All posts by Sam Morstan

Basaltland’s Backwater Bonanzas

This story was originally published in the May 2015 edition of Northwest Sportsman Magazine.

The sloughs and drowned river mouths of the mid-Columbia and Lower Snake are great places for small-boat anglers to hit for bass, catfish, more.

By Jeff Holmes 

Kayak angling continues to blow up in popularity across the entire United States, including here in the Northwest. Kayaks are especially prevalent on the Westside, and it’s almost becoming uncommon to not see some being paddled and pedaled around the outskirts of popular salmon and steelhead fisheries on the Lower Columbia and Willamette Rivers, among others. The economy, mobility and stability of kayaks makes them the clear consensus craft amongst the nonmotorized crowd these days, including yours truly. I’ve owned several float tubes, a pontoon, a canoe and a small cartopper over the years, but none of them approach a good fishing kayak for versatility. I watched friends and fellow anglers fish from kayaks with jealousy for a couple years until we bought our NuCanoe Frontiers in Bellingham last late spring. Now even my big bank- and boat-loving butt can be seen regularly paddling around my local Tri-Cities-area fisheries, often with my wife. (FYI, fellas: Most women love to paddle, and love it when men take the initiative to do something new and active with them.) You won’t catch me trying to slip in with the sleds at Drano Lake and other combat fisheries, nor likely anywhere a large boat makes more sense for safety, comfort and good company, but I use my kayak where it makes sense to me and where my wife wants to paddle. There are fish waiting to be caught everywhere in the Northwest, and they’re all susceptible to a kayak.

I’m looking ahead to a season of fishing around the edges, and not the edges of big-boat fisheries like many, but rather on the edges of most of the kayak fishing world’s consciousness. In other words, I’ll seek out the vast opportunities all over the Northwest where you’ll scarcely see someone in a kayak. I like solitude and exploration of all kinds of bodies of water, big and small, and May offers a wide range of possibilities to fish before the season’s jet- and waterskiier hatch occurs. Here are a few Eastern Washington options worthy of mention for kayakers and those with small boats.
SNAKE RIVER BACKWATERS
I opened up kayak season 2015 just downstream from Clarkston on a big Snake River backwater at Chief Timothy Park near the mouth of Alpowa Creek. I towed my Thunder Jet over to Clarkston on a beautiful late March day to have a radar arch welded on my boat and thought to toss my kayak on top of the truck in case the urge struck me to fish on the way home.

Duh, it struck.

I enjoyed 80-degree weather and almost complete solitude as I looked for early smallmouth concentrations moving out of the main Snake into the backwaters to feed and spawn. I was early and visibility was only a foot, and I got blanked, but I had a great time and confirmed that it wasn’t my fault when I talked to two anglers in a bass boat who were also getting blanked. Suntan lotion, warming sunshine, and a little exercise made the skunking more than worth it.
But the potential to catch something here increases rapidly as water temperatures rise throughout April and into May. Smallmouth, largemouth, catfish, crappie and perch are all present in the many backwaters and marinas along the Snake. Check out the marinas in Lewiston and Clarkston, Chief Timothy and Wawawai Parks, and various small backwaters along the river that allow entry under small railroad bridges. The Snake itself here is impounded and kayakable too, and the main river often yields even better fishing than backwaters.

The rocky shores of the Snake provide good habitat for bass. While smolt imitations are a good bet in spring, this one bit a crawdad imitation for Jamison Meeks, who was fishing at Lewiston. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

The rocky shores of the Snake provide good habitat for bass. While smolt imitations are a good bet in spring, this one bit a crawdad imitation for Jamison Meeks, who was fishing at Lewiston. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Further down the Snake at Central Ferry, Lyons Ferry and backwaters all the way to the Columbia add lots of nice walleye to the potential bag.

Catfish are everywhere in the Snake, but the Palouse River across from Lyons Ferry is the best bet. Lots
of large cats stack up here to spawn, and May is the best time to find them concentrated and snappy.
LOWER YAKIMA RIVER AND DELTA
Many thousands of mature smallmouth enter this Central Washington tributary in spring to spawn, and most of them are still in the river throughout May. As summer moves along, most large fish retreat back to the depths of the Columbia to gorge, so May is a great time for numbers and size.

It’s important to note that moving waters and stillwaters are different beasts for beginner kayakers. There are many places on the lower Yakima that would be irresponsible to send beginners, due to swift currents, sharp corners and some rocks to dodge. That said, the river is a treat to fish from the I-182 bridge in Richland all the way to the mouth at Bateman Island on the Columbia. There are occasional power boats here, but avoiding them is relatively easy since it’s best to fish along the edges anyway.

May will find channel catfish in the heat of the spawn, and the lower ends of tributaries such as the Walla Walla, Yakima and Palouse – where Sam Stuart of Moses Lake landed this nice one a few Mays ago – should provide good action for boat-in anglers. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

May will find channel catfish in the heat of the spawn, and the lower ends of tributaries such as the Walla Walla, Yakima and Palouse – where Sam Stuart of Moses Lake landed this nice one a few Mays ago – should provide good action for boat-in anglers. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Treat the lower Yak like a trout stream: pull over or anchor up in soft shallow side water and fish seams, eddies and slots like you’re looking for rainbows or cutts. Also make sure to bring a variety of crayfish and minnow imitations in different colors. Crayfish are usually the main meal ticket in May. Along with smallmouth, channel catfish and walleye are also common, and a tight-lipped cadre of walleye anglers won’t like that I mentioned this.
LOWER WALLA WALLA
The first time I floated this western Blue Mountains river, I watched my friend and “guide” dump his kayak 200 yards into our trip, but that was upriver, in the tiny Touchet River a few hundred yards upstream of the Walla Walla. That was 100 percent operator error, but the river does require maneuvering and is best tackled only by intermediate kayakers with a sense for mild adventure. There are some corners and swift, rocky portions that could easily dump a newbie or an inattentive paddler. Take a pontoon or a raft if you don’t have the kayaking chops, or access the river from Wallula Junction and paddle the lower river and the edges of the delta.

Like other Columbia tribs, lots of smallmouth and channel cats move into the river in spring and offer sometimes-spectacular angling. I wrote about floating the Walla Walla last spring in my pontoon, and I’ll be back on it this month in my NuCanoe. The wildlife viewing is right up there with the fishing, which can be frenetically paced. I caught two smallmouth on one cast on my last trip, one of which was over 20 inches.
PATERSON SLOUGH
This large backwater of the midColumbia near the Washington town of the same name houses giant numbers of spawning smallmouth bass in spring. With a warm, lowwater year, much of that spawning probably occurred in April. But those bass – as well as great numbers of walleye – remain in the protected slough until waters get too warm, when they return to the depths of the big river for summer.

Bass and walleye are often concentrated in big numbers around rocky patches of bottom. Use electronics or a long section of 1-inch PVC to probe the bottom in search of rocks, and use marker buoys when you find structure or, better yet, fish. A variety of jigs, cranks, dropshot rigs and other plastic-bait set-ups will take plenty of fish here.

Small numbers of very large largemouth live here, tucked deep into the maze of backwaters. Look for deep pockets in the shallow slough with heavy cover, including beaver lodges. Some large crappie have historically come out of Paterson and other sloughs, but carp, as elsewhere, have degraded habitat for panfish. Still, there are some large perch and crappie, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better place to catch carp, both on rod and reel and with a bow. Erika caught two last time we fished the slough together, one topping 20 pounds!

Access is through the refuge and off Paterson Road. NS

Nootka Wilderness Lodge Clients ‘Arrive As Guests, Leave As Friends’

By Steve Joseph

In salmon fishing-crazed British Columbia, Nootka Island is right in the heart of the action.

Just off the west coast of Vancouver Island, some of B.C.’s best fishing starts right from the port here. Among the top guide services and lodges in this area is Nootka Wilderness Lodge (250-850-1500; nootkawildernesslodge.com), which is run by Brian and Kelly Gage and their kids. We caught up with Brian Gage for more on their business.

 
Steve Joseph How long has the lodge been around?
Brian Gage The current Nootka Wilderness Lodge has been in Nootka Sound since 1994.

 
SJ How long have you and your wife been in the fishing industry?
BG Kelly and I have been involved in the fishing industry for 30-plus years now. I started guiding when I was 16.

SJ Is this a total family affair?
BG NWL is a family-run lodge with a capacity for 26 guests, keeping it quaint and personal. I am at the lodge for every group, and that’s really what I enjoy about the business: meeting new people and getting to know them. We like to say, “Arrive as guests and leave as a friends.” Ninety percent of our guests return to NWL, something we are very proud of!

