Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

A Breezy Opener

The wind whistled through the blooming dogwood as I strapped my brand-new pontoon boat to the top of the fish rig this past Saturday morning. Ugh, I thought, of all the days it has to blow.

It was the trout opener, the biggest annual gathering of Washington fisherkind of the year — as well as the first day of the year to fish several Oregon lakes — so I wasn’t going to bag it either.

Well, I thought shaking my head, it is April, after all. And at least I’ll be able to check off fishing in the wind out of yet another type of boat.

I’d hoped that the breeze would be a wee bit lighter further inland from our house on the slope towards Puget Sound, but it wasn’t the case at 11-acre Echo Lake off Aurora (which is actually a year-round water, but with time constraints, my best option to get afield that day). So, layered up with three fleeces, waders, lifejacket, parka, three pieces of leftover pizza and a mess of lures and flies, I launched the pontoon, kindly supplied by Creek Company, and splashed in.

And was promptly blown back to shore.

By then it was too late to back out — Amy and the boys had roared off to the zoo — so I battled into the wind, just as tens of thousands of others across the Everbreezy State did, and like everyone else, found trout.

Here’s WDFW’s wrap-up report from around the state:

Although the weather was cool, and at times rainy and quite windy, most anglers who ventured out around the state had a successful opening day of lowland lake fishing.

WDFW biologists provided the following information on the opener:

REGION 1 FISH PROGRAM Manager John Whalen noted that windy conditions contributed to an observed decline in anglers venturing out to area lakes for the traditional April trout fishing opening day. Steady winds out of the west southwest at 25 miles per hour, with wind gusts up to 30 mph, hampered fishing activity and created some back-ups at lake boat ramps as people worked to re-unite their boats and trailers. In District 2 angler counts on monitored lakes in the Spokane area were down an estimated 50 percent from the turn out observed for last year’s near perfect opening day conditions. While average fish per angler harvest numbers were down, most anglers interviewed were satisfied with their catches. Rainbow trout in the 14 to 16 inch range were observed in angler catches on several lakes in District 2, with some fish up into the low 20 inch range. District 1 also reported windy fishing conditions, with trees being blown down at Trout Lake (Ferry Co.) and Rocky Lake (Stevens Co.). Some of the best fishing in District 1 was observed at Cedar Lake (Stevens Co.) with a harvest average of 5 fish per angler. Deep Lake (Stevens Co.) also fished well with 3.6 fish per angler, along with Rocky Lake (Stevens Co.) with 4.4 fish per angler.

CHAD JACKSON IN EPHRATA reported that anglers fishing Grant County opening day lakes this year were greeted with chilly and very windy (15-30mph) conditions that persisted until about noon. These conditions definitely impacted angler participation and success, especially boat anglers. Most anglers waited out the weather as evidenced by the noon peak effort counts at every opening day lake except for Warden Lake (8:00AM peak count). However, observed angler participation and success improved right around noon when the wind began to die down and air temperatures rose. During the 8:00AM to 12:00PM creel survey, angler success was best at Park and Warden lakes. Anglers averaged a little better than 3 trout harvested per angler. The remaining lakes averaged less than 2 trout per angler. Trout size at all the opening day lakes was good ranging between 11-13 inches. Park Lake had the largest yearling trout ranging from 13-15 inches followed by Blue Lake at 12-13 inches. With the weather shaping up in the afternoon, the expectation is that most anglers will catch, or come close, their limits of trout.

ART VIOLA IN CHELAN COUNTY reported nice sunny weather, but windy (50 -600 F). Unfortunately, again this year, persistent cold weather, snow, mud covered roads and ice covered lakes precluded fish stocking at Beehive and Spring Hill reservoirs. The DNR closed the road to Lilly Lake precluding angler access; consequently anglers had access to only two opening day lakes: Wapato and Clear lakes.

Early morning effort (boat and shore angler counts) at Wapato Lake was only about 33% of angler effort surveyed in the past 8 years. Catch per angler was improved compared to 2009. All fish were healthy and robust; yearlings (1+) were 13- 14 inches in length, evidentyl the 2009 fry survival and growth was good. Carry over fish (2+) were 14- 18 inches. Catch proportions were 7.1% carryovers to 92.9% yearling rainbows.

Effort at Clear Lake was up compared to past years, likely because of the lack of access to other area lakes. The largest fish seen at Clear Lake were five 16 –19 -inch rainbows. The rest of the trout caught were 12-13 inches. Anglers were excited about the larger fish, but much complaining was heard about the lack of access to other area lakes.

IN OKANOGAN COUNTY, Bob Jateff reported that generally, the fishing was good on the opener. The weather was cool and windy, but sunny. Anglers were pleased to catch a few bigger triploid rainbows in some of the production waters, such as Pearrygin and Alta. In addition, both Conconully Lake and Reservoir produced some nice fishing for rainbow trout. The selective gear waters such as Blue in the Sinlahekin had rainbow in the 11-16 inch range. Blue Lake near Wannacut was good fishing for Lahontan Cutthroat in the 14-18 inch range. Big and Little Twin in the Winthrop area produced rainbow in the 10-16 inch class. Jameson, despite some early season algae problems, was a good producer for rainbow with carryover fish to 15 inches.

