All posts by Andy Walgamott

Twilight For A Forks Steelheader

A couple months before Dick Wentworth sent in his 2007-08 catch card, he hung up his rod and reel and quit steelheading.

It wasn’t exactly what I expected to hear when I called the Forks, Wash., man earlier this fall to ask about the secret to his wild success for an article in our November issue. He was among the 17 anglers statewide who turned in a full punchcard that season.

But rather than politely hang up, I held the line – and got an earful.

“The last time I fished was January or February two years ago,” Wentworth says. “Perfect water. No fish. Perfect water. That leaves you cold. I know how to cast. They aren’t there, boys. They aren’t behind the rocks.”

HE SAYS THOSE WORDS with a finality that can only come from long years of knowing the rivers.

Now 70, his roots here (Wentworth Lake, anyone?) stretch back at least four generations, if not more – he claims some Indian blood. He’s been fishing since he was 8 years old, but transitioned into flyrodding in his teens.

“It became too easy. It was nothing to catch fish on eggs,” he says.

He’d heard about how local school teacher Syd Glasso was experimenting with spey flies (think the Heron series and Sol Duc patterns).

“‘That’s neat,’ I thought, so I knocked on his door and asked, ‘How do you do that?’”

Pretty soon Wentworth found himself in Glasso’s kitchen helping the icon rewrap fly lines with lead to get the big patterns down to where the fish were in the cold waters of the Peninsula, according to fly fishing writer Doug Rose.

And he took to the tying bench himself. Winter-run steelhead, springers, summer-runs, fall Chinook, sea-run cutts, surf perch, you name it, if it swims anywhere on the North Coast, it’s bit for the retired telephone employee.

“In the 1950s, it was nothing to have four-, five-, six-(steelhead) mornings on the fly,” he says.

That painting of a big 20-plus-pounder about to hit a fly above the checkout line at the Forks Thriftway? It’s based on one of Wentworth’s notable catches.

He’s landed so many, he says he can tell the differences between steelhead running up the Sol Duc, Hoh and Queets.

That earns him something like “Yeah, sure, kooky Old Man” reactions from biologists.

Or maybe that’s because of his unvarnished opinion on today’s Bogachiel River hatchery steelhead: “They’re not a fish, they’re a rag.”

A RAG ISN’T SOMETHING someone like Dick Wentworth seems like he’d be willing to fish for.

But there’s more to why he hung it all up after a long, successful career.

“I gave up because of all the pressure. You can’t just keep piling on them and expect them to be behind every rock,” he says.

He says there are many factors why the fish don’t return like they used to: a “sick” Pacific, “more anglers, nets, guides, our runs declined, seasons now run year-round.”

Then there’s side-drifting: “It’s so effective, it’s not even funny.”

He would ban bait and make anglers get out of their boats to fish.

And while he says his own rule-change proposals in the past have gone nowhere with the state, shorter retention seasons for wild steelhead and more conservative gear rules for Peninsula rivers are actually among the ideas the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife is mulling for 2010-12 seasons.

Comments will be taken at a public hearing with the Fish & Wildlife Commission this weekend, Dec. 4-5, in Olympia.

In the meanwhile, Wentworth will watch as another winter run starts up the Calawah behind his house, but instead of picking up his fly rod, he’ll be making archery equipment and firing off verbal arrows when reporters come calling.

“There are a lot of things against us,” Wentworth says. “We need to figure out what we can do to improve things for the kids coming up. If we don’t, you’re going to miss out. It’s not going to be there for you.”

For Now, WDFW Won’t Be Merged With DNR, Other Agencies

A plan announced this afternoon by Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire on how the state’s natural resource agencies will work together in the future does not include bundling Fish & Wildlife with other departments, although it will be working more closely with DNR and other divisions in the years ahead, spokesmen say.

“With the budget reductions that we’ve had to make and will continue to make in response to revenue shortfalls, it’s imperative for government to work smarter and more efficiently than ever,” Gregoire said today in a press release. “Our natural resource management reforms will make the most of our investments and provide maximum benefits to the public and protection for the environment.”

