All posts by jhines

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Napier Outdoors – Keeping You High and Dry Since 1990

The Backroadz Truck Tent was created with every truck owner in mind while being easy on the wallet. A quick and easy assembly creates the ultimate camp site in the back of your open-bed pickup. Napier’s exclusive full floor design protects you from the elements while making the tent easy to set-up and secure to your truck.
It’s perfect to keep behind the seat for any unexpected adventures such as:
camping, tailgating, fishing or even lounging at the beach.
• Napier offers the only truck tents on the market with a full floor,
keeping you clean from your truck and dry from the elements
• Full rainfly provides ultimate weather protection
• Large interior area with over 5.6’ of headroom
• 2 large windows offer optimal ventilation
• Illuminate the tent using the built-in lantern holder
• Quick and easy 1 person assembly that takes about 10 minutes
to setup
• Includes carrying bag for storage

Napier Outdoors has been changing the way people view camping by reshaping and merging the automotive and camping industries. Observing a need for convenience and flexibility in outdoor adventures and the
demand for exciting accessories in the automotive industry, Napier developed Vehicle Camping Tents.

Napier Outdoors tents go a long way in improving your camping experience. Here’s how:
• Sleep comfortably above the ground in our truck tents
• Versatile, compact, and lightweight – keep the tent behind a seat for an unexpected adventure
• The added comfort of your vehicle being right there; just in case a hungry bear strolls by
• No need to unpack – keep all your gear in your vehicle and sleep in the tent
• Convert your vehicle into your home away from home

America Outdoors Radio

Here’s the latest Sportsman show hosted by John Kruse
Jan 13, 2017
Jan 7, 2017
Dec 31, 2016
Dec 17, 2016
Dec 3, 2016

America Radio

Astoria                                  KVAS 1230                     Sun 7 AM
Baker City                            KBKR 1450                   Sun 8 AM
Bend                                       KBND 1110                    Sun 6 AM
KBND 100.1                   Sun 6 AM
Burns                                      KBNH 1230                    TBD
Eugene                                  KPNW 1120                   Sun 8 AM (Our first station)
Enterprise                           KWVR 1340                   Sat 7 AM
KWVR 92.1                     Sat 7 AM
La Grande                            KLBM 1490                     Sun 8 AM
Portland/Hillsboro      KUIK 1360                  Sat 5 AM
Klamath Falls                     KAGO 1150                    Sat 6 AM

Aberdeen                              KXRO 1320                   Sat 10 AM
KXRO 101.7                  Sat 10 AM
Everett/Seattle*               KRKO 1380                   Sat 8 AM
Forks                                       KDBD HD 3                    Sun 10 AM
Goldendale                        KLCK 1400                      SAT 6 AM
Moses Lake                          KBSN 1470                    Sun 7 AM
Shelton/Olympia             KMAS 1030                 Sat 8 AM
KMAS 103.3                   Sat 8 AM
Spokane                                 KSBN 1230                    Sun 6 AM
Wenatchee                           KPQ 560                         Sat 10 AM, Mon 6 PM

Anchorage                            KBYR 700                        SAT 11 AM
Prudhoe Bay                      KBYR 100.1                   SAT 11 AM
Kuparuk                                 KBYR 88.5                      SAT 11 AM

St Maries                               KOFE 1240                     Sat 8 AM

Eureka                                          KGOE 1480                    Sat 5 AM
Redding – Shasta                KCNR 1460                    Sat 7 AM

Anaconda/Butte                 KANA 580                      Fri 11 AM

Johnson City/Erwin      WEMB 1420                    SAT 5 AM

WRVO RADIO                    Fri 5 AM, 11 AM, 11 PM (EST)                                                Sun 9 AM (EST)

Corned Elk and Cabbage Stew


Corning meat usually uses a brine method. A brine is simply a wet marinade for the meat, one that usually includes a variety of spices, salt and sugar. The spice combination can vary from cook to cook, family to family – especially for those who have a tradition of making it by hand. But for this chef, I use a simple pickling spice off the store shelf – I prefer the McCormick brand. The trick to getting great-looking – i.e., pink – corned meat is Insta Cure #1, otherwise known as pink salt. Arguments can be made for and against pink salt – it is your call; I use it.
2 quarts water, hot
½ cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon Insta Cure #1 (Prague powder or Speed Cure)
3 tablespoon pickling spice
3 pounds elk neck roast (or other red meat you wish to corn)
½ head green cabbage
2 pounds red potatoes, cut in half
1 pound baby carrots
Salt (maybe)

In a high-sided Tupperware or other food-safe storage vessel add the hot water. Stir in the salt, cure and the pickling spice. Stir until all the salt is absorbed. Add the neck roast. Refrigerate for one day per inch of thickness of the meat. For example – a 4-inch-thick section of neck meat will need four days in the brine; a 1-inch section will only need one day. The time spent in the brine allows the meat to better absorb the flavors.
When the meat is cured, drain off one quart of the brine water. Keep as much of the spice blend as possible. Add back one quart of fresh water to the container. Transfer all to a crock pot, set on low and cook for six to eight hours (I put my meat in the crock before work), or basically until a fork stuck into it can turn very easily. This will make your house smell awesome, by the way.Corned Elk and Cabbage Stew
When the roast is cooked, taste the liquid it is cooking in. It should be salty, but not overly so. If it is too salty, simply add water until it has the salt level you prefer. Strain off the cooking liquid, making sure to reserve it. Discard the spices.
Add the cabbage, potatoes and carrots to a large soup pot. Add just enough of the cooking liquid to cover the vegetables, then top with the corned meat. Simmer all together until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Shred the meat with a fork and serve hot. If needed, season with salt and pepper.
For more big game, game bird and fish recipes, see

fish-cleaning station

How To Troll For Potholes Walleye

By Don Talbot

fish-cleaning station

Potholes State Park’s excellent fish-cleaning station is now closed for the winter, but not before author Don Talbot (right) and a client gave it a good workout. Good walleye and perch fishing should continue into this month. (DONSFISHINGGUIDESERVICE.COM)

The water temp is 58 degrees and the winds are light. Nearby on this Tuesday are 25 other boats on the water – five times the amount of traffic I’d see if I was fishing the mouth of the Methow River in Pateros for steelhead. Don’t get me wrong – my first love is fall and winter steelheading, but walleye fishing may just take half my recreational time this winter, as long as the weather holds out!

