All posts by Andy Walgamott

The General Speaks, Part II Of II: Herzog Looks Back, Ahead

Editor’s note: The following article by columnist Terry Wiest appears in the June 2017 issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine. Part I in the series ran in the May issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine.

By Terry Wiest

Ah, yes, The General. He is a rare bird, for sure. On the surface he’s a madman. Start a conversation with Zog and he’ll have you in stitches within minutes. On the rivers, he is the emporer of the genus Oncorynchus, backed by sheer numbers of fish and trophies that are legendary in Northwest anglerdom.

Beyond the surface, however, is a different person, one with a deep love for the fish he has mastered. Indeed, the self-proclaimed leader of the Judas Priest fan club – who will soon sport a lightning bolt tattoo on his freshly shaved head – has a sensitive side.

With a head freshly shaved in anticipation of getting a Judas Priest lightning bolt tattoo on his noggin, Bill Herzog speaks during a recent outdoor radio show broadcast. (BILL HERZOG)

Following last issue’s extended interview, I sat down again with my quick-witted friend Bill Herzog and dug into the mind of this steelheading genius for more on what he’s doing to marshal support for his favorite species, who’s to blame for the diminished runs and what he’d like to see done more of on the rivers.

But first, a little about strikes of a different kind …

Terry Wiest: So I heard there’s another name you’re stuck with that we haven’t brought up yet – “The Landlord?”
Bill Herzog: Oh, you know it. I’ve had some decent success in bowling leagues and tournaments. A bowling alley is known as a “house.” So, someone referred to me as “The Landlord” – it stuck. And you know, I am a bowler first and a fisherman second!

TW: What’s your average?
BH: As of late it’s a 219. I have 19 sanctioned 300 games during league and tournament play, and I also held the four-game scratch record at Kitsap Bowl with a 1,091. For those of you wondering, that’s a 272 average for four games.

TW: So rumor has it you’re actually on quite a few committees and groups advocating for wild steelhead?
BH: Yes, true – but not only wild steelhead. I want to make that clear. If a system can sustain hatchery steelhead, I’m totally for it. We need fish to be able to harvest. Heck, we just need fish to be able to fish. If we can’t fish for wild steelhead to let them recover, I’m all for fishing for hatchery steelhead. Go out, bonk your two and have a nice meal.

I’m keeping very busy doing my part to bring back steelheading to Puget Sound. Puget Sound is the birthplace of steelhead. Not Canada. Not the coast. Puget Sound. I’m determined to do everything in my power to make sure that I catch my last steelhead where I caught my first [the Puyallup].

TW: Those groups are?
BH: First off, Wild Steelheaders United. Again, we’re all for wild steelhead, but when viable, hatchery steelhead too. And don’t misquote me on this [laughs].

I’m also involved with Trout Unlimited and have been appointed, along with 16 others, by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to the Puget Sound Steelhead Advisory Group.

TW: A few years ago you were quoted talking about a steelhead permit lottery. Now it’s the “Four is enough” campaign. What’s the latter all about?
BH: Brian O’Keefe actually is the brains behind the Four is enough movement. Basically, what this involves is paying forward to those anglers behind us on the river. It’s self-governing, so no regulations need to be changed. It’s a matter of getting the word out, believing in it and practicing it.

We as anglers have become too freakin’ good. Between experience, better science and better gear, the fish don’t have a chance. Generally speaking, the first couple boats down a river can now destroy the fish – double-digit days and hookups in every hole. Fantastic, right?! But the more anglers down the river, the worse it gets for them. By the end of the day, or at least a weekend, you have all the fish in that river being hooked at least once.

This is something we can control. So, after we hook four fish and bring them to hand, we have a boat ride the rest of the day. We don’t need dead fish, and Lord knows we all have our share of grip-and-grin shots. This is more than that: It’s about having success and then allowing others behind us to have success as well. Have you seen our rivers and scenery? It’s breathtaking. Get your camera out and share some pictures of what you’re experiencing, not just dead fish.

Catch and release used to be the big thing. In my opinion, it’s abused. Catch and release is a problem, especially for hatchery fish. Bonk those damn things – nothing but living pollution, anyway.

We did some studies with biologists on a popular river. It was determined that 129 percent of the fish in the river at the time were caught. That means every fish was caught at least once, some twice. Do we really think those fish are going to spawn now?

This is a huge grassroots movement. We need to get the word out. Four is enough!

TW: Besides this movement, anything else that may help?
BH: Absolutely. If I had my way, boats would be used for transportation only on select waters. We have to leave some sanctuary on rivers to give steelhead a break. I know a lot of guides and sporties will be pissed at me for saying this, but I do think it will work until we can get our stocks back up. The Green River in King County was this way for years. Nobody complained because at least we got to fish.

TW: What about a no-bait rule, as many try to get passed each year?
BH: Who needs bait? For salmon absolutely, but steelhead, I haven’t used bait since 1944. If you need bait to catch a steelhead, you suck.

I stopped using bait the minute I discovered the pink nail polish Okie Drifters. Best lure ever! I used to have hundreds if not thousands of them. I’m now down to 38 and only use them on special occasions. Imitations just don’t work like the original.

