All posts by Andy Walgamott

True Barn Door Caught In Straits

An estimated 225-pound halibut was landed in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca Saturday by Woodinville, Wash., angler Ryley Fee.


According to his Facebook page, the 75-inch-long fish yielded over 130 pounds of fillet.

Fee credits the team of anglers he was with on the water west of Port Townsend and north of Discovery Bay. He describes the bite and fight on Piscatorialpursuits:

“We picked this fish up on a mound northwest McCurdy Pt. between Dallas and the Yellow can in 180 F.O.W. Fish bit a Black Label herring with a Silver Horde 10 inch Splatterback Hoochie skirt over the herring, 125# test leader off a spreader.


“That’s probably the biggest one I’ve heard of caught so far,” says WDFW’s Larry Bennett, a longtime catch sampler for the norther Olympic Peninsula.

He says a pair of 200-pounders were also brought back to John Wayne Marina as well this season, and on Saturday, Isaac Buell hauled in an unexpected 149-pounder to Port Townsend.

Bennett says Buell and a friend had actually been out lingcod fishing near Partridge Point, on Whidbey Island, when they hit that fish — plus a 49-pounder.

Fee’s fish is right up there with some of the larger halibut landed in the Strait in recent seasons. Bob Aunspach at Swain’s in Port Angeles, a store which holds an annual halibut derby, says he’s seen fish from 150 pounds up to 220 to 230 pounds in the back half of this decade.

“Sure is a big fish,” adds Ron Garner, a local big-but catcher. “There are some big barn doors out there.”

The state record is a 288-pounder caught at Swiftsure Bank, at the west end of the Strait by Vic Stevens in September 1989.

By all accounts, halibut fishing in the Straits is pretty good so far this year.

“Probably the best I’ve ever seen – ever,” Aunspach says. “Good numbers — a lot in that 50-and-under range. Some really big catches.”

Adds Lori Peterson, a WDFW catch sampling manager, “We’re averaging a fish a boat in Area 6.”

According to Bennett, 952 anglers in 452 boats caught 415 halibut in three days of sampling at five different ramps. Friday saw some of the best catches — 147 flatties for 258 anglers aboard 116 boats that docked at Ediz Hook, he says.

“A lot of fish in the 20- to 25-pound range — that’s probably average,” he says.

Last week’s tides were very good for fishing — minimal movement — but a daytime minus tide might make it tough this weekend, Bennett says.

While the catches are good, he says something else is going on: “We’ve got everyone and his brother out there — that’s kind of panic fishing.”

Last year, season was open 31 days, he says, this year only 13 days due to reduced quotas from Federal managers.

Halibut fishing in Area 6 is open May 1-May 22 Thursdays through Sundays, and May 28, 29 and 30, daily limit one.

Asked if we’ll see any more monster’s like Fee’s over the next three weekends, Garner responds, “I think so.”

His cell phone’s voice message indicates he just might be on the water those weekends too.

Fee will have more on his catch later this week.

Over on the Pacific, Terry Wiest of SalmonUniversity says that the halibut there seem to be “noticeably smaller” this year. He and a friend did find a pair in the upper 20s to low 30s this past weekend out of Westport.


For an interesting recounting of the weather-delayed opening day of season out of Ilwaco, check out Scott Sandsberry’s article


Mid-Columbia To Close For Springers

UPDATED 12:40 P.M.: Oregon and Washington salmon managers announced this afternoon that the mid-Columbia River will close Monday, May 10, for spring Chinook.

The decision affects the river from the Tower Island power lines (roughly 6 miles below The Dalles Dam) upstream to McNary Dam as well as the Oregon and Washington banks from Bonneville Dam to the Tower Island power lines.

They estimate that through May 9, 3,400 springers will have been caught in that stretch by sport anglers.

With the current return estimate of 310,000 to 370,000 upper Columbia system springers, a “closure is necessary to ensure other fisheries have similar opportunity at the reduced run size level,” a fact sheet out this morning says.

However, the managers reopened hatchery salmon and steelhead fishing in the four SAFE areas near the mouth of the Columbia starting tomorrow, May 8. They had closed Youngs Bay, Knappa Slough and elsewhere after a large number of upriver-bound springers unexpectedly moved into them.

“Based on the results of the test fishing and limited commercial fishing in the Select Areas, the number of upriver fish in these areas has decreased and is expected to remain at low levels,” the fact sheet says.

Overall, 174,000 springers have passed Bonneville Dam as of May 6, “the highest cumulative count to date since 2002 and the 3rd highest count to date (1977-current),” the fact sheet states.