Why? The fishing is excellent and super easy to understand – the only problem we have is that the rookies try to set the hook on almost every bite. This isn’t trout or salmon fishing, where you set the hook and hold on. The idea is to feed a walleye when one grabs your bait. I learned this technique while fishing with a Professional Walleye Trail pro in 1999 and 2000. Give the walleye line for about three seconds so that the fish can start to turn the bait in their mouth. Then I sweep the hook with one steady motion until the weight of the fish is solid, and reel slowly up.

In 1999 Royce Dry and I won the Potholes Classic walleye tournament by nearly 15 pounds. Held in the fall that year, we won the event using a 1-ounce slinky weight and No. 2 octopus glo hook rigged with a leech. It wasn’t long after that leeches were banned in Washington state for use in our waterways. That didn’t slow down the fishing and here is why:

We have something more productive than an octopus glo hook to offer the walleye. The Slow Death hook is the biggest improvement in walleye fishing in the last 10 years. This hook allows you to troll all the way through winter, and it uses the worm to create a rotating action while trolling .7 mph and up. Winter trolling needs to be kept at under 1 mph and this is the rig to do it.

I enhance my rig with a Shaker Wing that I developed for MoneyMaker Products. I was the first person to use a Mack’s Lure Smile Blade and packaged and named this award-winning product while I worked as the marketing director for Mack’s from 1996 to 2002. I have been using the blades for the past 19 years until lately. If you know anything about me and the development world, then you can count on improvements to be made that challenge the status quo. I designed the patent-pending MoneyMaker Shaker Wing over 16 months ago to spin faster and shake more at slower speeds. The lopsided design is proving to be extremely effective while fishing side by side against other blade patterns and designs. The Shaker Wing is helping me look better than I am, and that is one reason why I am going to take up walleye guiding and maybe fish a few more tournaments in the near future.
THE GREAT THING about Potholes Reservoir is that the state park ramp is right next to the most popular fishing hole on the lake for walleye. The launch has two lanes and a nice dock in the middle.

With the lake full of walleye, bullheads, perch, bluegill, crappie, bass and rainbow trout, you will likely catch three or four kinds of fish while you are going after the walleye. It is a ton of fun to troll along the 30- to 40-foot shelf straight out from the launch. You can also try to find the secret humps on Fish-n-Map’s Potholes map, available at local tackle dealers, a good buy if you don’t have a depth finder with the chip for Potholes on it already. The info on the map will help you mark spots that are productive.

Shaker Wings

Trolling as slowly as possible is one of the keys to catching fall and winter walleye at Potholes Reservoir, a task made easier with Slow Death hooks and specialty blades, like these Shaker Wings, which follow on Smile Blades and turn at very low speeds. (DONSFISHINGGUIDESERVICE.COM)

Fat perch the size of your shoe are a bonus catch at the reservoir, and there’s a daily limit of 25 with no minimum size. The combined bluegill and crappie limit is 25, and the latter species must be at least 9 inches. Daily limit on walleye is eight, with only one over 22 inches allowed. In season, the state park boasts a world-class cleaning station with electricity and a fish grinder, but it closed as of Nov. 2.

MarDon Resort ( also has a boat ramp, as well as a tackle store; for the latest fishing info, be sure to check with the Mesebergs (509-346-2651).

I can see why Potholes Reservoir has a boatload of midweek traffic during the fall and winter until it ices up, and I will see you there in December, trolling very slowly. I might even take up blade baiting as the water cools off further. I will not be alone if the weather is nice.

Enjoy your fishing journeys as we discover productive and new products and techniques to try together. The next article will be on dressing up your favorite casting spinner to catch more trout and steelhead year-round.

If you have any additional questions about this subject, contact me at Don Talbot’s Fishing (509-679 8641; donsfishingguideservice. com). NS

A Better Corky-yarn Rig

started playing with Corky drift rigs over 20 years ago on the Wenatchee and Methow Rivers. In the past five years I have figured out how to put yarn in the Corky to act like a bobber stopper and give the rig more flare. I like yarn for the simple fact that it gets stuck on the small teeth in the steelhead’s mouth. I use to tie the yarn on my egg loop until I learned how to use a loop of mono to pull the yarn into the Corky. This method has made my rig look better and fishier at the same time. Let’s get started with my favorite ingredients to make these rigs come to life:


* Gamakatsu No. 4 barbless octopus hooks;
* 8-pound P-Line 100 percent fluorocarbon leader;
* The Bug Shop Glo Bugs Bling yarn in flame, pink black and roe colors;
* Size 14 Corkies in peach, flame red, black sparkle and pink;
* Mack’s Lure Pip’s Leader Dispenser for holding all the rigs perfectly without tangling.

