All posts by Andy Walgamott

Cuts To Columbia Sturgeon Coming?

With state managers “nervous” about declining populations of white sturgeon in the Columbia River, there’s talk of some pretty meaty cuts to sport and commercial fisheries in the future.

Catches of legal and sublegal fish are falling and it’s unclear why, though sea lion numbers are increasing and smelt numbers have dropped substantially, writes Allen Thomas of The Columbian in an article picked up in the Longview Daily News.

“The bottom end is falling out,’’ Washington “sturgeon general” Brad James tells Thomas. “We aren’t getting fish moving up from the smaller sizes.’’

Oregon and Washington managers are working on a new long-term sturgeon compact.

On another front, among the many rule proposals up for discussion on the Washington side is banning the use of shad for oversize sturgeon.

141,645 Pikeminnows Hauled In

Participation was up but catch was down during this year’s pikeminnow reward fishery on the Columbia and Lower Snake rivers.

A total of 141,645 of the native fish were brought into 18 check stations by 29,100 anglers between May 3 and Oct. 11, according to data at pikeminnow.org.

Last year, 158,191 were bonked by 26,097 fishermen, though season was basically a week longer.

But an article in today’s Columbia Basin Bulletin suggests this year’s fishery is still a success.

“…We believe it’s due to the program doing what it was designed to do: reduce the number of pikeminnow in the river,” Russell Porter at the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission told CBB.

Cash rewards of $1,000 per tagged fish may have bumped participation in mid-August, according to the article.

This year’s top “ports” were Boyer Park on the Snake (27,438), The Dalles Boat Basin (16,525) and Greenbelt in Clarkston (11,748).

Last year, $1,125,193 was paid out. The top two anglers, CBB reports, turned in $57,772 and $42,137 worth of pikeminnows and tagged fish.

The program, which began on a trial basis in 1991, aims to reduce the average size of pikeminnows to reduce the species’ overall consumption of salmon and steelhead smolts; it’s estimated that predation has been cut by 37 percent, according to pikeminnow.org.

Beaver Lake Stocked With 1000 2+pounders

WDFW planted Beaver Lake with “eye candy,” 1,008 2-plus-pound rainbows, on Tuesday this week, the earliest the Sammamish Plateau water has been stocked since fall releases began in 2003.

And another stocking is planned in a week or two, according to John Kugan, foreman at the Issaquah Hatchery.

“Nineteen hundred 2-year-olds, probably the second week of November,” he says.

Beaver features a state access and launch on its southeast side, a city park on its southwest shore.

Fish dough baits or worms from shore, or off bottom in the middle of the lake.

Kugan terms the stockers “eye-candy fish” because they’re at the hatchery’s viewing window through the summer. They’re originally hatched at the state’s Goldendale facility then brought over for fattening up.

Asked why not spread the wealth to waters besides Beaver, Kugan says that the rainbows are only allowed to be planted in the Lake Washington watershed due to concerns about IHN, a fish virus.

Hunters Speak Out At Yakima Wolf Meeting

A public meeting last night in Yakima on Washington’s draft wolf management plan drew lots of comments from hunters, according to an article by Scott Sandsberry in today’s Yakima Herald-Republic.

Attendees in Yakima gave state officials a piece of their mind on everything from fear about wolf impacts to the state’s deer and elk as well as struggling mountain caribou herd; to questions about how many packs represent recovery (officially, it’s 15) in a small habitat-poor state like Washington; to downright warnings about individuals taking matters into their own hands, a la shoot, shovel and shut up.

It was the third of a dozen meetings being held around the state to get feedback from the public on the plan. It has been in the works since 2007 as wolf numbers expanded in the Northern Rockies.

Currently, there are two confirmed packs — breeding groups — of wolves in Washington, though there have been reports of individuals or several together for years, as page 113-115 of the state’s draft management plan reports. In recent days, there has been a report of wolves in the Blue Mountains near the Oregon border as well.

Nine more public comment meetings are scheduled in the next two weeks:

Mon., Oct. 26 Colville N.E.WA Fairgrounds Ag-Trade Center 317 West Astor Ave.

Tue., Oct. 27  Spokane Spokane Valley Center Place 2426 N. Discovery Place

Wed., Oct. 28 Vancouver Water Resources Education Center 4600 SE Columbia Way

Thu., Oct. 29 Aberdeen Rotary Log Pavillion east of Aberdeen off Hwy. 12

Mon., Nov. 2 Seattle REI store 222 Yale Ave. N.

Wed., Nov.4 Mount Vernon Cottontree Inn Convention Center 2300 Market St.

Thu., Nov. 5 Sequim  Guy Cole Convention Center Carrie Blake Park, 212 Blake Ave.

Mon., Nov. 9 Omak  Okanogan County Fairgrounds Agriplex Hwy. 97 South

Tue., Nov. 10  Wenatchee Chelan County PUD Auditorium 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.

