All posts by Andy Walgamott

Shooting Two Bulls Costs Kelso Man $10K

A man who shot a pair of trophy bulls in Washington’s Blue Mountains – the first illegally filled the tag of his wife back home on the Westside – is out more than $10,000 and can’t hunt for two years.

Christopher Mayeda, 38, of Kelso pled guilty to “unlawful hunting of big game 2nd degree; unlawful transportation of fish or wildlife 1st degree; unlawful purchase or use of a license 2nd degree; and providing false information regarding fish and wildlife,” according to Columbia County District Court, and on Dec. 16 was fined $1,000, and must pay court costs, including a civil judgment for a big game violation, totaling $6,295.

He also paid $3,000 to get his seized pickup truck back, reports the Daily News of Longview.

Mayeda and wife, Tracey, 40, were lucky enough to draw into two of the four muzzleloader tags given out for the Dayton Unit in 2008, and soon after the hunt started, he bagged a 6×6. He slapped Tracey’s tag on it and called her to come get the bull, then went out hunting the next day and killed a 6×7, which he tagged with his own permit, according to the paper’s accounts.

“There’s just a little bit of greed getting involved there,” WDFW warden Bill Lantiegne told the paper in mid-October.

Photos we’ve obtained from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife show the two big bulls.

(WDFW)

(WDFW)

While charges were dropped against Tracey, two others involved in the incident, Jason M. Ford, 39, of Castle Rock, and Steven A. Hamm, 33, of Kelso also pled guilty and were fined, the Daily News reported.

Cascade Set To Reopen

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE)

Action: The lower section of the Cascade River that was previously closed will re-open to fishing for game fish.

Effective dates: Jan. 10, 2010.

Species affected: All gamefish.

Location: Cascade River from the mouth upstream to Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge.

Reasons for action: Hatchery winter steelhead broodstock collection has been achieved.

Other information: Please see the Sport Fishing Rules 2009/2010 Pamphlet Edition, FISHING IN WASHINGTON, for a complete listing of fishing seasons and regulations.

‘A Pile Of Steelhead’ Show In NW OR

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The same conditions that led to a banner run of hatchery coho salmon last year appear to have had a similar effect beneficial to winter steelhead.

Several Northwest Region fish hatcheries operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are reporting strong returns of winter steelhead. The good early winter steelhead returns come on the heels of a strong coho run last fall. Biologists believe that good flows for outbound smolts in 2008, followed by favorable ocean conditions contributed to better than average survival rates for both runs of fish.

“We have a pile of steelhead showing up in some of these rivers,” said Robert Bradley, assistant fish biologist for ODFW’s North Coast Watershed District.

SCOTT DICKEY FOUND THIS STEELIE IN THE SALMON RIVER, AROUND MILE POST 9, ON DEC. 28, REPORTS FRIEND JASON HARRIS. "HE WAS THROWING A NO. 3 BLUE FOX IN A TROUT PATTERN AND HAD IT LANDED PRETTY QUICKLY." (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

On the coast, early hatchery winter steelhead have provided good fishing opportunities in several streams. When angling conditions have been favorable, catches of early returning hatchery winter steelhead have generally been good. Large numbers of fish are still available in the river, as evidenced by increasing numbers of fish being collected at hatchery traps. The North Fork Nehalem in particular has seen periods of very good fishing since mid-December. Well over 1,000 returning adult hatchery winter steelhead have been trapped at Nehalem Hatchery so far this season.

The Necanicum River, Big Creek, Gnat Creek, Klaskanine River and Three Rivers (in the Nestucca River basin) are other streams offering good early season hatchery winter steelhead opportunities. Due to their smaller size, these streams tend to be in fishable condition more often, as they clear more quickly than larger streams.

“There will be lots of bright, chrome fish in these streams for the next two or three weeks,” said Bradley. “In another month, most of the early returning hatchery winter steelhead will be gone, so we really encourage people to get out and take advantage of this opportunity while it lasts.”

Farther inland, the Sandy and Clackamas rivers and Eagle Creek are seeing large returns, and ODFW’s fish counting station at Willamette Falls is seeing some of its largest steelhead crossings in recent years, according to Todd Alsbury, district fish biologist for ODFW’s North Willamette Watershed.