FOR PIERCE AND THURSTON COUNTIES, catch today was dominated by jumbo rainbow trout with some triploids and broodstock fish mixed in. In a few lakes the standard catchable size fish made a significant contribution to the catch. In most lakes their contribution was minor; they should show more strongly in the catch over the next few weeks as lakes warm. Lakewood Hatchery specialist Jim Jenkins notes that WDFW rears the “jumbo’ rainbow trout at Eells Springs and Lakewood fish hatcheries in earthen ponds, and releases them at 15-to-18 inches in length. These fat, 1-1/2 to two-pound fish provide some of the better quality fishing in Mason, Pierce and Thurston Counties.

WDFW Area fish biologist Mike Scharpf (Pierce County) and Larry Phillips (Thurston County) reported that, with a couple of exceptions, anglers had very good fishing today. Anglers in the two local Clear Lakes in Pierce and Thurston counties reported catching more than 5 fish each, taking home more than 3. The quantity and quality of this year’s fish were very good, thanks to the hatchery staff at Lakewood and Eells Springs fish hatcheries. Most anglers were very satisfied with the number, size, and appearance of the fish. Creel checkers also noted that bullhead catfish and crappie showed in some lakes. This is a little bit earlier in the year than average. Checkers also noted that osprey and bald eagles enjoyed fishing success on some of the lakes, too.

MOST NORTH SOUND LAKES had fair catch rates despite the cloudy and cold weather. Notable exceptions were Lake Geneva in King County, where all anglers checked had limits, and Steele Lake also in King County, with 3.9 fish retained per angler. Storm Lake in Snohomish County had 4.3 trout kept per angler, although effort was low. In Skagit County, Erie and Heart Lake had 4.0 and 4.7 fish kept per angler, with a good showing of triploids.

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON anglers were met with rain, cold, wind, and the occasional snow flurry, similar to most parts of western Washington. Anglers in Rowland Lake (Klickitat County) and Kidney Lake (Skamania County) did a lot of catch-and-release fishing, although anglers did hang on to a large 2-3 pound brown trout in Kidney Lake and 2 broodstock (one over 12 pounds) in Rowland Lake. Swift Reservoir had a good showing of coho to keep anglers busy.

ON THE COAST, WDFW Area fish biologist Rick Ereth reported that angling at Duck Lake (Grays Harbor County) was slow. Bad weather and turbid water combined to keep both catch and angling effort down. However, good catches of large crappie have been reported from the north end of the lake. Failor Lake had fair angling, with the largest fish a lunker of 6 lb 7oz. Curt Holt called in from Pacific County, where the largest rainbow caught in Black Lake weighed in at 3.25 pounds.

IN HOOD CANAL, Thom Johnson and Mark Downen had many volunteers help check anglers again this season; special thanks to Bremerton Sportsmen’s Club, Freshies and Salties, Port Ludlow Fly-fishers, Kitsap Fly Anglers, PSA East Jefferson, and PSA South Sound. The quantity and quality of this year’s fish were very good thanks to the staff at WDFW’s Eells Springs and Lakewood fish hatcheries. The weather was cold, windy and rainy in Kitsap and Mason counties and a bit nicer further north in east Jefferson County – – this cut fishing short on some lakes as the anglers headed for cover. Overall, fishing was fair to good with a good mix of catchables, jumbos, triploids, and broodstock in the catch. The highest catch rates were recorded in east Jefferson County at Anderson Lake (3.3 fish kept/angler) where most rainbows measured a whopping 15-17”, in Kitsap County at Wye Lake (3.5 fish kept/angler), and in Mason County at Haven Lake (3.6 fish kept/angler). Bay Lake in Pierce County was good fishing with 3.7 fish kept/angler. Anglers are encouraged to fish Anderson Lake soon as it is likely that the lake will close early this season due to recurring toxic algae concentrations which can pose a high risk to anglers. A diversity of lake fishing opportunities abound in Hood Canal District and anglers can readily find a great way to pass the time fishing with family and friends. More catchables, jumbos, and triploids will be stocked in May in several District lakes and anglers can look forward to good fishing thru the spring and early summer.

Department staff and volunteers reported checking 4,801 anglers with 11,100 trout from 116 lakes statewide. Anglers checked statewide averaged 2.2 trout per fisherman.

The top ten lakes for angler success were: Stevens County’s Cedar and Rocky lakes; Hart Lake, McMurray Lake, and Erie Lake in Skagit County, Snohomish County’s Storm Lake; Geneva and Steele Lakes in King County, Swift Reservoir in Skamania County and Bay Lake in Pierce County.