ONCE YOU HAVE THE above ingredients it is time to snell the hooks. If you do not know how to snell a hook, look it up on YouTube, a great source for learning the correct method of tying up all kinds of hooks. You can also look up bumper tie and egg loop tie if you would rather have a loop in the hook for eggs in a river that allows bait. The Methow and Wenatchee don’t, so I just snell the hooks without an egg loop. Basically a snell is tied the opposite way an egg loop is, from the back of the hook towards the eye, and over the top of a straw or something that the tag end can be inserted  back into so that it ends up underneath the loops.
I tie the leader about 44 inches long for the simple fact that if I tie it longer, it will not pull out of my leader dispenser very easily. I drift fish 36- to 42-inch leaders.steps1and2
Pulling yarn into a Corky is a pretty clever trick. I learned this method by accident a few years ago when I was getting tired of tying yarn into my egg loop. I will slide the smallest Corky that Yakima Bait makes up my octopus hook and thread an independent loop to catch the yarn, as shown in the picture on the next page. I will place the right amount of yarn in the loop so that it jams tight into the drift bobber. If the yarn goes in too easy, it will fall out. I will pull the yarn all the way to the other end of the Corky and pull the independent loop of line out of the yarn when I am done. I will use a drop of Super Glue Gel on the snelled hook and pull the Corky with the yarn jammed in it all the way to the top of the snell. The picture at bottom right shows a cute little Corky bug on the hook. The steelhead love this Corky yarn bug. Just don’t let the yarn go past the hook shank. Steelhead will short bite you all day long if you do.
You can follow the same steps to jam a chunk of yarn into a Corky for anywhere on your line. The yarn jams so tight that it acts like a bobber stopper. Fly fishermen are using this method for strike indicators as well. Just make an independent loop closest to the hook with 8-pound-test line and place a fatter chunk of yarn in it so that the yarn jams hard into the Corky.
After you are done tying, say, a dozen rigs, it’s time to make some slinky set-ups. If you don’t have the parachute cord and lead BBs to fill the cord to make your parachute weights, buy some Danielson slinky weights in a variety of sizes. I will cut down the 1-ounce weights to make three or four smaller ones. You can save money cutting up the longer weights and burning the ends and reclosing with a pair of piers.
I run my mainline through the eye of a cheap No. 10 crane swivel, which also holds my slinky weight. Between that and a small, roller-bearing barrel swivel connecting my mainline to my leader, I include a black 5mm bead.


THE TALBOT CORKY-YARN RIG is simple, as is my North-central Washington steelheading vest. I like to take just my Pip’s Box and a small components container when I drift fish. I don’t need a tackle box, period.
Enjoy all your new creations with jamming yarn into a Corky. It really makes my rig fish a whole lot better!
If you have any additional questions about this subject, contact me at Don Talbot’s Fishing (509-679 8641; NS

Editor’s note: While the Methow and Okanogan Rivers opened Oct. 15 and the Similkameen River opens Nov. 1, WDFW had not announced a season for the Wenatchee as of press time last month.

5 Best April Springer Fisheries

Fishing hits high gear this month – here are the top spots and tactics.

Story by Andy Schneider

As spring Chinook fever grips Northwest anglerdom, it becomes extremely difficult to have productive workweeks in April, what with buddies sending picture after picture of purple-backed, chrome-bright kings. But when the weekend finally does arrive, you are faced with an even bigger dilemma than you anticipated – where to go? You got so caught up in the idea of just going fishing that you didn’t stop to think about the where. Argh!

You scroll back through some of your buddies’ pictures: That’s the Abernathy Bridge, so he’s fishing the Willamette at Oregon City. Those power lines look familiar, so they’re definitely at the head of the Multnomah Channel. Gilbert boat ramp in the distance there, so that’s Santosh on the channel. Is that I-84 and a train in the background? Must be the Wind River. Parade of boats in a tight circle – too easy, that can only be Drano Lake. On the blogs, there are good reports from the Cowlitz, water conditions are supposed to be ideal on the Kalama … And, oh wait, what’s this?!

There’s enough fish for the Columbia to reopen this weekend too? Great, just what you need, another viable and possibly productive option! What to do, what to do … Sometimes there are just too many options when trying to make a decision on where to fish for spring Chinook in April. By midmonth the salmon are pretty evenly spaced throughout most of the Northwest’s popular fisheries. In reality any choice you make should produce results, but pulling the trigger and sending the crew to rendezvous at a distant boat ramp still takes a leap of faith that you are making a good decision to yield the best results.

The last thing you want to hear when you arrive at a fishery is “You shoulda been here yesterday!” Some days you can gather all available information and there is a blaring choice where to go. Bonneville fish counts climbing dramatically? Head to the Wind or Drano. Turbidity levels dropping on the Willamette? Hit Oregon City. Columbia flows high? Troll the lower channel. But there just as many times that all of these options can look appealing, making it difficult to narrow down your choices. Sometimes it’s best just to trust your instincts and make a choice on where to fish and stick with it and have confidence that you made the right decision.

Here are five top April springer fisheries:

THE OREGON CITY stretch of the Willamette can be very productive for spring Chinook anglers, but being successful here doesn’t come easy and the learning curve frustrates more anglers than any other fishery. It’s not uncommon to see certain guides and anglers consistently out fishing others two to one or even three to one. What are they doing that makes them so much more successful? It comes down to the little things: Egg cures, rigging, boat speed, boat handling and the correct tactics used in the right locations all make these anglers more successful than others. So how does a weekend warrior stand a chance against these seasoned professionals? Simple: Dial in one tactic and stick with it.

The most popular way to target spring salmon here is with bait, either diver and eggs or back-bounced eggs. To properly fish bait in Oregon City, you need good current. Last year’s water levels in the Lower Columbia created good flows and good fishing for OC anglers. With good snowpack this winter, we can almost guarantee higher Columbia flows this spring, which could hamper fishing this season, but only time will tell. One of the most effective ways to get your bait in the bite zone and keep it there is with a Jumbo Jet diver. Clip one onto a plastic weight slider with an 8- to 12-inch dropper. Run a 6-foot leader with either a Spin-N-Glo or double Corkies (pinned halfway down the leader) to a 3/0 hook. Adding a sand shrimp above your eggs doesn’t hurt and will keep your eggs “milking” longer than just running bare eggs. Bring multiple egg cures and vary your offerings throughout the day to see if there is one the fish prefer. OC is known for having flurries of activity after long stretches of slow fishing. Pay attention and keep in contact with other anglers on the water to make sure you’re amongst the action once it starts.



IF SPRINGERS ARE being caught anywhere in the Willamette, then there are fish moving through the Multnomah Channel. No one really knows why spring Chinook take the short cut through the channel or why they seem to hold in different areas as it snakes along the west side of Sauvie Island, but no one is complaining either. From Fred’s Marina at the top end to Scappoose Bay at the bottom, the channel provides excellent sheltered, productive and easy waters to troll herring. The Head of the Channel, Rocky Point, Coon Island, Santosh and Sand Island are some of the most popular trolls. While trolling herring downstream is the most popular technique in the channel, if tides are soft, slowly trolling the bait upstream can offer a different view and entice a bite from a spring Chinook. Oftentimes you will see a bite move its way up the channel – good one day at Santosh, the following at Coon Island, the next at Rocky Point.

