All posts by Andy Walgamott

Chinook, Cuttie Cavalry To The Rescue!

Yakima Herald-Republic reporter Ross Courtney details how nearly three dozen biologists “charged” their way through “Lake Naches” earlier this week, saving some 500 young Chinook, trout and steelhead.

BIOLOGISTS REMOVE FISH FROM PART OF THE NACHES RIVER. (WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION)

They were working in western Yakima County, where a landslide damned then rerouted the Naches River in early October.

OUT OF THE NET AND INTO THE BUCKET. (WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION)

Courtney reports that the fish were in ponds left behind by construction work, and were removed 6 miles downstream.

THE NACHES VALLEY WHERE THE LANDSLIDE CUT OFF HIGHWAY 410 AND SHIFTED THE RIVER. (WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION)

ODFW Videotapes Pack Of 10 Wolves

A one-minute, 32-second video posted on ODFW’s Web site shows a pack of 10 wolves moving up a snowy slope in eastern Wallowa County last Thursday.

The video was shot by state wildlife biologist Pat Matthews, and written about in the Baker City Herald today.

“ODFW has been regularly monitoring this pack but until this video was taken, we only had evidence of a minimum of three adults and three pups making up the pack,” Russ Morgan, the state’s wolf coordinator, says in a statement on ODFW’s site. “Pups can be difficult to distinguish at this distance, but it appears there may be as many as six pups in the video.”

There’s a second pack elsewhere in the county, towards the Washington border. ODFW officials will try to count each pack’s pups next month.

“For a pack to be defined as a ‘breeding pair’ (an important step in wolf conservation) it must produce at least two pups that survive to December 31 of the year of their birth. Under Oregon’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, the Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider delisting wolves from the Oregon Endangered Species List when four breeding pairs for three consecutive years have been documented in eastern Oregon,” ODFW says.

THE IMNAHA PACK'S ALPHA MALE, PHOTOGRAPHED LAST AUGUST. (ODFW)

 

Author Details ‘How Sportsmen Saved The World’

Well, it sure as hell is November, this pounding rain on the third floor of the Pyramid Brewery building here in Seattle is telling me, and how better to kill time when the rivers are out than with a book?

Well, there is also waterfowling, but work with me here, fellas.

I’ve got three books going right now — plus the latest National Geographic and, if I could find it again on this disaster of an office, Montana Outdoors — but I’ve laid them all aside for a brand-new hardcover that arrived at HQ yesterday: How Sportsmen Saved The World, by E. Donnall Thomas Jr.

An eye-catching title to a Northwest sportsman’s magazine editor, that one.

Thomas, if you don’t know, is a Montana/Alaska resident who has written 15 books and whose works appear in bowhunting and gun-dog mags as well as Gray’s Sporting Journal, Big Sky Journal, Fish Alaska and Ducks Unlimited, according to his publisher, The Lyons Press

His latest book’s premise boils down to this: “Faced with human development’s ever-increasing demands upon habitat, wildlife today needs more advocates than ever before. When wildlife advocates work together, wildlife wins; when they bicker, they lose.”

Though we hunters fought and won the battle to bring wildlife back and preserve habitat for them, we’ve been losing the battle for public support for decades.

Of the 42 1/2 pages I have read so far, more than a half-dozen are dog-earred, pointing to salient thoughts of the author. Right now I’m working through the extinctions of the heath hen, Labrador duck and passenger pigeon, and near collapses of the North American bison herds and turkey flocks. All known tragedies and success stories, but Thomas makes clear the primary cause those critters were or were almost wiped out: market/commercial hunting.

Not regulated, scientifically managed sport hunting, like we practice today.

It’s a crucial, crucial difference, and one sometimes misused to blame us today for why we nearly lost those species back when.

To be sure, hunters and managers haven’t always done our quarry huge favors, even in modern times, as Worth Mathewson’s Band-tailed Pigeon: Wilderness Bird at Risk has shown in the decline and near collapse of bandtail populations on the West Coast.

