All posts by Andy Walgamott

Barred From The (West) Bar

Washington’s hunting regulations list the West Bar game unit (330) as open for true spikes during the late-October/early November modern firearms elk season, but late word from the state that that is in error.

A press release from WDFW out this afternoon says the small unit along the Columbia in eastern Kittitas County is only open for early archery and special permit hunting, not rifle season.

“Over 20 years ago when it was included during the general season, too much hunting pressure on West Bar caused elk to cross the Columbia River and enter the agricultural and residential areas of Grant County, leading to some unethical and unsafe hunting activities,” says Ted Clausing, WDFW’s regional wildlife program manager in Yakima.

The agency says they are posting signs at access points to warn hunters.

Columbia Coho Bag Limit Increased

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The daily bag limit for adult hatchery coho will increase to three fish in the mainstem Columbia River from Tongue Point upstream to the Hwy. 395 bridge at Pasco, Wash., effective Thursday, Oct. 22.  The rule change was approved Monday by the states of Oregon and Washington at a joint state hearing in response to large returns of coho salmon. The adult coho limit in the area between Buoy 10 and Tongue Point increased to three fish effective Sept. 1.

Under the new rules, anglers will be permitted to retain one additional adult fin-clipped coho in their current daily adult bag limit which varies by area.

The revised daily adult bag limits (effective Oct. 22) are:

Tongue Point upstream to Warrior Rock:
Two adipose fin-clipped steelhead or adipose fin-clipped coho in combination, plus one additional adipose fin-clipped coho.  Closed to the retention of chinook salmon.

Warrior Rock upstream to Bonneville Dam:
Two adipose fin-clipped steelhead, adipose fin-clipped adult coho, or adult chinook (but only one may be a chinook) in combination, plus one additional adipose fin-clipped coho.

Bonneville Dam upstream to the Hwy. 395 bridge at Pasco, Wash.:
Two adipose fin-clipped steelhead, coho, or chinook in combination, plus one additional coho.  All non adipose fin-clipped coho must be released downstream of the Hood River bridge.

The coho season on the Columbia is expected to continue through the rest of the year.

Detailed area-by-area regulations, updated regulations, and in-season modifications can be found at on the ODFW Web site.

TDCABIA Saturn, Part II

A word about how I found myself driving to deer camp and back in a Saturn sporting an Obama sticker on the bumper and a German opera in the cassette deck.

This past weekend, my mom held a baby shower for Amy, my wife. Her mother had driven up from Newport for the event, and that meant we had a second car available. And because I had to be back at work Monday morning to send the November issue of Northwest Sportsman to press – and Dad was staying in camp till late Monday morning – it was either zip into Okanogan County in an unlikely hunting rig or rent an Explorer from Budget.

Due to budget constraints, I chose the former – and got a lot of grief over that bumper sticker.

That wasn’t my main worry, though. It was getting the car into camp over a kelly hump in the road. No problem in the high-clearance pickups I’ve driven or ridden to deer camp for years, but for a Saturn … well, take it slow – and try not to scrape going over that rock!

I’d kidded my mother-in-law we’d be taking her car all the way up the nasty road to the top of the mountain, where there’s a big clearcut with lots of feed. That’s where I like to hunt in the afternoons. We’ve been hunting this area of the Methow Valley for around 10 years, and I think I’ve finally got the hang of what the deer are up to. I know where they’ll cross over the divide in the morning and evening, approximately when that will happen, where they’ll come up out of the creek, the trail they’ll take across the bowl, the spot to sit on top of the hill near sunset, the buck nests.

And while I’ve figured a lot out about the critters, what’s perplexing of late is the weather. Since October 2003’s monsoon, fall has seemingly turned a lot moister in the Okanogan. Used to be you could count on tinder-dry arrowleaf balsamroot and downed pine and fir branches giving away deer movements, but these days, not so much. Somewhere I saw a prediction that in the years ahead, most of Washington would be drier – except for Okanogan County, which would get wetter. And as we sat around the campfire on the eve of this year’s opener, rain began falling, so we retreated to the trailer for the evening.