Herzog, here with one of his biggest steelhead, a British Columbia fish, is calling on anglers to change their mindset about the species to help bring the stocks and fisheries back around. He’s advocating against bait and boat angling, and supports Brian O’Keefe’s “Four is enough” campaign. (BILL HERZOG)

TW: So in your opinion, who is to blame?
BH: We all are. I don’t think there’s one group or problem that we can pinpoint and say, “Hey, you f’d up the steelhead fishing.” You know the tribes catch a sh*tload of fish, but then again so have I. There was a time when me and three buddies destroyed the fish on the Nisqually, hooking 66 fish in one day out of one hole! That’s when we actually had fish. But look what good it did now by pumping our egos up.

And what about the guy who says “I only took my two,” as he’s holding two hens loaded with 10,000 eggs that will never get a chance to spawn?

The commercials? You know they take their fish too.

Let’s just say it’s human nature; if it’s legal, we will fish for them. For some, even if it’s illegal.

It’s not going to take regulations to turn things around; it’s going to take a different mindset.

In my early years I never batted an eye. Now what’s always on my mind is, How we can save our steelhead? If it takes everyone to stop fishing for five years to bring them back, I’m in. Whatever it takes, I’m in, and you can quote me on that.

TW: So there was a video recently posted  in which I swear you looked like you were purposefully hiding your face to shield the camera from tears as you looked into a hole on one of your South Sound rivers – perhaps where you caught your very first steelhead?
BH: Ah sh*t – guilty. Yep, that was the Puyallup, and I was standing in the exact spot I hooked my first steelhead. It took nearly 10 minutes to compose myself. I’m an emotional cat, you know.

TW: What about radio? What really caused you to walk away?
BH: Bowling, man – that’s it. I love radio. Love entertaining, but I wanted to give bowling a real shot to see if I could make a few bucks. I still get on the air occasionally. Who knows, maybe I’ll pick up a gig and become regular again. It’s cool sh*t having the power to crank up Judas, Black Sabbath or AC/DC.

TW: Speaking of, you rock out when you go fishing.
BH: You know it! I have the tunes cranked so loud the windows are shaking, game birds are flushed and others are dropping from the sky. I love rock, the louder the better, so if you fish with me, it’s join in or wear ear plugs.

TW: So how do you see the future of steelhead fishing.
BH: Thin. We all gotta play our part. I think we’ll know in three or four years where we’re headed. It’s not looking great. We need the big players to get on board with Four is enough. Rules aren’t going to change crap. We need to take control ourselves as stewards of our sport.

TW: Anything to close out?
BH: Steelheading is like a Judas Priest song – “Victim of Changes.” Let’s not let our steelhead fall victim to those things we are able to change. Four is enough – and rock on! NS

Editor’s note: Terry J. Wiest is the author of Steelhead University: Your Guide to Salmon & Steelhead Success and Float-Fishing for Salmon & Steelhead, and is the owner of Steelhead University, SteelheadU.com.

The Hazards Of Using Gun Mag Galley Proofs As Kids Scratchpaper

The note that came home from school with our oldest son gave me more of a belly laugh than feelings of butthurt.

It was yet another reminder of how things have changed from my Sultan, Wash., elementary days, when a friend and I “shot” critters in Outdoor Life with pencils that we jabbed through the backs of pages into the rug of Mrs. Gudmunson’s second-grade classroom.

Ah, times of yore.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and River’s teacher said she had had a talk with him about his choice of scratch paper to do some math homework on.

Of all the used pages I have brought home from work for he and his brother to do whatever with, he’d apparently picked one from another of our newsstand magazines that featured a couple paragraphs from a gun review and a pic of a box of .22 LRs on the other side.

THE OFFENDING PIECE OF SCRAP PAPER MY OLDEST DID HIS HOMEWORK ON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

THE OFFENDING PIECE OF SCRAP PAPER MY OLDEST DID HIS HOMEWORK ON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Next time, he should choose paper without either, the teacher wrote.

Bad Daddy.

As many of you may know, my real day job is magazine editor. In addition to putting together each month’s issue of Northwest Sportsman, I’m also the executive editor of our other three titles: Alaska Sporting Journal, California Sportsman and American Shooting Journal.

Really, executive editor is a fancy way to say proofreader, as I do a lot of proofreading around here.

A whole lot.

We try to give every article in all four mags at least three reads to make sure most of the words are spelt real good before sending them off to our press, so as you can imagine we generate a bit of wastepaper.

Several years ago now, I looked at that pile and realized that it was all still half good.

What’s more, River and his younger brother Kiran could use the unmarked side for their own devices.

So I began taking stacks and stacks worth home for them to draw on, practice their writing skills, make paper airplanes, cut up for snowflake decorations, scrunch up pages to throw at their brother and/or shoot baskets with, etc., etc., etc.

Out of respect for my wife Amy’s views, I am pretty careful with what comes home on the American Shooting Journal proofs; I grade away from firearms, but never considered that a pic of plinking bullets might raise a fuss.

Undoubtedly, the teacher was following something in the school district’s rules and regulations, but yi yi yi.

I recognize I’m not going to save the world by myself, but every two weeks our large-sized blue recycling can is full, from spring through fall our green yard waste bin is sometimes so heavy I worry it’ll get away from me as I wheel it to the curb, and at some level bringing home all those marked-up proofs for scratch paper must help save a tree — or at least a really thick branch or two.

Saving trees is pretty important to my wife and sons — and me, as they’re key for Northwest fish, wildlife and wildlands.

