angler catching kings in recent weeks. According to the latest estimates from the summer Chinook fishery, fishermen kept nearly 900 in the last four days of the month alone.

“Catch rates showed an overall increase from last week, but catches decreased in some areas while catches increased markedly in other areas — particularly in the gorge for boat anglers,” reported fisheries biologists Joe Hymer in Vancouver this afternoon.

That brings the summer king tally to 3,499, of which 1,512 were retained by boaters, 1,102 by the Oregon bank boyz and 885 for the north-side crew.

“Sockeye catch rates declined everywhere with the exception of the Washington bank near Longview,” Hymer added.

A total of 903 have been kept for the year and 233 released.

High On July

July 1, 2011

June gloom, May mopiness and Apruary got you down? You need a shot from Dr. Tony “I’m high on July” Floor.

The fishing affairs director for the Northwest Marine Trade Association fired off his latest monthly newsletter today, and it appears to not only have rolled the clouds back out of Puget Sound, but sharpened my hearing — from our perch near the waterfront, I swear to god I can hear the clicking of crab claws as shellfishers haul up the first catches of the new, expanded season!

Take it away, Tony.

Yep, the calendar never lies. July is here and it represents the kickoff to so much to do and so little time to do it.

If you take the time to Google the word, July, you’ll learn a number of things. For many, it suggests the 4th of July, 2011 version is a big day, celebrating the US of A’s 235th birthday.

But you will also learn, that the Puget Sound Dungeness summer crab season opens (yum-yum) on July 1st, along with the San Juan Islands and Strait of Juan de Fuca king salmon fishery. Dungeness crab along with fresh grilled king salmon. Somebody help me.

From my perspective, this is the most important Dungeness crab summer season in the history of sport crabbing in Washington. The story rewinds back to June of 2005, when sport crabbing enthusiasts, asked Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission to please review the allocation split between sport and commercial crabbers. That split, or crab harvest, has been about two-thirds commercial and one-third sport. Currently, there are about 250 commercial crab fishing licenses in Puget Sound, and 235,000 sport crab license holders. Throw in the ocean commercial Dungeness crab catch and the results suggest that the sport crab fishery takes about ten percent of the total Washington catch. Sounds perfectly out of balance to me.

After years of deliberation on this contentious issue, the Commission voted last October to change the allocation to a new 55/45 split, favoring the commercial industry. The commercials did not like this change, slightly reducing their catch for the purpose of increasing our take, and filed suit in Thurston County Superior Court, asking the judge to impose a temporary restraining order that would stop the implementation of the new allocation which was set to begin on yes, July 1st. The judge ruled in favor of the Commission’s decision and here we go with a five-day at week (Thursdays through Mondays) crab season until Labor Day in early September. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear crab pots splashing into Puget Sound from Olympia to Port Townsend and Deception Pass south. The San Juan Islands will open for their season in mid-July, as the result of a latter molt by male crab.

As I sat through that historic and electrically charged Commission meeting last October, there was concern expressed by commissioners, along with commercial crab representatives, that the sport fishery’s violation of the crab fishing rules was too high and we should not be rewarded with more crab as the result of a greater allocation. Representatives such as myself, vowed to work with Fish and Wildlife shellfish biologists to turn up the volume to help educate crabbers of knowing the rules before launching their crab gear in Puget Sound.

We, at the Northwest Marine Trade Association began our outreach for crab education at last January’s Seattle Boat Show, creating a crab education center, and increased the number of free crab fishing seminars during the Show. There were more crab fishing seminars than any other fishing seminars during the Show. It was a huge success.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been on the road, preaching like a Baptist minister, accompanied by Rich Childers, policy lead for Puget Sound crab management at the Department, to sit down with newspaper reporters from Bellingham to Olympia, urging them to write about the importance of knowing before you go, as the Commission will be briefed at the end of the year, about our ability to comply with the rules. The number one violation is failure to record the crab catch, by individual crabbers, during the process of bringing crab aboard. They must be recorded immediately. In other words, if a WDFW enforcement boat approaches you in the act of crabbing, and let’s say there are 10 crab in a couple of buckets that have just been caught……then there needs to be 10 crab recorded on crab record cards (the limit is 5 male Dungeness crab per person, measuring at least 6 ¼ inches across the back of the crab).

WDFW enforcement statistics suggest, it is not the people who crab often who violate the rules, but to the contrary, it appears to be crabbers who go occasionally, and as a result, don’t know the requirements. The solution, you guessed it, is to go as often as you can! I accept the assignment.

The 1st of July is also, as stated earlier, the kickoff to king salmon fishing (hatchery kings only) throughout the Strait of Juan de Fuca until August 15th. I have spent considerable time in my life, especially in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, learning about intercepting these incredible salmon from Sekiu west to Pillar Point, Freshwater Bay and Ediz Hook at Port Angeles. Historical records show, that it was Chet Guasta, from the Bremerton area who boated the current Washington State king salmon record of a 70 pounder in the Sekiu area back in the mid 60’s. This year’s king salmon show will produce highlight films again this summer, as Puget Sound salmon hatchery bound mature chinook salmon, migrate east down the Strait of Juan de Fuca highway before entering Puget Sound at Port Townsend. Can you imagine hooking and landing a 70-pounder here in Washington? I’ve caught hundreds of them, every night, in my dreams.

And if the Strait of Juan de Fuca summer king salmon fishery does not float your boat, then you might consider chasing kings in the San Juan Islands. Eagle Bluff, Obstruction Pass, Tide Point, Pointer Rock in the eastern portion of the Islands will produce king salmon on the opener. Or, on to the western San Juans, at Eagle Point, Pile Point and Smugglers Cove, just off the kelp beds, I know there is a 71 pounder chasing baitfish with my name on it.

Finally, in terms of fishing options, the highly popular hatchery only Puget Sound king salmon fishery opens from Port Townsend to south Puget Sound on July 16th. Participation in this fishery has been huge and the catches have been good to great. Mid-Channel Bank, Possession Bar, Point No Point, Kingston, and Jefferson Head are recognized hot spots for these kings.

The table is not only set, dinner is served. Tonight’s menu features fresh melt-in-your-mouth king salmon, oozing with Omega-3’s accompanied by chilled jumbo Dungeness crab on the side. And yes, a swig of a favorite grape juice triggering a migration of my eyeballs rolling east, to the back of my head. It’s showtime in the great Pacific Northwest. And you thought all those fireworks were about a state birthday! See you on the water.

Discovering A New Fee

July 1, 2011

I’ve dutifully bought my Discover Pass.

That’s the new $30 — read, $35 — pass now required for vehicular travel on or across state Parks and Recreation Commission, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Fish & Wildlife “recreation” lands, some 7 million acres, hundreds of miles or roads and trails, campgrounds, wildlife areas and water accesses.

With the state’s massive budget shortfall, it was pushed by those agencies this past legislative session, passed by lawmakers (Senate: 33-14-1-1; House: 55-42-0-1) and signed by Governor Gregoire earlier this year.

It goes into effect today, July 1, though it sounds like park rangers, game wardens and forest law enforcement officers will hold off until after the holiday weekend to write $99 tickets for not having one ($59 if you buy one within 15 days of the infraction).

I don’t need one to get onto WDFW ground — the vehicle pass I get when buying my fishing and hunting licenses gives me free access to its wildlife areas, boat ramps and fishing accesses — but I figure that at several points this summer I will be taking my family on “picnics” to state parks on northern Whidbey Island.

It’s a pink salmon year, after all.

And I can picture myself lurking around Flaming Geyser this coming December for winter-runs.

I’m not happy about paying the extra money, but somehow the gates gotta be opened, toilets cleaned and trash picked up for visitors now that State Parks’  budget has been gutted.

What doesn’t make so much sense, however, is that only 8 percent ($2.40) of the $30 folks will pay (the other $5 goes to “transaction and dealer fees”) to use WDFW lands to watch birds and whatnot will go to WDFW’s coffers.

I guess I have to assume that the smart guys and gals at Fish & Wildlife had some good reason for agreeing to such a slight share.

But another problem is that it turns hunters who might be on a budget and can’t afford the pass into potential scofflaws. As Northwest Sportsman shooting and guns columnist Dave Workman points out in his Examiner column today:

“This column happens to know quite a few areas where one will cross through state DNR land to reach WDFW or national forest land. You will find checkerboard sections all over the Central Cascades, especially north of Ellensburg on the Colockum, and southwest from Ellensburg as one climbs the slopes onto the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area. Ditto as one drives west from Naches up onto Bethel Ridge and the Oak Creek Wildlife Area.”

WDFW (BLUE) AND DNR (TAN) LANDS IN AND NEXT TO THE L.T. MURRAY WILDLIFE AREA SOUTH OF I-90 AND WEST OF ELLENSBURG. (WDFW)

Those are areas near and “deer” to Workman’s heart as he puts his rig and boots through their paces annually here in search of grouse, muleys and elk, but “don’t expect that beater road system up on the L.T. Murray to be improved anytime soon” with that skewed revenue split, he remarks.

“… Even if you never go near a state park (you can’t hunt or even shoot recreationally on state park property), if you drive the back roads of central Washington this year to hit your favorite lake or stream, or find a grouse, hunt a deer or (fat chance of this) shoot an elk, you will be paying about $25 of that $30 Discover Pass fee to support the state parks program. Only 8 percent goes to the WDFW and the other 8 percent goes to the DNR.”