But the press release that came with How Sportsman Saved the World promises Thomas will show how early conservation giants like Teddy Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold and others’ “contributions … to the environment have been far more substantial that those of ‘environmental’ organizations that have taken a stance against hunting and fishing.”

As for when public opinion began to turn away from us, early on in the book, Thomas points to the 1940s movie Bambi as the catalyst for a misidentification of the threat of hunting, but he also finds an interesting ally in Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring: “Carson showed that the real threat wasn’t coming from hunters, but from a technology-obsessed society gone awry.”

It was an “unstated” part of her book, though, and Thomas says that “hunting became a public relations casualty in the environmental consciousness Carson’s work aroused.”

And that’s a pity, because we often have the same goals as the greenies: lots of wildlife, and good habitat for them. But we’re locked into adversarial relationships instead, or deeply mistrust it when organizations like the Sierra Club announce they’re pro hunting.

I suspect, but don’t know for sure, that this book may be a great tool we can use in the defense of hunting.

We’ll see. I’ll try to keep blogging about this, but no guarantees. The Missus is very, very, very pregnant and I think I may have little time to do anything but change diapers shortly.

AW / NWS

Chetco Opener Report: 45-, 35-pounders

A happy-sounding Larry Ellis just called in from Brookings, Ore., with a report on today’s Chetco River Chinook opener: a pair of good-sized kings, 45- and 35-pounders for the boat.

He says the wild fish bit chrome/chartreuse-billed sardine-wrapped plugs — a Mag Lip (formerly the M2-SP) and a K-13 Kwikfish.

He and a fishing partner were fishing just below Loeb Park.

Ellis describes the larger fish as between chrome and colored up, but the smaller one is a “chrome, chrome fish. It looks like it just came in.”

The Chetco is now open up to river mile 10.5, commonly known as the Ice Box hole.

The fishery above Highway 101 had been kept closed past the Nov. 7 scheduled opener due to low water. ODFW managers were concerned that too many fish would be caught in tidewater and mainstem holes, but higher flows have alleviated that threat.

Ellis is now snapping pics, but planned on heading back out to punch a hatchery king to fill out his daily limit on the Chetco.

UPDATE 4:47 P.M. Here’s guide Andy Martin’s report from the opener:

 

The opening day of salmon season on Southern Oregon’s Chetco River produced limits for many of the boats on the water, and some of the hottest action seen in years, according to guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing (www.wildriversfishing.com) in Brookings.
Andy’s group caught its limit within the first hour of fishing, and then caught and released more fish, including a king close to 50 pounds, before arriving at the takeout before lunch.
“There were salmon in every hole and the bite was incredible,” says Martin. “We got two hookups as we were letting line out while running the new Mag Lips FlatFish.”
The Chetco opened Thursday above the Highway 101 bridge after being closed since March. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was concerned about a smaller-than-average return to the Chetco, as well as low flows. Heavy rains earlier this week prompted the opener.
“Thanks to a closure of ocean commercial fishing the past two years in Southern Oregon and California, we were seeing what is turning out to be a much bigger-than-expect run on the Chetco,” Martin said. “ODFW easily got all of its fish for the hatchery, the fishing in the estuary below the bridge was better than normal, and during the opener, there were fish everywhere,” says Martin, who guided a angler to a 58-pound salmon in September during the lower river season, one of the biggest fish in years from the Chetco.
The hot lure during the opener was Worden’s new Mag Lips FlatFish, previously known as the M-2SP FlatFish, in combinations of chrome, chartreuse, green and pink. Andy wrapped the plugs with sardine fillets marinated in Pautzke’s Nectar. The plugs were flat-lined from his drift boat.
Salmon fishing also has been hot on the Smith and Elk rivers. After this weekend’s expected heavy rain, the rivers should be in prime shape for Thanksgiving week.
Guide Randy Wells of Fish Oregon Alaska is heading to the coast to help Andy accommodate customers and groups on the Chetco, Smith, Elk and Sixes rivers. To book a trip, call (206) 388-8988 or e-mail wildriversfishing@yahoo.com.