If the bite starts to slow in one location after it was consistent the day before, move upriver, as the fish have more than
likely done the same. When trolling the channel, keep your baits in contact with the bottom when fishing in less than 30 feet of water. In deeper water, stagger your depths, running baits at 18 to 36 feet on the linecounter reels. The channel is famous for its first-light bite, and it can occur at The Head of the Channel, Coon Island or Santosh. There is almost always another flurry of activity at tide changes, but if there is a large push of fish moving upriver, count on fishing to be consistent all day.

springers 2

THE WIND RIVER is always a consistent producer for boat anglers willing to brave Columbia Gorge winds and unpredictable weather. Usually by the third week of April, the terminal fishery off the mouth of the Washington tributary is in full swing, but pay attention to Bonneville fish counts and see if there is a reason to start your season early. Once there is seven consecutive days of at least 1,000 spring Chinook over the dam, fishing really turns on here. Pay special attention to spikes in the count too. When an especially large push of fish moves through, expect fishing to pick up 11 miles upstream at the Wind a day or two later.

The Wind used to be primarily a plug fishery. Anglers used to troll and cast orange Magnum Wiggle Warts with inconsistent results; some days were great, some were not. When the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife moved the southern boundary of the fishery further into the Columbia due to silting at the mouth of the Wind, anglers trolling herring or prawns started out fishing those still dragging plugs. While there are still plenty of fish caught on plugs, many more are caught on bait.
As you might expect, the biggest challenge fishing the Wind is boat control and handling. It’s not uncommon to have 25-mph sustained winds creating 2- to 3-foot whitecaps. Deploying sea socks and staying vigilant on the trolling motor can usually keep the boat trolling at the proper speed and right direction.

Plug-cut green-label herring trolled behind a triangular flasher, just like anglers use below the dam, is probably the
number one producer of Wind River springers. Running a slightly longer lead dropper at 24 inches will ensure that your herring stays above the plentiful woody debris that covers the bottom near the fishery’s southern boundary buoy markers. The second most productive bait has to be a prawn spinner. Swap out the herring for a whole prawn with a No. 3-, 4- or 5-sized Cascade blade. Chartreuse blades with red highlights are usually top producers, followed by rainbow patterns and bronze/brass blades.

springers 3

DRANO LAKE IS known for seeing some of the first springers above Bonneville, and not having a boat fishery above Beacon Rock the last few seasons has improved catch rates inside the drowned mouth of the Little White Salmon River. But just when Drano boaters thought they had everything dialed in last year, fishing slowed dramatically in the early and peak season. While the run came in above forecast, the spring Chinook were either being intercepted before the lake or the fish were not responding to familiar baits.

The lake can be broken down into two completely different fisheries: the main-lake troll and that merrygo-round in The Toilet Bowl. The former has been a consistent producer for anglers running Mag Lips, cutplug herring, prawn spinners, and Pro-Troll flashers with Super Baits. When trolling bait, make sure to stagger your depths to find biting Chinook. With plugs, flatline them 75 feet behind the boat, making sure to add a fresh sardine or tuna wrap every 45 minutes.

While The Toilet Bowl may be one of the trickiest places to fish in the Northwest, it can be very entertaining and productive. Nerves of steel, patience, a low-idling trolling motor, excellent boat-handling skills and a good disposition are needed for fishing this unique area. When spring Chinook are pushing into the lake in force, it’s not uncommon to see multiple doubles on every pass. But when they’re not, anglers can get a little frustrated and grumpy.

Prawn spinners fished directly below the boat are the most common bait, with plug-cut herring a distant second. No. 4
and 5 Cascade or Bear Valley blades are the most productive blades, since they will still rotate at slow speeds. Be aware that, new this year, launch permits for Wind and Drano are no longer available at the ramps. You can pick them up at Bridgemart west of Bingen and the 76 station in Stevenson, both of which are open 24/7, the Home Valley Store or Wind River Market, which open daily around daybreak, and Skamania County’s Hegewald Center and annex buildings Monday through Thursday.

THIS ONE’S IFFIERsomewhat because there’s a quota on how many upriver-bound springers we can catch before the run update, but at press time in March, the Lower Columbia was slated to be open through April 9. More
often than not in recent years, extra days of fishing have been granted in the year’s fourth month, so assuming that scenario plays out this spring, what should you do? Take some vacation or sick days and capitalize on some of the best springer fishing of the year, that’s what!

By mid-April, water conditions have usually stabilized, weather can be pretty darn pleasant and the peak of the run is usually pushing right through the heart of our favorite waters. It’s tough to beat the success of trolled herring for
Columbia springers, no matter whether you’re fishing the 1st, 9th or 19th of April. The later season runs this month,
the higher your success will be, which should make trolling your first choice. On the flip side, fellow anglers will be increasingly dialing in the fishery, so while the tactics don’t change, you will need to bring your A game to the river.

Baits will need to be swapped more frequently, lead will need to be ticking bottom consistently and your herring better have a good roll. While most anglers head to waters they know best, spring Chinook fishing should be equally good from
Bonneville to Cathlamet. Finding water that’s a little less crowded may give you an advantage in securing your share of Omega-3. Just downstream of the Beacon Rock deadline to Dalton Point, anglers have found a spot to spread out and fish some productive trolling water. Be wary of strong east winds, and very cautious of westerlies above 20 mph – combined with strong current, west winds create tall swells and wind waves here. Plug-cut herring and prawn spinners were very productive in this
stretch last year.

Moving just downriver a couple miles is another popular troll fishery centering around Rooster Rock. The run starts close to the Washington shore at Lawton Creek and along the wide sand flats along Reed Island. Halfway down the island, most anglers jump to the Oregon side of the channel and start the second part of the troll at the Corbett offramp. This multi-mile run will give you lots of water to spread out and is close to boat ramps at Rooster Rock State Park and Washougal.