So what are your options if you’re a licensed hunter or angler with the WDFW pass? Well, plan your routes to the mountains, rivers, lakes, forests and beaches super carefully to avoid using DNR and parks lands.

Another is to volunteer 24 hours of your time and get the pass for free.

Through Thursday at noon, nearly 8,750 annual passes had been sold, according to a blog by Rich Landers of the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

For more, go to the Discover Pass Web site.

First Signs Of Pink Run ’11 Show Off Coast

June 30, 2011

Apparently I have nothing better to do with my workday today than to compare odd-year ocean pink salmon catches.

One of the ad salesmen here breezed by my office a short while ago and said something to the effect of, “They’re catching pinks already at Westport!!!!!!!!!!”

Yeah, I know, I said, I blogged about that (OK, fine, posted a WDFW fishing report) yesterday.

He left quickly, my intention from the get-go.

But then I started wondering, Hmmm, that seems kind of early, and if it’s early, oh my god oh my god oh my god! it might mean the mother of all pink salmon runs is returning! topping the 9 million that came back in 2009! and Puget Sound will be renamed Pink Sound! and the sidewalks of Seattle will run pink with humpy blood! and I should invest all my money right now in a certain manufacturer of pink salmon fishing gear! and and and and …

And then I took a deep breath and thought, Man, you’ve got better things to do today than get all hyper about the coming of the pinkos.

But I checked into it anyway.

I don’t really think much can be made of this, but the straight numbers from the first ocean catch checks in early summer 2011 and 2009 are fairly comparable.

This year’s data is for all of one day, last Sunday, June 26, but according to WDFW’s Wendy Beeghley, an estimated 10 pinks were landed at Westport, five at La Push and 23 at Neah Bay.

Two summers ago and over a nine-day period at the beginning of the season (June 27-July 5), Beeghley reported a total of 72, 36 and 67 for those ports.

Multiply Sunday’s one-day catches times nine and you get 90, 45 and … oh, damnit, I’ve got to get my calculator out … crap, can’t find the thing … well, I’ll wing it and say 210 pinks for the first nine days of the ’11 season.

So, according to AW voodoo math — and completely and totally ignoring real-world affects on run timing between years — I’d say, Nine mil — you go down!

(This is probably why yours truly has not yet been invited to help with WDFW and ODFW’s inseason salmonid run updates.)

USFS Lays Out Baker Rules For Anglers

June 29, 2011

All of 58 sockeye were swimming around Baker Lake as of yesterday, June 28, but the Forest Service is preparing for thousands upon thousands more to be trucked up to the reservoir in the North Cascades and the potential for another fishery this summer.

Should that happen — and we’re crossing our fingers it does — the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest issued a press release reminding anglers they’ll be sharing the lake with other recreationalists, that their boat ramps are right next to campgrounds, the launch closest to the lake’s hottest spot at Noisy Creek will be closed to all users except those camped there or have cartoppers, and that parking fees ranging from $5 to $9 are in effect at their lots.

They’ve posted a map showing ramp locations, how many spots are available at each one and other rules.

Last year’s first-ever fishery here was based off a return of 14,239 sockeye to the Baker River trap, fish which were then hauled up to the lake and released. This year’s forecast is for nearly 10,000 more, and while the salmon first have to actually show up, it’s “pretty likely” there will be a season, according to the state fisheries biologist.

There will likely be many more seasons.

Puget Sound Energy, which operates Baker Lake Dam and the Kulshan Campground and ramp, has been enhancing the system for salmon over the years as part of dam relicensing and boldly predicts runs of 50,000 to 75,000 sockeye in coming seasons.

And WDFW biologist Brett Barkdull indicates that there’s a potential for limits of up to four sockeye — if a fishery is OKed this summer, he tells Northwest Sportsman he’ll push for a daily bag of three.

All fantastic news for anglers and sporting goods stores and other businesses in the North Sound.

But last year’s unexpected opener last July caught the Forest Service by surprise, and now district ranger Jon Vanderheyden is scrambling to satisfy families out for a quiet campout at their facilities in the mountains and anglers who want to get on the water for the first-light bite.

“We had folks running around at 5:30 in the morning looking for parking spots. There were definitely some ticked-off campers,” he says.

Vanderheyden says that this year workers have paved and striped additional parking at their Panorama Point Campground and are hoping to do similar at Horseshoe Cove Campground.

“Once one fills up, you’re going to have to go to another launch,” he says.

There will likely be increased Forest Service patrols and ticketing for parking in bad spots.

One other thing of note is that while USFS will not issue any new commercial guiding permits for the lake, five guides who were granted one-year permits last summer will be able to use theirs until they expire.

We reported on the issue and Vanderheyden then appeared on The Outdoor Line radio show to explain things.

“It’s going to take a little while for all of us to work the bugs out. It’s good to see a fishery, but we’ve got to respect the users and the resource,” he tells Northwest Sportsman.

With the sockeye runs that PSE and Barkdull expect in the future, angler cooperation will go a long way to keeping things running smoothly for all parties and keep us off the TV news.

For more on this emerging fishery, see the big map feature in the July issue of Northwest Sportsman!

Epic Days On The Nush

June 28, 2011

I don’t know what shocked me more: the fact that the Nushagak served up a big, fat, ditch-dead-smelly skunk to a trio of Pugetropolis anglers and then over 100 Chinook.

Then again, when you read those events occurred on the famed Alaska salmon fishing river within three days of each other, your brow and jaw do a dance that contorts your face and you find yourself really glad there’s not a Web cam trained on you.

In this case, it was a tale of epic and uncharacteristic fishing days by Terry Wiest of SteelheadUniversity.com and a Northwest Sportsman contributor that had my face going two ways at once.

Wiest was up on the Nush at Jake’s Salmon Camp for five days last week, came back over the weekend, sent me some stunning fish-fighting-under-the-midnight-sun images and posted a few others on his Facebook page.

Looked like a cool trip, I thought — hardcore angler and his buddies got out in the bush, caught some fish, had a good time, right on.

And then early this afternoon Terry emailed me a fuller accounting of the escapade, and that’s when my face started doing funny things.

My first reaction was, Preposterous!

But then I did a wee bit of fact-checking and thought, well … there weren’t that many fish around, but then there was a huuuuuge spike on the sonar just upstream of where he was fishing.

And Terry insisted it was true (editor’s note, July 1, 2011: Bob Toman’s camp was reporting good fishing as well) and since he’s never steered me wrong, I’m posting an edited version of his tale here (look for the full one on SteelieU, and see his FB page for photos and a video).

Nushagak River – June 19 – 23, 2011

Jake’s Nushagak Camp – Steelhead University

By Terry Wiest

Anticipation was high this year as we ventured on our third annual Steelhead University/Jake’s Nushagak Camp trip. The kings were starting to trickle in, and Alaska Fish and Game announced no commercial opener for kings or sockeye until after the escapement had been reached. This was fantastic after last year’s commercial slaughter in which they caught over 40,000 kings as bycatch during the sockeye harvest.

HEADING INTO THE BUSH. (TERRY WIEST, STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM)

JAKE'S SALMON CAMP, FROM THE PLANE. (TERRY WIEST, STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM)

We had a dozen fishermen in our group this year and would be joined by another 18, bringing the camp to full capacity. I would be fishing with my friends Terry Fors and Jeff Norwood, which would give us a solid hardcore lineup looking to put our knowledge to test against what has been known as Alaska’s great king salmon run.

Day 1: Yes Virginia, even in Alaska you can find a skunk!

Day one was unbelievable – and I mean I still can’t believe it. A big SKUNK!!!

What the heck was this? I have many adjectives to describe this and I’m sure many were thinking worse, but zilch on the Nushagak?

This was not due to lack of trying or anything to do with our guide (which happened to be No. 1 guide and camp manager Swanny). Something not to be proud to be a part of, we handed Swanny his first EVER skunking on the Nush.

We decided to check out the sonar station at Portage Creek which is just a couple miles upriver from Jake’s. Now this explains it – 66 fish came through in the last 24 hours. We thought, oh my god, what are we in for?

Last year was a down year due to the commercial overfishing, but there were at least several hundred coming though each day.

Day 2: Could it be a repeat?

Maybe day two would be better, we hoped. It was — but barely. Even with another top guide, Brian, we avoided another skunk with two fish.

Not much to say here except things have to get better. They said there’s fish in Bristol Bay, but they’re not moving upriver for some reason. Today’s sonar count was a pitiful 122 fish. Again, this is very uncharacteristic for this time of the run and things aren’t feeling very good.

Day 3: Captain Fred puts us on a few fish

I finally get to fish with the old man of the river, Captain Fred. Many call him grumpy or simply Old Man, I call him my friend.

CAPTAIN, NEE, "PROFESSOR" FRED, THE GUIDE. (TERRY WIEST, STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM)

We had some great stories to swap back and forth which made the time between fish seem to fly by, but old Fred’s a smart cookie and wasn’t about to let us have a bad day. Finally a respectable day on the Nush, but far from fantastic. The fish seemed very small compared to the last few years, but hey, we were getting fish. Our daily total for the three of us was 26 fish to the boat. Not bad considering only 981 passed through the sonar station.