So I was pretty amused by the irony in River’s teacher’s note.

Try and do the right thing and you still get in trouble.

Be all PC and get trumped by the PC Patrol.

I don’t do towering moral outrage so well, but I am sure there are those who might be fuming by this little episode as the latest example of political correctness run amuck.

Can’t say I would blame you.

“I doubt you would have even heard about this if you were in Eastern Washington,” a friend texted me.

Hell, I joked back, “I would have had a new subscriber!”

Our former American Shooting Journal editor tacked away from emphasizing the enviro angle to my son’s instructor in favor of trying another positive approach with her:

“We could explain that there are people who use these tools to hunt for their food, hence negating the need for animals to suffer in feed lots their entire lives until they are slaughtered and promptly neatly packaged, so the sensitive folks can choose their protein without any idea where it comes from,” she wrote from a well-defended sailboat (pirates, beware!) adrift in the Sargasso Sea.

Actually, she had an even better idea:

“I would be interested to know what the repercussions would be if this event happened again. I am definitely the type of person to push back on something like this, not overtly, but in a ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ way, and just keep letting it happen. Maybe that is why my mother always shook her head and said ‘Life will be challenging for you.'”

Yeah, fine, we’ll make sure River doesn’t do any more homework on the back of gun reviews — but teacher never said anything about pages with pics of dead critters!

Indeed, instead of being all butthurt, this could end up producing a lot of laughs.

And besides, it could’ve been worse, as our current American Shooting Journal editor pointed out:

“Good thing you don’t work for Playboy…”

‘Welcome To The Wound Care Medicine,’ Or, Fishing’s An International Language

Cruising through Facebook recently I came across a pic of a nice walleye and bass, but then I looked a little closer.

The gents holding the fish were definitely not on Moses Lake — rather, the Mequinenza, a reservoir in Spain.

At some point I must have friended the poster, who was writing in French about a recent trip with two “accomplices.”

That’s what the post said when I switched the translation on … though I’m not sure how I’d rate the job the Facebook transhizzlator did …

“Welcome to the wound care medicine!!! Because I’m cooked, pot roast, grilled!!!”

My guess is that they got sunburnt catching those fish, but nonetheless, the joy of fishing shines through around the world.

King-sized Prize At Westport Derby

The top prize at the annual Westport salmon derby has quadrupled for 2017, from $2,500 to a whopping $10,000, thanks to a generous donation from a small Southwest Washington grocery chain.

An effort to draw more anglers to this coastal town as well as support its charter association, the money is being put up by Shop’n Kart, and to claim that prize, you’ll need to first purchase a derby ticket, fish aboard one of the participating boats and catch the biggest Chinook of the season. Easy sneezy!

Make sure to buy a derby ticket when you fish out of Westport – there’s a supersized prize of $10,000 for this year’s biggest Chinook landed aboard a charter boat. This 30-pounder was caught in June 2014 off the Tequila Too on a trip Kelly Corcoran took. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

King season kicks off July 1 in WDFW’s Marine Area 2.

However, a glance at the Westport Charterboat Association’s winner logs since 2000 shows the largest kings being caught between July 27 and Aug. 27, including a 50-3-pounder (“in the round” weight, meaning gutted and gilled) landed Aug. 19, 2004, during a return of exceptionally large kings that year. That fish was caught by Ann Diehm aboard the Fury, but the honor of putting anglers onto the season’s biggest has been shared amongst the fleet. Last year’s biggest was landed by the Freedom, 2015’s on the Fury, with the Stardust, Spindrift, Playboy Too, Hula Girl, Pescatore, Gold Rush and Ms. Magoo all claiming at least one.

This year will also see a return of a prize for biggest coho, after silver fishing was closed off Westport last year. A cool $2,500 will go to whomever catches that fish.

For more information, see westportgrayland-chamber.org and charterwestport.com, and for in-season updates, scope out Westport Weighmaster on Facebook.

Study Suggests Way To Minimize Springer Minijacks

Federal fishery researchers may have figured out a “template” for building a better springer.

Or at least rearing smolts that won’t fizzle out as minijacks.

Minijacks are male Chinook that are even smaller than jacks, which run to 24 inches, and while they may or may not go to sea, they’re reproductively viable.

THE PELTON LADDER ON THE DESCHUTES YIELDED INTERESTING RESULTS DURING A THREE-YEAR EXPERIMENT TRACKING HOW WELL YOUNG SPRING CHINOOK INTO ADULTHOOD. (NWFSC)

In Oregon’s Hood River system, some years they’ve ended up representing as much as 40 percent of the output of state and tribal hatcheries, doing little for fisheries while also posing a threat to wild king genes.

So, the Northwest Fisheries Science Center was called in to take a crack at the problem.

According to a recent story posted on NWFSC’s website, over the course of a three-year study that began in 2010, eggs from one year-class of returning springers were reared at three different facilities,  Carson National Fish Hatchery on the Wind, Parkdale Fish Facility on the Hood and Pelton Ladder on the Deschutes.

Then all were acclimated and released from Parkdale.

More than 40,000 smolts swam out with passive integrated transponders.

“In this way, any differences between the groups would be due to differences in the rearing environments alone—namely, the three hatcheries,” the story states.

The goal was to see which would achieve the highest smolt-to-adult return rate, or SAR, and thus fewest minijacks.

The winner?