SJ What area do you fish?
BG We have a fantastic area for fishing. Nootka Wilderness Lodge is located in the heart of Nootka Sound, with salmon fishing only minutes away on calm, protected waters. We also have the open ocean with an amazing coastline of kelp beds and rock structure for our more adventurous fishing guests. Our bottomfishing for halibut, red snapper and lingcod is also world class and a “guaranteed” catch for those who enjoy action-packed bottomfishing.

SJ Tell us about your fleet and the lodge.
BG Our lodge, our staff, our location and our fleet are what sets us apart from other lodges. Our fleet of boats is primarily Grady Whites, ranging from 24 to 28 feet in length. We also have one 40-foot offshore vessel for larger groups that want to stick together. All of our boats are covered and have twin four-stroke power and trolling motors. All of our boats have bathrooms onboard. Our 10,000-square-foot lodge features sprawling decks, private bathrooms, spacious rooms, a lounge area and bar. It’s a floating lodge tucked in a picturesque bay with a southwest exposure. We enjoy beautiful sunsets over Vancouver Island’s coastal mountains into the early evening hours. We actually see very little rain throughout our season, so don’t forget your sunscreen!

SJ In one word describe the whole experience.
BG Unforgettable!

Follow and like Nootka Wilderness Lodge on Twitter (@FishNootka), Instagram (@Nootka_wilderness_lodge) and Facebook 

News from Murphy Sportfishing, Kyuquot Sound

Vancouver Island, BC–The season is quickly approaching, and with the West Coast Vancouver Island Chinook run of the decade on the horizon, we can’t wait!

As usual, we have a couple of last minute specials where folks have had to cancel, and deep discounts can be received for those who are able to jump in. For these few limited dates -including the Independence Day Long weekend- you save close to 25% off, plus an additional $300 special discount!Kyuquot Cancellation Special Header

Four Day Package, All meals, 30 hours guided fishing and accommodations.

June 23-26 & July 2-5, only $1360 US per person!
(based on triple occupancy)

Drive In – Save Big

http://murphysportfishing.com/site/specials.html
250-723-8022

Two people hold one large rainbow trout apiece

8 Great Inland Trout Waters

Lakes and rivers in far Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Western Montana produce nice fish in March.

By Jeff Holmes

March is a lovely month in the Inland Northwest to be a trout angler. While much of the Westside angling army is rotting on the hook drowning bait-wrapped plugs for spring Chinook or trolling herring through travel lanes for these fish that mostly won’t show up until April, dedicated swarms of anglers from all over the Northwest – even the world – show up here to fish trout. Why? We grow ‘em big, and trophy trout wake up in March ready to gobble more and more frequently throughout the day. We see excellent growth rates at many lakes that Westside biologists and other biologists throughout the West would love. But when one thinks about the best stillwater trout fishing in the Lower 48, the Inland Northwest probably doesn’t come up as often as it deserves. The region is dotted with small and midsized bodies of water, as well as huge lakes holding some of the world’s largest trout.
Luckily, not every excellent March trout fishery in Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Western Montana draws well-heeled anglers from afar, nor do many of them draw much of a crowd at all. And none of the fisheries resemble the madhouses of springer season or Washington’s soon-to-follow opening of trout season on the fourth Saturday in April. Except when certain guides blow up fisheries on social media, as was done to an epic Lake Roosevelt kokanee bite this winter, crowds of 30 or 40 boats are uncommon. Most days, expect to never pass within shouting distance of another angler or boat – if you want to. A prime example of that can be found at North America’s third deepest lake, the Panhandle’s Pend Oreille. It, along with several others, should be on your radar this March or in the near future. All lakes that follow are in top form right now.

LAKE PEND OREILLE
This giant trout heaven fell on hard times after several habitat and management crises led to severely depressed kokanee populations, an overabundance of newly introduced lake trout and a subsequent bounty on the heads of the lake’s precious Gerrard-strain rainbows to help balance the predator-prey relationship and allow kokanee to rebound. Well, the kokanee are back – really back – and trout of several species are getting huge. I’ll present in depth in the May issue on how the lake’s historic and current habitat and management challenges and successes have led Pend Oreille back into the conversation as America’s best trout lake. Period.

Two people hold one large rainbow trout apiece

Lake Pend Oreille is again in the running for the title of America’s best trout lake. Kokanee have rebounded, and so have their predators, including Gerard-strain rainbow trout, which are once again numerous and often topping 20 pounds – the one Cashmere, Washington’s Ace Campbell (right) holds was estimated at 22 pounds. Specimens much larger than this exist, and in the May issue author Jeff Holmes will go in depth on the Idaho lake’s fantastic fisheries. (JIM CUMMINS)

Let’s look at some basic numbers in terms of fish size. The lake holds bull trout to over 20 pounds, rainbows to over 30, brown trout to the high teens and maybe larger and some large westslope cutthroat trout as well. Despite extensive deepwater netting efforts to eliminate lake trout, they remain in smaller numbers and fatter and larger sizes, topping 20 pounds and possibly larger. Pend Oreille is a big-water fishery that can be as rough as the ocean, and only experienced big-water fishermen in substantial boats should tackle it, except on bluebird days. Probably the best way to experience the 148-square-mile lake is with a guide or hitching a ride with a fellow recreational angler.
The most common approaches for trolling the lake are surface-planer boards and downriggers, usually deployed simultaneously to cover more of the water column. Big bucktail flies are trolled fast behind planer boards spaced far to the sides of boats to cover a large swath for surface-feeding, spooky rainbows, the top target for most anglers. Downrigger offerings are often Rapalas, Lyman plugs, spoons and an assortment of other trophy trout trolling lures including flasher and bait combos for lakers.
March is a great time for big fish on the lake as they begin to move toward an end to winter patterns. Many rainbows leave the lake to spawn, but most remain since they don’t spawn every year. Browns, lakers and bulls are all fall spawners and are in full effect. Several charter operators make a living at the north end of the lake. They and their reviews are available online.

girl with trout

Lake Roosevelt is one of the Northwest’s flagship trout and kokanee lakes. Home to football-shaped rainbows and landlocked sockeye averaging almost 20 inches right now, March is an excellent time to troll the big waters behind Grand Coulee dam all the way to Fort Spokane. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

LAKE ROOSEVELT
March should be a fantastic time to fish Roosevelt as the water managers draw down the reservoir in anticipation of a substantial runoff this season. When Roosevelt is low, it concentrates fish, which tend to school up in elbows in the lake where plankton gets washed by the prevailing winds. In these food-rich areas – which are many along the lengths of the 144-mile-long reservoir – fishing can be fantastic for hatchery rainbows reaching 24 inches and averaging 15 to 19, as well as beautiful wild rainbows that occasionally approach 10 pounds. These football-shaped fish should be abundant and concentrated come March, along with 2016’s excellent crop of kokanee averaging 18 inches and reaching 24. The lake’s net-pen program is often chronicled, including by me, because of its scope and level of success. Some 750,000 rainbow trout are released from pens stretching its length. These 8-inch fish grow a whopping 6 inches and change completely in body shape and flesh coloration by the time winter rolls around. In March, last year’s stockers average 15 inches, with many substantially longer.
Rainbows and big kokanee are on the regular docket for March and all the way into summer, and other fish make occasional appearances as they wash through the system. Nice brown trout are occasionally caught here, as are washed down landlocked Chinook from Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. I caught a nice little 22-inch Chinook trolling flies at the big reservoir. That fish came between Hawk Creek and Lincoln, on the lake’s lower section. The areas from the mouth of the Spokane Arm down to Spring Canyon and Grand Coulee Dam are most densely populated with trout, especially true for kokanee. Consider fishing out of Fort Spokane if you catch word of a bite, but I’d focus even further downstream at Seven Bays or even much lower. Think about Lincoln, Hanson Harbor, Keller Ferry and Spring Canyon as your best bets. This is big water and the wind can come up, but I have many times safely fished Roosevelt in a 14-foot boat. March days can be blustery, but they can also be beautiful and sunburny.
Trout and kokanee here tend to be spooky, and most anglers fan out a wide selection of trolled patterns, including Muddlers and other trolling flies, Apexes, Floating Rapalas, various spinners and other proven trout and kokanee lures. In March fish are still almost always in the top 20 feet of the water column, often coming to the surface to feed. Some rely on downriggers, others planer boards, still others leaded line with long monofilament leaders and light trolling weights. Others simply fish mono rigs with trolling weights and lures. Most Roosevelt veterans believe strongly in tipping every hook – even Rapalas – with maggots, worm, corn, etc. The trout and kokanee here will often favor one direction of troll over another, which I experienced fishing with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Chris Donley in late January. Kokanee wouldn’t touch us going upstream and smacked it repeatedly going down. Later in the day, the reverse pattern developed. I’ll feature Roosevelt, along with trout and kokanee guru Donley, in the April issue.