Day 4: Captain Fred becomes Professor Fred: A legend is made

We were supposed to fish with Eli, the owner of Jake’s, but due to a medication reaction, Eli was in no shape to take us out. We would have gladly taken the boat out ourselves, but Swanny asked if we minded fishing with Fred again. Are you kidding? Fred’s great – let’s get this show on the road.

STANDARD DRILL IS TO TROLL A SIZE 7 WORDEN'S OR R&B LURES' INLINE UV SPINNER WITH A PAUTZKE'S SPAWN SACK DOWNRIVER. (TERRY WIEST, STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM)

Day 4 started out with an absolute bang – a triple to start the day.

As we came down through the tailout, Fred asked if we wanted to pick up and return to the top.

“Just another minute, Fred,” we said, “this looks like good water.”

Fred had explained that it was snaggy in the past, but that he did notice a new sandbar formed on the side. I think all that sand created a trench and we hit the slot perfect – fish on, fish on. A double and we’re at five fish the first drift.

KINGS RANGED IN SIZE FROM 8 TO 30 POUNDS, AVERAGING IN THE TEENS. WIEST ET AL FOUGHT THEM ON FETHA STYX'S SM-904-2 HOMEWATER RODS, DAIWA LUNA 300 REELS, AND 25-POUND MAXIMA HIGH VIZ. (TERRY WIEST, STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM)

We matched our daily total from the day before in four hours of fishing so we went in for lunch. Of course we tried talking Fred into skipping lunch, but he didn’t think Eli would appreciate that.

After lunch, back to the same drift and it was lights out! Now we were getting at least one fish a drift and most drifts between three and five fish. Doubles were the norm and several triples. The boats from other camps that were back bouncing just kept shaking their heads in disbelief — we were on fire!

JEFF NORWOOD WITH A PAIR OF NUSHAGAK KINGS. (TERRY WIEST, STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM)

TERRY FORYS HOLDS ONTO THE ROD. (TERRY WIEST, STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM)

As the 90-fish mark approached, we were all aware of how close we were to that legendary 100-fish mark — but also well aware of how little time we had left to achieve this milestone.

“Don’t worry, Fred, Eli said not to come in until we get 100.”

“We still have over an hour left, Fred, Eli said 7:00 was fine since you got us out late.”

We tried every excuse, but Fred just smiled. We had a 6:00 deadline.

At 5:45, we finished a drift with a triple, putting us at 99!

Are you kidding me!?

“Fire ‘er up, Fred, and let’s hit it.”

Luckily Fred didn’t hesitate and we were back up to the top of the hole.

Immediately we got a double – 100 and 101. Number 102 came just minutes after.

Fred said, “OK boys, one last drag through our new snag hole and we have to reel them up.”

Woo hoo – we end the day with a triple and count that as 105!

That hole is now known as the Double TJ hole (Terry, Terry, Jeff).

More importantly, Steelhead University graduated Fred to the title of Professor! We’re going to make you a legend, Fred.

Getting back to shore, rumors were already flying. Although Fred could barely move we worked him so hard, he was grinning from ear to ear. Yeah, buddy!

Oh, by the way, 2,238 fish past the sonar today. We expected much higher numbers with the catch we had, but at least it’s a good number.

We also landed over 70 kings from shore this night and numerous chrome bright chum — the Nush at its finest.

WHAT'S THERE TO DO ON THE NUSH AFTER A HARD DAY OF CATCHING AND RELEASING CHINOOK FROM THE BOAT? CATCHING AND RELEASING THEM FROM THE BANK ! WIEST AND OTHERS LANDED NUMEROUS CHINOOK AND THIS BRIGHT CHUM FROM THE BEACH USING A SPIN-N-GLO AND SPAWN SACK WITH A 1-OUNCE WEIGHT ON A FOOT-LONG DROP LINE. (TERRY WIEST, STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM)

And how’d Day 5 go? Well, you’ll have to dial up Wiest’s Web site later to find out, but let’s just say, when’s the next #!$#$ flight?!?!?!?!

FIGHTING ANOTHER ONE UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN. (TERRY WIEST, STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM)

Crabbing The Sound? Know Rules Before You Go

June 24, 2011

Page through the fishing regs and there’s a chance you’ll flip right past the Dungeness section.

Where almost every other species we chase around the Northwest has increasingly convoluted and hard to understand restrictions that require reams of paper to explain – adipose fins verboten this day but OK the next, barbless hooks not allowed here but fine next door, fishing closed unless open here but open unless closed there, special nets and gasless engines only on this lake, selective gear on this river stretch but bait OK below there, only left-handed anglers allowed on second Tuesdays yada, yada, yada – the crab compendium is refreshingly simple.

That’s because, well, crabbing for Dungeness is pretty damned basic.

No matter which bay you’re on, you haul up your trap, check to see if your catch is male (females go back) and measure across its back to see if it’s wide enough.

If you get two yesses in a row, you and Donald the Dungie have a dinner date.

A BIGGER SHARE OF THE ALLOCATION HAS PUGET SOUND CRABBERS EXCITED, BUT IT ALSO COMES WITH REQUESTS FROM WDFW AND THE SPORTFISHING INDUSTRY TO PLEASE KNOW AND FOLLOW THE RULES -- OUR FLEET IS ON "PROBATION" AS THE FISH & WILDLIFE COMMISSION WILL BE CHECKING IN TO SEE WHETHER "COMPLIANCE" HAS INCREASED. (STEVE MCNULLY)

While the Washington Department of Fish & Wildife’s pamphlet is currently at 140 pages, it only needs a single one (136) to set out those simple edicts – “and half of that is a picture,” notes Rich Childers, WDFW’s Puget Sound shellfish manager.

ODFW’s book has crab identification tips and regs on two different pages (98 and 104), but requires even less ink to do so.

SO WHY IN HELL am I writing about this then?

Because somehow crabbing has one of the highest violation rates of all fisheries. Shellfishers keep females, retain undersized males, and in Puget Sound forget to pull out their catch record card and record legals – or don’t have one altogether.

Some of it is blatant poaching, but there’s also just a lot of unfamiliarity with the rules, says Childers.

In the lead up to July’s openers in Puget Sound, Hood Canal, and parts of the San Juans and Strait of Juan de Fuca, he and Tony Floor of the Northwest Marine Trade Association have been on an outreach tour to better educate local crabbers. WDFW also fired off a press release today and has amped up its crabbing page.

The effort follows the Fish & Wildlife Commission’s decision last October to increase the sport fishery by a day and run it as a set season instead of under a quota.  As part of that, the commission will also get annual briefings on how well we do following the rules.

“It’s safe to say they expect an increase with the outreach,” Childers says.

“We’re on probation,” adds Floor, the NMTA’s fishing affairs director. “It’s up to all of us to educate everyone on the water.”

Mike Cenci and his crew of wardens will also be out on the salt running emphasis patrols in July and August, but WDFW is also sending out a pair of brochures to crabbers with info on how to sex, measure and record legal crabs.

“You don’t need a Ph.D. to understand the rules, just take some time to read them,” Floor says. “We’d like to keep this increased allocation and move forward with other species. We’ve got to do better and we’re being watched.”

With something on the order of a quarter million crab endorsements sold annually, he considers the fishery “critically imporant” for the future of the sportfishing industry.

Childers also emphasizes the importance of reporting your catch – “even if you don’t go or don’t catch any, the zeros are as important as anything.”

After Sept. 5, you’ll be able to report your summer sesh online, or just mail in your card to Crab Central in Oly; see your card for addresses.

Childers says that the more data WDFW has, the “greater accuracy in estimating the catch and developing future seasons.”

Those who don’t file will be dinged with a $10 fine when they buy their 2012 fishing license.

Also be aware that anyone crabbing in Puget Sound needs the $3 endorsement (free for crabbers under 15). You also need a state fishing license to crab in Washington.

To make sure you’re not among those with an empty card come Labor Day, we’ve asked salty dog Wayne Heinz to detail how it’s done. You can find his big four-page story on baits, traps, placement, how to talk like a pro crabber, etc., etc., etc., in the July issue of Northwest Sportsman.

Go, crab, catch many, cull, card – and chow down.

A Furious King Bite Off Westport

June 23, 2011

Editor’s note: Salmon season between Cape Falcon, Ore., and Vancouver Island got off to a great start last weekend with anglers fishing off the mouth of the Columbia landing a hatchery king apiece.

Catch stats from fisheries biologist Joe Hymer show that 135 anglers in Washington’s Marine Area 1 and off Oregon’s North Coast brought back 136 Chinook.

Just to the north, the Westport fleet hauled nearly five times as many back to the dock, though the average was about one for every two anglers.

The ratio was roughly one for every four La Push fishermen and one for every 2.66 Neah Bay anglers.

Northwest Sportsman ad salesman Jim Klark found himself on a pretty hot bite in the middle of it all and filed the following report:

The long-awaited season opener for ocean salmon fishing arrived on June 18. I had spoken with Deep Sea Charters at the winter sports shows and had the June 19 date marked on my calender.

Have you been to Westport? You gotta go! It is perhaps one of the few true fishing villages on the West Coast. Arriving in Westport on Saturday just as the day’s fishing was concluding I asked Larry Giese at Deep Sea how the fishing had been that day.

“Spotty at best,” he told me.

Some folks did better than others and there was tons of bait, but the salmon had lockjaw.

I checked into the Islander Westport at the other end of town and wondered what tomorrow would bring.