As the Columbia warms with spring weather, plugs get more and more effective. By the time an extension rolls around, hoglines have become pretty established in productive areas. Look for pile dikes, wing dams and bottom contours that funnel fish to your wiggling plugs. Pay special attention to Sandy Island off Kalama to Government Island by Troutdale. Bank fishing doesn’t get the love boat fishing does, but some of the best springer real estate can only be accessed by shore anglers. One of the best spots is on the Washington shore, the famous Oak Tree Hole.

It starts at the top of Ives Island and stretches down the inside channel. Warrendale, on the Oregon shore, comes in second for Bonneville productivity. It’s the long rocky beach just upriver from The Fishery. Either bank can produce obscene numbers
just before dam counts spike, so be prepared for crowds and match your tackle and weight with those you’re sharing the bank with to avoid tangles and conflicts. Well downriver, Warrior Rock and Sand Island both support boat-in plunking fisheries. The sandy beach directly below the Warrior Rock Lighthouse is a very productive location to plunk out of a boat.

springers 4

NO MATTER WHICH spot you hit, fish it whole-heartedly and without regrets. Don’t get discouraged by fishing buddies sending text after text of fish caught from locales you decided not to fish. Instead, breathe in that fresh spring air and take a moment to ponder the difference between the water of an April shower running up your
sleeves and the bitter-cold winter rain that snuck down your back. Put the last of your seasonal affective disorder to rest,
welcome allergy season and longer, warmer, fishier days. No matter where you chase springers this month, you’ll find more rewards than just fish when spending a weekend on the water. NS

Packing While Fishing

Carrying a weapon on the rivers and lakes is a personal decision; here’s why one Northwest angler brings along a handgun when he’s chasing steelhead and salmon.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Northwest Sportsman, a regional magazine covering Washington, Oregon, Idaho and southern British Columbia. Follow-up thoughts from a local gun writer will appear in the  March 2016 issue.

by Terry J Wiest, Steelhead University

I used to never think about packing a gun while fishing. I never had a reason to until several years back while out on the Green River alone. This would change my opinion on carrying a gun, and it still lingers in my mind some 15 years afterwards. I was wandering back to one of my “secret” holes, one I’d discovered as a teenager and had never, ever seen another angler or trace of another human at since the early 1980s. I’d only shown it to two of my fishing partners, both of whom were sworn to secrecy and who knew I’d disown them if word ever got out.

I was 20 minutes into the usual 30-minute hike on animal trails when a person appeared from nowhere. I literally almost jumped out of my waders.

The dude, who looked strung out and definitely not a fellow fisherman, asked, “Hey, you got some smokes?”

“Nope, I don’t smoke,” I said.

“Do you have any money?”

“Nope, I’m fishing.”

“I need some money!”

“Sorry, I can’t help you.”

“Dude, you don’t understand, I need money.”

“Sorry, can’t help you,” I said, and walked by him.

Was I scared? Yes, sh*tless!

I reached my fishing hole but couldn’t get the thought that he was stalking me out of my mind, or that I would meet up with him again on the way back to my vehicle. Neither scenario materialized, but afterwards I drove straight to a gun shop and purchased my first self-defense weapon. Now, if I’d been packing and ran into the guy, would I have drawn my weapon? No – I did not feel my life was threatened.

Would I have felt more comfortable? Hell, yes! Should my life have become threatened, I would have had the tools and knowledge available to use them. From that point on I realized that the outdoors aren’t just filled with friendly fellow anglers and hunters. There are also tweakers and criminals out there.

I PICK WHEN to carry. If I’m alone, you can count on me being armed. If I’m with friends, it all depends. Drift boat or with a guide? Nope, I don’t see a need. Banking it? Yep, usually gonna be packing. And that brings me to another incident.

Once, while on the Calawah River in Forks, I’d been fishing with a buddy and we decided to split up. I fished from the mouth up, while he went from the ponds down. Only about a quarter mile up the river I watched two anglers drift fishing a hole. To me, the hole was meant for a float and jig. I watched and conversed with the pair for about 10 minutes, then decided to ask if I could throw my float out.

First cast and it was “Fish on!” The dude who had been fishing the hardest was pissed off, to say the least.

“WTF … You SOB, come into my hole and steal my fish! I oughta kick your ass!”

Not wanting to cause any problems, I told the guy to take my rod. “Here, you reel it in,” I said. The guy was furious, though his buddy was cracking up, saying, “Dude, you got freaking schooled!”

To me, the fish wasn’t worth it. But instead of accepting my offer, the duo left, leaving me fighting the steelhead, which turned out to be a nice 10-pound native that I let go. Did I feel a need to let them know I was armed? No. Was I glad that I was? Yes.

THERE ARE DANGEROUS people out in the woods, and nobody knows that better than Northwest game wardens. You may recall the July 2010 issue’s Big Pic feature on marijuana growers invading Northwest hunting grounds. And the September 2010 Dishonor Roll, which highlighted felons and others with outstanding warrants that Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife police encounter afield. The latter featured one particular license check that nearly ended up very badly.

WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci described it this way:

“The small cluster of cars near the bridge over lower Crab Creek in Grant County caught Capt. Chris Anderson’s attention. He and Officer Chad McGary had been on their way to focus some attention on illegal nighttime sturgeon fishing in the Columbia. It was about 8:30 p.m. What was a few minutes spent checking this group first? ESA-listed fish use this waterway and a little overt presence never hurt to remind people that any salmonids they might catch should be released. Little did Chad and Chris know that a simple license and bag check would result in nearly getting killed.

“Walking down the rocky bank, Chris found a man and his son doing what most fathers and sons should be doing, spending time together. But this was no ordinary father-son duo. The father, a man without words, silently produced his fishing license as requested. The son, who was still fishing, claimed that his license was at home in his wallet. No problem, Chris told him the officers would be able to check license status with their laptop computers. Chris decided to walk across the road to the other side of the creek and check a few anglers there, while Chad dealt with the kid with the forgotten license.

