F&H News, 1 Year Gone

It’s been exactly one year since Fishing & Hunting News was swept under.

May we have a moment of silence in memory of the 54-year-old Northwest institution.

….

Last night I wrote a piece to post here, but events this morning conspired to keep me at home. And with limits on how long you can be on these library computers, I don’t have time enough to put it all back together.

But maybe it’s for the best. The piece was a bit bitter.

It was about the last days of F&H, and the sudden collapse. Seems like Brian, Mike and I here at NWS have told the story to half the sportsmen in the Northwest, and I’m sure Joel’s recited it just as many times.

Basically, the last potential buyer backed out last July and the owner quickly decided to stop publication of F&H and its seven editions. We all got the word just before lunch on a Thursday morning.

While some of my former coworkers still have yet to find work, we’ve been extraordinarily lucky to have found a publisher interested in continuing the basic F&H editorial model.

I can’t claim to have the monopoly on it — many writers emulate it around the Northwest. Nor can I say what we’re doing is pure F&H. We’ve opened up the mag to more than just go here, use this, catch this. Plus we’re also glossy and monthly. But I think most who’ve seen the new mag feel it’s better than F&H.

But it’s only better because F&H was there in the first place. I’ll be raising a glass to the old mag and its founder, Bill Farden, tonight. Please join me.

Variety Of Fish Biting Now At Potholes

Bluegill, nice walleye, trout, smallmouth and largemouth — even catfish up to 15 pounds have been biting recently at Potholes Reservoir in Eastern Washington.

“Some jumbo walleye are showing in the early morning and evenings for trollers using Rapala Shad Raps and worm harnesses,” reports Mike Meseberg at Mar Don Resort, adding, “With surface water temps in the low-80-degree range, topwater bass fishing is very good.

For check out the resort’s fresh fishing report!

OR Hunt, Fish Licenses To Rise

With Gov. Kulongoski’s signature this week, it’s official, Oregon fishing and hunting licenses will be 21 percent higher as a whole starting Jan. 1, 2010.

However, some young sportsmen will see lower license fees.

ODFW says that without the hike, $17 million would have to have been cut from its $264 million two-year budget, or license prices in 2011-13 had to have risen 40 percent.

As it stands, here’s what you’ll be paying more for next year, and what it will go towards:

• The Access & Habitat program’s surcharge increased from $2 to $4. Ensures additional habitat enhancement on private lands, while maintaining the current
level of hunting access. The increase in the surcharge also allows the A&H program to
play a key role in ODFW’s Mule Deer Initiative by improving an additional 70,000 acres of habitat annually, while maintaining or increasing support for other habitat and access projects.

• The Restoration and Enhancement program’s surcharge increased from $2 to $4. This increase will provide funding for projects that will enhance fishing opportunities. The Restoration and Enhancement program is integral to recreational and commercial
fisheries management.

• A new $0.25 surcharge on angling licenses was made to help to fund fish passage projects.

• An increase of $0.50 in the existing fish screening surcharge was made. Fish screens are an essential part of any system that diverts water from a public water body. Screens prevent the loss of young fish as the water is used for irrigation, municipal, hydroelectric or other beneficial purposes.

• The new juvenile Sports Pac will help boost youth participation in hunting and fishing.
At $50, the juvenile Sports Pac is a significant savings for families and youth who want to participate in multiple hunting opportunities.

• Youth can now hunt turkeys and big game at a reduced price.

Sock Season A Go On L. Wen.

They’re four deep at the tackle counter at 9:25 on a Thursday morning, a noisy gaggle all looking to get hooked up for the start of sockeye season next week.

The anglers all want to talk to Don Talbot, who staffs the fishing desk at Hooked On Toys (509-663-0740) in Wenatchee, but he’s busy on the phone with a reporter.

He answered the ring just a minute ago with a mad laugh.

All to be expected. Sockeye will do that to Washingtonians.

It’s been relatively rare that Lake Wenatchee has been opened for sockeye fishing, though it did occur last year. And good numbers of the salmon in the Columbia tipped he and others off to the potential for a fishery about two weeks ago, but we’ve all been waiting as state biologists counted fish at three dams to determine how many were diverting towards the mountain lake north of Leavenworth.

Talbot says he’s known for a couple days now that WDFW would open the lake, but the go-ahead, thanks to a “very robust run,” wasn’t announced until last night.

“On a premonition,” he began tying up 500 two-hook rigs, but even that may not be enough.

“I’m tying more sockeye gear right now,” says Talbot.