ROCK LAKE
I caught my first Rock Lake trout as an almost-tween and immediately fell in love with the lake’s wildness and geography, as well as the legends about its huge browns. I later taught 25 miles from Rock at Eastern Washington University in Cheney for over a decade and went to school there for way too long before that. During that time I developed an obsession with the lake, even its history, as I’ve written about here before and probably will again. But for now let me tell you this: It’s rad. Also, it’s rad in March. Provided major precipitation or runoff events don’t cloud the lake and throw it off-color, fishing should be amazing for hatchery winter steelhead, released here as a result of the Wild Fish Conservancy lawsuit settlement with WDFW. It should similarly be excellent for some of the season’s biggest rainbows and browns. I can verify browns here to 14 pounds and have personally seen a few topping 10. Most of my time at Rock has been spent fishing flies, and I have caught some giant trout, but to get the real monsters, lures or bait shine. Along with a small-but-strong population of large browns of multiple age classes, the lake has good numbers of 15- to 19-inch browns, as well as skinny, silvery juveniles that are best avoided and left to grow. They tend to bunch up in schools at this size. Browns may be what Rock is best known for – certainly not steelhead smolts – but its rainbows are remarkable. Averaging 15 to 18 inches, with lots of fish topping 20, they reach lengths of 24 inches with substantial girth and growl. A limit of Rock Lake fish can be a real haul. Four limits is hard to carry.
Rock is over 7 miles long and is ringed by steep cliffs and sharp drop-offs. It’s called Rock Lake for a reason, both for the beautiful above-ground volcanic landscape and the prop-shedding, transom-ripping architecture under the water. As a rule, run on plane only up the middle of the lake unless you know it well. I have launched a boat at the lake approaching 200 times in my life and I’m still always wary. Not long ago I found an outjutting shelf I did not know about, almost 100 yards from shore. As I’ve written about, the one boat wreck I’ve enjoyed in my life that wasn’t a whitewater raft or a canoe was at Rock, at high speed, in June. If this happens in March, you’re likely going to die. Of course a rock didn’t wreck me; I reached for a chew and lost the tiller.
I quit chewing.
You don’t want to go close to shorelines at high speed, but you definitely want to troll them or cast to them. Almost the entire lake features steep drop-offs, and food and predators are most abundant close to the rocks. I like to troll flies here like olive and black and brown Woolly Buggers, Bunny Leeches and other unweighted flies on fast-sinking fly lines, or you can even fish them with leaded line or with mono and weight. I also like to troll plugs like MagLip 3.0s and 3.5s, Rapala Shad Raps, and FlatFish and Kwikfish. I’ve caught trout here trolling most of my steelhead plugs, but guys who experiment with hard baits from the world of bass angling do especially well. These fish see a fair number of Rapalas. I like to use large-profile fish imitations from a variety of manufacturers to show them something different, including hard and soft swimbaits. Casting big stuff to ambush cover results in big follows and grabs from browns and rainbows, and March is sometimes the best big-fish month. I choose to release almost all of my fish, but when I want trout to eat, I like to get them out of 360-foot-deep Rock.

FOURTH OF JULY LAKE
Fourth of July grows fish bigger and faster than its winter-only counterparts, and when there aren’t undesirable species like fathead minnows to contend with, rainbows have free reign of the lake, growing fat on scuds (freshwater shrimp), chironomids, leeches and a variety of aquatic invertebrates that also thrive in the lake’s alkaline waters. The lake is a little over a mile long and mostly devoid of trees except for the end opposite the public launch, where ponderosas sit above the narrow lake that fills a coulee in the channeled scablands 3 miles south of Sprague. Its fish are piggish in size and appetite. The lake has historically churned out lots of big rainbows, with anglers biggest gripe being the overabundance of trout over 14 inches. The daily limit here only allows two trout over 14; the other three must be smaller, which isn’t always possible. For guys who like to catch and release lots of trout during a day, this is great news, however. The lake doesn’t get fished out as quickly, and there are big trout galore to be had. Trout as long as 26 inches have been landed here, and specimens stretching at least 2 feet are in the lake now.
The lake’s size regulation makes sense to me, and I’ve seen the benefits of it in excellent late winter and early spring fishing. Keeping five of those plus-sized rainbows would likely result in a declining fishery throughout the season, as was the case prior to the regulation. A fry-planted 18- to 21-inch fish at Fourth of July has more usable meat on it than five of the typical, catchable-sized stocked rainbows. And there are plenty of fish in the high teens and low 20s if taking home some dinners is a high priority. For this angler, however, and for a reliable contingent of other fishermen who value catch and release in order to encounter more fish, the greatest benefit of trout that big is the superior fight and appearance of strong, acclimated fry-planted rainbows. I think these particular fish fight better than they taste; there’s no real conservation objective involved.
On my first morning of fly fishing with sinking line from a float tube during a snowstorm in the mid-1990s, I landed eight fish between 16 and 20 inches at Fourth of July, mostly by accident. As I untied knots in the borrowed sinking fly line, my leech patterns would consistently sit still for long periods, slowly slithering along the bottom only as I shifted my rod tip by accident or as I drifted. On future trips, I made sure to get my leeches and chironomids as close to the bottom as possible, often in very shallow water, and I caught lots. Over the years I’ve learned that rainbows use all depths of the lake, from the shallow end nearest the launch to the far end and its deeper water. One thing is for sure: They are often gorging just out of sight really close to shore and in shallow water.

Person holding a trout

Fourth of July Lake is tucked into the Channeled Scablands a few miles south of Sprague and its namesake lake. Rainbow trout grow very fast here and get very fat – state biologist Randall Osborne landed this one while test-fishing the lake for the winter fishery a few seasons back. It’s tough if not impossible to launch a trailered boat, but very easy to haul a cartopper or a pontoon or float tube to the water. (WDFW)

To generalize, Fourth of July’s big fish spend most of their time quite low in the water column, something I began learning on that day although I might have reasoned it out earlier. When I bait fished the lake in earlier years, I was far more successful plunking than fishing with a fixed bobber, and so were those around me. Whether plunkers use Power Bait, marshmallows, or other means to suspend bait above the bottom, successful anglers are careful to keep baits out of the weeds, and to vary depths throughout the day if not getting bites. The fish are often very shallow and close to shore. Make sure you’re not casting right over the big bruisers that fight their way into the prime spots on the shoreline chironomid-and-leech buffet.

MISSOULA WATERS
Sorry, Montana, I’m gonna go ahead and be “that” guy and unleash magazine readers on you and your not-so-secret March trophy trout fishery. I’ve seen enough Montanans nymphing the spey runs and speying the gear stretches of steelhead streams lately to not bat an eyelash. Point of fact, the biggest browns, rainbows, and cutthroats of the year begin to feed again for the first time in several months. They all look “up” in earnest for adult bugs, especially skwala stoneflies. These meaty, late-winter/early-spring bugs are part of a rich seasonal diet enjoyed by trout from the local rivers: Clark Fork, Bitterroot, Blackfoot and Rock Creek. All four fish well in March during the prerunoff pattern, which typically continues well into April. Definitely the Bitterroot and Clark Fork see the most traffic, partly because they run through Missoula and other population hubs in Western Montana, partly because they offer the best floating access and strong numbers of skwalas and other bugs, mostly midges, blue-winged olive mayflies and March brown mayflies. Both rivers are well-suited for drift boats or rafts and rowers of all skill levels.
Skwala nymphs become active when the water reaches the high 30s. The nymphs emerge from under rocks and immediately become targets of opportunity for feeding trout well before they make their way to the shore, where they crawl into willows and other vegetation and also rocks to shuck out of their nymph stage into adulthood. Swkalas then unloose, dry and test their wings until they can fly. They then become food as adults when they are driven into the water by high winds, when they die and when the females lay eggs. Trout eat them at all of these stages but eat far more nymphs than anything else. Still, when the adults are present in good numbers, early-season trout can’t help but look up and rise to dry patterns, which are big, fun to fish and intoxicating to watch get eaten. One must wait a count before setting on a trout picking off a big stonefly, long enough for them to turn their head and allow a positive hookset. This is challenging after a winter without dry flies, especially if one is conditioned to watch bobbers drown and to set the hook immediately. It’s fun, and the trout get drunk and dumb on the bounty. The year’s biggest trout are caught every year during the prerunoff. Even wise old browns will rise like greedy westslope cutthroats for skwalas, and the swkalas seem to make big fish eager to rise to other bugs when hatches occur. There are fish present in all four streams of all age classes, but to generalize mightily, all four streams offer lots of “teens” and much larger fish of a mixed bag: cutts, rainbows, cutt-bows, browns and even bulls.