She ordered the review in the wake of this biennium’s $9 billion budget shortfall.

Craig Bartlett, a WDFW information officer in Olympia, indicated a bit of surprise that his division and others weren’t going to be joined.

Back in September, we half kiddingly wrote that you might one day call his office and get this message: “You have reached the Ecosystem Management and Recreation Agency. If you have a question about hunting regulations, press 1. If you would like to reserve a campground at a state park, press 2. If you have a question about state wildlife areas, please call the DNR.”

That’s because, last spring, Gregoire asked the state’s Departments of Fish & Wildlife, Natural Resources, Parks, Health, Agriculture, Ecology and other groups to come up with ideas on how to reform management of their agencies, reduce costs and improve service delivery.

In early fall, the departments issued a 172-page document that looked at several scenarios combining the 15 resource divisions into one, two, three, four and five agencies. After public review, Gregoire and DNR head Peter Goldmark looked the options over and offered up a mix of fixes.

According to Joe Stohr, WDFW deputy director, their decision focuses more on improving service and customer satisfaction, but it does have several areas where his agency will be affected.

“All natural resource agencies have been directed by executive order to adopt a single set of regions,” he says.

WDFW and DNR both have six regions, but they don’t really match up very well; Parks and Recreation has a dozen or so, but Ecology has just four.





In the future, each department’s offices may also be co-located, saving the state money.

Stohr says that some permitting will also be smoothed over — for someone to get one to work in a wetland or in water can require up to 12 different go-aheads from multiple agencies — which will help reduce mailing and meetings.

Biological field work between WDFW, DNR and DOE would also be better coordinated, he adds.

And Stohr says that there will be an effort to identify redundancies in WDFW and DNR’s lands divisions — management, procurement, surveying, etc. The former agency owns around 800,000 acres, the latter 3 million.

“These reform measures will streamline our work, improve coordination with tribal co-managers, and increase the protection of our state’s fish and wildlife resources,” WDFW director Phil Anderson said in the press release.

Other reforms are noted here.

Stohr notes that some of the tweaks are by executive order but others will need to be run through the Legislature, which can also decide it wants to do different things too.

Baby Boy Joins NWS Editor’s Family

It was a week ago today that we landed the newest hunter/angler in Team Walgamott, Kiran Sky.

Our baby boy came into the world early in the afternoon at just over 8 1/2 pounds and 21 inches long. He and Momma are both doing quite well and are at home.

His first name is Hindi for “ray of light,” a meaning that Amy really liked. She again shot down my old-New Englandey choices of Herkimer, Roscoe, Mortimer and Eldred — I don’t know why! — but did compromise on Sky. It, of course, refers to Puget Sound’s Skykomish, one of my favorite steelhead and salmon streams.


Now, whether Kiran does take up rod and reel remains to be seen. Last spring, when I took his older brother, River, then 22 months old, to a local pond for bass, bluegill, carp or whatever else swum in it, things didn’t go quite the way I imagined they would.

Things never do with youngsters, though, I’m learning.

And that’s part of the fun with them, I’m also learning. Give River an ice cream cone — and stand back, because those chocolate or vanilla scoops will end up all over him and maybe you. But don’t lose it, just enjoy the moment. And take lots of pics.

Amy’s a big scrapbooker, does some cool stuff with the images we take and paper and scripts she buys. She’s also bought those baby books to record Juniors 1 and 2’s first days, months and years. On one of the pages you’re supposed to tape on headlines and other news of The Big Day, so we bought the November 25th issues of the Seattle Times and New York Times.

It wasn’t until we got home from the hospital, though, that I was able to read them. And I was quite surprised — and pleased — to find a hunting piece on the front page of the Dining & Wine section of the NYT: “The Urban Deerslayer.”