 

The opening day of salmon season on Southern Oregon’s Chetco River produced limits for many of the boats on the water, and some of the hottest action seen in years, according to guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing (www.wildriversfishing.com) in Brookings.
Andy’s group caught its limit within the first hour of fishing, and then caught and released more fish, including a king close to 50 pounds, before arriving at the takeout before lunch.
“There were salmon in every hole and the bite was incredible,” says Martin. “We got two hookups as we were letting line out while running the new Mag Lips FlatFish.”
The Chetco opened Thursday above the Highway 101 bridge after being closed since March. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was concerned about a smaller-than-average return to the Chetco, as well as low flows. Heavy rains earlier this week prompted the opener.
“Thanks to a closure of ocean commercial fishing the past two years in Southern Oregon and California, we were seeing what is turning out to be a much bigger-than-expect run on the Chetco,” Martin said. “ODFW easily got all of its fish for the hatchery, the fishing in the estuary below the bridge was better than normal, and during the opener, there were fish everywhere,” says Martin, who guided a angler to a 58-pound salmon in September during the lower river season, one of the biggest fish in years from the Chetco.
The hot lure during the opener was Worden’s new Mag Lips FlatFish, previously known as the M-2SP FlatFish, in combinations of chrome, chartreuse, green and pink. Andy wrapped the plugs with sardine fillets marinated in Pautzke’s Nectar. The plugs were flat-lined from his drift boat.
Salmon fishing also has been hot on the Smith and Elk rivers. After this weekend’s expected heavy rain, the rivers should be in prime shape for Thanksgiving week.
Guide Randy Wells of Fish Oregon Alaska is heading to the coast to help Andy accommodate customers and groups on the Chetco, Smith, Elk and Sixes rivers. To book a trip, call (206) 388-8988 or e-mail wildriversfishing@yahoo.com.

Going Rogue, ‘Coho Cowboy’ Style

Mark Freeman profiles how Grants Pass gas station owner and river guide Troy Whitaker figured out how to catch middle Rogue River coho.

In an article yesterday in the Medford Mail Tribune, Freeman writes that few anglers target the silver salmon so far upstream, but Whitaker started to figure out how to be successful at it six years ago while steelheading on the Southwest Oregon stream.

In a word: plugs — but not casting them, as Willamette Valley and Western Washington coho anglers have learned to do.

County Howls About FWC Chair’s Comments

One person’s “honest” assessment of future commercial spring Chinook fisheries on the Lower Columbia is another’s “doomsday address.”

Comments by Miranda Wecker, chairwoman of the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission, in mid-October stirred two of the three Wahkiakum County commissioners to fire off a “sharp letter” to Gov. Gregoire, reports The Daily News of Longview, an article that’s being forwarded around parts of the fishing world this morning.

Wecker was warning lower river communities about possible restrictions next spring, the paper says.

Managers are working on “catch balancing,” moving a larger share of the catch to upriver states and tribal anglers, as outlined by Bill Monroe in The Oregonian. They haven’t fared as well in recent years with later and later runs, and returns as low as 42 percent of the preseason forecast.

The commissioners, whose county reportedly earns 5 percent of its economy from commercial fishing,  contend she’s showed blatant favoritism towards sport fishermen, a charge she does not deny.

The Daily News’ Greg Garrison writes:

When asked Tuesday about that response, Wecker said there’s no question the split is tilted toward sport fishermen.

Wecker explained that sport anglers make about 180,000 trips to the river per year. She told the coalition there are fewer than 50 active commercial licenses on the Washington side of the river.

“It just struck us all as fair to give (sport fishermen) two-thirds of the fish,” she said Tuesday. “To give 50 people a third of the impacts seems to us to not be a reflection of hostility to commercial fishing. That just sounded equitable.”