2010 Lakes Opening Day Data CPUE means Catch Per Unit Effort (fish per rod)

County Lake Anglers Checked

Fish Kept Fish/Angler Comments
Chelan Clear Lake 79 237 3.00 A few 18-20″ fish.
Wapato Lake 42 155 3.69 Some large carryover rainbows.
Douglas Jameson Lake 55 137 2.49 Yearling rainbow 10″.  Carryover rainbows 14″.
Ferry Trout Lake 6 15 2.50 Largest fish was a 10” rainbow. Cool and windy, one tree down
Grant Blue Lake 61 112 1.84 Plus 4 released, total CPUE= 1.9. Yearling rainbows averaged 12.5 – 13 inches.  Tiger and brown trout in the catch.
Deep Lake 71 61 0.86 Plus 14 released, total CPUE=1.1. Shoreline anglers near the boat ramp fared well. Boat anglers were severely hampered by high winds.
Park Lake 19 55 2.89 Plus 10 released, total CPUE= 3.4. Yearling rainbows averaged 12.5 – 13 inches.  Tiger and brown trout in the catch.
Perch Lake 46 43 0.93 Plus 14 released, total CPUE= 1.2. Rainbow trout ranged from 11-15 inches.
Vic Meyers 15 18 1.20 Brown and brook trout reported in catch.
Warden Lake 31 105 3.39 Plus 6 released, total CPUE=3.6. Yearling rainbows averaged 12 inches.
Grays Harbor Aberdeen Lake 80 162 2.03 Plus 102 released, total CPUE=3.3. largest fish 19″.
Duck Lake 11 4 0.36 Plus 1 released, total CPUE=.45. Bad weather, water was turbid. N end of the lake has been good for crappie.
Failor Lake 58 105 1.81 Plus 101 released, total CPUE= 3.6. Largest fish 6 lb 7 oz, 24 3/8 inches.
Sylvia Lake 24 87 3.63 Plus 7 released, total CPUE=3.9. Largest fish 16″.
Vance Creek Pond #1 60 63 1.05 Derby winning fish were 4.55 and 5.35 lbs.
Vance Creek Pond #2 35 56 1.60 Largest fish 19″.
Island Deer Lake 12 31 2.58 Plus 3 released, total CPUE= 2.8.  Low turnout, cold.
Jefferson Anderson 74 246 3.32 Hot fishing, mostly 15-17″ rainbows; largest 20″ carryover.
Horseshoe Lake 3 2 0.67
Ludlow Lake 15 29 1.93 Plus 20 released, total CPUE=3.3. Some hi-grading for jumbos; largest 17″.
Sandy Shore Lake 54 146 2.70 Good mix of catchables and jumbos; largest 23″ broodstock.
Silent Lake 16 28 1.75 Plus 47 released, total CPUE=4.7. Some hi-grading for jumbos to 14″.
Tarboo Lake 25 33 1.32 Plus 15 released, total CPUE=1.9. Largest 20″ broodstock.
King Cottage Lake 32 52 1.63 Plus 20 released, total CPUE= 2.25.  Short trips due to weather.
Geneva Lake 15 75 5.00 Plus15 fish released, total CPUE=6.  Everyone caught limits, satisfied with size and condition of fish.
Langlois Lake 39 122 3.13 Plus 88 released, total CPUE=5.4. Cold and rainy, anglers were satisfied with numbers and size of fish.
Margaret Lake 48 141 2.94 Plus 206 released, total CPUE= 7.2. Cold and windy.
North Lake 22 21 0.95 Plus 14 released, total CPUE= 1.6.
Pine Lake 45 105 2.33 Plus 117 released, total CPUE=4.9.
Rattlesnake Lake 51 88 1.73 Plus 331 released, total CPUE=8.2.
Steel Lake 38 148 3.89 Plus 93 released, total CPUE=6.3.
Walker Lake 24 33 1.38 Plus 53 released, total CPUE=3.6. Weather was cold.
Wilderness Lake 43 118 2.74 Plus 32 released, total CPUE= 3.5. Kids got some big fish, largest 23″.  Rainy and cold.
Kitsap Buck Lake 15 34 2.27 Plus 18 released, total CPUE 3.5.
Horseshoe Lake 19 40 2.11 Largest 20″ broodstock.
Mission Lake 28 55 1.96 Some high-grading for jumbos; largest 18″ carryover.
Panther Lake 46 92 2.00 Lots of triploids and jumbos.
Wildcat Lake 41 68 1.66 Some high-grading for jumbos; largest 23″ (6 lb) broodstock.
Wye Lake 31 107 3.45 Plus 73 released, total CPUE=5.8. Some high-grading for jumbos; largest 23″ broodstock.
Bainbridge Island Pond Juvenile derby – great event – report pending
Poggie derby Juvenile derby – great event – report pending
Klickitat Horsethief Lake 16 45 2.81 Windy, rainy, cold.
Rowland Lake 45 116 2.58 Plus 197 released, total CPUE=6.9. People were happy to catch and release. Most fish were 15″ and over diploids.  Two broodstock caught, one over 12 lbs.
Spearfish Lake 2 2 1.00 Too cold, rainy, and windy to fish.
Lewis Carlisle Lake 61 45 0.74 Many small coho caught and released.
Fort Borst Park Pond 66 99 1.50 Plus 58 fish released, total CPUE=2.7. Cold and rainy
Mineral Lake 154 258 1.68 Plus 133 released, total CPUE=2.53. Rain/snow.
Mason Aldrich Lake 14 46 3.29 Plus 22 released, total CPUE=4.8. Some high-grading for jumbos to 14″.
Benson Lake 54 130 2.41 Plus 83 released, total CPUE=3.94. Some high-grading for jumbos; largest 19″ triploid.
Clara (Don) Lake 15 24 1.60 Plus 23 released, total CPUE=3.13. Some high-grading for jumbos; largest 20″ carryover.
Devereaux Lake 24 16 0.67 Low catch rate likely due to early stocking and predation by cormorants; largest 22″ broodstock.
Haven Lake 25 90 3.60 Largest 18″ triploid.
Howell Lake 21 20 0.95 Plus 42 released, total CPUE=2.95. – many catch-and-release anglers.
Panhandle Lake 0 0 NA 4-H Camp closed and limited angler access.
Phillips Lake 36 44 1.22 Plus 30 released, total CPUE=2.05. Some high-grading for jumbos; largest 16″.
Robbins Lake 20 20 1.00 Largest 14″ jumbo.
Stump Lake 38 97 2.55 Plus 56 fish released, total CPUE=4.0. Light pressure, anglers were satisfied.
Tiger Lake 66 107 1.62 Plus 45 released, total CPUE=2.3. Some high-grading for jumbos; largest 16″ triploid.
Wildberry Lake 10 1 0.10 Lakeside owners happy with fish stocked.
Wood Lake 8 8 1.00 Plus 12 released, total CPUE=2.5. Some high-grading for jumbos to 14″.