Author holds a trout

All four of the Missoula-area prerunoff trout streams are awesome, including the Blackfoot, Clark Fork, and Bitterroot rivers, but me and my brother Zac’s favorites is more intimate and wild Rock Creek. The little river is home to lots of browns, including specimens larger than this as well as cutthroat, rainbow, brook and bull trout. (ZAC HOLMES)

It’s wise to book a day with a guide out of the better-reviewed of several area fly shops, but after one weekend with a friend in his boat in Missoula, I found it easy to take my own boat, set up shuttles with shops and get on fish immediately on all four rivers. I have never floated Rock Creek, nor would I in a hard-sided boat. It’s more of a small river than a creek, but it is a small river. It may offer the coolest and certainly wildest experience of any of the four major streams. It features healthy bull trout, browns, rainbows, cutts, cutt-bows and brookies. It’s a great trout stream and worth the half-hour drive from downtown Missoula. Expect possible bighorn, moose, elk and deer sightings especially on Rock Creek, but also on the other streams, even in Missoula. This famous trout destination has grown mightily in the last two decades, yet trophy opportunities exist in and around a big, cool town with lots of well-reviewed restaurants and great lodging, shopping, and bars. A trip here is an easy sell for almost everyone.

Westview Marina & Lodge April 2016 Fishing Report

THE FOLLOWING FISHING REPORT WAS SUBMITTED BY WESTVIEW MARINA AND LODGE,

Alaskan Winter Chinook/King Troll Fishery scheduled to close EARLY-because the fishing has been so good they have caught their allocation.

Alaskan winter & early spring Commercial Chinook troll fishery is a good yardstick to measure expectations for the upcoming West Coast Vancouver Island (WCVI) Sport Fishing/Catching.

Alaskan troll will be closing at least two weeks early because of the significant upturn in Chinook abundance.

Grant Hagerman, Fish and Game’s assistant troll biologist for Southeast Alaska, said:

“Looking back, it’s the highest fall catch we’ve seen for 20 years, basically, since the 93-94 winter season, so it’s pretty significant.”

WEST COAST VANCOUVER ISLAND (WCVI)

CHINOOK/Springs/Kings – On an average year, a 2.5% to 3.5% return of mature salmon to the hatcheries, rivers, and streams is the norm. The normal math is 1 million fry in the water = Avg. returns of 30,000 Chinook. 5% is the best we have seen over the last 10 years.

Recent Department of Fisheries (DFO) reports have announced that they are projecting a 10%+ return this year. That translates to a serious upturn in returning Chinook. 1.2+ million Chinook passing and returning to WCVI. That is very good news, and it correlates with the Alaskan increase in Chinook abundance reported above.

 

 

 

 

ESPERANZA INLET/NOOTKA SOUND– Will see at least 100,000 of these Chinook returning to its rivers, stream and Volunteer/Federal Hatcheries in Area 25. In addition, these stocks are going to be 88%+ four-and-five year old salmon. That translates into much larger Chinook this 2016 season. 25-35lb.Tyees will be a regular occurrence on the Marina Daily leader board. Salmon fishing in our local area in 2016 will be the BEST it has been in 20 years.

Come join the Fun and Fishing/Catching!

Local Coho/Silver Salmon- Area 25/125 OPENS JUNE 1, 2016 -Stocks remain moderately strong, which means limits of two per day of hatchery marked or wild Coho on inside waters (Area 25) with possession of four. Same goes for outside waters (Area 125) except only hatchery marked fish can be retained. Still a Great and fun fishery on calm inside water here in Espernza Inlet and Nootka Sound.

Ling Cod- “One of the best-tasting, ugliest fish you ever wanted to catch.”

Stocks continue to remain very strong and abundant in our area. One small regulation change: minimum size now 65cm/26in. No big deal, it is hard to find a Ling in our area under the 65cm/26in limit. That change brings Area 25/125 in line with other WCVI areas on Minimum Size.
Limits still 3 per day, 6 possession of these delicious white-meated fish.

Ling are great fun to catch, and there are LOTS around in our local waters!

BILL FROM WASHINGTON WITH HIS BIGGEST LING OF THE DAY, CAUGHT APRIL 1ST 2016

ANOTHER GROUP OF ANGLERS’ SUCCESSFUL  CATCH A FEW DAYS LATER

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paula’s Favorite Ling Cod Recipe

  • 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 4(3 ounce) cod fillets
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 egg white , lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  • In a small shallow bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, cheese, cornmeal, oil, italian seasoning, garlic powder and pepper; set aside. Coat the rack of a broiling pan with cooking spray. Place the cod on the rack, folding under any thin edges of the filets. Brush with the egg white, then spoon the crumb mixture evenly on top. Bake in a preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and is opaque all the way through

Halibut- More Good News

International Halibut Commission scientists are reporting the size and quantity are on a steady increase for the West Coast of Vancouver Island Halibut. Yes that means Hali fishing is now April, May, and early June. Fishing will remain very good on inside waters and close in shore.

Why?

Because we’ve had an excellent Herring spawn in the mouth of both Esperanza Inlet and Nootka Sound. These huge spawns draw the Halibut inside and close off-shore to feast on the Herring. Catching Hali in 90ft of water is the norm through mid-April, May, and early June.

As summer rolls in, the abundant Halibut move out further off shore to the summer feeding and breeding grounds. They are very catchable off shore, too. Come to Westview’s Tackle Shop & we can use the chart to ID inshore Hali Hot Spots & GPS locations off-shore.

“A HAPPY FISHER IS A FISHER WHO IS CATCHING FISH-WE WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY”

DAVID KIMBLE’S EARLY SEASON CATCH 2015

YESTERDAYS SUCCESSFUL CATCH BY 6 ALBERTA ANGLERS. CHECK OUT THE LARGE SPRING IN THE CENTER. THE LARGEST HALIBUT IS 52LBS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Late April, All of May and Early June is some of the BEST Fishing/Catching of the Season.

We get the first shot at the thousands of Chinook that are headed south to the USA. They are already starting to pass and stop in our local inlets and sounds, gorging themselves on the huge school of bait fish that are here now. Limits are already attainable for Chinook, Hali, and Ling! Fishing/Catching is over-the-top GOOD.

SEE YOU SOON!

Special rates on Spring All Inclusive Packages, Moorage, and Lodging.

Book what services you need. Pub, gas dock, tackle shop and Island Attitude Coffee/Breakfast shop are ALL open NOW! Marina Grillhouse Restaurant opens May 8th for lunch and dinner. See the “Best Kept Secret on the West Coast of Vancouver Island” fishing pkgs. above.

Call 250-934 -7672 for moorage & lodging reservation.

John and Cathy Falavolito www.westviewmarina.com
(250) 934-7992, Owner Operators Westview Marina & Lodge
Serving the Cruising and Fishing Public for 24 Years

Kyuquot Sound West Coast Vancouver Island

For Immediate Release – Media Advisory April 4 2016

chinookrundecade

Kyuquot Sound West Coast Vancouver Island


Chinook Forecast:

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Preliminary forecasts are out and participants from the most recent set of planning meetings this past weekend are saying that for the West Coast of Vancouver Island this season is going to be the Chinook run of the Decade!

Marilyn Murphy, of Murphy Sportfishing says “So if fishing in Kyuquot Sound has ever been on your radar, this year is the year to do it”.

West Coast Vancouver Island hatchery returns are at a combined ten year high with over 250,000, yes two hundred and fifty thousand mature Chinook returning for the 2016 season. To bring this number into perspective it is double the normal average.

Now on top of these astounding numbers you are going to see some girth. Girth is the circumference thickness measurement of a fish. This run is expected to be predominantly four year old Chinook, this means some nice “Tubby Tyees”. A Tyee a native term meaning the Chief of Chiefs, so in the case of a Chinook Salmon, one of which is over 30 pounds is referred to as a “TYEE”.

This is still not the full story, alongside and mixed in with this run as they land in the approach waters of Northern Vancouver Island then migrating south, will be the annual mass migration of aggressively feeding Columbia River Chinook. The adults this year are coming off of a record brood year from 2013 when over 1.2 million adults returned. With ocean condition indicators and the other voo-doo the fish wizards add in, they expect an above average return. Which in other words means over 800,000 Columbia River Chinook will be in this same area over the same time frame. Combine these Southern US bound with Canada’s West Coast Chinook returns and there are going to be over 1,000,000 Chinook foraging on their way South from Northern Vancouver Island to Southern Vancouver Island during June, July and August.