He also ordered up a mess of knotless nets, which are required for this fishery.

As for how to fish the lake, it’s a lot like sockeye fishing at Seattle’s big sock hop.

“Straight red hooks, two of ‘em, but the trick, the Lake Washington experts taught me, is the shorter the leader, the better. Eight, 10, 12 inches,” he says.

String it to a 1 or O size dodger.

“It’s a real good early morning fishery, and then you’ve got to have the wherewithall to go to 80 to 100 feet after 8 a.m.,” Talbot tips.

If you don’t have a downrigger, run your dodger and hooks off a 4-ounce banana weight, but switch up to a 6-ouncer after 8 a.m., he says.

The drawback to Lake Wenatchee is the limited access, in terms of launches and trailer parking. There’s one paved boat ramp at Lake Wenatchee State Park ($7 to launch) and a primitive one at Glacier View Campground ($5).

Fishing opens an hour before official sunrise on August 5.

Season runs until the surplus of sockeye back to the mountain lake have been caught. The daily limit is two sockeye 12 inches or longer.

Anglers are required to use single-point barbless hooks, but you can string up to three of them on a line. Bait and scents are illegal.

Fishing is open until an hour after sunset.

WDFW is also requiring that sockeye with one or more holes (round, approximately 1/4″ in diameter) punched in the tail of the fish (caudal fin) be released.  These fish are part of a study and have been anesthetized; the FDA requires a 21 day ban on consumption of these fish.

Weyerhaueser Closes OR, WA Forest Lands

With record-breaking heat hitting Oregon and Washington and no rain in sight, Weyerhaueser has closed their tree farms on the west sides of both states indefinitely due to high fire danger.

That effectively puts an end to deer and elk scouting and other recreational access on their Vail, Aberdeen, Raymond and St. Helens tree farms in Washington and North Coast, North Willamette Valley, South Willamette Valley, Springfield, and Coos Bay operating areas in Oregon.

Around the Northwest, there are six fires burning in Oregon, the largest a 3,400-acre blaze near the John Day Fossil Beds. In Washington, the Union Valley fire is burning north of the town of Chelan, and there are smaller fires in the Wenatchee National Forest on the east side of the Cascades all the way from the Canadian border to Naches.

The New York Times reports that Forest Service analysts expect an average forest fire season this year, but that “higher-than-normal fire levels are expected in … the Pacific Northwest.”

“More specifically, the researchers said “very large amounts of fire” are projected for Northern California and small parts of southwest Oregon, coastal areas north of Los Angeles, large portions of the Sierra Nevada, and a huge area of northwestern Texas and eastern New Mexico. Significant amounts of fire that are considered “above normal” are predicted for most of Texas and the Southwest, many parts of Oregon and eastern Washington, and northern Montana.

Longview Fibre has also closed their 600,000 acres in both states, the Seattle Times reports.

For updates on when Weyerhaeuser might reopen their lands, call (888) 741-5403 in Oregon and (866) 636-6531 in Washington.

Bios Puzzled By SW WA Elk Hoof Problems

As if wildlife managers didn’t have enough problems with the St. Helens elk herd already, large numbers of the animals are now suffering from deformed hooves — the worst cases slowly starving to death — and biologists are not sure what’s causing it.

“It’s not classic hoof rot that we see in cattle and sheep,” Kristin Mansfield, DVM, a state Department of Fish & Wildlife vetrinarian, told Northwest Sportsman today. “And we’ve ruled out underlying systemic disease and toxins in the environment.”

It’s affecting all age classes and both sexes too — yearlings, cows, bulls. For photos, see pages 2 and 3 of this thread on hunting-washington.com.

Mansfield will present her findings as well as look for ideas from fellow wildlife biologists on what’s behind the mystery at a Wildlife Disease Association conference next week in Blaine, Wash.

WHILE PART OF THE 10,000-plus-strong St. Helens herd is coping with less and less summer forage in the mountains, this new problem is striking elk in the lowlands along I-5. And though scattered reports of elk with hoof problems have come in for decades across the state, they’ve taken off the past three years here, says state wildlife biologist Pat Miller.

“We are very, very much concerned about this, but are at the beginning stages of the investigation,” he said.

Limping elk have been seen everywhere from Centralia on the north to Woodland on the south as well as west in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties, he says, and there have also been a few reports from “upland industrial forest habitat.”

Affected animals have “long and deformed hooves which slough off the horn of the hoof, exposing the bone. It’s very painful to walk around,” Mansfield says. “They’re often emaciated and nutritionally compromised. What happens is they starve to death.”