Pelton Ladder, which otherwise allows anadromous fish to climb the three miles between a pair of dams on the Deschutes near Madras.

But why?

“Although it’s artificial, it’s like a natural river system, with natural water temperatures and lots of foraging food and insects, instead of the managed temperatures and artificial food you see at many hatcheries,” Chris Brun, who coordinates the state-tribal Hood River Production Program.

Nicknamed the “wild fish template,” it suggests smolts raised this way “were consistently larger, better adapted to saltwater, and far less likely to become minijacks than those from the other hatcheries. They also returned in the greatest numbers as adults,” writes author Al Brown.

The researchers’ results have been published online and are set to go into print in Transactions of the American Fisheries Society.

Now, obviously hatchery operators may not have the coinage to build Pelton Ladders all over the Northwest to increase SAR, and perhaps there is some factor at play that makes the results peculiar to Columbia Gorge tribs, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

The General Speaks, Bill Herzog, Part I of II

Editor’s note: The following article by columnist Terry Wiest appears in the May 2017 issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine. Part II in the series will appear next week and in the June issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine.

By Terry Wiest

I’ve been friends with Bill Herzog for a while now. The dude just flat out cracks me up. One thing I don’t think anyone denies is that he is a true master of the art of fishing. He loves being in the spotlight while teaching his craft, but isn’t one for bragging – he doesn’t have too. If you’re fortunate enough to fish with him, you’ll notice he’s super intense, yet calm, witty, hilarious, and always making the best of any situation. Most often, not only will you leave with fish, but also a side ache from laughing so damn much.

Smart as hell, Herzog gladly shares his knowledge when asked (he’s authored hundreds of fishing articles, including several in Northwest Sportsman). Even with his rock-star status in the fishing world, he remains very approachable, and is more than willing to share his stories of a life spent angling. In part one of this two-part series, I talked lighter subjects with my friend, “The General,” and next issue we’ll tackle some of his current projects, including his part in the “Four is Enough” campaign and a recent video series entitled “Steelhead Country.

Bill Herzog began his steelheading career during the golden age of the fishery in Western Washington, and was able to hit rivers that are now closed to angling for winter- and summer-runs. As he tells tales of a life spent on the water, he’s also working towards a sustainable future for the fish and fishery. (WILDSTEELHEADERS.ORG)

Terry Wiest: OK, why do they call you The General?

Bill Herzog: Oh my, it really happened by accident about 15 years ago or so. I was writing a section in Salmon Trout Steelheader called “How To,” where each issue I would explain, well, just like the title said, how to do something fishing related. I was also on the radio at that time, so a listener called in and said he liked my advice and looked forward to each issue. He said the only thing missing was a good tag line, so he asked what we could call him. Being the smartass that I am, I just said, “Oh, call me General Zog, man of steel, caffeine monster,” and a few other adjectives that just ran off my tongue. It was in reference to General Zod from Superman. For some reason listeners were paying attention and the name stuck.

TW What is your first recollection of wanting to fish?

BH I can’t remember when I didn’t want to fish. Growing up I had two uncles who lived for fishing. I can remember going to my Uncle Bob’s house and seeing a photo of him holding two steelhead from the Lyre River, rubber hip boots and all. I always thought to myself, “Man, I want to do that.”

Herzog considers himself lucky to have fished British Columbia’s Babine and Kispiox Rivers before their “discovery,” staying for a week and catching many over 20 pounds. (BILL HERZOG)

TW Tell me about your first steelhead.

BH I’ll never forget. It was 1971, fishing on the Puyallup River with Uncle Bob. He handed me some big black plastic rod with an Ambassadeur levelwind reel. I’d never cast a levelwind before, but Uncle Bob insisted only girls, beginners and Dallas Cowboy fans used spinning reels. I hooked an 11-pound chrome-bright hen and landed it using a red-and-white Dardevle spoon. That set my future of fishing in motion. My only regret was I never got a photo of that fish. Uncle Bob wasn’t into bragging and he thought photos of dead fish was nothing but that, bragging.

TW We all did things as kids we’d never think of doing now – care to share any moments?

BH I had a very fun childhood. I remember growing up we lived on the top of a huge hill in Tacoma. My cousins and I would take this huge mirror on a sunny day and then reflect it on the windshield of a car coming up the hill. You could see the cars swerving and tires were screeching, then we’d run and hide in the garage. I’m not sure how many wrecks we caused.

TW What about some fishing-related stories?

BH Never really did anything bad. I don’t think I ever broke any fishing laws intentionally. Probably the worst thing I did was skip school to go fishing. I went to Bellarmine Prep. I used to skip out and run to the Nisqually River to fish. But then it was only math class, so it was worth it.

TW You used to guide – how was that?

BH You know, I enjoyed it for a while.

I got into guiding because of an experience I had on the Cowlitz River with a guide I’ll not name. The guide basically set everything up, handed us our rods, we caught some fish, he collected his money and left. To me, I was expecting to learn something. He not only failed at this, but he barely spoke the whole time on the river.

It was then I told myself, “You know, I can do this and I can do it a lot better.” In my opinion, I did. I think a good guide needs to interact with their clients, needs to be a psychiatrist, a teacher, needs to teach technique, talk about history of the fish, the river, and, of course, make the clients comfortable and make them laugh. At the end of the day hopefully they caught fish, hopefully they learned something and, above all, hopefully they had a great time and want to continue fishing, whether with a guide or on their own.