KEEVIN COLLIER OF PORTLAND IS AMONG THE ANGLERS GETTING IN ON A GOOD WINTER RUN AROUND NORTHWEST OREGON. HE CAUGHT THIS NICE STEELIE IN THE CLACK. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

The six coastal streams are relatively small, and most of the fishing in their waters is done from bank. All six streams are reasonably accessible by vehicle or by foot, although anglers need to be mindful of private property. Persons who possess disabled angler permits may fish from an ADA accessible fishing platform located immediately below the Nehalem Fish Hatchery. The lower Sandy and Clackamas are popular for both boat and bank fishing. Eagle Creek is a bank fishing-only stream.

The bag limit is two adipose fin-clipped steelhead a day.

Recorded information about current river conditions can be accessed by calling the Nehalem hatchery at 503-368-5670 or the Big Creek hatchery at 503-458-6529. Weekly reports are also available on ODFW’s Web site at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/RR/northwest.

2010 OR Rockfish Limit To Remain 7

Despite a 2009 black rockfish catch that came in 120 metric tons under the state quota, Oregon’s will keep the daily limit of seven bottomfish for 2010, reports Mark Freeman in the Medford Mail Tribune.

The quota of 440 metric tons will also remain the same this year as state managers continue to try and protect slower growing species such as yelloweye and canary rockfish, he writes.

Overcatches of those two could spark season closures on other rockfish.

“We could have gone to 10 or 12 fish (a day) and still stay under the quota,” Bandon charter captain Wayne Butler tells Freeman, “But the yelloweye were the drivers that kept us from doing that.”

The reporter as well as an ODFW press release point out that the daily limit was misprinted as six in the 2010 regulations pamphlet.

Writes ODFW:

The marine fish bag includes rockfish and other species such as greenling and cabezon. The higher bag limit went into effect May 1, 2009 based on a favorable stock assessment for black rockfish, the dominant species in the nearshore groundfish fishery. There are separate daily limits for lingcod (two) and flatfish other than Pacific halibut (25). Yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish may not be retained.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the seven fish limit into permanent regulations in April 2009. The error in the 2010 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations booklet occurs on page 100 where is states the daily bag limit for marine fish (rockfish, greenling, Pacific cod, cabezon, skates and other species not listed on pages 100-101) is six fish in aggregate; it should be seven fish in aggregate.

WDFW Investigates Swan Shooting

The story of a swan illegally shot early last week is breaking hearts in Spokane today.

Local resident James Nelson of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council fears the trumpeter, which was found wounded on the Colville River Dec. 28 and then euthanized by a state Fish & Wildlife enforcement officer, may be “Solo,” a male trumpeter that until last year was single for nearly two decades, or his mate that he sired a hatch with last summer at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Whether it is indeed the long-lived swan — estimated to be up to 46 years old — local birdwatchers are offering a reward, an amount that’s climbed to $1,600, according to Rich Landers’ piece in the Spokesman-Review today.

Word of the shooting came out in yesterday’s Weekender. It’s being investigated by enforcement officer Dan Anderson.

Agency spokeswoman Madonna Luers says that it appears to not be hunting related, rather “another random act of senselessness,” Landers reports.

He writes that a grayish vehicle was seen in the area after the sounds of gunshots were heard.

Nelson, single for around 30 years, says that Landers’ articles on Solo have touched his heart.

The reporter wrote up the tale of the bird last June in a story headlined “Elderly swan a dad again after 22 years.”

So tickled were the folks at Turnbull, they fired off a press release, “Solo is a Dad.”

They’ve also put together a fact sheet on him and other trumpeters at the refuge southwest of Spokane.

Not Ready for His Swan Song

Improbable survival tales aren’t unique to humans. A venerable trumpeter swan nicknamed Solo has become a legend at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in Washington, where he is the lone survivor of a once-resident flock. Biologists believe the long-lived bird may be one of the original cygnets introduced to Turnbull Refuge in the 1960s.

The idea then was to protect the species by spreading it through more of its historic range. Conservationists brought in groups of swans from Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana until Turnbull’s spring population peaked at almost 30 birds in 1976. That year, the refuge stopped supplemental feeding and pond aeration in hopes that the swans would find a more hospitable winter habitat and then return in the spring. It didn’t work. The birds scattered; some were shot, some eaten by predators, some flew into power lines, some succumbed to drought.