Sunday morning 5 a.m. found me jumping aboard the Fury with Capt.  Mike Harris. He confirmed the tough fishing the day before as I searched for a spot for my lunch, fishing tackle and find a place to sit.  I was joined by nine other happy anglers, who had fished together before and we  all felt like we were on a ride at the fair as we went over the bar out of harbor. However, Harris reminded us to take a seat. “The bar looks a little snotty this morning,” he said.

(JIM KLARK)

We headed north and found a dozen other boats in pursuit of hatchery Chinook.  We all dropped our mooching rigs down 50 pulls and the gentlemen standing 10 feet from me yelled, “Fish on!” almost immediately.

As I reeled up my herring, I saw two bare hooks. As the morning wore on, some fish were “farmed,” a wild salmon was released and four nice hatchery fish were boated.

Me? I was blanking.

It’s funny how when you are not catching fish how you start to notice every little discomfort, ache and pain.

As for Capt. Harris, he started combing the waters with binoculars. At 1:30 p.m., he announced, “Reel ’em up, we’re moving.”

His 5-year-old son was on deck as well and a more determined angler you won’t find. As we arrived between Buoy 6 and Buoy 8, the red marker buoys just outside the Westport harbor entrance, I saw a Grady White with its net in the water and nice Chinook being boated. Harris, who was on the bow of the  boat helping his son, seemed to be reeling his son’s rig with a little more vigor than earlier. Suddenly right in front of me a king jumped and Harris handed the reel to his son with a “Fish on!”

“Reel em up pretty quick, you guys … Drop it to the bottom and reel em up. There is a ton of fish here,” he coached.

Helping his son was deckhand  Natasha and 12 minutes later, the lad had landed a nice hatchery fish. Just as that fish was landed another fish was hooked and then another. Seemed like we had found some cooperative fish. One angler released a coho (this Sunday, June 26, hatchery coho become legal in Area 2).

CAPT. HARRIS HOLDS UP HIS SON'S HATCHERY CHINOOK WHILE DECKHAND NATASHA BEAMS. (JIM KLARK)

Just as I was reeling my rig to the boat to check the  bait, the line screamed off the reel in the direction of The  Hula Girl, another charter boat that had arrived 40 yards off our stern. I raced to the corner keeping my line in front of me as it seemed this fish wanted to board the Hula Girl. I had forgotten how exciting a near wide-open bite can be — especially when you’re in it!  This fish seemed determined to not give up without a significant fight

“Hope it’s not a wild one,” I thought as I found myself halfway down the Fury‘s port side rail.

Harris was now at my side net in hand, encouraging me, “That’s it, keep the rod tip up … Stay at the rail … Reel down till you see the sinker … Now slowly lift the rod tip.”

I did, but the fish obviously did not like the net. I still had a tight line, though, and as the fish tired, a nice 20-pound hatchery fish was landed.

NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN'S JIM KLARK SHOWS OFF A KING CAUGHT ABOARD THE FURY DURING A FURIOUS AFTERNOON BITE LAST SUNDAY. (JIM KLARK)

As I looked around, I noted that in the twenty minutes it had taken to land the fish, at least another eight boats had arrived.

Word gets out fast in Westport when the bite is on.

Indeed, that guy in the Grady White must have wondered where his quiet afternoon went.

Shouts of “Fish on!” and “Get the net!” echoed all around us. All totaled, we kept 12 Chinook and released  numerous wild kings, coho and jacks.  I was just as excited as a 5-year-old to land mine.

HAPPY ANGLERS BACK AT THE DOCK IN WESTPORT. (JIM KLARK)

Westport caters to anglers and has a variety of charter operations and private boat launches. There are several RV operations as well as motels and hotels to choose from.

It also hosts several derbies. The Westport Charter Association Fishing Derby runs through September 30 while the Third Annual Washington Tuna Classic is August 27th. Don’t want to go out to sea? Westport also hosts a really fun salmon derby Sept. 15 to Oct. 31. The Boat Basin Salmon Derby allows anglers to compete for prizes with fish caught only in the Westport Boat Basin. That seems like a fun way to spend some time with the family without having to worry about getting seasick.

Starting this Sunday, wild kings can be retained along with hatchery coho and other salmon species. The fishery runs five days a week, Sunday through Thursday.  The bag limit changes from two hatchery Chinook to two salmon (one only may be a Chinook ).

Like I said, if you have not been to Westport you gotta go. It promises to be a good season this year if the first weekend is any indication. For more information, see www.charterwestport.com  or www.westportgrayland-chamber.org/fishing_info.php.

Salamanders For Springers, And Other OR Poaching Follies

June 22, 2011

What was the name of that old TV show, Poachers Do The Damndest Things?

Well, maybe not, but the latest episode of the Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division’s monthly newsletter might be called that.

While the headlines are ours, the write-ups are theirs. To wit:

GREAT CRABBING SKILLS, VERY VERY POOR RULES PAMPHLET READING SKILLS

Tpr. Peterson (Tillamook) worked crabbers in Tillamook Bay and contacted a boat with crab pots on board. The crabbers told Peterson crabbing was pretty good and they had retained 24 crab; however, when Peterson inspected the crab, he found 20 female Dungeness and four short male Dungeness crab. He seized all 24 crab and cited the boat operator for Unlawful Possession Female Dungeness Crab.

THE MOST UNUSUAL SALMON BAIT WE’VE EVER EVER HEARD OF

Tpr. Warwick (Astoria) contacted a salmon angler at Jones Beach in Columbia County and found the angler in possession of 49 “water dogs,” or tiger salamanders. The angler was visiting from New Mexico and told Warwick he was using the salamanders as salmon bait. As these salamanders are a prohibited species, Warwick cited the angler for Unlawful Possession of a Prohibited Species.

IS THAT A CLAM IN YOUR POCKET, OR ARE YOU JUST (NOT) HAPPY TO SEE ME?

While working razor clam diggers, Tpr. Warwick (Astoria) observed a man place two handfuls of clams into his coat pockets despite having a clam bag. After observing several violations in his group, Warwick contacted them at their vehicle. The diggers eventually admitted to the violations. Warwick issued two citations for Exceeding the Bag Limit and two for Failure to Retain the First 15 Razor Clams Dug and three warnings for Digging Part of Another’s Bag Limit.

HOLY F@$%@%NG F@$K, IT’S THE F@$%@%G WARDEN, I GOTTA GET THE F$%K OUT OF HERE!

As Sr. Tpr. Allison and Sr. Tpr. Thompson (Central Point) crossed the Applegate River at Applegate, they observed a subject angling upstream turn and race up the embankment to his van. The troopers made a u-turn and contacted the subject at his vehicle. The subject claimed he was ignorant of the angling closure on the river and just wanted to take his sons fishing. The troopers explained the river was closed due to the presence of smolts. The troopers cited the man for Angling Closed Season and warned him for Criminal Trespass and Counseling in a Wildlife Violation.

CRAP, THEY’RE ONTO ME, I’LL JUST DUMP OUT ALL MY CLAMS, HIDE MY STUFF AND WALK TO GARIBALDI, MAYBE I WON’T GET A TICKET

Sgt. Lea (Coos Bay) observed two clammers for about an hour. One clammer was digging clams and putting them into both buckets. After a time, one subject returned to a residence on the bay while the other continued to dig. Lea contacted the returning subject, determined he was 15 gaper clams over his limit, and cited him for Exceeding the Daily Limit of Gaper Clams. This subject then walked back out to the other subject to tell him he was being watched. The second clammer dumped his clams out, hid his bucket and shovel, and then started walking down the beach. Lea contacted the second subject on the beach and discovered he did not have a shellfish license and had dug three gaper clams over his limit. Lea cited the second subject for No Shellfish License and Exceeding the Daily Limit of Gaper Clams.

BACK TO REMEDIAL STICK SHIFT CLASS

Tpr. Warwick (Astoria) and Tpr. Vogel (St. Helens) received a call of a subject keeping live salmon at Dibblee Beach in Rainier. Warwick contacted some subjects in a vehicle leaving the area and gained consent to search the vehicle. He did not find any salmon in the vehicle; however, the subject did act nervous during the contact. As the subject began to leave, he popped the clutch too soon; and the vehicle lurched forward, causing an illegal salmon to come out of concealment between the bed and the tool box. Warwick cited the subject for Illegal Possession of Nonadipose Fin-Clipped Chinook Salmon.

POPPED THE CLUTCH ALL RIGHT, BUT STILL CAUGHT

As Tpr. Fromme (Portland) entered Dodge Park on the Sandy River; three anglers noticed him, stopped angling, and walked quickly to their vehicle. Contacts with other anglers confirmed these three were fishing. He saw a truck with the three anglers inside leave the park at a high rate of speed. He made it to his truck and pursued the fleeing subjects. He overtook the vehicle just outside the park and performed a stop. Two subjects presented their angling license and harvest cards, and the third only produced a license. Fromme’s interviews roadside eventually found the angler was trying to flee because he had not purchased a harvest card and knew he was in violation. Fromme cited the subject for No 2011 Oregon Resident Harvest Card—Misdemeanor.