TW Did you ever want to throw a client overboard?

BH Plenty! Yeah, it was those clients who, when they called back to book again, I’d say I was full but then give them a name and number of a guide I couldn’t stand.

There was my UPS driver. He’d deliver all my fishing gear and want to talk fishing. He’d never steelhead fished before but would always say he wanted to go. Finally he booked a trip on April 1, 1997, just him for the boat. The Skagit had been blown out for four days straight and it was just coming into shape, but probably a day early (I thought). I told him we’d at least look at the river, and if it wasn’t fishable, we’d reschedule.

So I took the sled and we headed downriver. Things weren’t looking good. But as we approached the Sauk, the river was this gorgeous steelhead green. There was a no-fishing-under-power rule, but I was a wee bit younger then, so I could actually row the boat so we could fish plugs. I put the dude’s plug back, set the rod in the holder and almost instantly it doubled over. He sat there and reeled it in like he was in his office. No expression, just kinda ho-hum. I almost sh*t; it was a chrome-bright 18-pound hen.

We did this eight straight times, hooking up within minutes of setting the plug back out. All the fish were between 16 and 19 pounds and they were all hens.

Another guide was coming downriver, so I motioned, let him know the hole was full of fish and let him have it. We’d already done our damage there and I wanted the other dude’s clients to experience it as well.

We headed down to the “Leaning Cedar” hole. It was by far the best day in my entire fishing life. We hooked another 25 fish! Total for the day was over 40 by 1:00. I decided we’d had enough and went in.

While I was ecstatic, the dude was pissed! Yes, pissed! He was even throwing expletives around because I didn’t give him a full day of fishing. He gave me my money, no tip mind you, and walked off.

I was dumfounded. This was my best day by far, ever, including Canada, and the dude was not happy. Wow.

About a month later there was a knock on my door. The dude showed up with a case of Henry Weinhards and a hundred-dollar bill. All he could say was, “Man, I’m so sorry, please, please take me again, I’m so sorry.”

Turned out, the day after fishing when the guy went to work he told his coworkers about our day. They said he was full of sh*t! It was only then that he realized this was not normal and he’d never experience a day like that again, ever. He thought my whooping and hollering the whole day was just an act and a way to get a tip.

OK, OK, I got another one.

I had an Asian father and son fish with me one day. It was really tough fishing but I worked my a** off. The whole day the son was nothing but smiles, the dad had on his angry face and didn’t speak hardly a word.

We were fishing plugs, so them being inexperienced I gave them both a demo on how to lift the rod from the rod holder. Sure enough, the old man’s rod doubles over. He reaches for the rod, grabs it by the label and pulls straight back.

All I heard was, “Crack, crack, snap” as the rod broke in two places, and then the line.

The old man looked at me and said, “Rod not strong.”

The kid was mortified.

At the end of the day we managed to catch a single fish. Like I said, it was tough fishing. The old man gave me $100 and walked away. This didn’t even cover my daily rates. The son followed him up and wrote a check for the difference, plus the cost of the rod and a nice tip.

As they drove by, the old man rolled down his window and yelled, “You not good guide, you only catch one fish.”

TW Every think about guiding again?

BH OK, here’s the deal. There are already too many guides on the river for the limited amount of fish we have in the rivers these days. I have too much respect for them, and they work their a**es off to get clients fish. Why would I join that pool and increase the number of guides?

Herzog provides instruction on a “steelhead river” at a sportsmen’s show. By one recent count, he’s authored over 500 articles, as well as a handful of books, and was a longtime cohost of Northwest Wild Country. “When I go out I know I’m going to catch fish; it’s getting others fish that satisfies me,” he says. (DR. BACKLASH)

TW Have you ever taken a dump in the river? Er, let me rephrase that – have you ever fallen in the river?

BH Haven’t we all! Yes, a lot.

My most recent was last year while fishing the Queets with Ashley (Nichole Lewis) and Richie (Underwood). I was in the middle of the river and hooked a chrome-bright summer-run. As I was backing up, a boulder let loose and I found myself sputtering and spitting water as I continued to hold my rod up. My immediate thought was, “Is this it? Should I let my rod go because I’m going to die?” Just then, as I was tumbling down the river, I felt something grab my neck. Luckily, Richie is a strong dude. He plucked me out. And, yes, I landed the fish.

I did an incredible Wile E. Coyote imitation once while fishing with Nick Amato. We were hiking through some thick brush up above the river. Then it happened – I took a step and there was nothing there. I plummeted about 20 feet straight down, Wile E. Coyote style, right into the roaring rapids. The only thing that saved me was a single rock that was above the water line that I was able to grab hold of. If not for the exact position of the rock, I don’t think I’d be here any more.

I will offer this advice: Always wear a wading belt and use a staff. Always!

TW How many 20-pound steelhead have you caught? What’s your largest ever?

BH Two hundred and thirty-one, including many over 30 pounds. I was very lucky and used to fish the Babine and the Kispiox before they were discovered. I’d stay for a week and it was nothing to catch 20 over 20 pounds in a week. In 1986 I caught 27 steelhead over 23 pounds in my weeklong stay.

Now if you want to go and stay a week it will cost you $10,000. Ridiculous, and not in my budget.