Wooten Lake 56 138 2.46 Plus 67 released, total CPUE=3.66. Some high-grading for jumbos; largest 17″ cutthroat and 18″ rainbow.
Okanogan Alta Lake 127 332 2.61 Yearling rainbow 9″. Carryover rainbow 13″.
Conconully Lake 121 251 2.07 Yearling rainbow 10-11″. Carryover rainbow 14″. Largest fish 24″.
Conconully Res. 65 130 2.00 Yearling rainbow 11″. Carryover rainbow 14″. Largest fish 20″.
Fish Lake 93 272 2.92 Yearling rainbow 10-11″.
Pearrygin Lake 33 146 4.42 Yearling rainbow 10″. Carryover rainbow 14″. Triploid rainbow 15-17 inches.
Pacific Black Lake 28 11 0.39 Plus 3 released, total CPUE= .5.  Largest fish 3.25 lbs, 19 3/8 inches.
Pend Oreille Big Meadow Lake 8 22 2.75 Largest fish was a 14″ rainbow. Cold and snowing, windy.
Yokum Lake 11 28 2.55 One 12.5″ cutthroat. Cool and windy.
Pierce Bay Lake 107 401 3.75 253 catchables, 100 jumbos, 48 carryovers; largest 16″.
Clear Lake 91 290 3.19 Plus 205 released, total CPUE=5.4. Kokanee up to 13″, many fish greater than 12, a few greater than 16″.
Ohop Lake 11 17 1.55 Plus 16 released, total CPUE=3.0. Lots of anglers, bite a little slow, cold and windy.
Rapjohn Lake 68 219 3.22 Plus 30 released, total CPUE=3.7.Happy anglers, most fish greater than 12″, many greater than 16″.  A few crappie.
Silver Lake 69 166 2.41 Plus 47 released, total CPUE=3.1. Anglers happy to see resort open, brown bullhead catch higher than normal this time of year.
Spanaway Lake 9 13 1.44 Cold, wet and windy.  Not much effort.
Tanwax Lake 60 126 2.10 Plus 57 released, total CPUE=3.1. Lots of anglers, fishing a little slow. Anglers familiar with the lake caught limits – lots of fish still in lake!
Skagit Erie Lake 46 186 4.04 Plus 57 released, total CPUE=5.3. Happy anglers enjoyed triploid trout.
Heart Lake 31 146 4.71 Plus 49 releases, total CPUE=6.3.  Best fishing in a long time, anglers liked triploid trout.
McMurray Lake 74 281 3.80 Plus 35 released, total CPUE=4.3. Anglers liked size, catch rate and condition of fish.
Sixteen Lake 35 71 2.03 Plus 22 released, total CPUE=2.7.  4 holdovers (16″).
Skamania Kidney Lake 36 47 1.31 Plus 99 released, total CPUE=4. Anglers happy to catch and release fish.  One large brown trout 2+ lbs caught.
Northwestern Reservoir 9 28 3.11 Plus 114 released.
Swift Reservoir 46 175 3.80 Plus 23 released, total CPUE=4.3. 109 of the catch were coho, plus 66 rainbow.
Snohomish Armstrong Lake 26 66 2.54 Plus 48 released, total CPUE=4.4. Light rain.
Bosworth Lake 27 68 2.52 Plus 83 released, total CPUE=5.6. Cold.
Echo Lake (Maltby) Not surveyed.
Howard Lake 65 182 2.80 Plus 64 released, total CPUE=3.8.
Ki Lake 51 95 1.86 Plus 59 released, total CPUE=3.0. Cold and breezy.
Martha Lake (AM) 30 70 2.33 Plus 55 released, total CPUE= 4.2. Good mix of adults and kids.
Riley Lake 32 95 2.97 Plus 52 released, total CPUE=4.6. Anglers satisfied with fish size.
Serene Lake 17 25 1.47 Plus 15 released, total CPUE=2.4. Some limits, some 100% released.
Stickney Lake 1 2 2.00 Plus 2 released, total CPUE=4.  Cold and windy.
Storm Lake 10 43 4.30 Plus 14 released, total CPUE=5.7. Lower effort, trout healthy.
Wagner Lake 1 1 1.00 Windy and cold.
Spokane Badger Lake 64 109 1.70 Largest rainbow caught was 23″.
Clear Lake 38 22 0.58
Fish Lake 104 105 1.01 Several 22-27″ tiger trout caught.
Fishtrap Lake 35 77 2.20
West Medical Lake 81 180 2.22
Williams Lake 90 211 2.34
Stevens Cedar Lake 10 50 5.00 Largest fish was a 13′ rainbow.  Cool and windy.
Deep Lake 7 25 3.57 11″ rainbow and 11″ cutthroat checked.  Cool and windy.
Mudgett Lake 8 20 2.50 Largest fish was a 19″ rainbow.  Cool and windy.
Rocky Lake 19 84 4.42 Largest fish was a 14″ rainbow.  Very windy – some trees down.
Starvation Lake 13 43 3.31 Largest fish was a 13″ rainbow.  Cool and windy.
Waitts Lake 27 64 2.37 Largest fish was a 20″ brown trout. Cool and windy.
Thurston Clear Lake 64 237 3.70 Plus 83 released, total CPUE=5.0. Best fishing in last few years.  Catch was mostly 12-14″ diploid fish with a few legal plants at 9-11″.
Deep Lake 64 131 2.05 Plus 29 released, total CPUE= 2.5.  Fishing good for most anglers but effort was lower due to weather.
Hicks Lake 38 32 0.84 Plus 5 released, total CPUE= 1. Fishing relatively poor.  Most fish caught were 12-14″ jumbo diploids, few legal plants observed.
Long Lake 37 111 3.00 Plus 19 released, total CPUE= 3.5. Great fishing relative to recent years. Rainbows up to 18″.
McIntosh Lake 70 124 1.77 Plus 127 released, total CPUE= 3.6.  Good fishing with many rainbows up to 14″.
Pattison Lake 60 106 1.77 Plus 66 released, total CPUE= 2.9.  Many large fish in creel. Several brood stock up to 20″ observed. About 40% of the catch was legal plants.
Summit Lake 65 174 2.68 Plus 48 released, total CPUE= 3.4. Many carryover fish observed in the creel (14-17″) Effort down due to weather.
Whatcom Cain Lake 28 75 2.68 Plus 32 released, total CPUE=3.8. Catch rates a little low, but anglers happy with size and condition of fish.
Padden Lake 46 156 3.39 Plus 15 released, total CPUE=3.7.  46 of the 156 fish kept were triploids. Lots of families despite crowded boat ramp and harsh weather.
Silver Lake 192 316 1.65 Plus 113 released, total CPUE=2.2.
Toad Lake 43 110 2.56 Plus 101 released, total CPUE=4.9. Lots of triploids caught.