THAT WASN’T ME WHO WAS FISHING NERVOUSLY JUST NOW WITHOUT A LICENSE, NO SIR

Sr. Tpr. Maher (Springfield) worked anglers below Dexter Dam on the Middle Fork Willamette River. Shortly after 6:00 a.m., he saw some subjects who he recognized from previous contacts. One subject told Maher the day before he was not fishing and appeared nervous. After seeing this subject again, Maher set up across the river. Eventually, this subject nervously walked down the riverbank, retrieved a spin rod from a concealed location in the brush, and took a position near the river’s edge in a secluded location. Holding the rod in his hands, he looked up and down stream then casted the steelhead rigged line. This process was repeated four times. Maher drove to the location and contacted the angler who was sitting in the passenger seat of a pickup. Maher asked if he had caught anything. The angler looked surprised and proclaimed he was not fishing. Maher explained his observations and cited the angler for No Angling License and No Combined Angling Tag.

NO, THIS IS NOT HOW YOU TEST OUT NEW GEAR

Tpr. Imholt (Springfield) followed up on a suspect who shot a mallard duck while out target shooting. The suspect stated he just got a new scope and wanted to try it out, so he shot a duck off a pond in the woods from the road. The suspect did not realize there was someone watching him who reported in detail what they saw. Imholt cited the suspect for Hunting Waterfowl Closed Season and seized his rifle.

STURGEON IN THE STABBIN’ CABIN

USCG ran a multi-agency saturation for salmon anglers dubbed Operation Spring Catch … Of the anglers contacted, the troopers gave out nine warnings for and issued four citations, one for No Nonresident Angling License, one for No Resident Angling License, and two to one subject with a false license who concealed his crime. This subject presented a 2011 Oregon resident angling license and harvest card along with Washington identification where he claimed to live. The subject also claimed not to have caught any sturgeon; however, a consent search found a sturgeon had recently been in the cooler. Further questioning resulted in the angler consenting to a search of a van located in the parking lot of the park where a live adult sturgeon was found stuffed under the middle seat of the van. The sturgeon was still alive and returned successfully to the river. The troopers issued the subject citations for Possession of a Falsely Applied for License and Tag and Unlawful Possession of Sturgeon.

Walter! A True Fish Story By Olivia Parrish

June 21, 2011

Editor’s note: Sometimes you get reader stories that you just have to post immediately. Such is the case with Olivia Parrish’s tale of catching Walter the Trout. Arriving on our doorstep on the first day of summer — and on a glorious blue-sky day in the Emerald City no less — it’s brought smiles throughout our office today, so we thought we would share the 10-year-old Lynnwood angler’s handwritten tale.

“Time to get up,” my dad whispered quietly as he climbed up the ladder of my bed.

It was an early Saturday morning and we were going to Martha Lake on our little boat, The ORP. Of course I got ready and blah blah blah, but let’s skip to the good part.

So as we got on the water since it was opening day, it was sorta busy but we squeezed in. About 20 minutes in, I was the first one to get a fish in the net. Then my dad got some, then I got some, and on and on, but when I had about 8, I got a humungo tug on my pole.

That was when “Walter” even started pulling line out. I tried to stop the line from being pulled out all the way, but then all of a sudden Walter let go. Well, I thought.

Right then, mine and my dad’s hearts sank, for a few seconds that is. Right as I was reeling in my line to see if my flat fish was still on, I felt that huge tug again. I could not believe it, but it was not really a good time to freak out because I had to reel in Walter.

Before I knew it, there was a big fat trout thumping around in the bottom of the boat. All of a sudden people had amazed looks on their faces, including me and my dad. People everywhere saw what happened and I was the star of the lake.

OLIVIA AND WALTER, A NICE FAT TROUT SHE CAUGHT OUT OF MARTHA LAKE NEAR HER HOME OF LYNNWOOD, WASH., EARLIER THIS YEAR. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

So we fished for a bit longer but did not catch any more fish nearly as large. Soon it was time to head in and I knew that right as people saw my fish they would be thinking, “I can’t believe that this young 10-year-old girl would catch this big of a fish.” Right as we pulled the fish out of the cooler I knew that people were thinking what I thought they were because some people were even taking pictures of my fish on their phones.

Once people were done adoring my fish, we put The ORP back in the truck and headed back home. On our way home, the only thing that I could think about was Walter and I knew that I would never forget that very day!

THE END

Bear Hunters Discover ‘Staggering’ Big OR Pot Grow

June 17, 2011

You read about the problem of pot growers moving into Washington and Oregon hunting grounds in the July 2010 issue of Northwest Sportsman and in our blog here and here, and now today comes word that spring bear hunters discovered what is believed to be the “largest outdoor marijuana grow to date in Oregon.”

It was busted on Wednesday at an undisclosed location in northern Wallowa County; officers arrested six suspects of undetermined nationality.

According to the Oregon State Police, the grow stretched over a mile long in a ravine, comprised 91,000 plants and included “miles” of irrigation. They say it appears to have been in the area for awhile.

Wallowa County pot growers' kitchen. (OSP)

Here’s the press release that just came out from the Oregon State Police:

A multi-agency investigation this week led to the arrest of six suspects at a remote northeast Oregon outdoor marijuana grow site early Wednesday morning.  The discovery is believed to be the largest outdoor marijuana grow to date in Oregon.  The investigation and arrests are leading Oregon law enforcement officials to urge citizens to be on the lookout for indications of illegal marijuana growing this summer while outdoors, and to immediately notify law enforcement officials if you come across suspicious activity or an area where an illegal grow site may be.

(OREGON STATE POLICE)

The investigation started this spring when a group of bear hunters came upon the grow site and reported it to local law enforcement.  On June 15, 2011 a multi-agency team, assisted by the Oregon State Police (OSP) SWAT team and air support from the Oregon Army National Guard, served a search warrant on U.S. Forest Service public lands in a remote section of northern Wallowa County.  When officers raided the site, six suspects were taken into custody and investigators got a good look at the size, magnitude and potential environmental damage related to the grow operation that had been ongoing for a substantial period.

(OREGON STATE POLICE)

Wallowa County Sheriff Fred Steen is urging the public to be very careful this summer while recreating outdoors, hunting, fishing, and camping because of the potential problems they may encounter while unexpectedly coming upon a potential grow site and those people involved with the illegal activity.  In the past, people arrested at many outdoor grow sites have been armed with weapons to protect themselves from police and others.

(OREGON STATE POLICE)

“The resources, time and effort these outdoor growers are committing to avoid detection and protect the site pose a significant risk and danger to the public and law enforcement officers,” said Steen.

La Grande Police Sergeant John Shaul, team supervisor of the Union/Wallowa County Drug Team, described the outdoor grow as “staggering”, encompassing a stretch over one mile in a ravine where growers disrupted the natural terrain with extensive terracing.  Over 91,000 plants ranging in size from starter plants to 10 inches were eradicated over a two day period.  The plants were concealed in several separate pods developed by removing trees and underbrush to camouflage the grow site, and “miles” of plastic irrigation tubing was also found.  Due to the ongoing investigation the exact location of the site is not be released at this time.

“Many people would be outraged at the damage to our public lands caused by illegal marijuana growers,” said Shaul.

Investigators found campsites and numerous weapons, including semi-automatic long barrel firearms and handguns.  Food, water and other supplies were found at campsites that could sustain the growers for several weeks.

Steen pointed out the potential public safety problems and the dangers associated with chemicals and pesticides used to grow illegal marijuana.  In some cases, environmental and natural resource damage is caused by stream diversions, vegetation damage, trash, pollution, and the use of herbicides and pesticides.

“An extensive amount of trash including tubing, plastic planter containers, herbicide and other toxic chemicals were dumped along a river’s edge,” said Steen.

The United States Forest Service, with the assistance of the OSP Fish & Wildlife Division, is going to survey the site to determine the magnitude of environmental damage, needed resources to clean up the site, and how to rehabilitate the altered terrain.

Arrested and lodged at the Union County Jail related to this investigation were:

* ARTURO B. BARRERA, age 26
* FEDERICO R. CARRASCO, age 24
* CHRISTIAN R. GONZALEZ, age 28
* FREDY F. MONTES, age 32
* JESUS A. SANCHEZ, age 21
* AUDEL C. SOTO, age 29

Investigators have not confirmed yet where the men are from.  They are all currently held on charges of Unlawful Manufacture and Possession of Marijuana.  The criminal investigation is ongoing, to include possible charges related to environmental crimes.

Law enforcement officials believe it is critical for the public be aware of the potential dangers and signs related to suspected outdoor marijuana grow sites.  People are urged to pay attention and be aware of possible signs of illegal outdoor marijuana growing activity including:

* Seeing vehicles and people in unusual locations, at odd hours, or dropping off or picking up people in remote areas
* Coming across a vehicle or person with an unusual supply of camping equipment or other items such as fertilizer, PVC pipe, irrigation hoses, small plastic planters, propane tanks, tents or tarps and gardening tools
* Unexpected encounters with people armed with firearms outside of hunting season or non-traditional hunting areas
* Finding fish kills in streams or large amounts of garbage in a remote area with empty bags of fertilizer or other chemicals, piping, plastic planters, and camping equipment
* Seeing people in remote areas starting to landscape or clearing land
* Noticing foot paths or trails that seem heavily used in non-traditional hiking or trail areas

“If you come across possible marijuana grow site, make a mental note of your location and any landmark, GPS coordinate, or other identifiers to help police easily find it.  Exit the same way you entered the area and be watchful for any unexpected surprises or people, then call police,” said Shaul.