Psst, Wanna See A Man In A Pink Tux Holding A Carp?

Those snap-happy folks at Mar Don Resort on Washington’s Potholes Reservoir got a chuckle out of me this morning.

On page 2 of their photo-strewn “Fresh News Report” is a shot of Dick Hemore in yet another suit and tophat holding yet another fish.

A couple years ago, Hemore was photographed decked out in a white tuxedo and holding a pretty nice walleye caught just below Moses Lake. He’d just come from flagging some sort of demolition derby.

Then, at Mar Don’s annual dock tournament this past September, Mr. Hemore, showed up in a pink tophat and pink tuxedo. Fresh from waving the flag at car races in nearby Lind, he managed to land a 11.47-pound carp, taking second in that division.

THE BEST-DRESSED CARP ANGLER OF ALL TIME, DICK HEMORE. (MAR DON RESORT)

THE BEST-DRESSED CARP ANGLER OF ALL TIME, DICK HEMORE. (MAR DON RESORT)

While Hemore’s a local, the tournament drew anglers from as far as northern Idaho and the Oregon coast.

Species winners included Caley Larson of Old Town, Idaho (13.51-pound carp); Amos Trent of Kent, Wash. (1.22-pound bluegill); Aaron Knowlton of Seattle (1.03-pound crappie); Tony Tolmich of Seattle (7.24-pound walleye); Shawn McCarrell of Moses Lake (4.38-pound largemouth); Tom Logan of Garibaldi, Ore. (4.28-pound smallmouth);  Danny Goss of Old Town (1.5-pound rainbow and .57-pound perch).

To Deer Camp And Back In A Saturn, Part III

I’ve always had this bizarre fantasy of going hunting in something like a late-1960s Lincoln Continental batmobile with fuzzy dice hanging from the mirror and suicide doors in back.

Pile six deer hunters in there and plow as high up into the mountains as the beast can be lashed, Pearl Jam or mariachi music blaring out the windows. Tag a mess of bucks and throw them all in the spacious trunk. Roll back into town.

Yeah, buddy.

My fantasies tend to resolve themselves in refracted ways, however.

I did indeed find myself hauling a muley home from deer camp last weekend — in the trunk of my mother in law’s four-door Saturn coupe, Obama sticker on the bumper, a Wagner opera in the casette deck.

Not exactly your typical deer-hunting rig, but when it comes to getting over to Winthrop, Wash., and back for opening weekend, I’ll take whatever I can get my hands on.

Most years that’s meant driving my own trucks, or riding along with Dad in his, but this fall, with Amy due in about a month with our second, taking our vehicle to deer camp wasn’t an option. So I’d taken the Saturn.

My mother in law had warned me she didn’t want any dead animals in her car, and I didn’t think that outcome likely anyway. The reports from the biologist were that the number of harvestable bucks in the upper Methow Valley was depressed due to poor fawn recruitment. There hadn’t really been any major snowstorms to drive deer out of the Pasayten so far this fall, plus there’s all them wolves running around the area.

So of course I was tagged out by 9 a.m. on the opener, and by 10 was scratching my head about how I was going to stuff a stiffening carcass in the Saturn’s trunk.

Have the legs stick out one side of the trunk, head and antlers on the other with the hatch covering up the ribs?

No doubt some anti-hunter would take a picture of that and the license plate as we putted back to civilization, post it on the Web and thoroughly ruin my mother in law’s reputation amongst the lefties/animal lovers down in Oregon where she lives.

For awhile it looked like I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Saturday afternoon it rained and rained. And as much as I’ve learned to love the rain when muley hunting in Eastern Washington, I HATE camping in it. Same goes for Dad. He was ready to pack up his trailer and drive home on Sunday if the drizzle continued and dense fog stuck around. We could just throw the deer in his rig.

But by 7 p.m., the clouds had passed and we could see stars. Dad was staying.

We hunted Sunday morning, saw 19, but didn’t add any more bucks to our game pole. And with me needing to be back in Seattle to send files to press on Monday morning, we decided what to do: Line the Saturn’s trunk with a tarp, cut the deer — now wrapped in game bags — in half, and toss the head in last.

Worked like a charm. Even got a pic of it, complete with the End This War sticker my mother in law thought might convince the deer we were pacifists.

THE AUDACITY OF A DEER HUNTER, STUFFING A MULEY IN HIS MOTHER IN LAW'S SATURN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

THE AUDACITY OF A DEER HUNTER, STUFFING A MULEY IN HIS MOTHER IN LAW'S SATURN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Down at the Chewuch game check station, it didn’t seem like WDFW’s Scott Fitkin was expecting me to jump out of the coupe when I pulled up around noon, but he laughed as I popped the trunk, pulled aside the tarp and produced the buck’s head for him to take samples from.