The pitter-patter of rain and drops of it from the trees above reminded me of that night in 2003 when both sides of the state were absolutely soaked, but in the back of my mind was what happened that next morning. Despite the weather, I threw on a rain jacket and headed out to a crossing point on the mountain and waited. A buck had come through at what passed for shooting light, but I guessed wrong and he spooked. That and a couple other incidents taught me not to stay in camp when the weather’s bad. Indeed, as a coed at Wazzu once told our 400-level English class, if Washingtonians didn’t do things outside just because it was raining, we’d never do anything at all.

Which is why, this past Saturday morning, I left camp well before shooting light to find a spot on the ridge, a saddle I’ve watched dozens of deer cross over, some as close as 10 yards.

Shooting light came and went without any blasts, but around 7, a few shots rang out, though muffled. Fog lay across the valley, hills and mountains above Winthrop, and as morning wore on it only got thicker. Where I’d set up has 300 degrees of fair visibility in the best of conditions, but as clouds surged in, I could see only 40 yards at times.

That and the wetness of the ground led to the morning’s first surprise: A doe suddenly appeared out of the fog 30 yards away to my right. She crossed over the ridge within 20 yards and continued downhill. Lesson learned: Eyes more than ears will be the key today.

A wind came up and for a moment it seemed like it might blow the murk away, but then it came on thick. Dad came up the trail and we chatted briefly before he went back down to another vantage spot. To only see one deer on the opener here is really unusual, and I thought about climbing higher up, but with this fog, one spot was as good as another, I figured, so I stayed put.

Glad I did. Around 8:50 I spotted a deer coming towards me. It was a buck. I put the scope on him, but it was only a 2-point muley, not legal here.

However, another deer was behind him, and since I’ve never seen a buck leading does in this area, the odds I thought were good it was a second buck.

It was. And he had what looked like was a third point on the left side.

My heart started pumping hard as I tracked the two through the trees about 35 yards away. But was that really a third point on that second one, I found myself wondering?

The bucks switched positions, the 2-point now behind. Then they stopped and looked at me. In the trees, I couldn’t tell which was which; their small headgear was camouflaged too well.

Something was wrong, they could tell, and started moving off, one in front of the other. My chance of a shot was fading, I realized, so I put the scope up again, saw three points clearly silhouetted in the fog on the second buck, and fired the .308.

The buck piled up in 40 yards, a hole in his ticker.

And here I’d thought the only buck I’d harvest over the weekend would be hatchery steelhead in the Wenatchee and Methow rivers.

But it brought up an interesting question: With Dad staying till later on Monday, how was I going to get the deer to the butcher?

In the Saturn?

My mother-in-law had made it known I couldn’t put it inside her car, and though that didn’t preclude putting it up on the hood, like that gal who carried a Montana elk on the roof of her Dodge Colt, she got wise and barred that option too.

To be continued …

Kulongoski On NPR

In case you missed the story yesterday afternoon on NPR, reporter Melissa Block floated the South Fork Santiam River with Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski recently. And while they also talked about his desire to create more green jobs in the Beaver State, it was a chance for the governor to practice what he really loves: fly fishing.

Block reports:

We float past Chinook salmon spawning in the gravel close to shore, their tails flapping out of the water. Ospreys wheel overhead. For Kulongoski, time on the river teaches patience — among other things.

“Sometimes, you have to get out like this to really understand why you do what you do,” he says. “This is what Oregon’s all about. This is who we are as people — on the natural resource side of our lives. … I must admit, I may not be as religious but I’m very spiritual — and I believe if there is a God, this is where he lives. He’s on the river, he’s in the mountains — this is what it’s all about.”

They were hoping to catch steelhead, but in the end, Kulongoski only landed a jack Chinook, which he released.

There’s an amusing tidbit at the end of the article too, about the governor steelheading in front of a crowd on the McKenzie.  He loses two, and hears it from the peanut gallery.

The peanut gallery commenting on NPR’s story point out the gov might want to do something about the state’s high unemployment rate rather than going fishing or talking about future green jobs.