My largest ever was 44×24 inches, which computes to 35 pounds. It was a monstrous buck on the Babine River. Funny thing is, it took all of five minutes to land. One screaming run and that was it.

TW Favorite place to fish?

BH The rivers! That’s it. I love them all.

TW Now, I have some inside scoop. I met your ex. She said I could always believe how many you said you caught and what you caught them on, but never believe where you said you fished. Is that true?

BH OMG, yes, back then that was true. I’d fish the Dosewallips, Duckabush and the Skokomish – yes, the Skok. We’d absolutely annihilate the fish. It was so good and we’d never see another soul on the river. People would see photos and I’d say, “Oh yeah, the ’Nooch was good to us.” They’d study the picture, trying to figure out exactly where on the Wynoochee it was. LOL, they never could figure it out.

Now, heck, who cares. There’s no reason to try and keep secrets. No one is going to steal my fish. If they use my techniques, well, good for them.

Herzog at home with wife Brenda. These days the couple lives in the Wenatchee area. (BILL HERZOG)

TW Now, we’ve all been skunked; I’m assuming that’s true with you?

BH Umm, a lot. Hell, even Buzz Ramsey gets skunked – ask him. Especially these days, if anyone tells you they don’t get skunked, they’re full of chocolate hotdogs.

TW Funny, I already knew that because I’ve asked you before how you did and you’ve told me when you’ve gotten the goose egg. Admirable.

BH Yep, I’ve already been skunked twice this season. Not proud of it, but it is what it is.

TW We all know you love to chuck metal. Other than that, what’s your favorite technique.

BH Plugs! There’s nothing like a plug strike. They are so dang effective too. If you know how to pull plugs correctly, it’s what you need to do.

Bobber and jigs are also a favorite – even if I have to use a spinning reel, LOL. In fact, I think more people should use bobber and jigs. Not only are they incredibly effective, but they are also the most delicate on the fish. When was the last time you saw a fish bleed out after being hooked by a jig? Never.

TW Besides steelhead, what’s your favorite species to fish for?

BH Wild, nasty, midteener, ballistic coho. I love them and they love spoons and spinners. Man, when they hit, they’ll practically rip the rod from your hands. Whew, what a rush.

I also love fishing for cutthroat – any kind of cutthroat. One of the most gorgeous fish, and just a blast to catch.

TW Most of us have heard you on the radio and you seem a natural in front on the mic. I’ve been on air with you and you’re a machine, even while cracking everyone up. Were you the class clown?

BH Absolutely, you know it! I was a little dude in high school. I didn’t grow until a few years later. So here I am, this little dude with a mullet, you know, looking like Bud Bundy. I was either going to be the funniest kid in school or get my ass kicked. It was an easy choice.

TW I hear you do a pretty mean standup. Where can we catch you, if not on the river?

BH Oh, sh*t yeah. I’ve done several open mic nights in Seattle. I love being in the spotlight and making people laugh. It’s how I approach my seminars. Even while providing good information I get a high from hearing people laugh at what I’m saying.

I’ve worked hard to come up with a great routine. It’s funnier than hell.

If I could do it all again, I would have gotten more into comedy in the 1970s and ’80s and concentrated on a career other than fishing. I could see myself doing a show like Seinfeld; we have similar styles of humor. I would have been killer. But it didn’t happen.

TW You’ve caught a few fish so far in life. What’s the single most important thing you would tell someone just getting into fishing?

BH Don’t get caught up in all this social media crap. OMG, it’s rampant and it doesn’t accomplish getting you on more fish. Ha-ha, this is from a guy who’s on the radio, TV and in magazines.

You know, if you’re good, help others. Teach others how to fish; that’s what it’s all about. Have a great time, have fun, laugh. To me it’s more important to watch others fish and get them fish. Yes, I’ve caught a few. When I go out I know I’m going to catch fish; it’s getting others fish that satisfies me.

Fishing is very therapeutic. I spend a lot of time fishing by myself. It’s helped me out in life. It keeps me sane. It keeps me from shooting more people. Joke – that was a joke there, kiddies. NS

Editor’s note: In part two of this series, Bill Herzog gets more serious, talking about the state of steelhead in Washington, the stock’s future and projects he’s working on to help out the resource.

Lake Washington Walleye Outfitted With Acoustic Tags For Study

Fishery biologists with a Seattle-area tribe are capturing a new predator species in Lakes Washington and Sammamish to monitor their movements and whether they cross paths with salmon.

It’s unclear how many of the illegally introduced fish are actually in the system, but concern is building and the Muckleshoot Tribe reports they have “successfully tagged and released multiple walleye” already this year.

STATE FISHERIES BIOLOGIST DANNY GARRETT DISPLAYS A 13-PLUS-POUND WALLEYE HE UNEXPECTEDLY CAUGHT IN 2015 NEAR MERCER ISLAND ON LAKE WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

A request for comment from the tribe had not yet been returned as of this writing, but details of the operation come from the LOAF, or list of agreed-to fisheries that was signed by WDFW and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission earlier this month as the parties reached an agreement at North of Falcon, and which was posted last week by the state agency.

Besides outlining all the treaty, commercial and recreational salmon fisheries over the coming 12 months, the 105-page document includes the Muckleshoot’s aims and methods for their two-year warmwater species study in the Lake Washington basin.

It builds on the scant information we were able to report earlier this year, when it began.