Eighty percent of the herds observed by biologists last winter had affected members,  and within those groups, anywhere from 30 to 90 percent of the individuals showed signs of the problem, according to Mansfield.

“It’s really heartbreaking to see these herds,” she says.

While WDFW looked at the issue two years ago, numerous Southwest Washington hunters reported seeing or shooting limping or deformed elk last fall, and so earlier this year, the state began their new investigation.

“Last March we euthanized some animals affected by it and did more testing,” says Mansfield.

That led them to rule out typical hoof rot, disease and pollution, but she says it could be related to copper or selenium deficiencies, a result either of farmers’ treatments of their fields — liming, spraying — or uptake by plants of those minerals in the soils. She says that acid rain in Europe has been shown to affect mineral levels in plants.

The St. Helens herd has been in the news in recent years. Elk around Mt. St. Helens have seen their forage base reduced as the forest around the volcano continues to grow back in since the May 18, 1980 eruption. Two of the past four winters have seen winterkills of 63 and 150 animals on just a portion of the state’s Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area, known as the Mudflow. WDFW has fed the herd that gathers in the isolated deep-mountain valley hay the past two winters, as well as expanded permit hunts.

And in urban areas, growing numbers of elk have become problematic for golf courses and orchards. New this year, modern firearm and muzzleloader hunters can take antlerless elk in the Stella game unit around Longview and Kelso; previously, it was a 3-point minimum.

AS THE COUNTDOWN TO THIS year’s seasons begins — bow kicks off Sept. 8 — the official advice to hunters who may find an elk in their sights here is to “use good common sense,” says Miller.

“Limper? No. Hoof rot on the leg? Don’t eat the bad part,” he says. “These are wild animals. We don’t make guarantees on the quality of the meat.”

Local archers, riflemen and muzzleloaders may also hear soon from WDFW.

“We are conducing a hunter survey of the affected area,” says Mansfield.

It will help determine the geographical extent of the problem, and, repeated over several years, will tell the agency whether the problem is growing or not, she says.

The sign at the exhibition center next to the Seahawks stadium reads “Pink 9/15.”

No, no, no, that’s all wrong, I thought when I walked by it this morning. The pinks will be leaping and splashing everywhere from Sequim to Seattle much earlier than that – more like mid-August. But, yeah, mid-September will be pretty good up in the rivers too.

Then I realized the sign was not advertising this year’s run of those humpbacked darlings of Puget Sound, rather the singer of the same name.

Hmmm, that’s right, I thought, there is that whole parallel universe outside of Northwest fishing and hunting.

But pinks actually are rock stars here in Puget Sound. Indeed, this year’s run is forecast to be the largest since the Beattles cast a line into Seattle’s Elliott Bay.

(OK, history sticklers, yes, John, Paul, George and Ringo did their angling from the Edgewater Hotel in 1964, but this year’s 5.1 million is the most since 1963’s monster run of 7.4 million.)

Now, if you’re a Western Washingtonian who’s been here since at least summer 2007, you are most likely intimately familiar with this smallest member of Pacific salmon that returns in truly prodigious numbers in odd years. But if you’re an Oregonian or a Northwest newbie, a wee bit of explanation may be in order. Professor Humpy, give the folks a little Pinkology 101.

First of all, those giant humps on males’ backs are not a result of our fantastic efforts at fouling the holy hell out of Puget Sound and environs. No need to roar back down I-5 screaming about the mutant fish we grow up here, that big ol’ bump evolved naturally well before PCBs came on the scene.

Secondly, no fish species makes it easier to remember what color lures you should buy. While you may not be comfortable with the color, up here, loggers, machinists and just about everyone else in the know has no problem loading up with enough pink gear to make the queer folk up on Capitol Hill envious. You would look fabulous with some too, sailor.

And thirdly, think dill. With this year’s bumper run, urban farmer that I am, I’m growing a bumper crop of the stuff. It goes great with the fish’s delicate, light pink meat.

For more lessons in all things pink, please see pages 79-84 and 116-117 of our August issue.

Also inside our fourth-straight 132-page issue in a row, big pieces on how to hunt Northeast Washington’s unusual elk herd as well as Eastern Washington bear. South of the Columbia, we preview Cascades deer and elk, as well as Southwest Oregon bear hunts.

With a bounty of salmon headed for Buoy 10, we put together a big package on how to waylay some of the 700,000 coho and 500,000 Chinook expected back to the mouth of the Columbia.