It also indicates that the overall recreational and commercial upriver springer catch from the mouth up into the Snake and upper Columbia through May 9 will stand at 36,623.


3 More Springer Spots Opening

Even as the springer run over Bonneville appears more and more like it won’t meet preseason predictions, WDFW and ODFW today announced three more openers in the Columbia River system.

With around 800 Chinook already at Washington’s Scanewa Lake according to local fisheries biologist Wolf Dammers, the Cowlitz River reservoir will open May 8 for hatchery Chinook, daily limit six, but only two adults.

“Guys come over from Yakima to fish it,” he says. “There can be, on a busy weekend, 100 boats.”

Tacoma Power trucks the springers up from the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery to the remote lake, also known as Cowlitz Falls Reservoir.

“They’re in real good shape,” says Dammers of the fish.

He says radio-tagging work show that they tend to hold in the reservoir for a long time, but the fishery’s limiting factor is runoff from Mt. Rainier’s glaciers which clouds the water when it warms up, typically by early June.

“Most of the guys use herring,” Dammers says. “That’s the bait of choice.”

He says springers will be put into the lake as long as the salmon hatchery has a surplus. Tacoma Power also has been plunking springers into the Cispus River and Skate Creek, both of which are open now.

Up in Northeast Oregon, the Wallowa and Imnaha Rivers will open May 22, ODFW said this afternoon. Managers expect a total of 3,000 adult springers to both rivers, and while runoff might make things a go of it early on, catch rates are expected to rise as flows drop, a biologist says.

Meanwhile, a Columbia River salmon manager this afternoon still didn’t have word whether we’d reached the midpoint of the run which is expected this week.

“We’re right in there,” said Cindy Le Fleur at WDFW’s Vancouver office.

When the midpoint is know, managers can say whether or not there will be additional fisheries.

In recent days, the dam count has begun tailing off; yesterday, 4,289 went over Bonneville, though the count was as high as 9,184 as recently as Monday. Peak day was 11,697 on April 21, with total passage through May 5 of 167,659.

Earlier this week, managers indicated the run could end up somewhere between 310,000 and 370,000, and today’s Northwest Fishletter has two more guesses:

Another passage predictor developed by the University of Washington has estimated that about 63 percent of the upriver run had passed Bonneville Dam by May 2, and pegged the return at about 262,000 fish. A different UW analysis pegged the return to Bonneville at 49 percent.

The preseason forecast was 470,000, an average of seven different predictors that spat out run sizes from 366,000 to 528,000.

Last Clam Dates Tentatively Set; Diggers Spent $27m


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today announced a tentative razor-clam dig scheduled for later this month on several coastal beaches.

A final decision will be made next week after marine toxin tests are run to determine if the clams are safe to eat. If the tests come back as expected, four ocean beaches will open on Saturday, May 15 and two beaches will open the following day. The openings are all on morning low tides. They are:

* Saturday, May 15, 8:15 a.m., -1.6 ft.: Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks.
* Sunday, May 16, 8:58 a.m., -1.6 ft.: Long Beach and Twin Harbors only.

Kalaloch beach will remain closed.

Dan Ayres, WDFW’s coastal shellfish manager, reminds diggers that portions of the beach at Long Beach and Twin Harbors are closed to the public to protect nesting western snowy plovers, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

“The birds are particularly vulnerable this time of year,” said Ayres. “Signs clearly mark the area and instruct people to stay on the hard-packed sand.”

The closed portion at each beach includes the area above the mean high tide line. At Long Beach, the closed areas are located north of the Oysterville Road from the state park boundary north to Leadbetter Point. At Twin Harbors, the closed areas are located from just south of Midway Beach Road to the first beach-access trail at Grayland Beach State Park. Clam diggers are reminded that the entire northern section of Long Beach is closed to all driving starting at noon each day during this razor clam opener.

No digging will be allowed after noon at any of the beaches. Under WDFW rules, harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 taken, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s limit must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers 15 years or older must have an applicable 2010-11 fishing license. Options include buying a combination license or an annual shellfish/seaweed license. Also available are razor-clam only licenses in annual or three-day only versions. Descriptions of the licensing options are on the WDFW website at .

Licenses can be purchased online or at any of the approximately 600 vendors who sell recreational licenses. A list of vendors is at

The next razor-clam season will likely open in October. Ayres says the precise date will depend on tides, the results of marine toxin tests, negotiations with tribes that share the fishery and WDFW’s razor-clam assessment, which will be conducted this summer.