By 1980, there was only one active breeding pair – including Solo. Then Solo’s mate was killed ? probably by a coyote ? in 1988. In 1992, a new female joined Solo. The pair built a nest platform but laid no eggs. The female disappeared in 1994 and no regular family group has formed since then.

Biologists estimate Solo’s age at between 43 and 46 ? ancient in swan years; few swans live past 30. Solo’s collar fell off four years ago, but refuge staff knows him by his behavior. “He shows up here soon after thaw before any other swans are on the refuge,” says refuge biologist Mike Rule, “and then he’s here throughout the summer, long after all other swans have left. He’s tied to this one wetland, where he had nested with his mate and where she was killed, and he defends it against all comers. He doesn’t really bother with ducks, but boy, he just won’t tolerate Canada geese.”

Solo resides year-round at Turnbull Refuge, leaving briefly only when the water freezes.

His return to the NWR last March was picked up everywhere from Tri-Cities to Lewiston to Medford.

Anyone with information on the shooting is being asked to contact WDFW’s poaching hotline, (877) 933-9847.

Those interested in contributing to the reward fund can contact Spokane birder Warren Current at (509) 675-4145.

Nisqually To Close Early For Salmon

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE)

Action: Close Nisqually River to recreational fishing.

Effective dates: Jan. 9, 2010, until further notice.

Species affected: Salmon.

Location: Nisqually River from the mouth to military tank crossing bridge (located one mile upstream of mouth of Muck Creek).

Reasons for action: Based on spawner surveys and harvest information, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is concerned that the winter chum return to the Nisqually River is not as abundant as forecast and has the potential to fall short of the escapement goal. Given this information and the need to achieve shared conservation goals, both WDFW and the Nisqually Tribe are closing their respective fisheries for chum salmon.

Other information: Because the river is already closed to fishing for species other than salmon, this regulation effectively closes the river to all fishing. Anglers should refer to the Sport Fishing Rules 2009/2010 Pamphlet Edition, FISHING IN WASHINGTON for other ongoing fishing opportunities.

Washington (And Witkowski) Waterfowl Report

The waterfowl hunting’s not the greatest across the Evergreen State, but Jack’s sure getting a workout.

That would be Jack, the chocolate Lab.

Course, any fowl hound owned by a pretty sharp duck and goose hunter by the name of Jeff Witkowski in Chelan is going to get work in winter and fall.

Of late, the duo has been out banging around the west side of the Columbia Basin finding some mallards and Canadas.

But when Jeff sent me some nice shots of Jack this week, he may have done it moreso because his faithful friend is getting up there.

“I know any bird pics I send you now won’t be useful to you till next season, but this is Jack’s 12th year, he is really slowing down, he wants to get on the cover just one more time before he is done,” Jeff wrote me on Monday. “Sunday, only 2 mallards deked all day, got ’em both (I’m not griping, drake was banded) and only one flock of geese deked. Got 4 with 3 shots. All lessers but I will take ’em. I have been doing 4 for 3 shots 4 to 5 times every season lately on geese, have been really lucky. Yesterday was my b-day, Jack and I jump shot this really nice limit, greenheads and a drake pin. Cool b-day present. Well, time to go flail again. Take care.”

JACK WITH A BANDED MALLARD. (JEFF WITKOWSKI)

THE OLD DOG'S LIMIT. (JEFF WITKOWSKI)

After yesterday’s successful hunt, Jeff wrote again. “Nifty double on mallards today and the hen was banded! 2 bands in 3 days? God digs me!”

TWO BANDS IN THREE DAYS FOR JEFF AND JACK. (JEFF WITKOWSKI)

GRIZZLED VETS FROM THE 2009-10 WATERFOWL CAMPAIGN. (JEFF WITKOWSKI)

Elsewhere in Eastern Washington, with waterfowl hunting continuing through January, WDFW’s waterfowl specialist Mikal Moore in Ephrata notes “unsettled weather” in the Columbia Basin has caused unpredictable waterfowl movements, according to today’s Weekender report from the agency.