And while we sing the praises of five postindustrial fisheries in the lowlands of Puget Sound and the Willamette Valley, we also head into the mountains and reveal a rainbow trout fishery deep in the wilds of the North Cascades!

You’ll find us at convenience stores throughout Washington, Oregon and northern Idaho, Wal-Marts and Fred Meyers in the Evergreen and Beaver states as well as Schucks, Auto Zones and select bookstores!

TEAR THE MOTHER DOWN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

FISHING FOR THE VIADUCT

SEATTLE—With the Alaskan Way Viaduct along Seattle’s waterfront slated to down late next decade, a group of local fishermen has its eyes on the girders and guardrails for a whole new structure: underwater reefs for ailing Puget Sound rockfish and lingcod.

TEAR THE MOTHER DOWN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

TEAR THE MOTHER DOWN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Rob Tobeck recently came up with the green idea to recycle clean parts of the elevated highway for marine fish habitat instead of sending it to the landfill.

“I’ve always been frustrated with the lack of good bottomfishing you’d think we would have in Puget Sound,” explains the former center for the Seattle Seahawks and Washington State University, as well as Coastal Conservation Association member. “I’ve seen in Florida where they’ve taken old barges and old bridges and that’s where you go fish.”

Lined up behind him is Bear Holmes, a 62-year-old fourth-generation Washingtonian who chairs CCA Washington’s Puget Sound Marine Enhancement Committee and who admits to personally aiding in the decline of those stocks in his younger days. He wants his grandchildren to one day enjoy that same quality of fishing he did in the day.

Also on the field, Highline Community College’s marine-science and South Seattle CC’s trade-training programs. What started out as a small project by students at the former school to study marine colonization at a lab on Puget Sound has turned into a scientific experiment with potentially worldwide implications, according to Holmes. Right now, the National Marine Fisheries Service is putting together a proposal to sink a dozen 100-foot-long, 15-foot-high reefs of various types, some made at the second college, and figure out whether they help restore bottomfish populations.

On the sidelines are the state departments of Transportation, Fish & Wildlife and Natural Resources. Holmes says DOT wants to know what viaduct materials would be needed. While bridges and roads have been used to create reefs elsewhere, with the focus on cleaning up polluted Puget Sound, “We don’t want to put something out there that will create harm,” such as road surfaces, he says.

OFFICIALLY, FISH & WILDLIFE is “in the evaluation stage,” says Greg Bargmann, a marine manager in Olympia. The agency got out of the reef-building business years ago because they weren’t sure the structures were effective.

However, Holmes says those the state created off of Alki, Blake Island and the KVI radio tower have been “extremely productive.”

Which is not to say that he wants to litter the bottom of the Sound with concrete. Holmes is very cognizant of the fact that what might be featureless, sandy bottom to some anglers is others’ crabbing, geoducking and flatfishing honey holes. And with staff reductions and added workload at DFW, he wants to move forward cautiously and purposefully.

Indeed, with a new tunnel to be bored through the heart of Seattle, slowly and carefully are watchwords all around.

“This is a long-term deal, not throwing concrete off the side of a barge and fishing it the next year – that’s not the idea of this thing,” says Holmes.

For the study, reef balls could be deployed “in the next couple years” with material from the viaduct first becoming available in 2012. And if NMFS finds artificial reefs do indeed help Puget Sound bottomfish, the bulk of the viaduct would not become available until 2016, a year after the tunnel is opened for traffic.

AS IT STANDS, Holmes and others at CCA are excited about early support for the proposal.

“Everywhere we’re turning, it seems like everyone wants to help us,” says Tom Pollack, a member who works at Sportco (253-922-2222) in Fife.

And they hope more anglers and local businesses come on board. Because of the amount of raw materials needed to make concrete forms, Holmes is hoping a corporation might team up with the trades program at South Seattle CC, where he’s director of facilities.

And he’s asking fishermen to contact DOT.

“We would like them to know that people are behind the idea. The more they hear, the more they know there’s support for this,” he says. “Send an email to SDEIS2ScopingComments@wsdot.wa.gov and ask them to consider using the Viaduct for artificial reef-making materials as part of the project.” – Andy Walgamott

Apply Now For Eder Ranch Deer Hunt

WDFW is again offering rifle, bow and blackpowder hunters the chance to chase mule deer and whitetail on a 6,000-acre ranch near the Canadian border.

Fifteen hunters will be drawn for the hunt on the Eder Ranch, just east of Oroville. Though a unit of the state’s Scotch Creek Wildlife Area in Okanogan County, it has been managed for quality hunting experiences.