While Fitkin’s among the most hated of game biologists among the state’s anti-wolf brigade right now, he became my new favorite when he told his helper to write the 2 1/2-year-old buck up as a 4×2, rather than a mere 3×2, thanks to an eyeguard on the left side.

After I mentioned the car was my mother in law’s, he went off to dig his camera out of his state rig.

We chatted a little more then I got rolling for the Westside. If I blazed over the North Cascades Highway and didn’t get stuck behind any Sunday drivers on the Mountain Loop Highway, I could be home and have the deer unloaded into the garage before Amy and my mother in law returned from a baby shower.

But I started worrying about smells. It wasn’t that warm and the deer had only been shot 27 hours before, but still … So I pulled over up near Klipchuck Campground and stripped a bunch of twigs off a pungent greenleaf manzanita plant and scattered them around the trunk.

At home, my plans to quickly unload the beast were thwarted when I realized I hadn’t brought my house keys. And since my neighbors are known animal lovers — both of their vehicles have those We Love Our Pets license plates — and I didn’t know how our landlords would react to news of a dead creature being hauled into their house, I decided against laying the chunks of carcass on the driveway.

Which meant the deer was still in the back of the Saturn when my mother in law, Amy and son arrived home soon afterwards.

Where was the deer, they immediately wanted to know. Ummmm … just move along, go inside, don’t look out the window for a little bit, OK?

A bit of blood had soaked through the game bags and tarp onto some sort of backerboard she was carrying around in the trunk, so I discretely set those aside in the garage and hoped she wouldn’t miss them. Then, a night later, after the manzanita had had time to soak in, I removed the leaves.

And that, is how the editor of Northwest Sportsman drove a very unlikely rig to deer camp and back.

Hunter Report Penalties Coming To OR?

While mandatory hunter reporting is new to Oregon, having only begun in spring 2008 for the 2007 big game and turkey seasons, a 17-percent compliance rate has ODFW apparently reaching for the stick.

Penalties could range from restricting hunters from getting a new tag until the previous year’s reporting is complete or fines. However no penalties would take effect until 2011 or late,” reports the Molalla Pioneer today.

“Mandatory reporting is needed so agency biologists can get accurate information on big-game hunting success rates and total numbers of animals killed. This and other data are used in computer formulas to estimate herd populations, sex ratios and to determine the number of tags offered in specific hunts,” reports Mark Freeman of the Medford Mail-Tribune in an early October article.

You can report online at ODFW’s Hunter Reporting page or by calling (866) 947-6339 and follow the prompts.

On the plus side, the Pioneer reports the agency will award three tags (antelope, deer, elk) for folks who report their activities. Deadline is Jan. 31, 2010.

The agency asks that you have your hunter ID number, know the number of the wildlife management unit you hunted the most in, as well as the total number of days hunted this season as well as in your most-hunted unit when you call or log in.

Lots Of Wild Silvers In The Umpqua

Good coho runs on the Oregon coast have at least one guide wishing more waters were open this year for wild fish.

Eugene-based guide Todd Linklater tells Mike Stahlberg of the Register-Guard (in an article picked up by KGW TV) that 90 percent of this year’s “bonus, bonus” run of silvers up the Umpqua River is wild.

“There are more coho in the Umpqua than I’ve ever seen,” Linklater tells Stahlberg. “It wouldn’t hurt to let people keep one wild fish.”

While you can catch-and-release for native silvers on coastal rivers where steelhead or Chinook are open, the article states, retention fisheries are only currently allowed on the lower Coquille River and Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes.

The Yaquina, Nestucca and Coos were opened for wild-fish harvest as well under a federal permit, but their quotas were quickly filled in September. As of Oct. 11, the Coke’s quota was 44.5 percent filled, with around 833 more available for harvest. ODFW reports “best fishing between Bandon and Rocky Point boat ramp.”

The bad news is that this year’s strong runs may not repeat next year due to a poor adult class three years ago, according to an expert quoted by Stahlberg, but the future beyond that looks good.

Methow Deer Take Up, Despite Fog

I can personally attest to the fog and rain that descended upon the Winthrop area over opening weekend of deer season, but despite the inclement weather, the local biologist reports that “twice” as many deer were hauled past the game check station as in 2008, three dozen.

“I think the wet weather and the later start to the season this year helped hunters a bit,” biologist Scott Fitkin told the Methow Valley News. “The deer that were taken were really healthy, fat, big-bodied bucks.”

The article interviews several hunters, including Cullen Smith of North Bend. He and friends took three bucks on the opener.

Other hunters report not seeing any bucks.

It was definitely difficult to see any deer through the opener’s clouds, fog then rain, but by Sunday, conditions had cleared up. By the time he left late on Monday morning, my own pops had seen 35 deer. He’ll likely be heading back for the second and last weekend of season, along with several others from our deer camp.