The tribe says it wants to catch up to 15 walleye to “assess their overlap with migrating juvenile salmonids in addition to locating areas these invasive predators may be targeted in subsequent fisheries.”

Tribal fishers are targeting one of seven zones in Washington and Sammamish at a time, using up to eight 300-foot-long gillnets with 31/2- to 6-inch mesh. The nets fish during the work week and are closely monitored to reduce the possibility of snagging the few if any ESA-listed steelhead in the basin.

Walleye are being implanted with acoustic devices that can be read by receivers stationed around the lakes that are otherwise used to track tagged returning adult Chinook and sockeye and young outmigrating coho.

Overlapping walleye movements with the coho will help model their potential to cross paths with Endangered Species Act-listed Chinook smolts.

The Muckleshoots say their effort “will benefit salmonid management in the Lake Washington basin,” as well as inform researchers on walleye diets and distribution.

Of note, a “second consideration” is to figure out if catch rates on walleye and bass are “high enough to result in an economically viable fishery … Data collected will inform managers of areas and times that a tribal net fishery could be economically viable as well as areas to avoid/target minimizing bycatch and optimizing harvest.”

According to plans, gear, locations and effort may be shared with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with details on any steelhead or Chinook caught, with the test fishery being shut down after a third and fifth of each species is encountered.

The data will add to a 2004-05 Army Corps of Engineers study that looked at movements of acoustically tagged Chinook smolts, smallmouth bass and prickly sculpins.

Walleye first turned up in Lake Washington in 2005, a small male, caught by University of Washington researchers, with anglers catching one or two in following years.

But in 2015, state and tribal biologists caught a dozen, mostly in Lake Washington between Mercer Island and Bellevue, including a 13.5-pound hen that was dripping eggs.

As the species is native to waters east of the Rockies, the only way they could have arrived in the urban lakes is in livewells. The nearest source populations are about 120 miles east on I-90 in the Columbia Basin.

The Lake Washington system supports important tribal and recreational salmon fisheries, though sockeye, which reside in the lake a year before going to sea, have not produced directed seasons for over 10 years, despite a new hatchery. WDFW’s Issaquah Salmon Hatchery produces Chinook and coho.

So far, the Muckleshoots have caught at least one northern pike in Lake Washington, as well as a handful of walleye in Lake Sammamish.

The LOAF also describes a plan to electrofish in spring and fall and gillnet in spring in select areas of Lake Washington and the Ship Canal, the idea being to figure out if removing bass, walleye, perch and other salmon predators can be effective.

One thing’s for sure, if you’re a bass tournament angler fishing nationally ranked Lake Washington, you’d want a map of where those efforts are planned.

Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby Just A Week And A Half Away

The countdown’s on for the 8th Annual Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby, where several thousand dollars worth of cash and prizes are up for grabs.

This year’s event will be held Saturday, May 20, and it again features a top prize of $1,000 for largest kokanee, a $500 gift card for the biggest 10-fish boat limit, and $100 for biggest koke caught by a kid.

(LAKE STEVENS KOKANEE DERBY)

The derby is put on by and benefits the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club and Lake Stevens Lions Club.

Recent years’ winners have included Kim Quicho (2016, 1.10 pounds, and who was part of the team that took first at the recent Something Catchy kokanee derby on Lake Chelan), Karen Swift (2015, .86 pound), and Dan Koester (2014, 1.49 pounds).

This year’s prize sponsors include Brad’s Wigglers, Pro Troll, Gibbs/Delta, Mack’s Lures/Shasta Tackle, Daiwa, Silver Horde, Hawken, Pure Fishing, Hot Spot, Yakima Bait, Poulsen Cascade and Western Filament, among others.

You can get tickets ($20 for adults, kids 14 and under are free) at Greg’s Custom Rods in Lake Stevens, John’s Sporting Goods in Everett, Ted’s Sports Center in Lynnwood, Triangle Bait & Tackle in Snohomish, 3 Rivers Marine in Woodinville and Holiday Sports in Burlington.

 

Ending Aerial Spraying Of Clearcuts Up For Vote In Oregon’s Lincoln County

Voters on Oregon’s thickly forested and heavily logged Central Coast will decide this coming Tuesday whether to ban the aerial spraying of tree farms, but advocates face stiff headwinds from local officials and the timber industry.

It marks a high point for those concerned about the large-scale use of pesticides in the Northwest on clearcuts, with worries centering around the chemicals, their composition and what happens when they drift from spray sites to nearby homes and streams or percolate into local ground water.

A CLEARCUT HILLSIDE RISES ABOVE THE SILETZ RIVER UPSTREAM OF MOONSHINE PARK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

And now in Lincoln County, some citizens want to prohibit corporate tree farmers from showering their plantations with the toxic stew that is meant to tamp down competition from brambles, brush and other fast-growing plants against valuable Douglas firs.

After getting enough signatures last year to put Measure 21-177 onto the ballot, it’s slated for a May 16 special election.

If approved, it would create the “Freedom from Aerial Sprayed Pesticides Ordinance of Lincoln County” and affect how timber owners such as Weyerhaeuser, Hancock Forest Management and others treat their lands after logging.