When asked “Why Kyuquot?”, Marilyn explains that Kyuquot is a very unique location as it is perched literally right on the edge of the “Super Salmon Highway” on North Western Vancouver Island, and unlike other terminal areas such as Nootka and Barkley Sound, Kyuquot will not be having large scale commercial net and Seine fisheries to compete with! “Run sizes are so large this year that both commercial Gill net and Seine will also be operating in the hatchery terminal zones. We look forward to being on the waters offshore of Kyuquot with the occasional offshore troller and local First Nations enjoying the vast uncrowded waters of the area. With this many fish returning is going to be an incredible experience”

Look for generous limits within this year’s regulations in times and areas where these abundances will travel. Detailed regulations are announced in June. You can book your trips now with confidence knowing that the regulations will be complimenting the abundance levels appropriately. Expect a full length of the season as well.

Coho Forecast:

Look for moderate to abundant levels of Coho on Vancouver Island’s west coast again this year. Although the run is not anticipated to be as big as last year’s forecast. Anticipate limits to be similar to 2014 with wild and hatchery Coho retention in the near shore and terminal areas adjacent to hatchery approach waters along WCVI and hatchery only in the offshore areas.

Halibut Forecast:

The International Halibut Commission manages Halibut and has a bilateral team of scientists that study the biomass trends. Canada’s west coast is now on a clear trend with increase in size of fish and quantity of fish at an increase WPUE (weight per unit effort) of 11% last year. What we have seen on the waters on Vancouver Island’s west coast does support what the science is saying. The fish are more abundant and the average size is increasing.

Although the biomass is increasing that doesn’t always mean that limits do! For 2016 the recreational limits are similar to last year with a plan in place to be open for the full length of the summer with a daily limit of 1 and a possession limit of 2. A maximum size limit is what has been working well to achieve annual sector quotas. This year the maximum size limit is only one fish of the two in possession may be up to 133cm (aprox 70 pounds whole) and the other can not be greater than 83cm (aprox 15 pounds whole). The annual limit is six.

As Featured on “Fishing with Rod”

thatsalottafish

Check out Rod’s video from his Kyuquot trip last year!

BOOK YOUR TRIP
This year Kyuquot is selling out fast and with this incredible news its a season you really want to be a part of.

Call anytime, day or evening: 250-723-8022

murphy@island.net
www.facebook.com/murphysportfishing

fishtolive

Person on a boat in inclimate weather

Tried-and-true Springer Tactics

With a midsized run forecast, it will pay to stick with techniques that work for Columbia spring salmon.

By Andy Schneider

No matter how tight he pulled his drawstrings, the cold rain seeped past his collar and down the neck of the shivering spring Chinook angler. The rain didn’t fall straight down that cold March morning; no, it was driven sideways by a relentless 20-mile-an-hour east wind. Every time he lifted his head slightly to reassure himself that there were still other fishermen enduring the same punishment, a new trickle of frigid water found its way through his rain gear and down his back. After a quick crank of the reel handle to bring his lead cannonball just off the bottom, the rain transitioned from liquid form to a hard, but still somehow still wet, solid; could the weather get much worse?

Person on a boat in inclimate weather

Mother Nature doesn’t yield her tastiest salmon easily – she’ll throw some of her nastiest weather at spring Chinook anglers as they work the Columbia this month and in early April. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

As the bottom of the boat turned from gray diamond plate to a uniform white, an almost imperceptible twitch of the fisherman’s rod caught his eye. Adrenaline soared through his veins, bringing tingling warmth to his nearly frozen fingers. Scooting to the edge of his damp chair, trying to keep the boat on the same exact path, making only the smallest of adjustments to the trolling motor’s RPMs and silently chanting for the “twitch” of the rod to return, the angler finally let out his breath. Had it just been his imagination? Was it a trick of the bottom? Just when the doubts started becoming reality, the fisherman’s silent prayers were answered: The rod tip plunged into the water and he battled his first spring Chinook of the season.

THIS SEASON PROMISES to deliver just that kind of action for Northwest sportsmen pursuing Columbia springers. Snowpacks are good, the forecasts are decent and fishermen should be able to transition from a fantastic steelhead season right into good angling on the big river. After the long, wet winter, many of us are chomping at the bit to get out and pursue something just a little bigger than winter-runs. Yes, spring Chinook will be caught throughout March, but waiting just a little later in the month may produce better results. Dam counts, flow amounts, water temperatures, turbidity levels and weather forecasts should all be taken into consideration before making your maiden voyage.

Once the count at Bonneville reaches a count of 1,000 and water temperatures climb above 40 degrees, start pinching barbs and brining bait. Normal water flows out of the dam, a steady barometer and low turbidity levels should make angling a little easier and more productive. But if you wait for all these cards to align, you may miss out on the entire season. So when your weekend nears and fishing conditions look to be even remotely tolerable, sometimes it’s best to just take what you can get and hope for the best.

Man with a large herring

Many anglers will troll herring for their springers, but pinch points such as below pile dikes are good places to set up an ambuscade, as evidenced by this one hefted by the author’s dad Ron Schneider. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

LAST FALL’S CHINOOK fishing on the Columbia was epic and definitely reset the standard for “The Good Old Days.” Following on such good fishing, this year’s spring Chinook season will certainly leave many anglers wanting more. To make sure you get the most opportunities possible this season, stick with techniques that have proven themselves in past years.

Herring is going to be one of the most effective baits day in and day out to catch springers. It doesn’t need to be fancy either – a whole herring straight from the package is going to catch fish. But putting a little more care into your presentation is going to make it slightly more effective and should yield more consistent results throughout the season. Plug cutting and brining your herring are easy ways to ensure your baits are fishing properly and will hold up to heavy river flows. There are multiple herring brines and dyes available on the market today, and all work well. Finding one that works for you is as simple as knowing how much effort you want to put into bait preparation. If you find yourself short on preparation time, an “all in one” brine will probably work best. If you like to add your own secret ingredients, or construct your own brine, then you will have even more choices. Brines can be as simple as adding one cup of rock salt to a quart of distilled water in a gallon-sized zipper-lock bag to cure overnight. Some anglers like to tinker with their brines, adding anything from MSG to sodium sulfates, but be wary of adding too many specialized ingredients. Not only is it difficult to remember exactly what and how much of it you put in, you may be end up “burning” your bait and creating a bait that might be more offensive to spring Chinook than attractive.

As for plug-cutting your herring, utilizing a miter box and a sharp knife ensures you get a consistent roll every time.

Most salmon anglers will also agree that a rotating flasher in front of your herring increases your odds. With so many different colors of reflective Mylar on the market today, trying to find the color combination that will catch a fish, seams more daunting than finding a February springer. But take a step back from all those brightly colored reflective triangles and look at the common denominator: Besides the shape, most revolve around silver and shades of green.

Having a good supply of green and chartreuse flashers with their matching chrome side will ensure that you have a fish-catching combination. The second most common color combination that has proven itself for salmon anglers is bronze and orange. There are theories for coordinating flasher colors to weather conditions, water clarity and even bait dyes. While there may be some direct cause and effect, there are just too many variables in our Northwest waters to draw a conclusive relation. Best to just have multiple flashers with different colors and try experimenting when the fish become elusive.

Rigging starts with two 4/0 barbless hooks, fix tied 3 inches apart on 48 to 60 inches of 25-pound fluorocarbon or monofilament leader tied to your flasher. Above your flasher, tie 16 inches of 40-pound-test mono to a bead-chain swivel. Above that, slide two 8mm beads down your mainline to help protect your knot from your plastic weight slider. For a weight dropper, use 15- to 20-pound mono with a duolock snap for quick lead changes. Fifty- or 65-pound braided mainline is the most popular, followed by 25-pound mono.

(ANDY SCHNEIDER)

(ANDY SCHNEIDER)

WHILE SOME ANGLERS take the bait to the fish, others play the odds and wait for the fish to come to their plugs. True, trollers usually fare better at the end of the day, but a well-planned and anchored boat can outfish even the savviest of trollers. Spring Chinook don’t flood into the Columbia in wave after wave on every tide. Instead they trickle in inconsistently, and move upriver in unpredictable surges, frustrating anglers not prepared for the long game. That means finding choke points, pile dikes, wing dams and bottom contours that concentrate and focus the fish will provide better results.

During high-water years, tying or anchoring directly behind pile dikes can be very productive, as fish will seek the slower waters created by the pilings. When tying directly to them, make sure to fish your gear close to the boat, as fish oftentimes will move just behind the pilings. Because in many cases the water can be as shallow as 4 feet directly behind pilings, paying attention to your dropper length is more important than ever, as you don’t want your offering too close to the surface of the water, nor dragging the bottom. The current behind pile dikes can be very turbulent, so utilizing spinner blades made for slower waters or plugs will ensure your gear will keep working properly as flows surge and ebb.