Prospective clammers for this month’s dig should be warned that overnight and weekend repairs to Interstate 5 between Tacoma and Lacey will make it considerably more difficult to get to and from Washington’s coast. A schedule of closures can be found at

Ayres estimates that approximately 300,000 trips will have been made to Washington beaches to dig clams by the time this season closes. Since the season opened last October, an estimated four million razor-clams were harvested from beaches that stretch from the mouth of the Columbia River north to Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park. That number is considerably higher than the 2.9 million average for the past 10 years. Ayres says the larger harvest reflects an increase in the total number of clams available “compliments of Mother Nature.”

WDFW also estimates that razor-clam diggers spent approximately $27 million during their visits to coastal communities during this season. The estimate is based on data collected during a survey of Washington razor clam diggers, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and conducted by the University of Washington.


ODFW To Talk Groundfish


Meetings in five Oregon ports will discuss sport and commercial groundfish issues for 2011 and 2012.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) is currently setting harvest levels and management measures for the next two years of recreational and commercial groundfish fishing. Eight West Coast groundfish species are declared overfished with six of those species affecting fisheries off Oregon.

In April the PFMC adopted preferred harvest levels for both depleted and healthy stocks, as well as a range of management measures for all groundfish fisheries. At the next PFMC meeting on June 12-17 in Foster City, Calif., the council will take final action and adopt management measures that will be recommended to the National Marine Fisheries Service for implementation.

“It is important that fishers attend the ODFW meetings so they can tell Oregon’s representatives to the PFMC what messages to give the council,” said Gway Kirchner, Assistant Program Manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Resources Program.

The meetings will be:

  • Astoria, 7 to 9 p.m. May 17 at the Holiday Inn Express, 204 W. Marine Drive;
  • Newport, 7 to 9 p.m. May 18 at the Holiday Inn Express, 135 SE 32nd St.;
  • North Bend, 6 to 8 p.m. May 19 at the North Bend Library, 1800 Sherman Ave.;
  • Brookings, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. May 20 at the Best Western Beachfront Inn, 16008 Boat Basin Road, Harbor;
  • Port Orford, 6 to 8 p.m. May 20 at the Port Orford Library, 1421 Oregon St.

The meetings will start with a general session to discuss harvest levels, then commercial and sport fishing breakout sessions to discuss specific management measures. If individuals are unable to attend the meetings, input can be submitted by e-mail at or by calling Gway Kirchner at 541-867-0300 ext. 267. Input may be received up until June 10.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

Limits of rockfish out of Garibaldi and lings biting elsewhere; trout in a plethora of ponds; springers surging upstream into the Rogue and lower Columbia tribs;  youth angling events — sheesh, there’s a ton of fisheries around Oregon to check out this weekend!

Here are highlights from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:


  • Trout stocking is well underway on area lakes and ponds. Check out the stocking schedule to help plan your next trip.
  • Chinook fishing on the middle and upper Rogue River is starting to pick up and should continue to improve as more fish enter the upper river.


  • South, Town and Cape Meares lakes are scheduled to be stocked with legal size rainbow trout the week of May 10. Trout scheduled to be stocked in Hebo Lake will instead be split between South and Town lakes, increasing the number fish released into those lakes. Fishing should be fair to good in many of the lakes and ponds that have been stocked this spring.  Warmwater species will begin to be more active as lakes warm up, although cool spring weather is slowing that process.
  • Spring Chinook are available in Big Creek, Gnat Creek, and the NF Klaskanine. Good opportunities are available in these streams for adipose fin-clipped Chinook that have passed through the select area fisheries. The select area fisheries remain closed at this time, allowing fish to continue to move into these tributaries.
  • Nestucca River: Steelhead angling has been fair. The catch is a mix of bright summer steelhead and winter steelhead in various conditions. Many of the winter steelhead are dark and should be released. Bobber and jigs are working well as the water drops, but drifting small lures or baits near the bottom is producing fish also. Spring chinook will begin to sow in small numbers any time now. Fishing will improve in May. Concentrate on tidewater or lower river areas early in the season. Bobber and eggs is a good technique. Casting spinners in tidewater areas will produce some fish also.