The article is not really about hunting behind the strip mall for deer. Rather, it’s about city-slickin’ -06 acolytes heading afield for their vittles.

Writes author Sean Patrick Farrell:

The call to forge deeper connections with the food we eat has pulled thousands to the nation’s farmers’ markets, sprouted a million backyard seedlings and jump-started an interest in scratch baking, canning and other county-fair pursuits.

Now add hunting to the list. Novice urban hunters are forming classes and clubs to learn skills that a few generations ago were often passed down from parent to child.

Jackson Landers, an insurance broker by day, teaches a course (in Charlottesville, Va.,) called Deer Hunting for Locavores. Mr. Landers, 31, started the classes earlier this year for largely urban adults who, like him, did not grow up stalking prey but have gravitated to harvesting and cooking their own game.

Farrell details the ordinary backgrounds of some of those newby hunters enrolled in Landers’ class — a 77-year-old man tired of whitetails competing for his salad greens; a 16-year-old boy; a 31-year-old male project manager for a Internet development outfit.

“This class was the chance of a lifetime,” Nina Burke, a 50-year-old female systems administrator also in the group, told Farrell. “I always thought that the only way I would get a deer was with my car.”

Another hunting/dining group has sprung up in San Francisco, he reports.

A 4-minute video with the article features outtakes of Landers’ class, from target practice to gutting to butchering in the kitchen to fully cooked beer-braised backstraps — delicious!

“It’s free range, hormone-free .The animal leads a good natural life in the wild, and then it has one bad day,” Landers explains in the video.

As for why they’re in the class, one man likens knowing how to hunt for “all that free meat running around” to being able to fix your own car. We do not have to surrender these things to distant meat-packing plants or microchip-checking mechanics just because society says those skills are old fashioned.

Online, there are at least 36 comments on the article, illustrating a variety of views on hunting, some quite negative, others positive.

Unlike this small new corps of townie game trackers, hunting in my family has been passed down to me by my dad from his dad.

Amy’s milk and Kiran are being strengthened with venison from the buck I shot in mid-October. (River loves salmon, steelhead, trout and halibut, though was a little more hesitant on the deer summer sausage we pulled out to celebrate his brother’s birth.)

The quality and nutrition of wild game and fish is something sportsmen have known about forever, but seemingly has been lost to the general public in recent decades as our food supply has become more and more industrialized.

But articles like Farrell’s — and books like Don Thomas’ How Sportsmen Saved the World — give me hope that hunting will remain socially acceptable and better understood by the time my boys (if they choose to, of course) take up their great-grandpas’, grandpas, great-uncles’ and father’s sport.

Right now Kiran’s got the whole move-slowly thing down perfectly — River most assuredly will have to relearn that — though both boys may need a little help on the staying-quiet part of hunting.

And while we’re all definitely urban deer hunters, they’ll have me and Dad to learn those skills from — not some class — when they’re ready.

POSTSCRIPT: It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I’d been wandering around the office all day in a shirt with at least three noticeable spit-up stains on the left shoulder. Yeah, I need more sleep.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

Highlights from ODFW’S weekly Recreation Report:


  • Over 200 adult, fin-clipped coho were stocked into Galesville Reservoir recently. Anglers can harvest one of these fish per day as a “trout” over 20 inches.
  • Both the Smith and South Umpqua rivers open for winter steelhead fishing on Dec. 1.
  • Applegate Reservoir was stocked this fall with large and trophy-sized trout, which should provide some good fishing during the winter months.


  • Surplus hatchery summer steelhead have been released in Town Lake. These fish will bite sand shrimp fished under a bobber, medium sized spinners or spoons, or a variety of flies at times. Be persistent as these fish are sometimes very finicky.


  • Large brood trout were released this week at several Willamette Valley ponds, including Junction City, Walter Wirth, Walling and Sheridan. 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.
  • Winter steelhead should be starting to arrive in the lower Willamette and Clackamas rivers.