WHERE YOU FISH for spring Chinook on the Columbia should be based more on boat ramp locations close to your home than fishing reports. Since salmon movement upriver is such an unpredictable factor, chasing reports is often a losing proposition from the start as the fish have moved upriver by the time you launch the following day. And while spring Chinook are consistently inconsistent, there are certain locations that produce fish from February till the end of the season. Targeting these popular locations usually gives anglers the best odds, day in and day out.

Author and little girl, each holding a large fish.

As winter’s grip fades and spring blooms comes the best springer fishing. Catches build in March, but take off at the end of this month and early next. John and Leah Lecarno enjoyed a successful outing with the author last April. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

Davis Bar downriver to Caterpillar Island annually is one of the most popular and productive locations. Trolling is by far the most popular technique at both, since water depth and sandy bottom is mostly snag-free. That makes dragging herring close to the bottom easy, allowing for long, trouble-free trolls.

Venturing across the channel to Sauvie Island, bank anglers have a mile’s worth of access to some of the great plunking water at Willow Bar, while downriver from there, Social Security and Collins Beaches offer the shorebound even more plunking water. Boaters wanting to pitch the hook can find locations along Caterpillar Island and along Sauvie Island to intercept fish moving upriver.

Trolling between the interstate bridges has been consistent producer since spring Chinook fishing was allowed above I-5. Most anglers start their troll near Wintler Park, which is just below the Marine Park ramp, and troll the Washington shore all the way to the railroad bridge on the Oregon side just below I-5. Trollers also work the waters from the James Gleason launch off NE Marine Drive down along Hayden Island and down to the railroad bridge. Most of the Columbia below I-205 averages less than 25 feet deep, on normal water years, making for perfect water for trollers.

The last few seasons, the waters directly below The Fishery and down to Dalton Point has produced consistent results for those willing to battle the Columbia Gorge’s east wind and faster currents. However, with fuller snowpacks this winter, we may have higher spring flows, which may negatively effect this fishery. As challenging as this fishery can be, creel counts don’t lie – skippers willing to subject themselves and crew to these conditions may be in for another good season.

NO MATTER WHAT techniques you employ and where you go, spring Chinook fishing is a rite of passage for Northwest anglers. Spring brings green leaves, colorful flowers and chrome salmon, and as the short days of winter slowly transition to longer and slightly warmer days of spring, spending time on the water pursuing one of the tastiest of fish is a great way to shake off any lingering seasonal depression. Start thawing some bait and get out and enjoy salmon fishing as Mother Nature hits the reset button and turns the upper lefthand corner of this country into one of the most beautiful places to live in the world.

Jackrabbit quesadillas

Jacks A Nimbler Meat When Canned

By Randy King

The jackrabbit was only about 15 yards away when he stopped and gave me the stink eye. I had caught him slinking through the sage and he was now trying to determine if he should run or hold. He should have ran.

I drew back my longbow and let the wooden arrow fly. It was wide right and I felt it, but then, as if by divine dumb luck, my arrow glanced off a small twig and hooked left – directly into the back legs of the stationary jackrabbit. Now clearly injured and unable to run the chase was on. With no gun and no dog I must have shot at that rabbit 10 more times before landing the fatal blow. But that difficulty made the victory all the more sweet. The black cliffs of the Snake River Valley loomed over me and I could do nothing but smile at the good fortune. I slipped the hare into my backpack and kept hunting.

The author with a jackrabbit he took with an arrow.

The author with a jackrabbit he took with an arrow. (RANDY KING)

Next up was a series of near hits and two more kills with the longbow. It was the best day of hunting rabbits with stick and string I’ve ever had. Back home I aged the rabbits – which is to say, let them lay on my cold, 40-degree garage floor – for four days.

AGING MEAT IS a sensitive topic, and I used to be adamantly against it. But I am now a convert, for the most part. After all, aging meat is controlled rot, for lack of a better term. Aging lets the enzymes already in the meat help in the tenderizing process.

Tenderizing jackrabbit is a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff, but others are not always in my camp. The old timers would say they were “trash” and “not worth the shot,” and so for years I would not eat them. Hell, even Steven Rinella disparages the jackrabbit in his new book The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game; Volume Two Small Game and Fowl, calling them “loathsome.” But it always seemed wrong to value one animal over another without firsthand evidence. So I searched for a good way to make jackrabbit meat palatable.

Scouring the Internet I found that not everyone hates on the jackrabbit. One likeminded proponent of the humble jack is Hank Shaw, the author, blogger and James Beard Award Winner. Shaw comes to the rescue of the jack in a variety of ways – and fantastically so with his Sardinian Hare Stew – but also in his general praise for the beast of the sage.

“Anyone who’s ever braised a jackrabbit until it’s tender already knows that they are a perfectly good meat – vaguely venison-like and completely lean,” says Shaw.

I took my now-ready-to-clean rabbits and skinned, deboned and cubed them, getting about 4 pounds of meat in total. At this point, however, I was at a loss of what to do with such a large batch. My freezer was fullish and I was not planning on making sausage any time soon.

I did have a goal, though: shelf-stable meat. I wanted a “no refrigeration needed” meat that I could haul into the backcountry with me, and something other than jerky. I knew about canning meat, or jarring, to be more specific, but I had never done it. Still, the idea of having a little jar of meat I could pop open and warm up intrigued me.

MY FIRST LOGISTICAL problem came from the fact that canning meat requires a pressure canner – something I did not own. Honestly, I had always feared pressure canners. They reminded me of a bomb in the kitchen, and can be tricky if not managed correctly. I kept having visions of my grandma at the stove and a loud BOOM! Pushing past those phobias I decided to take the plunge and get my shelf-stable meat – via pressure canning.

After a quick search on Craigslist I came up with an inexpensive pressure canner, the “Victory Model” from World War II. It is simply amazing and even lists the amount of time needed to can rabbit (dandelion greens too!). Sure, a new canner would be cool, but this old school model was all a guy needs – plus, the $25 dollar price tag was hard to beat.

With my newly acquired jackrabbits and a new-to-me pressure cooker I set out to can some meat. As visions of tacos in the backcountry floated in my head, first I browned the cubed rabbit in hot oil and then tossed them in “taco” seasoning. Next, I added them to jars with a little stock and canned them.

Canned rabbit meat.

Canned rabbit meat. (RANDY KING)

When I was done canning the meat I could not wait to try it out. The next afternoon I opened a jar and made myself a quick quesadilla. It was unreal – I now basically have shredded rabbit meat in a jar ready to eat whenever I am hungry.

Trying not to be flattered with my own success I let a master jackrabbit cook have a taste – I fed them to Hank Shaw in the backwoods of Idaho.

“I’d never thought to pressure can them (jackrabbits) until I ate Randy’s canned jack tacos … Not sure of it was the hunger or not, but I am a convert,” he said.

CANNED RABBIT
As with all preserving, keeping things sanitary is a must – clean hands, clean jars, clean lids, clean everything. With canning, and all preservation really, you are trying to defeat the forces of nature that rot food. It’s a hard project and one that if not done right is downright dangerous, so follow the directions on your canner and be careful. That said, I am going to be canning meat a lot more in the future.

Jackrabbit quesadillas

An experiment with a vintage pressure canner and the meat of several jackrabbits – a species “not worth the shot,” according to some – produced great results for Randy King, who is looking forward to more meals from the shelf-stable meat. (RANDY KING

2 pounds cleaned rabbit meat, diced
¼ cup canola oil
1 packet “taco seasoning”
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ onion diced
1 cup chicken stock or water

Place a 12-inch heavy bottomed pan on medium heat for five minutes. Add half the canola and carefully add the rabbit meat a little at a time. Do not overcrowd the pan or the meat will not brown properly. Add more oil as needed to keep the pan from being dry bottomed. When all the meat is brown add it all back to the pan and toss with taco seasoning. Remove meat from pan to a plate. Add garlic, onion and chicken stock to the pan.

Bring the pan to a boil, scrape the bottom for all the good chunks of brown. This is called “fond,” by the way. Remove pan from heat.

Next pack the meat in clean, wide-mouthed jars. Then add the pan drippings to each jar, distributing them evenly. But make sure to leave at least half an inch of head room on the jar.

Top each jar with a clean lid and clean ring. Place into pressure canner and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to follow all instructions for canning very carefully.

Jack Glass holding a large fish

The Gurus: Jack Glass

Our series on some of the best all-around Northwest salmon and steelhead anglers continues with guide from the Sandy.

By Andy Schneider

“When I first started guiding, I was almost always the youngest person in the boat,” remembers Jack Glass. “But now, I’m routinely the oldest person onboard – not always mind you, not always …”

His name is among the most recognizable in the Northwest fishing world, among those so frequently associated with our waters that they become part of the angling environment and experience. You begin to look for these anglers when you are on certain rivers and find reassurance when you encounter them. While success rates may differ dramatically, just knowing they’re sharing the same water as you gives you the confidence that you made the right decision on where to fish.

