All posts by Andy Walgamott

SW WA Fishing Report, With Prawns/Spinner Combos For Coho!

There’s an interesting note in today’s Southwest Washington fishing report from Joe Hymer at PSMFC: “Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers averaged just over an adult coho kept per rod.  Prawn/spinner rigs accounted for a lot of the catch. Most of the effort is off the mouth of the Klickitat where 70-80 boats were counted each morning this past weekend.”

Wait a minute, I thought, did I read that right — prawn/spinner combos for coho?!?

Can’t be, can it?

I immediately emailed Rob Phillips, the Northwest Sportsman scribe in Yakima as well as all-around Eastside fish/hunt guy. Ever hear of this new rig, Rob?

He responded back shortly: “Yes, I fished it twice last week, and while all the fish (9 in two days) we caught were on plugs — specifically FatFish ½ ounce — I did see several fish caught on prawn spinners off of dropper weights.  Even saw a couple of boats using Fish Flash flashers ahead of the rigs, similar to spring salmon set-up. I think they were doing better at times because they were fishing right off the bottom, while us plug trollers were only getting down 15 feet or so.”

“This is the first year that I have seen much of the bait fishing going on,” Phillips says. “And like any other fisheries, there were times when the bait rigs seemed to work and times when the plugs worked.”

Hymer says the setup has been in use at the mouth of the Klick the past few years.

Here’s the rest of his report:

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Anglers continue to catch coho as well as some chinook, steelhead, and sea run cutthroats.  Through October 21, nearly 35,000 hatchery adult coho had returned to the salmon hatchery, the highest count to date through at least 1990.

Flows below Mayfield Dam are 4,900 cfs today.  However, flows are expected to increase to nearly 6,000 cfs by tomorrow.

Kalama River – Anglers are catching some coho and steelhead plus a few dark chinook that were released.

Lewis River – Bank anglers near the salmon hatchery averaged just under ½ adult coho per rod when including fish released.  Over two-thirds of the fish were kept.  Some fall chinook (which have to be released) and steelhead were also caught.  Bank angling effort has been heavy around the salmon hatchery.

Klickitat River – Bank and boat anglers averaged a fish per rod.  Majority of the catch were adult coho.   Effort has been heavy on the lower river.

Flows at Pitt are currently 700 cfs which is the long-term mean for this date.  Flows are expected to double by early next week.

Yakima River – Recap by Paul Hoffarth, WDFW biologist in Yakima – The Yakima River salmon fishery closed on Oct 22. An estimated 457 adult fall chinook, 71 fall chinook jacks, 79 adult coho, and 4 coho jacks were harvested in the Yakima River this fall.  Also, 54 adult fall chinook, 3 chinook jacks, 5 hatchery steelhead, and 25 wild steelhead were caught and released. Very little effort or harvest was observed in the river downstream of Horn Rapids Dam.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Most of the effort and catch was in the Camas/Washougal area where boat anglers almost ½ fish per boat when including fish released.  Almost all the catch were coho.

Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers averaged just over an adult coho kept per rod.  Prawn/spinner rigs accounted for a lot of the catch. Most of the effort is off the mouth of the Klickitat where 70-80 boats were counted each morning this past weekend.

Hanford Reach – Recap from Paul Hoffarth, WDFW biologist in Yakima –     An estimated 6,555 adult fall chinook, 2,080 fall chinook jacks, 10 coho, and 114 hatchery steelhead were harvested by salmon anglers in Catch Area 535 between August 16 and October 22. An additional 159 adult chinook,  127 jacks, 10 hatchery steelhead, and 135 wild steelhead were caught and released.

An estimated 7,089 boat trips were completed for salmon in the Hanford Reach in 2009.  WDFW staff interviewed anglers from 1,376 boats, 19.4% of the effort.

The October 15 return estimate for the Hanford Reach (not including hatchery returns) was 34,103 adult chinook. After harvest, the expected escapement is 27,548, roughly 1,000 chinook below the escapement goal for the Reach of 28,800.  Retention of salmon was closed after October 14 after the in-season return estimate was downgraded from 38,000 to 34,000 on October 10.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam – About one in ten bank anglers just below Bonneville Dam had a keeper last week.  Effort remains fairly high with a nearly a couple hundred anglers there during open retention days.  Effort and catch was light on the lower river.

Report courtesy Joe Hymer, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission

Sweet Redemption In A 5×5

The following is a one-sided telephone conversation, what you would have heard me saying early yesterday afternoon when my old friend Eric Bell called to tell me about the muley he shot the day before just uphill of where I got mine on opening weekend.

“Hey, how’s it going?”

“Yeah.”

“A 5×5?!?”

“Jesus!”

“How wide was he?”

“Holy ––, 25 inches!”