State, county, local and federal law enforcement agencies involved in Wednesday multi-agency operation were:

* Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office
* La Grande Police Department
* Union/Wallowa County Drug Task Force
* Oregon State Police SWAT Team
* Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team
* Wallow County Search & Rescue
* Enterprise Police Department
* United States Forest Service Law Enforcement
* Union County Sheriff’s Office
* Baker County Narcotics Enforcement Team
* Oregon Army National Guard
* Oregon State Police Marijuana Eradication Team (A trained group of state troopers utilized by the Department and available to outside law enforcement agencies during the summer months to assist with the eradication and investigations related to outdoor marijuana grows)

DNR Investigates Giving Out Of Keys To State Lands

June 15, 2011

Washington Department of Natural Resources officials are investigating how and why keys to state timber lands in central King County were given out earlier this spring.

Much is unclear, but DNR communications director Bryan Flint confirmed this afternoon that someone at their South Sound region office in Enumclaw gave out gate keys to parcels in the Raging and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers near Preston and North Bend, apparently for bear hunting.

“Giving of the keys was not authorized,” said Flint.

D.N.R. LANDS IN CENTRAL KING COUNTY ARE IDENTIFIED AS BROWN IN THIS D.O.E. PUBLIC LANDS MAP.

He did not know when they were given out, if they were used, when they would be returned, or have many other answers.

“We’re still at the beginning of sorting this all out,” he said.

DNR headquarters was alerted to the situation by state legislators, including Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) yesterday, Flynt said. A now-six-page-long thread on Hunting-Washington — “Dangerous Precedent- DNR Gives Gate Keys To Tribes for Bear Hunting, What’s Next” — was started Monday morning and yesterday afternoon Rich Landers of the Spokane Spokesman-Review blogged about it.

The thread includes an email from a Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife wildlife biologist to an unknown party that, if legitimate, indicates that on May 20 a WDFW law enforcement officer gave the biologist the head’s up that a DNR manager had “issued gate keys and permission to hunt over bait on all their lands south of Hwy 18 to the Muckleshoot Tribe.  Our guess is that this is their way of solving their peeling problems.”

The “peeling problem” is bears chewing the bark off young Douglas firs, trying to get at the sugar-rich cambium layer after their winter slumber. The girdling kills the valuable timber. The issue has led WDFW to adopt a number of spring hunts in Western Washington to try and control damage.

It appears that DNR first tried that way to deal with the hungry bears.

“They approached us about establishing a spring bear hunt in that area” sometime last year, said WDFW spokesman Craig Bartlett. “We’ll likely propose that in the next three-year game package” to the Fish & Wildlife Commission.

The biologist’s apparent email indicates several concerns for the agency, including how the episode will appear to nontribal sportsmen. It says:

1)      WDFW officers will not be able to distinguish a tribal bait pile from an illegal one
2)      Officer safety could become a factor because of the confusion over who has a right to hunt vs those who don’t
3)      Non-tribal hunters will likely be dismayed because they don’t have access, can’t use bait, and can’t hunt at this time of the year
4)      Non-hunters in King County will likely be dismayed over bears killed in the spring using bait

A Muckleshoot spokesperson had no immediate comment today but indicated he would get back to Northwest Sportsman tomorrow.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the original version of this article, DNR spokesman Bryan Flint’s name was misspelled as Flynt. Our apologies.

Anglers Getting Out, About

June 13, 2011

I’ve been festering about how many of us are getting afield, what with high gas prices, the staggering-along economic recovery and this spring’s poopier than normal weather.

Now, one weekend’s worth of fishing photos and reports shouldn’t be hailed as a turn-around, but we’re getting out. Here’s a roundup:

Andy:

I am sending you a couple of pics. Just went summer steelie fishing in Forks with Mike Z. Caught a nice one spey casting.

We bagged our limit. Good fighters, bright and good eating.

Paul Ishii

(WRIGHT & McGILL PHOTO CONTEST)

(WRIGHT & McGILL PHOTO CONTEST)

(WRIGHT & McGILL PHOTO CONTEST)

Andy

There’s some hogs moving now, and still cleaning up on jacks too. Did some fishing for sockeye and managed to get one and released two wild Chinook and one wild steelhead, and caught my fair share of shad.

Kirby Cannon

CONSIDER THIS KING'S ENTHUSIASM KIRBED -- PORTLAND SALMON JUNKIE K. CANNON WITH ANOTHER KING FROM A LOWER COLUMBIA BEACH. (WRIGHT & McGILL PHOTO CONTEST)

LOCKDOWN AT CASCADE LOCKS FOR THIS SOCKEYE. (WRIGHT & McGILL PHOTO CONTEST)

Andy,

Thought you might like this. Wyatt Wellette, 3 years old, with his older brother, Colton, shows off one of their many bluegill taken from Bond Butte Pond on Sunday.

Best regards,
Troy Rodakowski

 

BROTHERS WYATT AND COLTON WELLETTE AND THEIR BOND BUTTE POND, ORE., BLUEGILL. (BILL WELLETTE)

Andy,
This is a pic of my daughter Annabelle’s and my halibut caught out of Garibaldi last weekend.
Adam Stark

A PAIR OF FLATIES FOR ADAM AND ANNABELLE STARK. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Cameron Jones of Chattaroy, Washington, fishing the beautiful streams of Eastern Washington near Horseshoe Lake.

Kevin Jones

 

STREAMS ARE OPEN FOR ANGLERS ACROSS MOST OF WASHINGTON. (WRIGHT & McGILL PHOTO CONTEST)

Caught our limits today (at Rufus Woods Lake), 6-8 pounds. Even the Timm Ranch is producing. Got this nice 10-plus-button rattlesnake.

Ernie Buchanan

(RUGER PHOTO CONTEST)

I also took a couple fishing reports over the phone this morning.

In the North Sound, Brett Barkdull, a state fisheries biologist and avid angler, says of this year’s lingcod fishing “the word on the street is, it’s better” than the past couple. That may be a function of fewer anglers out; he says he fished for three-quarters of a day one recent Sunday in the Juans without seeing another fisherman.

Season runs through this Wednesday, June 15.

Down in the South Sound, Northwest Sportsman columnist “Uncle Wes” Malmberg reports slower fishing at trout lakes, but some biggees nonetheless.

He was outfished by brother Brett at Nahwatzel. No sooner had Wes landed a 3-pound, 10-ounce rainbow than Brett brought in a 4-pound, 2-ouncer. The lake, which is west of Shelton, has been stocked with over 500 3- to 6-pound broodstockers.

Over at Lost, they hooked seven while at Island, they kept four from 13 inches up to 16 1/2 inches, Wes reports.

“The new Smile Blade Fly gets a double thumbs-up,” says Wes about the new Mack’s Lures product which combines the body of a Bugger with one of the company’s mylar blades for super-slow-trolling speeds. “They smacked it so hard they hooked themselves. We tried our go-to Woolly Buggers but couldn’t get any hookups.”

A BEAUT FROM NAHWATZEL FOR NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN TROUT COLUMNIST WES MALMBERG ... (BRETT MALMBERG)

... BUT AN EVEN NICER ONE FOR OUR NEW TROUT COLUMNIST BRETT MALMBERG. (WES MALMBERG)

And finally, fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver has the following roundup for Southwest Washington and the Columbia River:

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Bank anglers are catching some spring chinook at the barrier dam while boat anglers are catching some steelhead around the trout hatchery.  Effective June 16, bank anglers may fish the south side of the river from Mill Creek to 400 feet or the posted markers below the barrier dam.

Last week Tacoma Power recovered 109 spring chinook adults, 162 jacks, four winter-run steelhead and 131 summer-run steelhead during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 5 spring chinook adults, 150 jacks, and one winter-run steelhead into the upper Cowlitz River at Packwood.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 6,100 cubic feet per second on Monday morning, June 13. Water visibility is 10 feet.

Kalama River – No report on steelhead angling success.  Remains closed to fishing for spring chinook.  Through June 8, just 73 hatchery adults had returned to Kalama Falls Hatchery.  The escapement goal is 400 fish for hatchery brood stock

Lewis River – Light effort and catch.  Remains closed to fishing for spring chinook. Through June8, a total of 1,022 hatchery adults had been collected for brood stock.  The goal is 1,300 fish.

Wind River – Fish are being caught throughout the river but the coffer dam area was the best location.  No boats were observed at the mouth yesterday (Sunday June 12) and only eight vehicles at Milepost 7 and at the coffer dam.

Through June 8, a total of 926 spring chinook had returned to Carson National Fish Hatchery.  The escapement goal is 1,500 fish.

Drano Lake – Light effort but a few spring chinook are still being caught.  No boats were observed there yesterday.

Klickitat River – Anglers are catching a mixture of adult and jack spring chinook and summer run steelhead.  Up to 2 hatchery adult spring chinook may be retained in the upper river.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Last week we sampled over 1,400 salmonid anglers (including 82 boats) with 205 adult and 132 jack spring chinook, 83 steelhead, and 5 sockeye.  156 (76%) of the adult and 108 (82%) of the jacks were kept as were 68 (82%) of the steelhead and all of the sockeye.  92% of the adults and all but one of the jack spring chinook sampled were upriver origin based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI).

Over 1,000 salmonid bank anglers and 300 boats were observed on the lower Columbia mainstem during last Saturday’s (June 11)effort flight count.

The summer chinook fishery gets under way June 16 from the Megler Astoria Bridge up to Priest Rapids Dam. One difference is anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam can retain two adult hatchery-reared chinook after June 16, rather than one.