To apply, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/special_hunts/drawings/deer_hunt_scotchcreek.html  or call the department’s Ephrata (509-754-4624) or Olympia (360-902-2515) offices.

The deadline to apply is midnight Aug. 19.

If you’re drawn, hunts are held in each weapon type’s general season.

Are Pink Salmon Just ‘Nasty Skanks’?

Of course they’re not, but that’s what a now-former fishing partner of mine called my favorite salmon species of all time.

“If Kings are the Bald Eagles of the salmon world, and silvers are the Peregrine Falcon, Pinks must be the inner-city pidgeons,” Sky-Guy writes even as some 5.3 million easy-to-catch pinks head back to Puget Sound waters this summer.

The salmonic slander was sparked by the catch late last week of a 5-pound buck. Sky-Guy, aka Ryley Fee of Woodinville, Wash., reports on piscatorialpursuits.com that he thought it was a coho and only  “somewhat reluctantly” kept it for his smoker.

Despite allegedly taking quick care to bleed and ice the fish, and then applying his so-called “best brine” for a whole day, the fish supposedly tasted like “garbage.”

“I spit it out onto the lawn and cursed it like the devil,” Fee told me over the phone not too long ago.

He readily admits to being an “elitist fish snob,” and said online that he was giving away the rest of the pink to a neighbor (I’ve already phoned my folks, who live nearby, telling them not to open the door to anyone bearing free fish).

Fee rates pink meat a mere 2 out of 10 compared to Chinook, coho and sockeye, and while I won’t argue that kings, silvers and sox DO indeed taste better than pinks, they’re actually not that bad when caught in the salt or even lower rivers. You don’t have to smoke them either, they’re fine on a BBQ or broiled. Think dill.

But Fee’s further lambastings — “Maybe thats the one thing pinks have going for (or against) them, they only come back every other year… so people forget how SKANKY they are in the interim….” has led to a five-page thread, snarky comments as well as defenses of the smallest of all West Coast salmon species:

“DEE LEE CIOUS,” wrote cheapskate.

“Nice vittles,” added Brewer.

“All this smack talk about the stinky pinkies. There fun to catch, and OK on the grill. Honey and Yoshida’s terriaki sauce makes them a decent eat. Better than coming home empty handed and having to tell your wife, who has been gripping about taking care of the kid all day by herself, that you came up skunked,” defended Uglybugger.

“P.S. Try smoking the meat next time instead of the sperm sacks. It tastes better,” taunted Addicted.

“Didn’t yo momma never teach ya to not put crab bait in ya mouth boy?” preached stlhead.

“for eating: pinks are a waste of time as tablefare. Ever wonder why the commies don’t bother with them. One summer on my high school friends dads purse seiner, we opened up the net and let a load of pinks go as they didn’t want to mess with humpies and get back to chasing more $$$ silvers instead. The only anglers who appreciate the humpies as tablefare are anglers who can’t catch much else in the way of salmonoids for the BBQ. But the WDFW touts the pink run all the way, desperate for some good fishing news while the commericals probably just laugh at how gullible the 90% sportsanglers are. 10%-ters don’t waste time keeping pinks for the BBq or for eating,” posted MAVsled.

“My name is 4Salt and I admit with not that much shame that I like catching chrome pinks with trout rods in tidewater. I don’t eat them… but I have in the past and when well taken care of and smoked properly they tasted just fine. They bite… they fight… there’s a sh!tload of ‘em and they beat the hell outta catchin’ bass. I’ll be tossin’ the pink hoochie jig on my ultra-light in the lower Snohomish in a few weeks with the 10,000 others that’ll be there too and I won’t even be thinkin’ twice,” says 4Salt.

While someone by the name Rotten Chum started to get a little more excited in his defense of the venerable humpbacked salmon, Uglybugger brought the thread back around, pointing out, “Not speaking for the whole crowd here, but a vast majority of the people here are just talking smack … This kind of smack talk happens exactly this time on odd numbered years. Good fun.”

Indeed, good fun. I think I’ve heard the same sentiments every other year since elementary school as pinks flood Puget Sound rivers, far outnumbering the glamour species plus chums.

And if you’ve never tasted pinks, our July and August issues are chock-full of info on where and how to catch this year’s huge run. We’re on Auto Trader racks at convenience store as well as newsstands at Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer and some grocery stores. Pick up a copy, catch a pink and decide for yourself whether you’re with Fee or me.