Frank Words

The story is about why the state of Washington may be dragging its heels on working with the tribes to come up with a plan to replace or repair salmon-blocking culverts, but in Craig Welch’s Seattle Times article today, Billy Frank Jr. has some strong comments about well comanagement of the fish is working out:

“We’re going backward, backward, backward,” Frank said. “Their budgets are falling. Their half of the management of our 50-50 split hasn’t worked. The tribes are doing lots of things on the watershed. We’ve got to get the co-managers to do more of the same.”

Winter-runs Are Heeeeere: SW WA Fishin’ Report

Joe Hymer knows how to get my attention. In his Southwest Washington fishing roundup, fired off his Vancouver desk oh, about 10 minutes ago, is the following bolded, supersized mention for the Cowlitz River: “four early winter-run adults.”

Yee-hah! Our favorite season is officially here!! And it comes just as we put the final touches on the November issue’s 31-page Northwest steelhead preview.

Here’s the rest of the fishing news from around Southwest Washington, according to Hymer:

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Anglers are reminded that under statewide freshwater rules, October 31 is the last day to fish for game fish in most rivers, streams, and beaver ponds.

Mainstem Grays from mouth to South Fork and West fork from mouth to hatchery intake/footbridge – Salmon and steelhead season extended through October 25. Salmon daily limit is 6 fish of which no more than 2 adult chinook may be retained.  Release chum, wild coho, and wild chinook.  All chinook must be adipose and/or ventral fin clipped to be retained.

In addition, up to 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Wild steelhead and all other game fish must be released.   

Lower portions of Abernathy, Coal, Mill (Cowlitz Co.), Germany creeks and the Coweeman River –  Re-open to fishing for hatchery steelhead and other game fish beginning November 1.

Cowlitz River – Boat and bank anglers continue to catch coho on the lower Cowlitz.   Bank anglers at the barrier dam are also catching some coho and Chinook (most of which were released).

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 9,890 coho adults, 701 jacks, 1,268 fall chinook adults, 215 jacks, 39 summer-run steelhead adults, four early winter-run steelhead adults, 159 sea-run cutthroat trout, one chum and one pink salmon adult during seven days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the week Tacoma Power employees released 813 fall Chinook adults, 154 jacks, 72 coho adults and two jacks into Mayfield Lake at the Ike Kinswa State Park boat launch, 297 coho adults and 10 jacks, 258 fall chinook adults and 41 jacks into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton, 1,565 coho adults and 133 jacks into Lake Scanewa above Cowlitz Falls Dam, and 687 coho adults and 40 jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, Washington.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 4,470 cubic feet per second on Monday, October 19, and water visibility is 12 feet.

Kalama River – Has improved for coho.  Anglers are also catching some steelhead.

Lewis River – Bright, late stock coho have appeared in the catch at the salmon hatchery.  Some steelhead and fall Chinook (which have to be released) were also caught.  About 800 hatchery late stock coho were counted in the traps last week.

Fisherman and pleasure boaters planning to be on the Columbia or lower Lewis Rivers should be aware that a safety zone will be established prior to blasting operations scheduled to occur each day beginning November 1.  For more info, see http://crci-project.info/index.html.

Wind River – Generally light effort although boat anglers caught some coho which were released.  October 31 is the last scheduled day of the salmon season.

Drano Lake – Light effort though boat anglers are catching some fish.

Klickitat River – Heavy bank angling effort and increased coho catch on the lower river.  Nearly 50 vehicles were counted yesterday (Sunday Oct. 18) morning on the lower couple miles of the river.  Bank anglers averaged an adult coho kept per rod.  Some fall Chinook were also observed in the catch.

Under permanent rules to protect naturally spawning fall chinook, all chinook must be released from 400’ above #5 fishway upstream beginning November 1.  Fisher Hill Bridge downstream will remain open for chinook retention.