The paper says commissioners quibble with Wecker’s stated size of the lower river spring Chinook commercial fleet (the article says a WDFW source pins it around 65 this past year) and interpret her comments on the relative health of the Puget Sound commercial fishery negatively.

Wecker, who is from Naselle, just a ways down Highway 4 west of the Wahkiakum County line, tells the Daily News she doesn’t believe commercials will be shut out of the springer fishery, but does say she feels “there are going to be years in which fishing will be very limited.”

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

While all of the lower 101/2 miles of the Chetco River will now be open for Chinook starting tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 19, make no mistake, the Southwest Oregon river’s tributaries remain closed for fishing, reports the Curry Coastal Pilot.

Elsewhere in the Beaver State, here’s a roundup of weekend fishing ideas, courtesy of ODFW’s Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • With some salmon and steelhead fisheries winding down, and poor water conditions slowing others, now is a good time to consider some fall trout fishing on area lakes. Trout fishing on Lake Selmac, Expo Pond, Reinhart Pond, Applegate Reservoir, Agate Lake, Garrison Lake, Butterfield Lake, and Upper and Lower Empire Lakes should remain good well into the fall.
  • Recent rains should also improve coho and steelhead fishing on the middle and upper Rogue River.
  • With recent rains increasing water levels, the Chetco River has re-opened for steelhead and chinook fishing.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Siltcoos Lake: The coho fishery in the lake is under way. Fair to good numbers of fish are moving into the lake. Anglers are having fair to good success however the bite has been sporadic. Trolling or casting spinners or other lures can be effective. Best times are normally early or late in the day and after rain events. The month of November typically produces the best catch rates. Anglers may retain one wild (non-adipose fin clip) adult coho and 1 jack coho per day. There is a seasonal limit of five wild (non-adipose fin clip) adult coho per year.
  • Tahkenitch Lake: The lake coho fishery is picking up. Fair to good coho numbers are moving into the lake. Anglers are having fair success but coho in lakes can be very picky and the bite can be sporadic. Trolling or casting spinners or other lures can be effective. Best times are normally early or late in the day and after rain events. The month of November typically produces the best catch rates. Anglers may retain one wild (non-adipose fin clip) adult coho and 1 jack coho per day. There is a seasonal limit of five wild (non-adipose fin clip) adult coho per year.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Large brood trout released recently at Junction City Pond near Eugene and Walter Wirth and Walling ponds near Salem should still be available. The fish are 4- and 5-year-old rainbow trout from ODFW’s Roaring River hatchery and range in size from 8 to 18 pounds.
  • The coho run is winding down on the Sandy River, Eagle Creek and the upper Willamette, although some fish should still be available for the persistent angler.
  • The sturgeon bite on the lower Willamette River is improving.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • For fly fishers, the Crooked, Metolius and Fall rivers offer good year-round trout fishing opportunities.
  • November and December can offer fine fishing on Crescent Lake for brown and lake trout until access is limited by snow.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Rainbow and brown trout fishing on the lower Owyhee River remains fair to good, but be on the lookout for (and avoid) brown trout redds in the gravel.
  • Fishing for brown trout on Miller Lake has improved with colder water temperatures. Call the U.S Forest Service office in Chemult for information on access.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Fish for steelhead and coho on the Umatilla River has been good, though many of the coho are getting dark.
  • Steelhead fishing remains fair to good on the lower Grande Ronde, Imnaha, and John Day rivers

SNAKE RIVER ZONE

  • Hells Canyon Reservoir: Approximately 500 steelhead have been put in the reservoir as of Nov. 9 and approximately 1,100 more are expected to go in by the third week of November. These surplus steelhead are considered trout in the reservoir. No tag is needed but only one can be kept per day if over 20 inches

MARINE ZONE

  • Bottom fishing is good when ocean conditions permit.
  • A series of minus tides after dark this week will provide clamming opportunities for those with lanterns. Recreational and commercial clam harvesting is open on the entire Oregon Coast, from the mouth of the Columbia River to the California border. This includes clam harvesting on beaches and inside bays.
  • Mussel harvesting, from the mouth of the Columbia River closed south of Bastendorf Beach near Charleston to the California border because of elevated levels of paralytic shellfish toxins. The closure of mussel harvesting north of Bastendorf Beach north to the Columbia River is now open.
  • Crabbers in Coos Bay brought in an average of 10 crabs. Other ports report catches between four and five.