“Large flights of mallards and northern pintails can be seen coming off the irrigation wasteways, Potholes Reservoir and Moses Lake near dusk to feed on corn stubble fields,” Moore said. “Goose hunters report having to work hard to get their birds, though overall goose numbers seem to be increasing in the area, particularly western Canada geese, or ‘honkers’.  The geese prefer feeding in disked corn, alfalfa, and winter wheat fields, but tend to avoid fields with tall stubble or poor visibility.”

WDFW district wildlife biologist Rich Finger of Moses Lake reports recent rain showers have removed much of the snow cover in the lower elevations south of Ephrata in the Columbia Basin.

“Considerable pooling of water has occurred in the agricultural lands due to frozen ground,” Finger said.  “Most non-moving water is still frozen solid and will likely remain so for the remainder of the waterfowl season.  Geese are abundant between Moses Lake and Othello and mallards seem to be scattered throughout the Basin in relatively low numbers.”

Moore notes that the annual mid-winter waterfowl aerial survey is scheduled this month and results will be posted as soon as available on WDFW’s northcentral region webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/reg/eventopp/events2.htm.

Across the Cascades, WDFW reports:

Snow geese are plentiful in the (North Sound), and hunting for the birds has recently improved, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager. Kraege encourages eligible hunters to hunt for snow geese at the quality hunt units on Fir Island and in Stanwood. “Not a lot of hunters who have signed up for the quality hunts are currently using those areas, which should provide great hunting opportunities for snow geese throughout January,” he said.

Hunters must have written authorization to hunt for snow geese in Goose Management Area 1 and written authorization to hunt the quality hunt units. Hunters also must possess a Washington small game hunting license and a state migratory bird validation, as well as a federal migratory bird stamp.

For more information on the quality hunt units and the quality hunt program visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/snow_goose .

WDFW will soon make an announcement on whether the tentatively scheduled brant hunt in Skagit County will open. Aerial surveys of brant populations have been delayed by weather, but should take place in the next several days, said Kraege. At least 6,000 brant must be counted in Skagit County before hunting is allowed. Hunters should keep checking WDFW’s website for an announcement on the season, which is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 16, 17, 20, 23, 24, 27, 30 and 31.

Meanwhile, the brant hunting season in Pacific County is just around the corner. That hunt is scheduled for Jan. 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23 and 24.

POSTSCRIPT:  After I posted this piece Wednesday afternoon, I fired the URL over to Jeff. Guess what he and Jack were up to yesterday? Yup.

A GROWLER FOR LAB JACK. (JEFF WITKOWSKI)

This morning he’s out scouting for the next hunt, “maybe jump shoot a little. Same routine, day after day- scout, hunt, sleep- scout, hunt, sleep… Will it ever end? HAHA.”

“By the way,” Jeff asks, “just who ya calling ‘grizzled?'”

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

There are blackmouth to be caught, rainbows, perch and crappie to be iced and, if the rivers would settle, steelhead to be caught around Washington.

Possibly the best bet, though, is at Lake Roosevelt

“Anglers report that trout fishing … is the best it’s been in 10 years,” WDFW reports in the agency’s first biweekly Weekender of 2010.

Adds my reporter Leroy Ledeboer in Moses Lake this afternoon, “Just talked to Gordie Steinmetz.  He used two rods, Berkley Frenzies in size 5 and 7, and caught 18 in a couple hours.  That’s hot trout fishing.”

Here’s more by region:

NORTH PUGET SOUND

Anglers have been reeling in some blackmouth in the marine areas and there have been a few scattered reports of steelhead caught in the rivers but, overall, fishing in the region continues to be slow.

“It’s been quiet out there,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fisheries biologist. “Effort continues to be light, and those who are getting out have had to work to find fish.”

One bright spot has been the San Juan Islands, where fishing has been fair for blackmouth, Thiesfeld said.

“Like elsewhere, there are not a lot of anglers fishing there, but those who have put in some time over the last week are finding fish.”

Anglers fishing Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) – as well as marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) – have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) re-opens for salmon fishing beginning Jan. 16. Anglers fishing that area will also have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

In the rivers, there have been reports of anglers hooking some bright steelhead. However, returns of hatchery steelhead to a few rivers have been low, prompting the department to close portions of some rivers, including the North Fork Stillaguamish, the North Fork Nooksack and the Cascade. The early closures are necessary to ensure hatcheries in the three rivers can meet their egg-take goals for winter steelhead.