“Chad followed the 18-year-old up the bank to check on a license that probably did not exist, an act that he had done a hundred times before. As they walked, a metal-on-metal clinking sound put Chad’s radar up. ‘What’s in your pocket?’ he asked. The son turned around quickly and began reaching for his back pocket with his right hand. Trained in officer safety to control a suspect’s hands, Chad moved to stop him. The reaction from the kid came as a surprise, shoving Chad

“Chad regained his footing, just in time to find himself staring into the muzzle of a .45-caliber handgun. The familiar but sickening sound of the slide being racked back to chamber a bullet, followed by the kid spitting out the words ‘Motherf%%$,’ cemented the seriousness of the situation.”

As it turned out, the father and son were both illegal aliens, according to Cenci, and the father was wanted on an unrelated felony warrant. They had several reasons not to want to be detained – including a Class C felony for being an alien in possession of a firearm, according to Cenci.

But what about those of us who are legally packing – how should we deal with a license check?

“Given the inspection-oriented nature of much of our work, we really never know whether a person is harboring a problem that may turn into an officer-safety issue,” Cenci says. “While our officers are great with people, there is always that element of the unknown that can make us uneasy, especially if we don’t understand someone’s behavior, which there may be a reasonable explanation for. So, letting the officer know right away (you’re carrying) is great. We appreciate and support personal defense and are fairly comfortable around firearms, provided we know where they are. Someone who lets an officer know he/she is packing is not likely to do that if they intend harm.”

HUMANS ARE ONE thing. Animals are another, and wildlife encounters may warrant packing for personal protection.

When I first started carrying, it was suggested I go with a .45 for stopping power, as a 9mm would pass through a hyped-up two- or four-legged predator without stopping them. With today’s enhancements to ammunition, this no longer seems the case. I’ve traded my .45 for a Walther PPS 9mm and feel more confident with this gun than ever before. Ballistics prove the new 9mm loads will stop an intruder with a well-placed round just as effectively as a .45. The key to me is getting off the second and third round faster and more accurately than I could with the .45 because of the added recoil.

Now, while most 9mms and .45s might thwart a cougar or small bear, don’t think they are the answer while in big-bruin country – especially grizzly. While fishing Southeast Alaska’s Situk River for steelhead in April with a couple of great friends, Mike Zavadlov and Steve Turner, we happened to see a huge sow downriver. We settled back in the drift boat while looking for cubs.

Sure enough, cub No. 1 and cub No. 2 scooted across the river and the sow soon followed. Having thought we’d given them enough time to move off we proceeded cautiously downriver. But suddenly the woods came alive – there was a third cub that had not yet crossed all the way! The mama bear smashed through small trees and raced towards the river, snot and spit billowing from her jowls. Thankfully for us it was a fake charge – just enough to get No. 3 safely up on shore.

Although we had a shotgun and bear spray, we all knew nothing would have stopped her. If she had wanted us, we were gone.
Do I wish I’d been packing that time? No, as I don’t believe it would have made a difference. Even a .45 would have bounced right off her big old head, pissing her off even more. Indeed, packing does not rectify every situation.

THE MOST TROUBLE I’ve had while packing has always been the how. I packed my .45 with a shoulder holster. While I knew it was there, it was incredible bulky and not the easiest to draw under heated conditions. As I exclusively wear Simms Fishing Products while fishing, I asked the company’s Northwest representative, Erick Neufield, what he suggested. He recommended I contact the guys at, as they have the perfect solution while wearing waders.

I spoke with Woody Dixon, their sales and marketing manager who is also an avid high-lakes fisherman. Together, he and company owner and combat veteran Adam Harris developed the Kenai Chest Holster. The name alone lets you know it’s for us anglers. The holster itself is made from Kydex, with each holster molded specifically for each pistol it’s designed for. The company chose waterproof materials for those situations where you’re out in weather all day (say, like winter steelheading).

It’s also made in the Northwest. I ordered one for my Walther PPS 9mm and couldn’t be happier. The fit is exact and it’s extremely comfortable, almost as if it was molded to my body. A pouch is also available for a spare magazine close at hand. I’ve never been more confident and comfortable while packing. Should the situation ever occur, I can draw my weapon and know that it’s all lined up. I also ordered a Ronin holster for those times when I pack while not fishing.

I’ve never seen such quality and craftsmanship in a holster that is designed with sportsmen in mind.

IS PACKING FOR everyone? Probably not. You must make that choice. Given the circumstances of your life being threatened, are you willing to take the life of another? Only you can make that choice, and you will have to live with the consequences. Every time I pack, I make a conscious decision about whether or not I’m capable of taking a life to save my own.

This is not about machismo, threats or tactics to ward others away from a fishing hole. This is about life and death – yours. NS

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Our TOP 10 Hunting Counties

Oregon’s and Washington’s best for big game, waterfowl and upland birds.
By Troy Rodakowski and Andy Walgamott

There are 75 counties in the 164,100 square miles of the Evergreen and Beaver States, and they range from lonesome swaths of the Sagebrush Sea to islands stippling the Salish Sea, but which are best for hunters? If ever there’s a season for rankings it would be fall, what with this month being the heart of the college football season, and so with hunting in full effect this month, we decided to try our hand at ranking the 10 best counties in both states for big game, waterfowl and upland birds. Troy Rodakowski, our Junction City-based correspondent, handled the Oregon side while I rated the Washington side. Here are our learned rankings, based on personal experience, harvest data, public access and more:


County: Grant
Location: The Alberta Mallard Funeral Home’s Columbia Basin franchise.
Gaminess Quotient: Whisper “Potholes” to see waterfowlers’ eyes roll back in ecstasy over waves of greenheads and duck kabobs hot off the grill. WABirds
Available Critters: If it flies, it dies here – and in droves. Perennially Washington’s top county for ducks, geese, doves and pheasant, it’s also among the best for quail, is all right for partridge, and we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the best-in-the-state snipe hunting (no, seriously!).
Why It’s So Great: Take 2,800 miles of basalt, nuke it with dozens of Missoula Floods, add water in the form of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project and voilà – instant ponds, impenetrable thickets and feeding grounds galore! Having more pheasant release sites than any other county in the 509 doesn’t hurt either.
The Only Drawback: As birdy as Grant County is, it don’t got grouse. Well, except for those dancing ones you can’t shoot.
Access: Amply endowed with state and federal wildlife areas, as well as sprawling BLM ground and private lands open through the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s access programs. Top spots include Winchester and Frenchman Hills Wasteways, Gloyd Seeps, Potholes Reservoir, lower Crab Creek and the infamous Stratford Firing Line.
Yahtzee!: A midwinter thaw that sucks ducks back north from southern Columbia Basin waters.
Pro Tip: Go ahead and rent a room in Moses Lake or cabin at Mar Don – sleeping in your rig to get the best blind spot can lead to frostbite, or worse, buddy warming, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Info: WDFW Ephrata (509-754-4624); The Duck Taxi (800-416-2736); Mardon Resort (509-346-2651); Grant County Tourism (509-921-5579);

County: Skagit
Location: Just this side of Amsterdam’s red light district. Gaminess Quotient: Mount Vernon’s the home of the world-famous Greenhead Tulip®!*
Available Critters: Huge flocks of mallards, pintails and
wigeons annually winter on the vast Skagit and Samish River Deltas, while blizzards of snow geese wing in from Russia with love. The county’s eastern forests also produce the second-best west-slope Cascades grouse harvest. WAbirds2
Why It’s So Great: Herds of hard-working Dutch farmers and a whole lot of erosion over the eons have created some of the best waterfowl habitat on the West Coast. Protected saltwater bays provide night roosts very close to productive aglands. The Only Drawback: The looks you get from snow goose looky-loos … “Mommy, why are those birds dropping from the air?”
Access: Several thousand acres scattered around the deltas are owned by WDFW. Boat ramps provide good access onto the waters of the bays – just know the tides.
Yahtzee!: Rains that  flood farm fields, providing standing water for quackers to better access forage.
Pro Tip: Look into WDFW’s Private Lands Access Program – for this season, nearly three dozen farmers have enrolled their lands in the program.
Info: WDFW Mill Creek (425-775-1311)
*OK, so we made that flower up.

County: Yakima
Location: At the intersection of Elky Avenue and Birdy Boulevard. Gaminess Quotient: The county’s name is a Native American word for “well-fed people.”
Available Critters: Along with grouse and bears, elk haunt the highlands, while the Yakima Valley holds strong populations of doves, quail and pheasants and draws in migrating ducks and geese. Why It’s So Great: The South Cascades’ vast forests and large meadows provide pasturage for the state’s largest elk herd, and irrigated croplands in the valley fatten the feathered ones finely. The Only Drawback: An exotic louse has sucked the life out of the county’s deer hunting. WAmixedbag1
Access: Much of the northwestern end of the county is national forest and state lands, and a Yakima Nation hunting permit or Yakima Training Center Outdoor Recreation Card open up thousands more acres of tribal and federal ground to pursue game. Yahtzee!: Midfall blizzards that stampede wapiti out of the mountains.
Pro Tip: Fit right in around the campfire with longtime Yakima elk hunters by recalling how Uncle So-and-so was among the riflemen who had to be choppered out of the Nile, Bethel, etc., when the Great Snowstorm of November 1985 struck.
Info: WDFW Yakima (509-575-2740);;

County: Pacific
Location: The rumply, bumpy lands that Long Beach Peninsula kites fly off to to die.
Gaminess Quotient: Wusses Lewis & Clark totally blew it when they quit Dismal Nitch for Astoria.
Available Critters: Elk, bear and deer roam the timbered hills and grassy estuaries of this rain-lashed South Coast county, while Willapa Bay sucks in ducks and geese, and hosts the state’s only regularly scheduled brant season. WAmixedbag2
Why It’s So Great: Active timber harvesting creates those successional landscapes that big game do so well in, and the logging road network provides good hunting access. As for Willapa Bay, it’s only the second largest West Coast estuary and provides key winter habitatfor honkers, wigeon and other waterfowl.
The Only Drawback: So much private timberland – Rayonier, Weyerhaueser, former Longview Fibre lands – is now fee-access or closed to lease hunters only.
Access: Four large blocks of DNR land and the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge provide the bulk of free access, while Weyerhaueser and Rayonier permits will set you back $50 to $200.
Yahtzee!: Inland ice-ups that flush birds out to coastal bays.
Pro Tip: WDFW’s deputy chief and one of its captains live in and patrol this country in their spare time, so better be on your best behavior!
Info: WDFW Montesano (360-249-4628)

County: Stevens
Location: A-woooooooooay up in Northeast Washington.
Gaminess Quotient: There’s a reason so many wolves moved in – and it ain’t just the taste of the Dashiels’ mutton and McIrvins’ beeves.
Available Critters: Whitetail deer are the bread-and-butter crop, but elk, black bear and cougars are taken in fair numbers, and a few muleys turn up too. At the rate they’re multiplying it might not be long before Canis lupus makes this list as well. WAbiggame
Why It’s So Great: The county presents the perfect mix of old farming operations in the valleys backed up against working timberlands. The end of the four-point minimum for whitetails in the Huckleberry and 49 Degrees North units will only help the harvest this month.
The Only Drawback: Did we mention the wolves? Actually, so far state data isn’t showing a strong, clear signal – some deer units in the region are below prewolf-arrival harvest levels, while hunter success rates have gone up in others.
Access: Good mapping will help locate the many scattered chunks of state forest, BLM and National Park Service lands in the lowlands, while Colville National Forest, Little Pend Oreille NWR and industrial timberlands provide hunting ground higher up.
Yahtzee!: A mid-November snowfall makes for classic conditions to hunt rutty flagtails.
Pro Tip: Might want to leave your mystical-howling-wolf-under-the-stars T-shirt at the county line.
Info: WDFW Spokane (509-892-1001); Colville Chamber of Commerce ( NS