 

(ODFW)

‘Catch-balancing’ And The ’10 Springer Run

The headline on The Oregonian’s Web site claims “Columbia River spring chinook decision process explained,” and outdoor reporter Bill Monroe takes his best stab at how state, tribal and federal fishery managers on the big river are attempting to divvy up the 2010 run through “catch balancing.”

Monroe explains the rationale behind the phrase:

The management scheme is changing this fall, primarily the result of some understandably upset tribal fishers who not only didn’t get as many of this past year’s spring chinook as lower river sport and commercials did, they also had to sit and watch the downriver glut in silence. The run was very late over Bonneville Dam and tribes missed the most important ingredient of their spring celebration rites – the fish.

In the offing is a potentially large run of springers in 2010 — or not, depending on how managers account for this spring’s record-walloping jack return (and of course whether the jack’s surviving brothers and sisters flip their fins at us, or come in in herring-biting hordes).

Monroe’s article outlines eight or so steps to achieve catch balancing of the 2010 run and then gives an example of how it works with a theoretical run forecast of 300,000.

Theoretical, mind you — don’t get all cranky just yet about the splits in who gets what.

He’s also included a link to a PowerPoint PDF presented Nov. 12 by ODFW on next year’s run management, complete with graphs and more that show:

* Final run size for each year since 2000 for the upper Columbia, Willamette, and Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis and Sandy rivers

* The error between final run size and preseason forecast (42 percent to 149 percent of preseason forecast the past five years alone)

(ODFW)

* Sport and nontreaty commercial impact limits and actual impacts since 2002

* Catch and release mortalities for sport-commercial and tribal fleets since 2001

* A “harvest rate schedule,” i.e., how many fish on progressively larger run sizes can be bonked

* Notes an agreement between Washington, Oregon and Idaho fishery managers to “address Idaho’s concern about lower river fisheries harvesting the early-timed Idaho hatchery fish” and “To send a letter to the three Commissions indicating further coordination between staffs preseason.”

* A summary that says the “early season fisheries will be managed for at least at 30 percent buffer of the predicted run size.”

Got all that?

Oh, then there’s trying to come up with an actual forecast for 2010, which we talk about in our December issue of Northwest Sportsman, fired over to the printer yesterday.

OSP Looking For Tips On Vernonia Spike Poaching

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division is asking for the public’s help to identify the suspects involved in Wednesday morning’s illegal killing of a spike bull elk in the Saddle Mountain Unit near Vernonia.  A reward of up to $1,000 is offered by the Oregon Hunter’s Association for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case.

According to OSP Trooper Tim Schwartz on November 17, 2009 at approximately 9:50 a.m. he and Recruit Trooper Vogel responded to the reported complaint.  Witnesses advised three unknown people were attempting to salvage the spike elk in the area of Keasey Road and Columbia River Mainline.  They were seen leaving the area in a newer model white Chevrolet Suburban with unknown dealer plates heading south on Keasey Road toward Vernonia.

The spike bull elk was found, including the head which had been removed and concealed beneath vegetation.  The elk’s four quarters and back straps had also been removed.

Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to call the Turn in Poacher (TIP) number at 1-800-452-7888.

WA Anglers, Columbia Endorsement Required 4-1-10

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Starting April 1, anglers who fish for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries will be required to purchase a new endorsement that will help maintain and improve fishing opportunities throughout the basin.