“Five and a half years old! Whoa.”

“Mother of god.”

“Gangster style?”

“He’d been shot in a previous season too?”

“Yi yi yi.”

“Well, congrats, that’s a heckuva nice buck, man.”

“Yeah, send me pics, definitely.”

Click.

“Jesus, babe, Bell shot a ––– monster up at camp, claims it’s the size of a small horse! I knew I should’ve gone the second weekend instead of the first!”

With that, I headed to the store to buy a cheap pan to bleach my buck’s now, umm, incredibly teeny tiny rack.

ERIC BELL OF GRANITE FALLS, WASH., AND HIS WESTERN OKANOGAN COUNTY 5X5, SHOT ON THE SECOND AND FINAL WEEKEND OF MULE DEER SEASON. (TOM WALGAMOTT)

ERIC BELL OF GRANITE FALLS, WASH., AND HIS WESTERN OKANOGAN COUNTY 5X5, SHOT ON THE SECOND AND FINAL WEEKEND OF MULE DEER SEASON. (TOM WALGAMOTT)

IT’S ACTUALLY SWEET REDEMPTION for Bell. The particular spot he was hunting has some sour personal history. It was in October 2004, I believe, that he ambled over to me with pursed lips as I drove into our hunting camp in the upper Methow Valley for the second weekend. He showed me a cartridge.

With a dimple on the primer.

And the lead on the business end still jacketed tight.

Should’ve been a 4×4 hanging in camp, but his bullet had misfired.

Bell should also have jacked it out of his .30-06, because instead of bounding off, the buck had hung around. Nothing happened the second time he pulled the trigger on that shell either.

He’s had similar poor luck for years. I credit him for driving a herd of does plus a 3×4 around the mountain to me in the early 2000s. He flushed a Newport, Wash., whitetail to another friend.

Bell has also had – and I couldn’t make this up if I tried – a buck sneak up to within 10 feet of HIM. Granted, it was like a 1×2 and not legal where we were (not far from his missed 4×4 or 5×5), but still …

And it is, of course, the same Bell I wrote about in Northwest Sportsman last winter, the guy whose emails to me were becoming more and more unbalanced as first A) he struck out in the general season B) and then in the permit season as C) all the while deer rubs showed up at the end of his driveway then progressed almost right into his garage.

Indeed, since the misfire on the muley, the Granite Falls hunter has seemingly become obsessed with getting a blacktail.

He spent the first three or four days of this season hunting well-scouted state land near his house, and while he says  one clearcut he was in sounded alive with animal noises, he didn’t see a thing in it.

Which doesn’t surprise me, especially if it was the same cut that he and I glassed late in last year’s hunt. I’d gotten tired of watching it so I crashed through it while Bell stayed behind to hose down whatever scampered out the sides. There was plenty of deer sign in the patch, but when I got back to him an hour later he reported that he hadn’t seen anything come out, though he’d caught glimpses of me – at least once or thrice.

And how, again, were we supposed to see any deer that, at best, are only two-thirds as tall as me?

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, I wrote about a kid from Grays Harbor County who came out to our Eastern Washington deer camp. He hated it. The countryside was too open, the deer could see too far off. He left early and has never come back. I used the incident, however, to illustrate that far more blacktails were killed in a certain coastal area – despite all the brush – than units in more or less open western Okanogan County.

Well, you know what? After this season’s success and despite the Lookout Pack of wolves, you can keep your blacktails and your damned statistics. I’ll be back in the Okanogan next year – on the second weekend, when the big boys come through (Dad had a 4×4 coming at him in the fog last Friday before it wheeled away).

And I suspect Bell will be in camp too, hunting on Eric’s Bench which is just above Andy’s Saddle. Here’s hoping he’s got another dud cartridge in the chamber when that 5×5’s brother comes over the ridge!

BELL CARTS HIS BUCK DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. (TOM WALGAMOTT)

BELL CARTS HIS BUCK DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. (TOM WALGAMOTT)

NOAA’s San Juan Orcas Comment Period Extended

NOAA-Fisheries has extended the comment period for orca protections in the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound into the new year.

Public comments had been due Oct. 27, but the federal agency has pushed the due date back to Jan. 15.

“We recognize that by extending the public comment period, we won’t have enough time to issue a final rule before the 2010 summer boating season,” a statement on NOAA’s Web site reads. “We continue to believe that it’s important to address the adverse effects of vessel traffic on killer whales in the near future. In light of the requests we’ve received for an extension of the comment period, however, we believe additional public outreach will enhance both NOAA Fisheries’ understanding of public concerns and the public’s understanding of the basis for our proposal. This will also allow time for cooperative efforts to refine the proposal. We’ll work toward adoption of a final rule before the 2011 summer boating season.”