Bonneville Pool – No effort observed at the mouths of the Washington tributaries. Beginning June 16, boat anglers can fish from Bonneville Dam upstream.

The Dalles Pool – Bank anglers are catching some adult and jack spring chinook.

John Day Pool – From  Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco:  Estimated harvest in the John Day Pool for June 6 through June 12 is 20 adult hatchery chinook and 33 hatchery jacks. An estimated 21wild adult chinook and 20 wild jacks were caught and released. Catch and effort picked up a bit this past week. Water is turbid and the flows are high.  Effort was light with 126 boats on the water fishing for salmon for the week. Salmon bank angler effort declined this past week with more bank anglers fishing for walleye than salmon. An estimated 961 adult hatchery chinook have been harvested in this fishery and 304 wild adults have been caught and released.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerline downstream – Overall fishing is still slow though slightly improved in the Deep River area.  Overall, private boat anglers averaged a legal kept/released per every 11 rods while charter boat anglers averaged one per every 11.5 rods.  No catch was observed from the bank. If an angler catches a fish, there was about a 20% chance it would be a keeper.

Sturgeon effort is slowly increasing with nearly 200 boats observed of which 125 of those were found in the estuary last Saturday.  In addition there were 14 charter boats.

Lower Columbia from the Navigation Marker 82 line to the Wauna powerlines –  We did not sample any keepers last week.

The Dalles Pool – Light effort and catch.  Through May, an estimated 138 (46%) of the 300 fish guideline had been taken.

John Day Pool – 4 boats/10 anglers released 1 sublegal (catch-and-release only).

BASS AND WALLEYE

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers continue to catch walleye while bank anglers are catching bass.

John Day Pool – 5 boats/9 anglers caught 19 walleye and 2 bass.

SHAD

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Effort and catches are increasing as are the dam counts.  Based on mainly incomplete trips, bank anglers just below Bonneville Dam averaged nearly 3 shad per rod when including the few fish released.  Some shad were caught by boat anglers in the gorge and at Woodland.    Bank angling effort for shad is increasing with over 350 anglers tallied; however, there were still few boats fishing for shad.   Daily counts at Bonneville Dam are now in the tens of thousands of fish.

Free Fishin’ Weekend!

June 9, 2011

And now for something completely different — anglin’!

This is Free Fishing Weekend in Washington and Oregon, and Free Fishing Saturday in Idaho — no license is required to go fishing, clamming or crabbing!

Well, good luck clamming in the Gem State, but besides that trivial detail, where should yee spend the weekend?

Well, I’ll tell you, this morning I had planned to round up lots of great info on where Northwesterners might head out with their unlicensed family and friends, but a little thing known as the Wolf Wars got in my way, and so I’m going to have to be far briefer than I’d like to be.

GO FISHIN'! ELLA GRACE WILEY SHOWS OFF A NICE TROUT FROM CENTRAL OREGON'S EAST LAKE! (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

In Washington, you might check out any of the waters mentioned in WDFW’s June Weekender report, which we blatantly ripped off and used for our own foul purposes here.

The two-pole endorsement is also not required on the lakes where allowed, but you will need a catch record card for some species; see the regs.

In Oregon, you should scan through ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report, which, due to the aforementioned Wolf Wars, we were unable to drag down and rend apart in our toothy maws to post as content to our own Web site.

And in Idaho, it would behoove Gem Staters to investigate IDFG’s regional fishing information here.

While everyone except those whose fishing licenses are currently revoked can participate, all the other rules in the regulations pamphlet apply.

‘A Pattern Of Behavior’ In White Wolf Case

June 9, 2011

The meat of yesterday’s coverage of the 12-count grand jury indictment handed down against members of a Twisp, Wash., family focused on the alleged poaching of wolves and its discovery when a FedEx agent refused to pick up a bloody shipping package at the Omak Wal-Mart in March 2009.

What was lost is that the Federal case also charges William “Bill” D. White with four counts of trying to import a moose and whitetail deer he’d shot in Canada back into the United States in November 2007, both illegally and undeclared when they should have been.

There’s also a case pending in Okanogan County District Court against him for poaching a trophy buck out of season and illegally hunting a bear with hounds, according to the lead state game warden there.

“One of the things we hear is that he’s a folk hero for allegedly killing wolves,” says Sgt. James Brown of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, “but this is a pattern of behavior.”

Mythologizing wildlife criminals may not be a particularly Northwestern characteristic, but it is here that Claude Dallas was popularized after he shot two game wardens in Idaho in the 1980s and escaped jail before serving 22 years for manslaughter.

YESTERDAY’S STORY ON THIS BLOG about the indictment said that Bill White and others are suspected of shooting wolves. However, a broader range of tools was allegedly employed, including trapping and poisoning.

“There were multiple methods in which wolves were killed, and that will come out at trial,” Brown says.

According to the 10-page indictment filed Tuesday in Spokane federal court, it alleges that Bill White:

Emailed a relative in Alaska in mid-December 2007 looking for “assistance in locating someone that knew how to snare wolves”;

Sent an email that on or about Jan. 24, 2008 he “and others were hunting wolves near his residence”;

Reported by email that in April and May 2008 he “was attempting to trap or kill wolves near his residence”;

In early January 2009, he “applied a pesticide in an order to unlawfully take and kill wildlife, including gray wolves”;

And sent an email in mid-January 2009 that he and others “shot several wolves, specifically two wolves in one group of nine and one wolf in another group of three.”

The indictment charges his son, Tom D. White, with two counts of unlawfully killing endangered gray wolves. According to court papers, Tom killed one in mid-May 2008, the other in mid-December.

A photo seized during a March 2009 search warrant shows Tom with a dead wolf. According to previous news articles, he said he shot it after it became entangled in a barbed wire fence. According to a search-warrant affidavit, it may have actually been caught in an illegal leghold trap then killed.

AN IMAGE FROM A COPY OF A MARCH 2009 SEARCH WARRANT AFFIDAVIT APPEARS TO SHOW TOM D. WHITE WITH A DEAD WOLF. (OKANOGAN COUNTY DISTRICT COURT)

Bill and Tom White must surrender a Remington .300 Ultra Mag rifle, a 1999 Dodge Ram pickup, “one large, toothed, leghold trap,” and a Moultrie trail camera, if found guilty.

For attempting to ship a wolf pelt out of the country, they and Tom’s wife Erin all also face one count each of smuggling goods from the U.S., unlawfully exporting an endangered species and false labeling of wildlife for export, the last a Lacey Act violation.

Amazingly, even after an Alberta man tipped Bill off that the unprocessed hide meant for him had been intercepted by police, Bill continued to try to kill wolves, federal papers show.

The maximum fine for killing an ESA-listed wolf is $100,000, up to a year in jail and civil fines of $25,000. Wolves were federally protected across all of Washington when the two poachings allegedly occurred in 2008. They remain so in the area where it took place, though wolves in far Eastern Washington have since been delisted from ESA, but remain under state protections.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, in charge of wolves in the western two-third of the state and the agency which took the lead investigating the case, had no comment.

“There was a long, thorough investigation,” said spokeswoman Joan Jewett in Portland. “Now we have the indictment. The case is in the hands of the U.S. attorney. We can’t really comment at this point.”

The next step in the Federal case will be for the Whites to be summoned to Spokane for arraignment on the charges. A trial date will then be issued.

THE WHITES’ ALLEGED TARGET was the Lookout Pack, the state’s first in 70 years. Though it was likely the breeding pair had a litter in 2007 based on two good sightings elsewhere in Okanogan County, it wasn’t officially confirmed until July 2008. It was the subject of a Wenatchee World article the month before. After talking with Bill, reporter K.C. Mehaffey wrote:

White said he saw tracks this winter as large as those left by a cougar, only more oval in shape, with distinct toenail marks left in the snow. He said his son has seen one pack with nine wolves and another with four.

He said state and federal officials questioned the sightings, so he set up a remote camera and caught them on film. He said he also gathered hair at one location. One of the females captured on film shows clearly visible protruding nipples, indicating she’s nursing pups, he said.

White said he’s not happy about the sightings. After what the northern spotted owl did to the logging industry, he worries that gray wolves will only create more restrictions on public land.

“Are they going to rope it off and say no more logging or hunting or snowmobiling?” he asked.

White said he thinks one pack of wolves killed one of his hunting dogs that didn’t come back after a hunt this winter. “Everybody’s not supportive” of repopulating the area with wolves, he said, adding, “The cattleman’s the only one that’s going to make a sacrifice.”

In March 2009, after news broke about the investigation, White told the Methow Valley News:

“I’ve never been through anything like this,” said Bill White on Monday (March 30). On the advice of his attorney, he was reluctant to talk to the Methow Valley News. “It’s a painful deal, but when they have a hearing, it will all come out.

“I know, but I can’t say, if the wolves were bothering our animals. It’s not going to be like they’re saying,” said White. “It will all come out in the wash. It’s unfortunate that people make judgments, but this country has a pretty good legal system and I trust it will work.”

According to WDFW, the Lookout Pack shares DNA with coastal wolves in British Columbia. No evidence has surfaced that the animals arrived here any other way than on their own four feet.

At one point in 2008 the pack numbered 10; today only two, according to WDFW spokeswoman Madonna Luers. They both are apparently male, one the alpha. Another was poached in fall 2009; the alpha female mysteriously disappeared last spring.