Details on those emergency rules can be found on WDFW’s fishing regulation website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm . Anglers are advised to check that website for news about the Cascade River, which could re-open soon, said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager.

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

January is typically the best month for catching hatchery steelhead, but heavy rain rendered most area rivers unfishable during the first days of the new year.  After several weeks of good fishing, most anglers decided to take cover until the rain subsided and the rivers dropped back into shape.

“It’s a waiting game right now,” said Ron Warren, regional fish manager for south Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula.  “Lots of hatchery steelhead are moving into the rivers, but they’re tough to catch under these conditions.”

BRUCE LAMBERT OF GRAHAM SHOWS OFF A HUMPTULIPS STEELHEAD CAUGHT DEC. 30. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Anglers waiting for the rivers to drop might consider fishing for blackmouth salmon in one of a number of areas open in Puget Sound.  Some nice fish were recently checked at the Pleasant Harbor boat ramp on Hood Canal, and Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) opens for salmon fishing Jan. 16.

Another razor clam opening is also tentatively scheduled later this month.  If marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat, diggers will get a chance to hit the beach starting Jan. 27. Assuming the tests go well, Long Beach and Twin Harbors will be open for digging Jan. 27-31, Copalis and Mockrocks will be open Jan. 29-31 and Kalaloch beach Jan. 30-31.

Digging at all five beaches will be restricted to the hours between noon and midnight.  Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said final word on the dig will be announced once test results show whether the clams are safe to eat. If the dig is approved, he strongly advises clam diggers to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out.

Weather and stream conditions have been a major preoccupation for steelheaders for more than a month.  In early January, the drop-off in participation was especially apparent on the Bogachiel River, where WDFW interviewed only four anglers with two fish from Jan. 1-3.  By comparison, 163 anglers were checked with120 hatchery steelhead – and 15 fish released – from Christmas Day through Dec. 27.

“High water has also put a damper on steelhead fishing in rivers around Grays Harbor, but that will change once we get some clear weather,” Warren said.

Wild steelhead-retention rules are now in effect on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Anglers may retain one wild steelhead per license year on those rivers.  On all other rivers, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar.

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

Rivers are running high throughout the lower Columbia Basin, but anglers are still hooking up with inbound hatchery winter steelhead between rainstorms.  Meanwhile, sturgeon fishing is now open in all areas of the mainstem Columbia below the Highway 395 Bridge, and catchable-size rainbow are still available in a number of lakes throughout the region.

As in December, timing is key for anglers hoping to catch hatchery steelhead in the first weeks of the new year, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.

“Since mid-December, we’ve seen a progression of frigid-water, low-water and now high-water conditions,” Hymer said.  “Catch rates have been up and down, but fishing has generally been pretty decent for anglers who hit it between major weather events.”

Some of the best fishing has been on the North Fork Lewis River around the salmon hatchery, Hymer said.  During creel checks in the week leading up to New Year’s, 136 bank anglers checked on the North Fork had caught 23 steelhead and released nine others – most using jigs and bobbers around the salmon hatchery.  Twenty-six boat anglers checked during the same period took home six more winter steelhead.

LARRY MADELLA'S PAIR OF STEELHEAD BIT ON NEW YEAR'S EVE, ON THE NORTH FORK LEWIS RIVER. SON JACOB ALSO CAUGHT ONE, HIS FIRST. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

On the Cowlitz River, boat anglers fishing between the trout and salmon hatcheries accounted for the largest share of the catch.  Seventy-eight boat anglers reported 24 “keepers” while 44 bank anglers accounted for four more during creel checks ending Dec. 31.

The Kalama, Grays, Elochoman and Washougal rivers – plus Salmon Creek in Clark County – should also be good bets in the days ahead, Hymer said.

“The early run usually peaks around New Year’s, but there are still plenty of fish in those rivers,” he said.  “The late winter run is also starting to arrive, which can provide decent steelhead fishing in the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers through March.”