Yakima River – WDFW staff interviewed 220 anglers fishing for salmon. Effort was similar to the week prior. An estimated 189 adult fall chinook, 22 jack chinook, and 72 adult coho caught during the week. The total harvest is currently estimated at 403 adult chinook, 58 jack chinook, 82 adult coho, and 4 coho jacks. Wild steelhead caught and released for the fishery is estimated at 16 fish.  Salmon fishery is scheduled to remain open through October 22.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Most of the effort and coho catch was found in the Camas/Washougal area.  Fifty boats were counted at Lady Island during the Saturday October 17 flight.     Some coho and steelhead were also caught in the lower river though effort was light.

Under permanent rules to protect naturally spawning fall chinook and chum, fishing for salmon is closed from Beacon Rock to Bonneville Dam beginning November 1.

Bonneville Pool – At the mouth of the Klickitat, boat anglers averaged nearly an adult coho kept per rod.  Just over sixty boats were counted there yesterday.  Some coho are also being caught at the mouth of the White Salmon River though most were unmarked fish and had to be released.

Hanford Reach – The fall chinook sport fishery was closed to the retention of any salmon on October 14. Anglers were allowed to continue to fish for hatchery steelhead and catch and release only for salmon through October 22.  The number of boats fishing for salmon dropped dramatically after October 14.  An estimated 276 fall chinook were harvested during the final three days of retention (193 adults & 83 jacks). Only 48 adult and 39 jack chinook were caught and released after October 14.  To date, 6,532 adult fall chinook and 1,997 jacks have been harvested.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauana powerlines to Bonneville Dam – About one in ten bank anglers on the Washington side just below Bonneville Dam had kept a legal size sturgeon when sampled last Thursday.  Effort remains fairly high in the gorge with 265 WA and 294 OR bank anglers counted during the Saturday October 17 flight.   Effort was light on the rest of the lower river.

TROUT

Swift Reservoir – Game fish and salmon season has been extended through November.  Reports of good fishing for rainbows averaging 12-13” with  some up to 20”.

Comments On Sound Rockfish Plan Sought

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is accepting public comment through Nov. 19 on a new draft conservation plan for rockfish in Puget Sound and has scheduled four meetings to discuss the plan with the public.

The draft conservation plan is the preferred alternative among several presented in a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which is required by the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

The DEIS and draft conservation plan are available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/management/rockfish/ . Those who would like a copy of the plan on a compact disc or in print can call (360) 902-2844.

The draft conservation plan provides the framework for new strategies and actions in areas including fisheries, monitoring and education to conserve and protect rockfish populations in Puget Sound. Three species of rockfish in Puget Sound – bocaccio, yelloweye and canary rockfish – currently are being considered for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Comments can be submitted by email to SEPAdesk2@dfw.wa.gov , by FAX to (360) 902-2946, or by U.S. Mail to: WDFW SEPA Desk, 600 Capitol Way N. Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

In addition, people can submit comments, as well as discuss the draft plan with WDFW staff, during public meetings scheduled for:

  • Oct. 29 – From 7-9 p.m. in Mill Creek at WDFW’s Mill Creek office, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd.
  • Nov. 2 – From noon-2 p.m. in Friday Harbor in the Commons Room at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor laboratory, 620 University Road.
  • Nov. 4 – From 7-9 p.m. in Olympia in room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E.
  • Nov. 6 – From 4-6 p.m. in Port Townsend in the Raven Room at Skookum Inc., 385 Benedict St.

NWS Scribe, Friends Limit At Spencer

While I was out deer hunting in Eastern Washington this past weekend, Northwest Sportsman contributor “Uncle Wes” Malmberg was working the trout over in Mason County.

He, his brother and a friend all limited out at Spencer Lake on pound-plus rainbows yesterday.

They were, of course, dragging around a fly.

“Olive Bugger was the king,” Wes reports.

It took them just three hours to catch the 15 trout, most of which went 12 to 14 inches, but the biggest one was 16 inches, he says.

“Got off the lake to see Minnesota win again. Gotta love Brett Favre.”

And you gotta love the stocking truck. WDFW recently planted Spencer, which is northeast of Shelton and about a mile off Highway 3 via East Pickering Road,with around 5,750 1-pound-and-better rainbows in recent weeks.

“There’s plenty of parking, there’s an outhouse, but the launch is a little rough,” Wes says of the lake’s facilities.