Opening Day 1988 (Or 1989)

Among the many opening days of trout season I recall, few stand out as well as 1988 or 1989’s.

Sorry, I really should remember what year it occurred, but I was borderline hypothermic at the time.

Indeed, it was a cold, miserable morning day on a Cascade Mountains lake. Even from miles and miles away I could tell it was going to be wet. As we cruised up the highway through rain in Greg’s dad’s yellow Buick station wagon towards my dad’s place in North Bend, Wash., I could see that the snow line was right below the level of the lake.

But Greg, Eric and I — all buddies in our sophomore or junior year at Woodinville High School — had warm clothes, and it was the opener after all.

We had to get out, rain or shine. It’s tradition.

At Dad’s we piled out of the Buick and loaded our gear and Greg’s raft into Dad’s van along with his raft, then headed for the hills.

Soon we were off the county road and following muddy Weyerhaueser logging roads up towards clouds spitting rain and snow at us.

I don’t quite remember why, of all lakes, we had to hit Calligan that opener. Dozens more were available at lower and probably warmer and drier altitudes, all stocked for reliable bites.

Perhaps Dad had read something about it in the old Washington Fishing & Hunting News.

Or maybe Greg and I couldn’t get it out of our minds after finding it in the old Lakes of Washington book.

Or maybe it was the decent-sized cutt that had washed out of a feeder creek as Dad, my sisters and I drove through it on a rainy day the previous spring.

Yeah, must have been the fish. Heck, if one’s in the creek, just imagine how many more must be in the lake!

We pumped up the rafts and pushed off, generally trolling fairly close together.

We made slow paddles around the middle of the big lake, getting soaked by the fat flakes — rafts aren’t the best craft for fishing in crappy weather — and then cold.

Nothing bit.

The outlet end of the lake intermittently brightened, raising my hopes things would dry up, but then would go gray again as more snow and rain clouds barreled into the mountain valley.

After awhile we pulled ashore — on the opposite side of the lake from the boat ramp.

We had to get warm. We were all wet — as were the woods. But fortunately, somebody had been putting cedar shingle bolts together, so we poached a couple for kindling.

Can’t say it was a warm fire, but it and lunch gave us enough energy to head back out, and then just bag it all together as the weather worsened.

Rather than going all the way back to the launch, we cut across the thin upper end and beached the rafts. Dad went to bring the van uplake while Eric and I ran up and down the gravel road trying to warm up.

Eric recalls the day as one of the bleakest of his life and, only half jokingly, is still surprised one of us didn’t succumb.

I don’t think I was much use loading the rafts and rods in. All I wanted was to get out of my coat and in front of the heater.

We slammed the doors shut, said goodbye to Calligan and spun our way out of the mountains.

THE FORECAST FOR TOMORROW calls for possibly similar conditions at the lake and elsewhere in Washington’s North Cascades as well as the eastern side of Oregon’s Cascades, according to the National Weather Service.

West of the mountains, there’s a 50 percent chance of rain in Washington, lower in Oregon, but it may be dry in the Columbia Basin.