As in past years, all wild steelhead must be released.  Anglers may retain only hatchery-reared fish with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar.  That also applies to spring chinook salmon , which could start entering the Columbia River in small numbers any day, Hymer said.  Marked springers are available for harvest on a daily basis in the Columbia and its tributaries from the I-5 Bridge downstream until 2010 seasons are set in mid-February, he said.

As outlined in the rule pamphlet, sturgeon fishing is now open in all areas of the mainstem Columbia below the Highway 395 Bridge.  Anglers may retain sturgeon daily except in the area from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam, where retention fishing is limited to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only.  Fishing opportunities for sturgeon from March-December 2010 on the mainstem Columbia River will be decided by Washington and Oregon at a joint state hearing Feb. 18.

While temperatures are still a bit cold for red-hot sturgeon action, Hymer noted that anglers surveyed in The Dalles Pool caught three legal-size fish during the first three days of 2010.

Just as soon fish for trout ?  During the final days of 2009, WDFW planted nearly 15,000 catchable-size rainbows in seven area waters to give anglers some options during the cold of winter.  Battleground Lake got 2,500 Dec. 21; Klineline Pond 2,500 Dec. 21; Icehouse Lake (near Bridge of the Gods) 1,022 Dec. 29; Spearfish Lake (near Dallesport) 2,002 Dec. 24; Rowland Lake (near Lyle) 4,057 Dec. 24; and Maryhill Pond (in Klickitat County) 501 Dec. 29.  In addition, Fort Borst Park Pond, open only to juveniles under 15 years old, got 3,029 on Dec. 28.

EASTERN WASHINGTON

The hottest fishing in the region is for net-pen-reared rainbow trout on Lake Roosevelt – the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam on the Lincoln, Ferry and Stevens county lines. John Whalen, WDFW regional fish program manager, said daily limits of five rainbows, running 14 to 20 inches, are readily being caught from Hunters downstream. Anglers who regularly fish the big reservoir say it’s the best it has been in the past 10 years.

MARGIE CASH SHOWS OFF A NICE ROOSEVELT WINTER RAINBOW FROM A PREVIOUS SEASON. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Bill Baker, WDFW district fish biologist, said fishing for rainbow trout remains good at Hatch and Williams lakes in Stevens County. The two lakes are the only winter-only season (Dec. 1 – March 31) waters that have fish to catch. Spokane County’s Fourth of July and Hog Canyon lakes were treated last fall and will not be re-stocked with trout until spring.

Sprague Lake, on the Lincoln-Adams county line, continues to provide good catches of rainbow trout through the ice, although recent warmer weather and rain has left the safety of that ice questionable. WDFW Regional Enforcement Capt. Mike Whorton said that Sprague is under the same catch rules as Lake Roosevelt – five trout daily with no more than two over 20 inches – and the size of most fish there sometimes tempts anglers into violations. Whorton also notes that anglers who leave equipment or debris on the ice – from buckets to old armchairs – can be fined for littering.

Chris Donley, WDFW district fish biologist, reports Whitman County’s Rock Lake is producing catches of rainbow and most notably brown trout .  Spokane County’s Eloika and Silver lakes are yielding lots of yellow perch through the ice, but anglers need to be cautious about “rotten ice” during recent thawing and re-freezing.

Snake River steelheading remains productive for anglers who find the fish pooled up near the mouths of tributaries. WDFW Fish Biologist Joe Bumgarner reports the latest creel check data shows the best catch rates below Hellar Bar near the mouth of the Grand Ronde River, and in the lower Grand Ronde itself where anglers average a little over six hours of fishing per catch. In the mainstem Snake, from Ice Harbor to Lower Monumental dams, steelheaders average almost 12 hours per fish caught. From Lower Monumental to Little Goose dams, the average is just under 17 hours per catch, and from Little Goose to Lower Granite dams, the average is 17.5 hours.

NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

WDFW regional fish program manager Jeff Korth reports a variety of fishing opportunities throughout the region, but with recent warming trends he cautions anglers about deteriorating ice conditions, both on lakes and along river shorelines.

“Ice fishing for rainbow trout at the Windmill/Canal lakes in the Potholes Reservoir area in Grant County has been good,” Korth said.  “Ice fishing for yellow perch has been decent at Moses Lake and at Fish Lake in Chelan County.  And ice fishing for whitefish at Banks Lake near Coulee City is reportedly good. But with thawing and re-freezing, anglers need to be sure the ice is safe before venturing on or near it.”

WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp reports good rainbow trout fishing through the ice at Rat Lake near Brewster, Sidley/Molson Lake near Oroville, Big and Little Green lakes near Omak, and Davis Lake near Winthrop. Patterson Lake near Winthrop is producing yellow perch in the 7-8-inch range, with some larger fish to 10 inches.

Jateff also reports that upper Columbia River steelhead fishing picked up slightly in the tributaries above Wells Dam while air temperatures were above freezing.

“Fishing will taper off as the temperatures fall and ice forms in the rivers, so anglers planning a trip should call ahead first to check weather conditions,” he said.  “Anglers do best when drifting the slower-moving, deeper runs as the fish tend to hold in these areas during the winter months.”

Jateff reminds steelheaders that a mandatory retention of adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead is in effect during the fishery.

The Methow River is open to whitefish from Gold Creek upstream to the falls above Brush Creek and the Chewuch River from the mouth to the Pasayten Wilderness boundary.  The Similkameen River is open from the mouth to the Canadian border.  Anglers fishing for whitefish in areas that are currently open for steelhead must use selective gear (single barbless lures and flies, no bait allowed).

SOUTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

Anglers are taking limits of whitefish on the Yakima River and other local streams, according to WDFW district fish biologist Eric Anderson. “Some of the best whitefish areas besides the mainstem Yakima are the Naches, Tieton, Cle Elum and Bumping rivers,” Anderson said.  “Check the fishing rules pamphlet for specific river stretch descriptions.”

Whitefish gear is restricted to one single-point hook with a maximum hook size of 3/16-inch from point to shank, hook size 14. Fish are usually caught with a small fly tipped with a maggot.  Up to 15 whitefish can be retained daily.   Most fish are 10 to 15 inches.  Anderson recommends that anglers concentrate fishing efforts in deep pools below riffles.

Steelhead fishing in the Ringold area of the Columbia River near the Tri-Cities is still producing for bank anglers and boaters alike, reports WDFW Ringold/Meseberg Fish Hatchery specialist Mike Erickson. “At least for the few willing to brave the weather,” he added.

Clam Dig Planned For Late January

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

fter a stormy New Year’s opener, razor clam diggers will get another chance to hit the beach for a five-day opening scheduled to begin Jan. 27 if marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) also announced tentative plans for a razor-clam dig in late February, pending the results of another round of marine toxin tests.

For the dig planned this month, Long Beach and Twin Harbors are tentatively scheduled to open on evening tides Jan. 27-31, with digs also planned at Copalis and Mocrocks beaches Jan. 29-31.  In addition, the National Park Service has scheduled a two-day dig Jan. 30-31 at Olympic National Park’s Kalaloch beach to coincide with those at the other beaches.

Digging at all five beaches will be restricted to the hours between noon and midnight.

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said final word on the dig will be announced once test results show whether the clams are safe to eat. If the dig is approved, he advises clam diggers to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out.

“With the rough weather we had during the last opener, digging dropped off significantly as people played it safe,” Ayres said. “On the plus side, there are likely enough clams remaining in the quota to offer more digs later.”

Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin also urged diggers to take safety precautions during night digs, especially at Kalaloch.

“Kalaloch is considerably more remote than the other clamming beaches, and visitors should be prepared for primitive conditions,” she said. “With no streetlights or lighted buildings in the area, flashlights or lanterns are a necessity.”

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 must have an applicable 2009-10 fishing license to dig razor clams on any beach. A license is required for anyone age 15 or older.

Anglers can buy 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 various licensing options are available on the WDFW website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . A list of state license vendors is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lic/vendors/vendors.htm .