Spencer isn’t the only Mason County lake brimming with fresh fish. In recent weeks, the state has also planted Lake Kokanee (803), Lost Lake (1,254) and Nahwatzel Lake (4,600).

POST SCRIPT: Wes returned to Spencer today, Tuesday, Oct. 20, and reports limiting on 14- to 16-inchers in an hour and 30 minutes, all on size 4 Woolly Buggers. He says there were four or five other boats on the water.

To Deer Camp And Back, In A Saturn: Part I

I’ve gone to deer camp in many different General Motors products, but never one so out of place as a four-door Saturn.

The gas mileage was pretty damned good, lemme tell you, but it just doesn’t match the manliness of pulling into Okanogan County in a black-smoke-belching Chevy Silverado HD diesel towing a boxcar-sized trailer.

And then there were the opera casette tapes on the passenger’s seat and the Obama, “End This War” and donkey stickers on the car’s bumper.

Not saying that there aren’t any classical music lovers or Democrats or liberals who hunt, but I’d warned my mother-in-law, who’d kindly lent me her Saturn for the weekend, it might come back from camp with bullet holes.

That was fine, she said, just as long as it came back all in one piece — and I didn’t haul any dead critters home in it.

No worries, I said, everyone knows the wolves ate all the deer in the Methow Valley, it’ll just be another armed hike — one that promised to be a wet one too with the rainy weather forecast.

Indeed, the only bucks I thought I’d see would be those in the Wenatchee and Methow rivers which I planned to stop along the way and fish for steelhead.

SO ON FRIDAY MORNING, I threw my float and spinning rods, waders and deer hunting gear in the car, and headed out for a cast-and-blast weekend. The fishing reports have been good, but the Wenatchee was pretty low and clear when I pulled aside below Tumwater Dam.

With brilliant fall foliage burning above, I took a few quick casts into a tailout and pool with big boulders with a spoon then a jig, then moved well downriver to Riverfront Park in Cashmere. I worked a riffle with a spinner then the slightly deeper water below with a marabou jig.

No takers tho (not counting the rocks, of course), so I continued east to the Old Monitor Bridge. The water immediately above the bridge looked interesting, but I didn’t give it much time. Dad, his truck and trailer were already up at deer camp and he could use a hand rousting up some firewood, so I peeled out of the WDFW access and headed north up the Columbia as fast as I could get the Saturn to go — which wasn’t all that fast.

At Pateros, I turned left and headed up the Methow, giving both rods a little workout here and there, but with nothing really to show for it (and even less gear than when I started).

Around 2, 2:30, I gave up on catching anything and cruised up Highway 153’s big sweeping curves along the river.

A little past Carlton, I saw the first buck of the trip.

Not an angler carrying a steelhead back to their rig — rather, the real deal, a buck deer in a field.

It was the funniest damned thing ever: The small muley was being chased across a field by a herd of gobblers. He’d wheel on them and they’d bring up reinforcements and his nerve would break and he’d run. I braked hard (the Saturn shook), turned around, fished my camera out of a sack and tried to take a picture. But the turkeys were so persistent that they chased the buck over a hill and out of sight before I could.

Argh.

I drove on, and the closer I got to Winthrop, the more excited I became. Dad and I have been coming up here for over a decade, and while we haven’t had the best of luck, there’s just something about coming into this big broad valley as the aspen leaves turn from green to gold, and the town swaps its summer tourist trade for hunters.

While the car might have fit in more with the few folks out windowshopping the town’s boardwalks that afternoon, I crossed through and headed into the hills for camp.

The good news was that dad had already taken care of most of the problem of firewood with his chainsaw, but the bad was that the green pine rounds needed splitting, which is where me and my back came in.

But it wasn’t that bad, and it wasn’t long before we saw our first in-country deer — a doe and a yearling headed straight for camp. Dad saw them first, and they approached to within 20 yards before the younger animal got skittish and bounced away.

Later, telling my mother-in-law about that, she suspected that the deer saw her “End This War” bumper sticker and told the rest of the muleys in the woods not to worry about us, we were pacifists and wouldn’t shoot.

To be continued …