It’s April, after all, which also means an assload of trout have been stocked this spring and last fall in preparation for tomorrow’s big day — 20.5 million alone in Washington, according to WDFW.

If you haven’t figured out where to go yet, their stocking plan is available online as is the most recent weekly planting report.

In Oregon, the big news is that Diamond Lake is iced up and unlikely to thaw in time for boat angling, though there are some shore spots with open water. Lemolo Reservoir, however, is ice-free and should produce browns, trophy rainbows and fresh stockers.

And I’m guessing tomorrow will indeed be a whole lot more productive than that day up at Calligan, one that still brings shivers to me.

But I’ll be out tomorrow. See you on the water.

First 5-digit Day At BD

Yesterday saw the year’s first five-digit day at Bonneville Dam. Just under 11,700 spring Chinook were counted there, raising the total for the year to 68,432.

What does it all mean?

Well, managers are wondering that too.

“The question is, is (the run) early? Is it big? Or both?” says Joe Hymer of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission in Vancouver.

There are now signs that some elements of the forecasted record upriver return of 470,000 might be early, a vast improvement since the days in March when yours truly fretted about the run being late.

Wind River fish sometimes chill at places like Drano Lake before heading for Carson National Fish Hatchery, but Hymer reports some are already in the Wind River itself.

There are also something on the order of 1,000 kings back to the Cowlitz already, he says, as well as many in the Lewis, both of which may indicate an earlier run.

Or is the run big?

That’s what the big sport catch and commercial take point towards, Hymer notes. The two fleets killed a combined 32,197 above-Bonneville-bound kings below the dam through April 18, 71.2 percent of which were accounted for by recreational anglers.

A big run would get the managers off the hook for allowing the upriver mortality by sporties to screech past the preseason guideline of 17,200, put in place to give Eastside anglers a chance to dip their gear in as well as protect listed wild stocks.

Then, when you factor in Willamette, Cowlitz and other stocks in the tally for the Lower Columbia, the sport catch of 29,125 is the largest ever, reports Al Thomas of The Columbian today.

Add that to the 18,018 caught by commercials in the mainstem Columbia and bays near Astoria and the 2010 all-stock catch totals 47,143.

(APRIL 23: THE COLUMBIA BASIN BULLETIN ADDS THAT A HIGH NUMBER OF UPRIVER CHINOOK WERE CAUGHT IN COMMERCIAL AREAS IN THE LOWER COLUMBIA WHERE THEY “RARELY WANDER” AND MAY BE ANOTHER SIGN OF A LARGE RUN.)

Or … is the run big and early?

As recently as March 31, only 14 percent of the 10-year average had passed the dam. But with yesterday’s count, the run is now 10,000 fish above that mark.

It’s now the fourth largest return through April 21 since 2000 — and is nipping at the tail fins of the third largest. It follows behind 2001’s 254,884; 2003’s 102,951; and 2000’s 77,775.

If you add in the below-Bonneville catch of upriver fish, you get a count of 100,629.

But those other years’ counts would also be elevated by adding in the downriver catches, which, frankly, yours truly is too lazy to look up.

Leading the charge this past week, springers headed to Rapid River Hatchery on the Little Salmon River. PIT tag counts at Bonneville indicate at least 305 kings bound for the Central Idaho stream have gone over in the past seven days. Forty-five springers headed to both Drano Lake and the Clearwater River have also been tallied, as have 42 heading for the upper Grande Ronde’s Catherine Creek.

This much is for sure: There be some fish around. Thomas got ahold of ODFW’s Steve Williams for his piece, quoting him as saying, “The river looks pretty fishy. But until they pass the dam, it’s hard to know how fishy it is.”

Meanwhile, as we await early May’s run-size update — and whether that will show enough fish to again drop hooks into the Lower Columbia — there’s plenty of springer fishing to be done.

Jameson Lake Stocked

Just in case you missed the news in WDFW’s most recent Weekender, trout are being stocked in Jameson Lake for this Saturday’s opener.

Water conditions at the Douglas County lake, a popular water that has long attracted anglers from hundreds of miles, have been good enough this spring for the agency to plant somewhere around 18,000 8- to 11-inch rainbows this week.

“The clarity was much, much better,” says Bob Jateff, the state biologist who manages the lake. “That’s how we came to the conclusion to stock it.”

Jameson has suffered from “algae” blooms in recent years, including one in 2005 that resulted in a large fishkill. Last April, word didn’t come out until just days before the opener that fish had been planted.

“Last year at this time, it was very, very brown,” says Jateff. “It didn’t have an encouraging look to it at all.”

He says that this go-around oxygen and water temperature tests were also good.

And several trout swimming around in a small netpen at the lake “did quite well for the four or five days they were in there,” Jateff adds.

Over 135,000 fry were released last fall for the fishery, but the biologist isn’t quite sure how well they overwintered, though there have been reports of jumpers this month and last, which would indicate that some made it through.

We wrote about Jameson and its troubles in our April issue. The cyanobacteria blooms are primarily fueled by phosphorous in the lake as well as runoff from local cattle operations. Without a flush or other solution, the blooms will likely continue.

Last year’s opening-day catch was on the order of 1/2 a fish a rod, but this Saturday should be better thanks to a warm March, says Jateff.

“I’m expecting fish activity to be better,” he says.