Jack Glass holding a large fish

Few anglers know the Sandy River better than Jack Glass, who began fishing the Oregon tributary in 1964 with his father, from whom he inherited an old sled and the idea of going into guiding. (HOOKUPGUIDESERVICE.COM)

Glass has been a recognizable figure on the Sandy River almost since he first started fishing it 52 years ago. But his recognition isn’t limited to just this small Oregon tributary of the Columbia River. With his trademark mustache and often wearing a black cowboy hat, he’s known from Astoria to the Siletz and many waters in-between. But Glass didn’t become a figurehead of good river etiquette, stewardship and providing quality fishing experiences overnight. His constant presence on the river, involvement with resource managers and willingness to share his knowledge has earned him status among the elite. It began when he caught his first steelhead.

“I WAS FISHING the Sandy at Gordon Creek back in 1964 with my father. I remember my father telling me how the channel had changed after the big Christmas flood and we were fishing in a completely new channel. I was using an Okie Drifter and a double-hook rig with a nightcrawler. Back then, it was either nightcrawlers or eggs, but as the water warmed up in March, those fish ate those nightcrawlers really well. That was all my Dad used back then, either nightcrawlers or eggs, and I just so happened to be using a nightcrawler that day. I’ll never forget this fish, it was 14 to 15 pounds, just a big beautiful fish. While they had hatchery fish back then, they didn’t clip them like they do now. But you could tell that by the size of this fish, it was a native, just a perfect specimen.”

Growing up, Glass went to Reynolds High School in Troutdale, played sports and was just like most kids. But unlike a lot of his classmates, Glass got a lot more opportunities to go fishing. His dad took him on trips to the Deschutes, Clackamas and Sandy just about every weekend.

“We were primarily shore fishermen, even though we had a drift boat. In 1967, when I was 10, my Dad built a sled. We would launch it at Lewis and Clark Park on the Sandy, when there wasn’t much of a boat ramp there at all. But rarely would we fish out of the boat; we would just use the boat for transportation. We would anchor the boat and fish from shore or fish standing in the boat. It was all casting and drift fishing back then.”

“One time my Dad and I were fishing on the Clackamas River. We were standing on shore, like we usually did, and looked downriver and saw this boat out in the middle of the river. And he’s catching fish, one right after the other. We were wondering what the heck he was doing. My Dad said that he thought it was Jim Conway in one of those fancy new aluminum sleds. It looked like he was running some sort of plug out in the middle of the river. My dad and I had never seen that technique before. My dad went down there and talked to Jim and he showed us these Hot Shots he was using. That night, we went to Fosters Sporting Goods and bought a bunch of new Hot Shots. We fished them a couple of times, but we didn’t catch anything on them, so Dad lost confidence in them and we just decided to keep drift fishing like always. Then one day, we were anchored up in shallow water eating lunch and I decided to hang one out the back of the boat and I catch one! And I realize they actually did work!”

“ONE DAY DAD and I were thinking how cool it would be to live on the water and be a fishing guide. So my father got his guide’s license in ’67 and he maintained it through 1975, when he moved to back to Texas where he was born and raised. But I stayed here because I was so passionate about fishing and continued fishing just as much. I got a job and worked for the next eight years, then I decided to quit and became a fishing guide. With Dad’s old sled, an aluminum drift boat and a wife who thought I was nuts, I was going to try and make a living doing this. But my wife (Shelley) still wasn’t onboard with the plan, so we had to do some marriage counseling classes. Our counselor liked to fish and told her to let me try it for one year. If it doesn’t work, then we could go back to what we were doing. Next thing I know, it’s five years later and I’m as busy as I could be. Add two kids to the mix and I felt I was pretty fortunate.”

Jack Glass and a young man with a fish

Glass isn’t content just helping clients harvest the resource – he’s also active in river stewardship and represents sportfishing interests too. (HOOKUPGUIDESERVICE.COM)

“I made the Sandy as my home river and made my reputation on it. I saw Bob Toman do it on the Clackamas; he was highly visible and well known, running four people in the morning and four people in the afternoon. So I tried to match his success over here on the Sandy. Soon I realized that a lot of my clients were making more money than I was. Anyone who gets into this business thinking they are going to make a ton of money, think again. It takes a passion to stay with it. But you have got to admit that it’s a pretty low stress occupation, if you let it be. You see some folks take it a little too seriously out on the water, getting into conflicts with other anglers. But there is no need for that; there is room for everybody to enjoy the resource. And that has always been my message, I want everyone to enjoy the waterways as much as I do.”

To this day, Glass’s enthusiasm is still strong. Even after spending a long day on the water with clients, his passion for showing anglers the bounty that these Northwest waters can provide is evident. It’s not very frequently when someone is lucky enough to make a living doing what they love and keep loving it so many years later. It’s hard to imagine Glass doing anything else in life, as he seems so at ease on the water.

As steelhead season transitioned to spring Chinook, Glass remembers some of his first springer seasons on the Sandy.

“In 1982 and ’83, the Sandy had a really good spring Chinook run. I was on the water a lot, back-trolling, back-bouncing and running plugs. They were releasing almost 500,000 spring Chinook smolts at that time, creating a real robust run, which only seemed to get better and better, with our peak year around 2004. I think that year we had a return of around 14,000, which was a huge return. That year, I remember seeing schools of spring Chinook moving upriver. It was those years of good runs that really built my reputation on the Sandy. It didn’t hurt that when I first started guiding on the Sandy for spring Chinook that we had a lot of summer steelhead at the time. So no matter if salmon fishing was slow that day, we would always be able to catch a summer-run or two.”

MAKING A CAREER as a fishing guide takes a lot of work throughout your career. It’s not something that comes easy. It takes being able to manage money, a good personality, marketing strategy and – of course – good angling skills. Then it takes lots of work and perseverance to keep successful as a entrepreneur for over 30 years.

While Glass has all of these attributes, his passion and enthusiasm for the sport is often his most memorable trademarks. And as he looks to the future, he is still enthused about the direction angling is going.

“I’m still exited about the fisheries. Just like this year’s winter steelhead run, it’s been amazing. I don’t remember anything special three years ago about the spring run-off – pretty average. But this year’s run has been anything but average. Why did all the stars line up for this great season? Whatever happened, it should lead to another great season next year. I’m pretty optimistic the Columbia is going to maintain good fishing. Management practices have improved and restoration efforts have made a difference. I’m really optimistic about the future, as long as we don’t have any sort of catastrophic events, I think we are going to see good runs and good fisheries around for some time.”

Jack Glass speaking at a trade show

In addition to salmon and steelhead, Glass is one of those rare guides who also targets walleye and bass, and he often speaks at meetings and seminars, including the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show last month in Portland. (O’LOUGHLIN TRADE SHOWS)

Glass looks at he and son Brandon’s guide service, Team Hook Up, not only as a business and but as a way to create future stewards of the rivers. If you’ve ever talked to the Glasses on the river, at a Steelheader’s meeting or at a Sportsman Show, where they’re regular seminar speakers, you know how approachable and willing to share information they are.

“Anyone can get out and enjoy the resource. If Brandon and I can help improve techniques and tactics for anglers so they can be more successful, well, we have done what we set out to do. We are real advocates for getting the younger generations out; they are the future of our resources. It’s important to get them involved, be patient with them and get them excited for our resources.”

Spending time on the water with friends and family is something pretty special. Many of us are out there so often that we forget how much of a novelty it can be for the majority of Northwest residents and how much they appreciate someone taking the time to take them into the outdoors. As our lives get busy, school activities become overwhelming and work drama gets consuming, we lose track of how important it is to take a step back and take the next generation of anglers to the rivers and show them what healing powers they can provide. Taking the time and being patient enough to teach them is not only is rewarding, but a way to ensure that the sport will survive for generations to come.

“I’ve had a lot of great moments over the year guiding, so many in fact it’s impossible to single out any one day or time on the river,” says Glass. “But I’ve fished with so many great folks over the years, and now some of them are gone. I’ve been to several funerals where there were pictures of me and that individual in the service or at the wake. It took me a while to realize that I was providing one of the greatest moments and a true highlight of this person’s life. I don’t ever want to forget that, that I made such a memorable impact in someone’s life.”

A man and a woman, each holding a fish

Basin’s Best Walleye

How to fish Banks Lake, Potholes Reservoir for early-season walleye.