The Columbia River Recreational Salmon and Steelhead Pilot Program endorsement was authorized by Senate Bill 5421 during the 2009 Legislative session. The annual endorsement was one of several license fee changes approved by the Legislature earlier this year to help offset a $30 million cutback in state funding for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

The total charge of the endorsement, after transaction and dealer fees, will be $8.75. The endorsement and recreational fishing licenses for the licensing year that begins April 1, 2010 can be purchased beginning Dec. 1, 2009.

Funds generated from the endorsement fee will support the evaluation of selective fisheries in the Columbia River Basin, said John Long, WDFW’s statewide salmon and steelhead fisheries manager. Funds also will be used for other management activities, including fisheries enforcement, data collection and monitoring.

Selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery fish, which are marked with a missing adipose fin, but require that they release wild fish.

“This program is designed to support current selective sport fisheries for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries, and – to the maximum extent possible – expand those opportunities in the future,” said Long.

The endorsement will be required, along with a fishing license, for anglers 15 years of age and older to fish for salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River and its tributaries when open to fishing for those species.

WDFW, working with the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Recreational Advisory Board, has proposed a list of rivers, lakes and other waters in the Columbia River basin where the endorsement will be required. That list, available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/crss_endorsement , is one of more than 100 proposed sportfishing rules for 2010-12.


List of proposed endorsement fee waters

Mainstem Columbia River from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line to Chief Joseph Dam

Deep River (Wahkiakum County)

Grays River (Wahkiakum County)

  • Grays River, West Fork (Wahkiakum County)
  • Grays River, East Fork (Wahkiakum County)

Skamokawa Creek (Wahkiakum County)

Elochoman River (Wahkiakum County)

Mill Creek (Lewis County)

Abernathy Creek (Cowlitz County)

Germany Creek (Cowlitz County)

Coal Creek (Cowlitz County)

Cowlitz River (Cowlitz/Lewis Counties)

  • Blue Creek (Lewis County)
  • Lacamas Creek (Lewis County)
  • Mill Creek (Lewis County)
  • Olequa Creek (Lewis County)
  • Tilton River (Lewis County)
  • Mayfield Lake (Lewis County)
  • Riffe Lake (Lewis County)
  • Lake Scanewa (Lewis County)
  • Cispus River (Lewis County)

Coweeman River (Cowlitz County)

Toutle River (Cowlitz County)

  • Toutle River, North Fork (Cowlitz County)
  • Toutle River, South Fork (Cowlitz County)
  • Green River (Cowlitz County)

Kalama River (Cowlitz County)

  • Gobar Creek (Cowlitz County)

Lewis River (Clark/Cowlitz Counties)

  • Lewis River, North Fork (Clark/Cowlitz Counties)
  • Swift Reservoir (Skamania County)
  • Lewis River, East Fork (Clark County)
  • Cedar Creek (Clark County)

Salmon Creek (Clark County)

Washougal River (Clark County)

Washougal River West (North) Fork (Clark County)

  • Little Washougal (Clark County)

Camas Slough (Clark County)

Drano Lake (Skamania County)

Hamilton Creek (Skamania County)

Rock Creek (Skamania County)

Wind River (Skamania County)

White Salmon River (Klickitat/Skamania Counties)

Klickitat River (Klickitat County)

Walla Walla River (Walla Walla County)

  • Mill Creek (Walla Walla County)

Touchet River (Columbia/Walla Walla Counties)

Grande Ronde River (Asotin County)

Snake River mainstem (Walla Walla/Franklin/Columbia/Whitman/Garfield/Asotin Counties)

  • Palouse River (Whitman County) (below the falls)

Tucannon River (Columbia/Garfield County)

Yakima River (Benton, Yakima, Kittitas Counties)

Wenatchee River (Chelan County)

Icicle River (Chelan County)

Lake Wenatchee (Chelan County)

Entiat River (Chelan County)

Methow River (Okanogan County)

Okanogan River (Okanogan County)

Lake Osoyoos (Okanogan County)

Similkameen River (Okanogan County)