  • Both Taylor Lake and Pine Hollow have been recently stocked and will offer good trout fishing this winter.
  • November and December can offer fine fishing on Crescent Lake for brown and lake trout until access is limited by snow.


  • GRANDE RONDE, WALLOWA, IMNAHA RIVERS AND TRIBUTARIES: Steelhead angling success in the lower Grande Ronde and Imnaha Rivers has declined with recent cold weather and continued low river flows. Anglers averaged  10 hours per steelhead landed during last week’s surveys on the lower Grande Ronde River. The bag limit on the lower Grande Ronde, Wallowa, and Imnaha Rivers is five adipose fin-clipped steelhead per day.
  • JOHN DAY RIVER: Steelhead have entered the lower John Day and fishing is fair up to the Cottonwood Bridge. Fishing is good in the John Day arm. Hatchery/wild ratios are only 25/75 at Rock Creek and Cottonwood but increase to 50/50 in the John Day Arm. Cold weather has settled into the John Day drainage so anglers will encounter less active fish and floating ice will become a problem.
  • UMATILLA RIVER: Steelhead fishing has been good and angler effort has been light, for the week of Nov.23-29 anglers averaged 4 hours/steelhead landed downstream of Threemile Dam. River conditions are low and clear. Steelhead returns to date to Threemile Dam 996. Anglers are reminded the fall salmon season ended on November 30.


  • SNAKE BELOW HELLS CANYON DAM: Fishing for adipose fin-clipped steelhead has opened and the fishing is very good. The bag limit for steelhead increased to five adipose fin-clipped steelhead per day, with no more than three 32 inches in total length or greater. There are a lot of fishermen in the area, so please use good fishing ethics.


  • Bottom fishing is good when ocean conditions permit. Ling cod should begin moving into shallower waters to spawn. Divers may find success spearing along rocky jetties for ling cod and black rockfish.
  • A series of minus tides starting around sundown on Nov. 30 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.

Askew, Monroe Tackle Fall Turkeys

Northwest Sportsman columnist Wil Askew went hunting with The Oregonian‘s Bill Monroe for a little post-Thanksgiving gobble-gobble recently.

“It’s much easier to get permission in the fall,” Askew told Monroe in the article. “And you can get out and stalk them a little more because there aren’t many other hunters around.”

Monroe’s story details how they both brought down birds.


SW WA Fishing Report


Cowlitz River – At the barrier dam, 47 bank anglers kept 1 adult coho and 1 steelhead plus released 1 adult chinook.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 1,521 coho adults, 74 jacks, 234 sea-run cutthroat trout, 112 winter-run steelhead, 36 summer-run steelhead, four fall Chinook adults and one chum salmon during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the week Tacoma Power employees released 299 coho adults, 20 jacks, two fall Chinook adults, two winter-run steelhead and nine cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton, 338 coho adults and 12 jacks into Lake Scanewa above Cowlitz Falls Dam, 260 coho adults and 23 jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, and 166 coho adults and eight jacks into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellowjacket Creek.  In addition, 275 hatchery-origin sea-run cutthroat trout were recycled downstream to the Barrier Dam boat launch.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 8,030 cubic feet per second on Monday, November 30. Water visibility is seven feet.

Lewis River – On the mainstem Lewis, 6 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead.  At the salmon hatchery, 39 bank anglers kept 8 steelhead and 6 adult coho plus released 8 adult and 1 jack coho.  Four boat anglers released 1 adult chinook, 1 adult coho, and 1 jack coho.

Effective December 16, anglers will be allowed to fish from floating devices from Johnson Creek upstream.  In addition, fishing for hatchery coho and hatchery steelhead opens from Colvin Creek upstream to the overhead powerlines below Merwin Dam.

Klickitat River – 8 bank anglers from the Fisher Hill Bridge downstream kept 14 adult coho and released 9.

Ringold – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco – An estimated 1,080 steelhead were caught during the month of November. Of these, 811 hatchery steelhead were harvested and 119 wild steelhead were caught and released. Effort and catch has begun to slow as winter approaches.