By Keith Jensen

With the shotguns, bird dogs and decoys having wrapped up another successful Columbia Basin waterfowl and upland bird season, it’s now time to get the fishing gear ready for one of the best times to fish for walleye in Washington. Yeah, you bet it’s still on the chilly side here east of the mountains, but the bite will be red hot.

Walleye, as with all of the state’s spinyrays, winter in deeper water where conditions remain more stable and where they are not subject to harsh winter storms. Once the ice clears on Potholes Reservoir and Banks Lake, the walleye remain deep but are more than ready to do some serious eating.

A man and a woman, each holding a fish

Clients of author Keith Jensen show off nice Banks Lake walleye, caught at Barker Flats. Banks and Potholes Reservoir are among the best spots in the Columbia Basin for the tasty fish this time of year. (BIGWALLYSGUIDESERVICE.COM)

AT THAT WALLEYE FACTORY known far and wide simply as the Potholes, as the weather warms and the reservoir becomes ice-free, the fish will be grouped up in heavy numbers around the many humps in front of the sand dunes between Crab Creek and Winchester Wasteway. The closest ramps are at MarDon Resort (mardonresort.com) and Potholes State Park, and as you get within several hundred yards of the outer dunes, start paying close attention to your electronics. You will begin to go over humps that rise from 50 feet quickly up to 25 or 30 feet.

Once you have located the humps, two key lures for targeting walleye staging on them are blade baits or lipless crankbaits. With the former, I prefer Bass Pro Shops XPS Laser Blades, and I like 5/8-ounce models in either gold or silver finishes. For the latter, I use the Rapala Rippin’ Rap, which was designed for the type of fishing I’m describing. The ¾-ounce red craw-patterned plug has treated me very well.

When using blade baits and Rippin’ Raps you will want to utilize two key presentations: vertical jigging or cast-and-retrieve. For jigging, drop your blade or plug on top of or on the side of one of Potholes’ humps. A quick lift of the rod to about the 10 o’clock position will raise and vibrate your lure off the bottom. It is vital that you feel the vibrations of the bait. If you don’t feel any, most likely the bait has become fouled on the line. Now, most importantly is the drop. After raising your rod to 10 o’clock, you want to quickly lower it back down to allow the blade bait or Rippin’ Rap to flutter back to the bottom on slack line. It is that slack-line flutter fall that gets the majority of the bites. When you go to lift the rod back up, you will feel the extra weight of a walleye – quickly reel down and set the hook.

As for casting and retrieving either lure, give it a good heave and, again, allow the bait to reach bottom. Then begin a series of rods sweeps. Quickly raise your rod to 10 o’clock to activate the vibration, then quickly lower your rod just as you would if fishing vertically. Allow the lure to make contact with the bottom on the drop. Continue with this series of rod sweeps and drops all the way back to the boat.

I rig my blade baits on a 7-foot medium action Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler Spinning Rod coupled with either 6- or 8-pound CXX P-Line. For the Rippin’ Rap I use a 7-foot-6 Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler Casting Rod, again, with 6- or 8-pound test. Weighing ¾ ounce, the Rippin’ Rap is much better suited to the casting rod due to its heavier size. I am firm believer in using light line for all my presentations as I believe it results in many more bites.

XPS Laser Blades and Rapala Rippin' Raps

Among the author’s favorite lures are Bass Pro Shops XPS Laser Blades, Rapala Rippin’ Rap and Mack’s Lure Spindrift Floating Walleye Rig. (BIGWALLYSGUIDESERVICE.COM)

EQUALLY AS EFFECTIVE as those blades and plugs are bottom bouncer-spinner rigs. On Potholes through early March, I will motor directly in front of the mouth of Winchester Wasteway and find 35 to 40 feet of water. I will then proceed with the trolling motor across the face of the dunes toward Crab Creek with the setup. With water temperatures still cold, a slow presentation is vital to trigger a bite from the equally cold walleye. I will troll .5 to .8 mph up and over the dozens of underwater humps at Potholes. When I hit a walleye, I immediately hit a waypoint on the GPS. By continuing this pattern down this stretch I end up locating the key humps that are holding walleye on that particular day.Mack's Lure Smile Blade Spindrift and Super Slow Death Rigs
When it comes to spinner-crawler rigs for walleye, Mack’s Lure Smile Blades dominate the competition. One of the greatest attributes of the Smile Blade is its ability to spin at the slowest of speeds. The Smile Blade-Slow Death Hook combination and the new Spindrift Floating Walleye Rig are the two Mack’s Lure baits that do the damage on walleye in my boat. Baited with a nightcrawler, it’s just too much for the walleye to resist. Many anglers will pinch their worms in half when using these hooks, but I prefer to use the whole ’crawler. Big baits equal big bites, right?

Smile Blades come in many colors, from motor oil to pink, but there is one that produces more bites and more walleye for myself and my clients than any other: No. 65211, gold with black scales in the .8- and 1.1-inch sizes. Whether I am at Potholes, Banks, Moses or Rufus Woods, this particular color consistently produces quantity and quality walleye. Walleye are opportunistic feeders and will prey on smaller walleye when given the chance. Hold this color Smile Blade up to a walleye and you will see a very close match.

For bottom bouncing I use the Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler Casting Rod. Geared for the tactic, the 7-foot-6 model has a soft tip to detect the softest of bites. With the walleye being in 30 to 50 feet of water this time of year, I stick with 2-ounce bottom bouncers to maintain bottom contact. At times I will bump up to 3-ounce bouncers if I have wind to deal with.

AT BANKS LAKE, the exact same tactics and techniques work, and once the ice is off, it is game on for walleye. The key – as always – is location, location, location, and there are several spots on the 42-square-mile reservoir for early-season walleye.

The first is on the north end, Barker Flats. Located straight across the lake from Steamboat Rock, the flats hold enormous numbers of walleye in late winter and early spring. I catch many of the largest fish of the year here this time of year. Walleye in the 5- to 10-pound range are a real possibility every trip.

To reach Barker Flats, launch at the Northrup ramp just off Highway 155 near Steamboat Rock. Go around the north face of the rock and then go straight across the lake. Barker Flats gets its name from the vast shallow flat that extends out from the west side of the lake opposite Steamboat Rock. From shore, the flats stay shallow, 6 to 20 feet deep, for several hundred yards. This time of year, however, you want to be right outside the flats in water 35 to 50 feet deep. Now, unlike Potholes with all of its underwater humps, Barker Flats is just as it sounds, flat. It consists of a sandy/muddy bottom with very little rock, but it holds great numbers of perch this time of year – and where there are perch, there are walleye.

When fishing the flats, I always troll parallel to them. Rather than going from deep to shallow or shallow to deep, I start at a given depth, say, 40 feet, and maintain that. If I don’t find fish at 40 feet, my next pass will be at 45 feet. I will continue to adjust my depth until I locate the depth the fish are holding in.

If I am running four bottom-bouncer rods I will have two rods with Smile Blade-Slow Death Hook combos and the other two with Mack’s Spindrift Rigs. All four will start out with the gold-with-black-scales pattern. But if I’m marking a ton of fish but not getting bit, I will start experimenting with different colors.

Another extremely productive area on Banks lies at the far north end, at Electric City. Directly across from Coulee Playland Resort is a stretch of 35- to 50-foot-deep water that extends back downlake for more than a mile. From February through March, large numbers of walleye ranging in size from 16 to 22 inches, with many over the 22, gather here. Again, pick a starting depth and then proceed to bottom bounce this entire stretch. If I locate a large school of walleye, I switch over to the aforementioned blade bait and jigging plug, and try to stay right on top of the school. Many anglers are aware of and fish Barkers Flats but do not run further north to the area across from Coulee Playland. Some of my best fishing days early in the year are in this area.

The daily limit for walleye on both Banks and Potholes is eight (12-inch minimum size), with only one over 22 inches allowed.

I’D BE REMISS in not mentioning the “bonus” catches walleye anglers get early in the year at Potholes and Banks. In all the areas I’ve described, yellow perch can be found in great numbers, and this is the time of year the jumbos can be caught. If there is one fish that rivals the taste of a walleye fillet, it is the yellow perch. Anglers will pick up great numbers of perch on Banks and Potholes on blade baits, Rippin’ Raps and bottom bouncer-spinner rigs.

Man holding a lean, spotted yellow fish

Burbot may turn up as a bonus at Banks and Potholes, but you can count on catching yellow perch. BIGWALLYSGUIDESERVICE.COM)

Burbot also make an appearance now. Their numbers appear to be rising, and last February and March saw 27 hauled aboard my boat while targeting walleye. This may seem like not many, but my previous record was nine for an entire season.

Please feel free to contact me (509-770-8318; bigwallysguideservice.com) at any time for current fishing reports, productive techniques, or if you want to further expand on the early-season options at Potholes and Banks.