  • ODFW will host a free youth fishing event Saturday, May 8 at Commonwealth Lake. The lake will be stocked this week with more than 200 legal-sized and larger rainbow trout. ODFW staff and volunteers will be at the site from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to help youngsters with fishing gear and technique.
  • Several huge brood trout will be released at various sites throughout the month of May. These are fish that have been used to produce eggs at ODFW’s Roaring River hatchery and need to be removed to make way for younger brood stock. The first one to be released was a 29-pound trout that was released in Timber Linn Pond near Albany. The other sites and release dates are as follows: Canby Pond (May 7), Walter Wirth Pond in Salem (May 13), Waverly Lake, Albany (May 14), Sunnyside Park Pond, Sweethome (May 21), and Thistle Pond, west of Alsea, (June 12).
  • Spring chinook are now being taken on the Willamette River and in the Multnomah Channel.
  • More than 14,000 spring chinook have crossed Willamette Falls and are moving into the upper Willamette and its tributaries.
  • Steelhead fishing is good on the Clackamas River, with both summers and winters being caught. Spring chinook should be moving into the system as well.
  • Detroit Reservoir will receive its fourth stocking of 10,000 trout this week.


  • Warmer days are bringing some good insect hatches on the Deschutes and Crooked rivers.
  • Crane Prairie Reservoir is ice-free and trout fishing has been great.


  • The Umatilla spring chinook season is under way with the area downstream of Threemile Dam producing good catches of spring chinook.
  • There will be a fishing event May 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Peach Pond. The pond is located on Ladd Marsh near La Grande.  Loaner rods and reels, and bait will be available for new anglers who don’t have their own.


  • Ocean conditions did allow some fishers to get out for bottom fish last week. Only Garibaldi reported fishers getting limits of rockfish. Most other ports reported three or four rockfish per angler caught. About one in four anglers caught lingcod along the coast. Success in catching lings and most other bottom fish improves as waves moderate.

Cabela’s Coming To Eugene Area

Cabela’s today announced plans to open a store in Springfield, Ore., next year, according to a press release from the company.

The Beaver State’s first Cabela’s, the 58,000-square-foot facility will be located in the Gateway Mall at 3000 Gateway Street.

Construction is expected to begin in mid-August.

The Sidney, Nebraska-based company has three other stores in the Northwest; Lacey, Wash. (185,000 square feet), Boise (175,000 sq. ft.) and Post Falls (125,000 sq. ft.), Idaho.

The new store will include an aquarium, conservation-themed wildlife displays and trophy animal mounts as well as a gun library, fly fishing shop, general store and bargain cave.

For the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, it presents another group to work with as it tries to get more folks outside.

“Cabela’s brings a strong tradition of supporting hunting, fishing and camping through clinics and classes. We look forward to possibly partnering with them to get people outdoors,” says David Lane, the agency’s marketing coordinator in Salem.

New Springer Run Guess: 310K-370K

Even though the count at Bonneville is the highest it’s been since 2002 and third highest since 1977, it looks like the upriver spring Chinook forecast may come in lower than anticipated.

“It is still too early for TAC to provide a reliable point estimate but TAC provided a range of 310,000-370,000 based on passage to date,” a fact sheet from Washington and Oregon fishery managers out this morning says. “TAC also estimates that the run timing for 2010 is somewhat earlier than the very late runs seen in the last five years, and anticipates that the 50% passage date will likely occur sometime this week.”

A total of 158,562 have gone over the dam through May 3, nearly 50,000 more than the 10-year average. Another 35,275 that would have have been killed in sport and commercial fisheries (below Bonneville: sports: 23,533; nets: 8,787; another 2,955 middle and upper Columbia and Snake river non-treaty fisheries).

This year’s prediction called for 470,000 above-Bonneville springers. However, that number is actually an average of seven different forecast models that rang up a runsize of anywhere from 366,000 to 528,000.

There’s no word about any general Lower Columbia fishing reopener in the fact sheet — managers are still waiting to do that early-May run update — but commercial fisheries at four SAFE areas down by Astoria was approved late this morning.

“Volunteer test fishing conducted in Youngs Bay upstream of the Old Youngs Bay Bridge on Sunday, May 2 showed a high abundance of locally-produced spring Chinook (110 fish observed) with zero upriver fish,” the fact sheet states.

They were closed a couple weeks ago because of large catches of upriver-bound Chinook there.

The fact sheet says that, depending on how those go, sport fishing may be reopened at Deep River, Knappa Slough, Tongue Point and Youngs Bay.

There’s room in the preseason guideline for about 3,000 more of those springers to be caught by sports and netters below Bonneville.

SW WA Fishing Report



Cowlitz River – Some spring chinook and steelhead are being caught.  Most of the chinook are being caught at the barrier dam while steelhead are being caught throughout the river.  Anglers should note the south side of the river from Mill Creek to the Barrier Dam is closed to all fishing through mid June per permanent regulations.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 1,105 winter-run steelhead, 26 summer-run steelhead, 614 spring Chinook adults and ten jacks during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.  Tacoma Power employees released 271 spring Chinook adults, four jacks and 22 winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa at the Day Use Park above Cowlitz Falls Dam, 237 spring Chinook adults, three jacks and 14 winter-run steelhead into the upper Cowlitz River at Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, Washington, and one winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 3,540 cubic feet per second on Monday, May 3. Water visibility is nine feet.