NOAA wants to make a 1/2-mile strip along the west side of San Juan Island a no-go zone for most boats from May 1 through September, as well as bar most vessels from approaching within more than 200 yards or block the paths of the ESA-listed marine mammals in Puget Sound. The agency argues that orcas are affected by boat noises.

“From my viewpoint, closing an area along the shoreline of San Juan Island is not a reasonable solution,” Tony Floor of the Northwest Marine Trade Association wrote in his October newsletter and excerpted in a blog post on our site. “A reasonable solution is to participate and encourage the improvement of water quality in Puget Sound. A healthy Puget Sound is good for Orca, salmon, and the people who live in the great Pacific Northwest.”

Why Wolf Meetings During Rifle Hunts?

When WDFW announced the schedule for public meetings on their draft wolf management plan, there was a bit of howling from hunters.

The dozen get-togethers were slated for the meat of deer and elk rifle seasons, the most popular and well-attended hunts in Washington.

Things kicked off Oct. 20, the Tuesday after the blacktail, muley and whitetail opener, in Clarkston, and proceeded to Richland on Wednesday and Yakima on Thursday.

Today, there will be a meeting in Colville, followed by Spokane, Vancouver and Aberdeen on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.

As elk hunters hole up on Halloween in the highlands of Kittitas and Yakima Counties as well as the Blue Mountains for the weeklong wapiti season, WDFW will hold meetings in Seattle, Mount Vernon and Sequim that following week.

And after late Northeast whitetail rifle and Westside modern firearm elk hunts open in November’s second week, state staffers will gather in Omak and Wenatchee.

So what the heck’s the deal with the timing? Is WDFW trying to keep hunters from commenting on the wolf plan, keep our voices from being heard by scheduling meetings when we’re up in the mountains?

“Yeah, we’ve heard that at a few of the meetings we’ve had already,” says the agency’s Madonna Luers. “But it’s nothing by design. It’s just the way it happened. In fact, we originally had some of these locations scheduled earlier in October.”

She points to an early September meeting with a citizen advisory panel, the Wolf Working Group, to go over scientific peer review comments on the draft plan.

“There were a whole lot more comment than expected,” Luers says. “And so there wasn’t enough time to get a final draft plan out for public review before October 5. And we wanted to give people at least two weeks before the first public meeting to look at that plan. We had to actually reschedule some meetings for later in the month.”

State staffers and the wolf group have been working since early 2007 on a plan for dealing with the return of the species to Washington.

“It’s too bad, but we’re actually getting good crowds at the meetings, including hunters because they’re not out every day,” Luers says.

That was in evidence at the Yakima meeting, according to an article by Scott Sandsberry in the Herald-Republic.

The timing has also affected the state’s enforcement officers, who’ve been working the field as well as attending the meetings to get a handle on how to handle livestock depredations, she says.

“Very frankly, hunters are one interest group,” Luers says. “We’ve had a lot of landowners at these meetings. And lots of conservation groups that are interested in wolves from a whole different perspective.”

While rifle hunters represent the largest segment of Washington’s big-game-hunting population, there are also thousands of archers and muzzleloaders whose deer and elk seasons occur on either side of the 12 meetings.

“It’s hitting the heart of some seasons, but missing others,” says Luers. “You can’t please everyone, but we’re doing the best we can.”

I’ll be at the Seattle meeting Nov. 2 — early too. I hope to see many fellow hunters there.

Meanwhile, tonight’s meeting will be held at the Northeast Washington Fairgrounds Ag-Trade Center, 317 West Astor Ave., in Colville. It begins at 6:30 p.m.

And if you can’t make it to the meetings, you can either fax, mail or electronically submit your comments through January 8.

FAX: (360) 902-2946

Mail: WDFW SEPA Desk, 600 Capitol Way N. Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

Online: http://wdfw.wa.gov/wildlife/management/gray_wolf/mgmt_plan.html

Oregon Hunter Working On Hound Hunt Bill

Jess Messner in Redmond, Ore., is quietly gathering signatures to get a hound-hunting initiative on the ballot in 2012, according to an Oregonian article headlined “It’s time to put the dog back in the (cougar) hunt.”

Bill Monroe writes that Oregon’s mountain lion numbers have nearly doubled, from 3,100 to over 5,800, since 1994 when hound hunting was banned in the Beaver State by voter initiative.

“We hunters have successfully managed and funded our wildlife for years,” Messner tells Monroe. “We all see there is a problem that must be fixed in order to save our big-game populations. I looked around and saw that there was no one doing anything about it.”

There are also safety concerns.

Removal of cougars in certain Eastern Oregon units appears to have helped elk herd numbers, according to the article, and ODFW wants to drop the predator species’ numbers down to around 3,000.

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.