Tentative digging days and tides for this month’s opening are:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 27, (4:24 p.m., -0.5 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Thursday, Jan. 28, (5:13 p.m., -1.1 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Friday, Jan. 29, (5:58 p.m., -1.5 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Saturday, Jan. 30, (6:41 p.m., -1.5 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Sunday, Jan. 31, (7:23 p.m., -1.2 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch

In addition, WDFW has tentatively scheduled a late-February dig on the following dates and locations:

  • Friday, Feb. 26, (4:49 p.m., -0.7) Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Saturday, Feb. 27, (5:34 p.m., -0.9) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Sunday, Feb. 28, (6:16 p.m., -0.8) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrock, Kalaloch

Beaches scheduled to open are:

  • Long Beach, which extends from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point.
  • Twin Harbors Beach, which extends from the mouth of Willapa Bay north to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor.
  • Copalis Beach, which extends from the Grays Harbor north jetty to the Copalis River, and includes the Copalis, Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Ocean City and Copalis areas.
  • Mocrocks Beach, which extends from the Copalis River to the southern boundary of the Quinault Reservation near the Moclips River, including Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Pacific Beach and Moclips.
  • Kalaloch Beach, which extends from the South Beach Campground to Brown’s Point (just south of Beach Trail 3) in the Olympic National Park.

Instead Of All No-go, Some Go-slow?

Instead of 13 miles of no-go zone, how about 2 miles around Lime Kiln Point to protect feeding killer whales and an 11-mile “go-slow” zone that would still allow anglers a chance to hook Chinook?

That’s part of what WDFW is asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to reconsider along the west side of San Juan Island in a 7-page letter submitted by agency director Phil Anderson in mid-December.

The Feds last year proposed a five-month-long 1/2-mile-wide no-go buffer along most of the shoreline as part of a broader set of vessel restrictions in Puget Sound to protect ESA-listed orcas, “the subject of intense curiosity from kayakers to tourists crowding the decks of commercial whale-watching vessels.”

THE NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE'S PROPOSED NO-GO ZONE ALONG THE WEST SIDE OF SAN JUAN ISLAND. (NMFS)

NMFS argues that orcas are adversely affected by boat noises.

But closing off the island’s west side from May through September raised hackles among anglers and others.

“It’s one of our best Chinook spots, and to lose that part of our fishery is disappointing, and a little alarming,” charter captain Jay Field told local outdoor radio show host Joel Shangle in a column for ESPN last fall.

Anglers fear it is only the beginning, and that it may lead to more quality fishing areas in the San Juans and Puget Sound being shut down.

Following three public meetings last fall, NMFS invited written comments then extended the deadline into 2010.

WDFW submitted their comments to NMFS acting regional supervisor Barry Thorn on Dec. 15. A copy was provided to Northwest Sportsman today.

The agency’s main idea is a more limited no-go zone, just the 2 miles from Bellevue Point south past Lime Kiln Point.

The rest of San Juan Island’s southwest shore, says WDFW, should instead be a slow-go buffer closed to all boats except recreational fishing boats, nontreaty and treaty commercial fishing boats, kayaks and private landowner vessels. Those boats would be limited to 7 mph and couldn’t raise wakes.

An additional 1/2-mile go-slow buffer would also be added off the no-go zone.

WDFW'S SMALLER NO-GO ZONE PROPOSAL, AND GO-SLOW BUFFERS. (WDFW)

Some of the ideas are echoed in a guest editorial by Val Veirs and Jenny Atkinson of The Whale Museum, printed in Dec. 24 issue of the San Juan Journal, and were brought up in public meetings.

WDFW also suggests “the development of an education and certification program to certify all fishing vessels, kayaks and private landowner vessels that are eligible to enter the Go-Slow Zone.”

But the agency has other concerns too. Moving sport and nontreaty commercial harvest of Chinook from that area could lead to higher catches of ESA-listed Puget Sound kings elsewhere in the islands where Fraser River-bound salmon are less prevalent. And barring nontreaty netters might just make the area more attractive to exempted Indian fishermen.

“The benefit of reduced stress on whales from reduced non-treaty commercial fishing vessel traffic could be offset by an increase in treaty fishing vessel traffic,” WDFW’s letter says.

The state also contends the socioeconomic analysis in NMFS’s environmental assessment was “deficient.” If commercial boats fishing on BC-bound sockeye and pink runs there are barred, they may miss out on their share of lucrative runs and that “could affect the economic viability of the fishery in Puget Sound.”

And the Fed’s theory of little local economic impact due to reduced recreational angling draws disagreement too.

Today, CCA also released a position statement. It’s posted on Bloody Decks and here.

Comment is open through Jan. 15.