Kalama River – Some spring chinook and steelhead are being caught though the river has been turbid at times.  The first 7 spring chinook of the year returned to Kalama Falls Hatchery last week.


Lewis River – Generally light effort and catch the couple days we sampled.  A couple hundred spring chinook were in the Merwin Dam trap today.

Wind River – Slightly less than one in every 3 boat anglers had caught a spring chinook when sampled last week.  Bank anglers at the mouth were also catching some fish.

No report from Shipherd Falls upstream that opened May 1.  However some fish should be present as total passage of hatchery chinook at the Shipherd Falls trap through April 25 was approximately 300 fish.  The trap was pulled on Sunday, April 25.  There will be no further counting of chinook through the trap until early June, 2010.

Drano Lake – Just over 40% of the boat and bank anglers had caught a spring chinook when sampled last week.

Klickitat River – Bank anglers from the Fisher Hill Bridge downstream are catching some spring chinook and summer run steelhead.

Bonneville Pool – Some spring chinook are being caught by bank anglers just outside the mouth of Drano Lake.

The Dalles Pool – About one in five bank anglers while one in six boat anglers had kept/released a spring chinook when sampled last week.  Overall 82% of the fish caught were kept.

John Day Pool – From Paul Hoffarth Washington Dept of Fish & Wildlife District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco WAFor the week of April 26 – May 2, an estimated 558 adult hatchery chinook were harvested and 138 wild chinook were released. The majority of the harvest were retained by bank anglers fishing the Oregon shore. WDFW staff interviewed 282 salmon anglers this past week and sampled 90 hatchery chinook. For the season, an estimated 1,453 adult hatchery chinook have been harvested and 298 wild chinook were released.


Lower Columbia mainstem from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – Sturgeon catch has improved from Kalama upstream with one in five boat anglers keeping/releasing a legal size fish last week.  Effort remains light with just over a hundred boats and 40 bank anglers counted during the Saturday May 1 flight.

The Dalles Pool – Slow for legal size fish.  Wednesday May 5 is the last day of the year that sturgeon may be kept from The Dalles Pool.


The Dalles Pool – The few boat anglers sampled did well on walleye.  Some bass were caught by bank anglers.

John Day Pool – The few boat anglers sampled did well on bass and walleye.


Last week’s trout plants:

Kress Lake near Kalama – 19 surplus hatchery winter run steelhead averaging 10 pounds each;

Battleground Lake – 4,000 catchable size cutthroats and 1,500 rainbows averaging ¾ pound each;

Klineline Pond – 4,000 catchable size cutthroats;

Lacamas Lake near Camas – 10,000 catchable size browns

Anglers Urged To Write Seattle Mayor

With word that there’s been a “pause” in awarding a bid to build the long-awaited new sockeye hatchery on Western Washington’s Cedar River, anglers are being asked to email Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and tell him to trust the science of state, tribal and city biologists.

“Some of us believe the sockeye run is just as important as the Space Needle,” reads an “action alert” being forwarded to fishermen and recreational angling interests today.

It follows up on WDFW’s release of an independent review of the salmon in the Lake Washington system as well as a Seattle Times article that indicates the document could affect the plans to expand the hatchery.

The review said that too many sockeye fry flooding into the lake in odd years hurts adult returns, and finds other factors that may be at play in the salmon’s up-and-down cycles, and which have been down since 2006.

“My expectation is we will go on pause,” Judith Noble at Seattle Public Utilities told Times reporter Lynda V. Mapes in an April 28 article.

SPU is building the facility, which for years had been tied up in court, but then earlier this year got a final permit to begin construction.

WDFW will hold a public meeting May 28 in Issaquah to talk about the document; Mapes’ article indicates that tribal bios aren’t too pleased with it.

The fishery is immensely popular when it opens; around 60,000 were caught by sports anglers alone during the last opener, in 2006.

Anglers are being urged to write McGinn ( as well as cc acting SPU chief Ray Hoffman ( and WDFW director Phil Anderson ( in their own words about how wonderful the sockeye fishery is, that they understand there’s new science, to not just pull the plug on the project, and that adaptive management is the way to proceed.

The email says there are ways to get around the production bottleneck for fry at the lake’s south end such as trucking the fish to “the middle of the lake where this is adequate food.”

For more, see the text here.

A spokesman at the mayor’s office could not immediately be reached for comments.