Jack’s Resort co-owner Ginger Merritt (509-683-1095) had hoped triploids would be stocked, but Jameson wasn’t on the list of lakes the Fish & Wildlife Commission signed off on.

EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS UPDATES A PREVIOUS VERSION OF THIS STORY WITH QUOTES AND INFORMATION FROM JATEFF

WDFW And Earth Day

“At WDFW, every day is Earth Day.”

So reads the press release that popped into my in-box right before noon today.

I recoiled, nearly breathless in shock for a moment.

What, is the agency mockingly known by some as the Washington Department of No Fish & No Wildlife now the Washington Department of Forbes & Wolves?

The Department of Flowers & Woodpeckers?

Frogs & Wolverines?

Fescues & Warblers?

“But we’ve always been that Department,” defends Craig Bartlett, a spokesman in Olympia.

His was one of two names on the press release, so I’d given him a buzz immediately after receiving it.

The Earth Day statement comes straight from the top, director Phil Anderson.

“Our first priority,” Anderson says in the release, “is to conserve our state’s fish and wildlife. As new challenges to those resources emerge, we have a responsibility to address them. At WDFW, every day is Earth Day.”

Anderson’s been in the Department’s driver’s seat since December 2008 after the previous head, Jeff Koenings, resigned. And from the get-go, Bartlett says he has stressed conservation above all else.

Once upon a time, Washington’s fish and wildlife agencies sang a somewhat different tune.

Recalls one longtime Washington hook-and-bullet writer, a former Department of Game director noted in an old state fishing guide that the measure of their success was fish in the creel and birds in the bag.

“I used to beat up on the WDFW with that quote all the time back in the 1980s,” he remembers.

Times changed. Goals shifted.

“There definitely has been a change since the 1970s and 1980s – by necessity,” acknowledges Bartlett. “Environmental conditions have changed. The Department’s point is, that has to be recognized. Fish in frying pans – we want to keep that possible, but measured against environmental conditions.”

Thursday is, of course, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. WDFW notes that since that first one back in 1970, (just under two years before this editor was born), the state’s population has doubled to 6.8 million. Another 6.8 million will be here by the time the 80th anniversary rolls around.

We’re also nearing the 40th anniversary of the Federal Endangered Species Act. Since it was signed by President Nixon in 1973, stocks of Washington Chinook, coho and steelhead have been listed for protection – as have caribou, Columbian whitetails, turtles, whales, grizzlies, sea lions, pelicans, owls and a whole host of other critters. More are under consideration while a wider host of species fall under state protections.

Anderson says that rapid growth has “greatly accelerated the loss of natural habitat available for native fish and wildlife.”

Back in 1970, there was no North Cascades Highway, only one functioning dam on the Snake and no mile after mile after mile of giant white windmills harnessing the Columbia Gorge’s hurricane. A few years before then, my family hunted blacktail where today are thousands upon thousands of new homes on “Redmond Ridge” not far outside Seattle.

Anderson adds that “conserving natural habitat is unquestionably the greatest single challenge we face as resource managers.”

According to WDFW, a document that guides its strategic planning found that 70 percent of the state’s arid grasslands and estuarine wetlands are now gone as is 50 percent of the Eastside’s prairie habitats. Anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of the land along our rivers and streams has changed, and 90 percent of the old-growth forests have been tipped over.

Yeah, and wildlife populations might be better off today, the fish-hunt writer retorts, if the old Departments of Game and Fisheries as well as WDFW had actually stood up to some of the development rather than just mitigated for it.

They do own or manage around 850,000 acres of the state and have wildlife easements with many farmers and ranchers. And Dan Budd and the folks in the real estate office are always buying land – especially in Okanogan County, home to some of the most desirable getaway property in Washington and one of the state’s largest deer herds and even sage grouse.

Where once upon a time, it was those muleys as well as elk and pheasants and salmon and steelhead in the bag that mattered most, these days, WDFW is casting a wider net, looking at landscape- or ecosystem-level planning, by budgetary necessity.

“We can’t afford to manage just one species at a time,” Anderson explains. “We need to plan for the greater good.”

Then there are invasive species to deal with, and not just that yellow-flowered shrub a former governor’s wife spotted in Scotland and thought would look lovely in the median of I-5. WDFW has to be on the alert for stuff like zebra and quagga mussels which they say “can take a heavy toll on native species and cause million of dollars in damage to public infrastructure.” Anderson says checkpoints have stopped 17 boats with mussels so far.

My shock at his use of the phrase “Every day is Earth Day at WDFW” wore off.

After all, it’s not like anglers and hunters don’t realize how important habitat and conserving wildlife is. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has alone conserved or enhanced something on the order of 5.7 million acres of habitat.

And last year, Washington outdoorsmen and others supported WDFW with 134,000 hours of free volunteer work. Valued at $15 an hour, “That’s 2 million dollars of work that wouldn’t have been done otherwise,” WDFW’S deputy director Joe Stohr in Olympia told me last summer. “There’s a huge passion for the resources.”

“Fisherman and hunters are among this nation’s first conservationists,” Bartlett acknowledges. “We rely on them to be our eyes and ears out there.”

He says the agency saw the occasion of Earth Day as a good time to show the general public that they do more than just set fishing and hunting regulations.

“It was an opportunity to remind people of our other missions,” he says.

As much as we might squirm about the Department we all watch so compulsively touting its greenness, well, we hunters and anglers have to admit that we’ve been green all along – it’s just that the shades on our sleeves are patterned to blend in with Washington’s woods and shrub-steppe.