AN OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE TRAVEL MANAGEMENT AREA MAP SHOWS THE NUMEROUS PRIVATE TIMBERLAND OWNERS IN CENTRAL LINCOLN COUNTY AROUND NEWPORT, TOLEDO, SILETZ AND LOGSDON. BROWN DESIGNATES WEYERHAUESER, YELLOW HANCOCK, WITH BLUE STATE LANDS. (ODFW)

The measure comes as the issue of spraying clearcuts from helicopters and planes has been building, with significant coverage in recent years in The Oregonian, Oregon Public Broadcasting, High Country News and the Eugene Weekly.

Stories have focused on chemicals drifting onto rural schools and homes, forest workers who have been sickened, family animals dying, and spray being applied too close to waterways.

Supporters of the Lincoln County measure say it’s about protecting drinking water and themselves and reducing the problem of overspray.

INNER TUBERS ENJOY A FLOAT DOWN THE SILETZ RIVER LATE LAST SUMMER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

There’s been a heated debate in the local newspaper, where letters fill the opinion pages with each new biweekly issue of the Newport News Times, while slick brochures flood mailboxes and doorbellers talk to neighbors.

Among the opposition, all three Lincoln County commissioners and the sheriff. The Oregon Forest & Industries Council is also against it, saying in a voter’s pamphlet statement, “The prudent use of pesticides is a highly-regulated, important tool for successful forest regeneration.”

(A bill currently in the Oregon’s Senate would require the state Department of Forestry to be notified of proposed treatments.)

As a Weyerhaueser official explained for a Daily Astorian article last fall, timber companies could become “out of compliance” with state laws if their seedlings aren’t “free to grow” within half a dozen years of clearcutting.

FARMS IN LINCOLN COUNTY’S BIG ELK CREEK AND ALSEA RIVER VALLEYS SIT BELOW A MIX OF FEDERAL, STATE AND PRIVATE TIMBERLANDS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Some opponents have taken issue with several terms in the ballot measure, including construing the word “aerial” to apply to treating fishing boat hulls, and the words “direct action” to suggest the possibility of vigilantism by citizens.

Others say it would lead to higher labor costs — but on the flip side, that potentially also could mean more jobs.

Indeed, there are other ways to apply the chemicals than from a helicopter or plane, though even then there can be concerns. When Hancock wanted to backpack spray a cut above Depoe Bay, the mayor objected to the state Department of Forestry, because it was close to the city’s water supply and a salmon-bearing stream, and the timber company eventually backed down.

THE AUTHOR FISHES FOR SUMMER-RUN STEELHEAD IN THE SILETZ GORGE.

As it stands, next week’s vote will test which way the winds are blowing when it comes to aerially spraying tree farms in a county on Oregon’s coast, with implications beyond.

Editor’s disclosures: As you can see by the above images, I’ve spent a fair amount of time fishing and recreating in Lincoln County over the past decade, where my inlaws live. My father-in-law has been active in supporting the measure as well.

Bob Heirman Hikes On

It was with a heavy heart that I took my boys to a local wetland last Saturday to release coho fingerlings they’d been raising at school.

The weekend before, Robert “Bob” Heirman, a sportsman in the truest sense of the word, one who’d stocked untold numbers of fish into the rivers, lakes and ponds of the county just to our north (and in which I did a lot of growing up and where I’ve done plenty of fishing), had passed away. He was 84.

HEIRMAN WAS SOMEBODY I looked up to, a lifelong angler who took to the cutthroat-bearing “jump over” creeks around his hometown as a young boy in the 1930s and never looked back.

A train engineer by trade, he was the longtime secretary-treasurer of the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club, and in 1993 published Snohomish: My Beloved County.

The late Bob Heirman’s book cover shows the author leaning on a giant cedar near the South Fork of Canyon Creek, outside Granite Falls, during a 1981 steelheading trip.

As much a paean to the wonderful fishing he enjoyed from tidewater to foothills canyons to lofty tarns way back in the Cascades, it’s also a eulogy for the demise of the habitat needed to support salmon, steelhead and trout.

Gleaning his short stories for ideas on where to fish, you can’t help but get angry about how growth has destroyed so much as the county has rapidly urbanized, and how the runs have fallen, though there are remnants to hold on to tightly.

I remember a call in 2010 from Heirman. He was reacting to a rule change closing streams and beaver ponds – “a horrible loss of angling opportunity,” he’d called it.

He had tough words about the folks at Fish and Wildlife’s regional office, who were zealously trying to protect listed salmonids – and who also eventually backtracked to reopen some of his waters above waterfalls and other barriers where it made sense to.

OUR FISH, WATERS and fisheries need more people like Bob Heirman. The evidence is all around us.

One day last winter, Amy threw the boys and I out for a walk in the rain, and as is my custom, I led us over to a nearby stream to see how it was flowing. Except this time, it stank – a “run away from” creek, a travesty to the small waters so “vital to our salmon and trout production and … so valuable to fish enhancement as to be priceless,” in Heirman’s words.

Bob’s legacy will live on with his club, the ethic that comes through in his book and the county park where he spent a lot of time plunking for steelhead back in the day (and later this summer will provide anglers with access to returning pink salmon) and that bears his name, Heirman Wildlife Preserve at Thomas’ Eddy, land at one time threatened with a subdivision.

It’s funny, but when River and Kiran were letting those little coho go, a bunch of their fish somehow ended up named Bob, Bob Jr. and Bob Jr. Jr. It now seems a fitting tribute. –Andy Walgamott

River and Kiran release coho into a wetland at Grace Cole Natural Area. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)