To date, 2,952 steelhead have been caught and 2,054 steelhead have been harvested.


No reports.

Report courtesy Joe Hymer, PSFMC

Tribal Officer’s Reasoning Released In Brinnon Elk Case

The latest twist in the investigation of why two Port Gamble S’Klallam officers detained nontribal elk hunters near Brinnon is revealed in an article by Eric Hidle of the Peninsula Daily News.

It’s based on officer Gus Zoller’s account of what led him to believe the men had poached the bull.

His comments are part of a 168-page report released by the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office, brought about by one of the hunter’s filing a complaint of illegal detention. It includes WDFW and the county sheriff’s investigations.

The tribe is still preparing its report.

The county prosecutor has not decided whether to press charges or not.


New OR Boating Fee Begins Soon


Oregon boaters will soon be on the front lines of a war against aquatic invasive species. Beginning Jan. 1, 2010, operators of manually powered boats (paddle craft) 10 feet or longer and all registered boats (power and sail) and are required by a new law to purchase an Aquatic Invasive Species Permit to fund prevention and control programs.

The environmental protection law, created by the 2009 Oregon Legislature, is designed to protect Oregon’s waters from destructive invaders including the quagga and zebra mussels that are rapidly spreading across the nation degrading water quality, depleting native fish and waterfowl populations and costing millions of dollars in maintenance of water and power facilities. The new program will be implemented by the Oregon State Marine Board and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

New Fees

  • Registered boaters will pay an automatic $5 surcharge as part of their boater registration.
  • Out-of-state motorboat operators need to purchase an annual permit for $22 ($20 permit plus $2 agent fee) through ODFW license agents, ODFW offices that sell licenses and on the ODFW Web site. Out-of-state permits will not be sold through boat registration agents or the Oregon State Marine Board.
  • Non-motorized boat operators (canoes, kayaks, sailboats, drift boats, etc.) will need to purchase and carry an annual permit. Permits can be purchased starting Dec.1 at ODFW license agents, ODFW offices that sell licenses and on the ODFW Web site for a cost of $7 ($5 permit plus $2 agent fee). Permits are required for both residents and nonresidents and are transferable to other non-motorized craft, but every vessel on the water must have a permit.
  • Guides, outfitters, livery operations and boating clubs should purchase their permits directly from the Oregon State Marine Board.

The Oregon State Marine Board and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are implementing the new Aquatic Invasive Species Program, which will include education outreach, voluntary boat inspections and decontamination of infected boats to stop the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species.

For information about the new Aquatic Invasive Species Program, visit To purchase permits online, visit ODFW’s Web site,

Wallowa Trophy Muley Poached


Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division is asking for the public’s help to solve the unlawful killing of a mule deer buck in the Minam Unit in Wallowa County.  A reward of up to $250 is offered by the Oregon Hunter’s Association for information related to this case that leads to an arrest.


According to OSP Senior Trooper Kreg Coggins, the investigation indicates the mule deer buck was killed November 13th above Big Canyon in Littlefield Orchard off Deer Creek Road.  Coggins encourages anyone with information regarding suspicious activity, persons, or vehicle in that area during the time should contact OSP.  The caller may remain anonymous.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to call the TIP (Turn in Poachers) line at 1-800-452-7888.

Clam Dig A Go Next Weekend


Action: Opens razor clam season

Effective dates: 12:01 p.m. Dec. 2 through Dec. 5, 2009

Species affected: Razor clams

Days and times:

  • Wednesday, Dec. 2 (6:32 p.m. -1.2 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Thursday, Dec. 3 (7:18 p.m. -1.4 ft.) Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Friday, Dec. 4 (8:04 p.m. -1.3 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Saturday, Dec. 5 (8:51 p.m. -0.9 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch


  • 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.

Reasons for action: Harvestable surplus of razor clams are available.

Information Contact: Dan Ayres (360) 249-4628.