AS FOR THE STATE’S CASE AGAINST BILL WHITE, Brown says it’s partially based on pictures seized from his computer.

“We determined there was a nice, big trophy mule deer taken out of season,” says Brown.

In an echo of the recent Tony “Saveelk.com” Mayer elk poaching case over in Idaho, Bill White reported one date as the buck’s harvest, sent emails indicating it was taken at another time, and an image of it shows it was taken on an entirely different day, Brown says.

As for the bear, the game warden was able to match up the background in an image of it to a ridge of Alder Creek Mountain near White’s property west of Twisp, thereby confirming it wasn’t taken somewhere else hounds might have been legal for pursuit.

“Poachers need to brag,” Brown says. “If you brag, there’s going to be an electronic footprint.”

AS IF ALL THIS WOLF NEWS WASN’T ENOUGH, WDFW’s Wolf Working Group is going over revisions to the draft wolf management plan in Ellensburg today.

Not too far from there, biologist Paul Frame is poking around the Teanaway in hopes of trapping large canids reportedly in the area.

From there’s it’s likely he will head for northern Pend Oreille County to figure out whether the Salmo Pack dens on the Washington side of the International border — and where it would count towards state recovery goals — or on the BC side. He may also check into reports of wolves in the Hozomeen area and Blue Mountains.

WDFW also posted a brand-new map of confirmed and suspected wolf ranges in Washington, part of the agency’s attempts to be more transparent about the state’s population.

(WDFW)

With how huge of an issue wolves are and large of a management plan is being proposed, WDFW may hold as many as four public workshops across the state this summer and fall.

The schedule is not set in stone, but the meetings would occur early in the month.

One thing that can apparently be said to be set in stone is the most contentious item in the entire wolf plan: how many wolves over three consecutive years are enough for WDFW to delist from state protections.

“Yes, we looked at the minority opinion, yes, we looked at public comments, yes, we looked at the blind peer reviewers, but the one thing that ain’t changing is 15 breeding pairs,” Luers says. “We’re taking that to the (Fish & Wildlife) commission.”

The minority opinion, written by ranchers and hunters on the working group, advocated for half that number while many public commenters asked for as many as 25 or 30. Two of the three peer reviewers felt that 15 wasn’t adequate.

In the revised draft plan, new modeling from Washington State University’s Carnivore Lab found that in six of nine scenarios, 15 pairs spread through the Cascades and five-oh-nine country would be adequate to ensure long-term recovery – as long as those numbers weren’t population caps.

Luers says that Wildlife Division assistant director Nate Pamplin told the working group that they could shuffle where those 15 occur around in the state. The revised plan designated six pairs for far Eastern Washington, five for the South Cascades and Olympics, four for the North Cascades.

Not so explicitly stated publicly is that to achieve that many pairs over three years would actually likely require a total of 23 packs as nearly a third of wolves apparently don’t breed every year, according to the plan.

Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic and Shannon Dinniny of the Associated Press both have articles on the working group’s two-day confab.

The commission is scheduled to vote on a final version in December.

Luers says that the alleged wolf poaching by the Whites “sets back, delays the timeframe to delist them and manage as any other wildlife in the state.”

Twisp Family Killed 2 Wolves, Tried To Poison More, Feds Say

June 8, 2011

UPDATED JUNE 9, 2011: Two men in an Okanogan County family shot wolves and one spread pesticide to take still more. They and another woman also attempted to ship the pelt of one to Canada, a move that ultimately backfired on the trio.

That according to a 12-count indictment leveled by a grand jury in U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington Tuesday against William “Bill” D. White, his son, Tom D. White and Tom’s wife, Erin White, all of Twisp.

The Methow Valley News broke the story. It involves the alleged killing of at least two Endangered Species Act-listed animals as well as Federal charges of conspiracy, smuggling and making false statements.

“This is a long time in coming,” said Mike Cenci, deputy chief game warden of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife whose officers performed some of the first investigation into the case that’s over two years old now. “Enforcement is just as anxious as the public to see some resolution here.”

The Spokane Spokesman-Review reported that Bill White said that his family had no comment.

Federal documents indicate that in 2008, even as wolf advocates were celebrating the discovery of Washington’s first pack in 70 years, the Whites were busy targeting the animals which lived on or near their ranch under Lookout Mountain west of Twisp.

According to the 10-page indictment, the conspiracy to kill the wild animals began in December 2007 when Bill White asked a relative in Alaska for help finding someone who knew how to snare wolves.

That year there had been two solid reports of a large group of wolves in western Okanogan County, according to WDFW documents.

Emails from January 2008 indicate that Bill “and others” were hunting three wolves, according to the indictment, followed by more attempts to hunt and trap them in April and May of that year.

Sometime around May 13 Tom killed one wolf then another around Dec. 15, 2008, the papers say. He is charged with two counts of unlawful killing of an endangered species.

In between those events, the retired federal wolf trapper and biologist Carter Niemeyer and WDFW biologists captured the pack’s two alpha wolves and collared them. A litter of six pups was also photographed that summer by remote camera.

An email from Jan. 14, 2009, indicates that Bill White and others shot two wolves in one pack of nine and another in a group of three, the indictment says.

It’s unclear if the three wolves died.

Ten days prior to that day he spread pesticides to kill wolves, papers say.

COUNT 1 FROM THE FEDERAL INDICTMENT AGAINST MEMBERS OF THE WHITE FAMILY OF TWISP, WASHINGTON.

The case came to light in March 2009 following the discovery in late Dec. 2008 of a bloody pelt inside a shipping package at the Omak Wal-Mart. It was being mailed to an address in Alberta by someone who said her name was Allison. Surveillance camera footage eventually led back to the Whites, according to a 37-page search-warrant affidavit.

The federal indictment indicates that even after the Whites were warned by the Canadian man that officers had intercepted the package and thus were likely investigating the matter, Bill continued to try to kill wolves, spreading poison.

Cenci, pointing to a state case against the Whites involving illegal hound hunting, termed it not an issue of a rancher protecting his stock but a case of “poachers against wolves.”

“If proven that those charged have taken multiple animals from that pack, you could go so far as to say its potential extinction is on their hands,” he said.

At one time in 2008, the pack numbered as many as 10. Most recently it was estimated at two or three, both adult males.

“The loss here isn’t just the animals,” said Cenci. “There was a fairly large investment in research that was lost as well.”

On their Facebook pages, Conservation Northwest of Bellingham welcomed “this strong signal that poaching will not be tolerated” and its executive director Mitch Friedman howled, “Justice for the Lookout Pack!”

“Poachers like this who deliberately try to wipe out a population of endangered wildlife need to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Friedman also said in a press release.

Conservation Northwest has been working with the state agency on monitoring wolves and other animals in Washington’s North Cascades. Its trail cameras captured some of the first images of the Lookout Pack.

Earlier this year, the Bellingham-based organization and WDFW teamed up to seriously boost the amount of reward money offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of poachers, including $7,500 for wolves and $3,000 for “egregious” illegal deer and elk killing. Previously only $500 was offered, though hunters can get bonus special permit points for turning in poachers.

Ironically, Bill White once taught hunter education, but his certificate was suspended.

The indictment comes just days after the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission was updated on the latest revisions to the state’s draft wolf management plan and as WDFW and its Wolf Working Group convenes in Ellensburg for two days to go over the tweaks to the plan.

It also follows on last year’s mysterious disappearance of the Lookout Pack’s aged alpha female and in fall 2009 the poaching of another wolf believed to be from the pack by a pair of Western Washington men. Cenci says there has been no progress on the latter incident, and game wardens lack evidence on the first. Though he’s not privy to the entire Federal case, Cenci said that there’s no reason to believe more than five wolves were allegedly shot by the Whites.

And it comes after news that late last week Idaho anti-wolf activist Tony Mayer of saveelk.com plead guilty to misdemeanor wildlife violations of taking an elk out of season and won’t be allowed to hunt for three years.

The issue of wolves is an increasingly contentious one in Washington, with full-on online debate. I wrote a large article about the Lookout Pack in the May 2011 issue of Northwest Sportsman and expanded and updated it here.

Thought to have been wiped out of the state by the 1930s, for decades now wolves have been haunting the Cascades and Pend Oreille County. WDFW began work on its wolf plan in 2007 as it became obvious the species would soon spill over from reintroduced populations in Central Idaho and more would continue to filter into the state from Canada and North Idaho. There are no plans to bring any in from outside the state, but WDFW is setting baseline goals for how many will constitute recovery.

At the end of 2010 there were a minimum of 18 or 19 wolves in the state in three packs, a figure that’s probably higher now with pups in dens. Biologists will also search the Teanaway, Hozomeen area and Blue Mountains for more.

Despite the high interest in the case, no press release was issued by the Federal court, and a spokesman for Michael C. Ormsby, the U.S. attorney in Spokane, said that the court did not intend to comment on the case.

The next step will be for the Whites to be summoned for arraignment on the charges. A trial date will then be issued.

Penalties for killing ESA-listed wolves include up to a $100,000 fine, a year in jail and civil fines up to $25,000. The indictment also charges the Whites with smuggling, punishable by up to 10 years in jail, according to the Methow Valley News.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article said that the Whites allegedly shot five wolves. Tom White has been charged with killing two; it’s unclear whether three other wolves mentioned in Federal documents as been shot were among those two or other incidents.