Harney, Malheur
Location: A European-country-sized chunk of Southeast Oregon with more mule deer than people.
Gaminess Quotient: The words Steens, Hart Mountain and Owyhee perk the ears of those who hunt for big mule deer.
Available Critters: Some of Oregon’s biggest bucks reside in these counties’ wildlife units, and hunters lucky enough to draw one of the coveted permits stand an excellent chance of bagging the buck of a lifetime. ORDeer
Why It’s So Great: Habitat and genetics. The Steens Mountains, which includes 428,156 acres of public lands, offer diverse scenic and recreational experiences. Rich with nutrients for massive antler growth, these breathtaking highlands descend to the sageladen desert and grasslands where mule deer are meant to thrive. Massive bucks spend summers in the high country and migrate to the lower reaches of desert, grasslands and ranchproperties to winter. In addition, there are trophy-class antelope, good numbers of upland birds and northern portions also hold good numbers of elk.
Access: There are several state and federal wildlife areas, BLM and USFS lands, as well as private ranches open to the public. There are some access restrictions and permission requirements on refuges and private lands. Top spots include the aforementioned Steens Mountains, Juniper, Hart Mountain, Owyhee Mountains, Burns, Jordan Valley and the Malheur lowlands.
Pro Tip: Motels are available in Burns, Frenchglen, Steens Mt. Resort, Vale, Ontario and other small towns in between. Also, there are numerous campgrounds for trailers and tent camping. However, for some of the best opportunities, packing into the high country or hiking away from roads and setting up spike camps will be your best bet.
Info: ODFW Hines (541-573-6582); BLM Burns (541573-4400); Department of Forestry (541-947-3311)

County: Jackson
Location: Pages 1-20 of the Oregon hunting record book’s blacktail section.
Gaminess quotient: If you want a trophy-class buck, head due south. Available Critters: Big bucks are not uncommon here, and some have been documented to migrate over 100 miles during the fall. Migration from higher elevations near 6,000 feet begins in September and lasts through November in the Rogue and Siskiyou National Forests. ORDeer2
Why It’s So Great: Habitat near Medford is excellent and grows some of the biggest blacktails known to man and is famous for doing so. The land has an abundance of pine, madrona and oak savannah habitat in which deer thrive. Additionally, the national forests and large amount of BLM holdings throughout the region are easily accessible. In addition, there are good amounts of elk, turkey, bear and other upland birds for the taking. Recent fires have also enhanced habitat for game and these locations will be prime for several years to come.
Access: With all the open public and private land, accessing good hunting is just a short drive or hike away from the nearest trailhead or campground. The Siskiyou-Rogue National Forest consists of 628,443 acres, much of which is located in Jackson County. Additionally, the 1,760 acres of Denman Wildlife Area near Eagle Point offers some great hunting opportunities for waterfowl and upland enthusiasts. There are several choices of hotels in Medford and small neighboring towns and lots of campgrounds.
Pro Tip: To find a trophy-class buck, a backpack hunt or setting up a spike camp is recommended. Also, make sure to always have a fall bear and cougar tag when you’re hunting here.
Info: ODFW Central Point (541-426-3279); BLM Medford (541-618-220); Jackson County Parks (541-774-8183)

County: Morrow
Location: Where the Columbia meets the Blues.
Gaminess Quotient: Very similar to Washington’s superbirdy Grant County, except with grouse! Top that!
Available Critters: Birds of a feather flock together – pheasant, quail and chukar thrive on Conservation Reserve Program lands and the rolling grain fields, and if that’s not enough, the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge is crawling with waterfowl in fall and winter. ORbirds
Why It’s So Great: Habitat is excellent here. The land has been enhanced with CRP setasides, and it grows a multitude of cereal, grass and forage crops. The wooded heights in the Umatilla National Forest provide some of the best grouse hunting that Oregon has to offer, while lower down, this part of the Columbia Basin is famous for its waterfowling and the Umatilla NWR provides hunters with top quality hunts. There are also excellent opportunities for mule deer, whitetail and elk in the national forest.
Access: With a multitude of BLM, USFS and private CRP ranches, this section of Oregon is a prime ticket for any upland hunter looking to score on a multitude of species. Hotels are available in Boardman, Heppner and Umatilla. There are also several campgrounds throughout the Umatilla National Forest and Morrow County Parks.
Pro Tip: Some of the best hunting locations are found on the CRP acreage throughout the county. Calling landowners and asking for permission to hunt is your best bet. There can also be decent opportunities for quail and pheasant in and near the Umatilla NWR and its 23,555 acres.
Info: ODFW Heppner (541-676-5230); BLM Prineville (541-416-6700); Morrow County Parks (541-989-8214) for reservations; Umatilla NWR (509-546-8500); Field n Marsh Outfitter & Kennels (541-490-1300)

County: Wallowa
Location: Clinging onto the northeast corner of Oregon at the edge of the Grande Ronde’s and Hells Canyons.
Gaminess Quotient: Where Oregon elkaholics go to get their fix. Available Critters: Big bulls roam the high reaches of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Eagle Cap Wilderness and the Snake River Divide. Oftentimes, it takes several years to draw a desired permit. However, there are several archery and rifle permits up for grabs over the counter for hunters to take advantage of. Sled Springs, Imnaha, Pine Creek, Minam and Snake River are top choices. ORElk
Why It’s So Great: Massive swaths of public land and the steep country of Hells Canyon provide sanctuary to not just large bull elk, but mule deer, whitetails, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. Access: Seemingly endless amounts of USFS and BLM land provide hunters with a plethora of options. In addition, there are several travel management areas throughout Wallowa County that restrict the use of motorized vehicles, but allow sportsmen on.
Pro Tip: You do not have to get far off the road or away from a trailhead to find success here. However, backcountry trips on foot or by horse will produce the best results for trophy Rocky Mountain elk, deer, bear and cougar. There are also good numbers of turkey, grouse and mountain quail to be had. Hunters may also encounter wolves in these remote locations and should be aware that packs are expanding their territory here.
Info: ODFW Enterprise (541-426-3279); BLM Vale (541473-3144); Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce (541-426-4622) NS