And while Earth Day might once have been the province of hippies and tree-huggers, Anderson himself is a hunter and angler.

“Phil sees a symbiosis between hunting and fishing and conservation,” says Bartlett. “It’s not one at the expense of another. It’s trying to keep populations at a surplus that can be taken.”

In an increasingly tough place to do so.

Now What, Spring King Fans?

With Sunday’s close of springer fishing on the Columbia below Bonneville — and word of potential mainstem reopenings not coming down the pipe until early May — where might you head for your Chinook fix?

No need to fill both tanks, the Multnomah Channel and Willamette River coursing through downtown Portland are open seven days a week for two hatchery springers, an opportunity that Northwest Sportsman kayak kolumnist Mark Veary got on big time this past weekend. We’ll have more on fishing the Willamette in our May issue, which went to press yesterday and should be out on stores middle next week.

There’s also the Cowlitz, where U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks limited a week ago on kingers into the low 20s.

The Lewis, Clackamas and Sandy Rivers as well as Tillamook Bay’s rivers are options, and if you’re in the neighborhood, the Rogue has seen hot bites at times.

But you’ll find most of the Chinook opportunity above Bonneville, where counts are closing in on 50,000 for the year.

First up is the Wind River, on the Washington side. In our April issue, salmon hound Andy Schneider tips:

If you’re on a budget, or just starting in with springers, the Wind just may be your fishery. All that’s needed is $4 for an orange Magnum Wiggle Wart or Mag Lip. A Wart dives to the perfect depth for the shallow-water fishery, and catches king whether trolled fast or slow, a characteristic that also helps when trolling with or against the wind that pushes down the gorge.

Worden’s Mag Lip (formerly the M2SP) has given Wind anglers an advantage in recent years by allowing a bait wrap to be added to a diving plug. Productive colors range across the chart.

The Wart and Mag Lip can be flat-lined or casted with 20-pound mono off a light/medium-action rod (casting or spinning) rated 12-25.

Trolling herring on a short dropper (12 inches) and short leader (5 feet) is also a good early-season technique. Plugcut a green or red-label bait and troll at the same speed as everyone else, keeping your lead dragging bottom. Prawn spinners catch springers here too.

Then there’s Drano Lake where Schneider was yesterday, landing one Chinook as well as one holy-hell of a snag. More on that later. For now, here’s Oregon fish fiend Terry Otto’s advice on fishing the Washington tributary:

It will be hard to ignore Drano this year given the projections. If the run comes in as expected, the lake could see a return of 28,900 adults, the best return since the 1970s.

According to Jim Stahl of J&J Guide Service (425-347-1615), the fishing gets good once enough fish pile into the lake, and usually starts to peak in the second week of May. The fishery will slowly taper off during June.

There are three main trolls. Up inside the point near the mouth of the Little White Salmon River is a good place to look for springers as they stage before entering the hatchery.

A PAIR OF DRANO SPRINGERS. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

“At times you’ll mark so many fish on your electronics up there, it’s amazing,“ he says, “but it can be tough at times to get them to bite. If you do catch it on a good day it can be lights out.”

Another good troll covers the east end of the lake, but be cautious of the shallow water and snaggy bottom near the east end.

By far the most popular troll is at the outlet and it is usually the most productive. Anglers circle from in front of the boat launch and work their way west into the corner. As you come to the edge of the bridge piling drop your baits to the bottom and troll east as the bottom rises from about 30 feet up to 24 or 25 feet.

“That’s where probably 90 percent of the fish are caught,” notes Stahl.

He starts each day with his baits spread through 10 feet of the water column until he finds the depth they are holding at, and then he adjusts the other rods accordingly.

“The fish often suspend at 21 to 22 feet,” says Stahl. “A good approach is to drop your bait to the bottom and come up one or two cranks.”

He has three main baits: spinner and prawns, Mag Lip plugs and plug-cut herring.

“I start with all three of them and see what they want that particular day,” he says.

Last year he had good success with herring, and for some reason the salmon wanted flashers, an oddity.

Beware the new bank-fishing-only area at Drano, defined as that part of the lake from the easternmost Highway 14 bridge pillar to a post on the north bank — much of which is a fine area to throw Mag Warts. And remember that Drano is closed all Wednesdays through May.

Upstream, you have Underwood and the Klickitat River, both on the Washington side, and the lower 4.5 miles of the Hood River on the Oregon shore, where a “strong” run is expected. The Hood also provides good bank fishing opportunities.

The Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools are open, and last week the middle reservoir kicked out 37 springers for 157 bankees, according to ODFW, while 13 boats managed to only land one. There were no immediate reports for the Bonneville and John Day pools, but at least 23,788 have gone over The Dalles Dam and 12,571 over John Day Dam.

Up in walleye country below McNary Dam, Dennis Dauble of the Tri-Cities checked in with a local guide for the wheres and hows in our April issue:

Mid-Columbia guide Bruce Hewitt (Going Fishing Guide Service; 509-430-6448) fishes this stretch every year starting in late April. He favors a downstream troll using cut-plug herring off 5- to 6 foot-long leader and an inline flasher.

NORTHWEST SPRING CHINOOK ACTION CONTINUES UP THE COLUMBIA TO THE TRI-CITIES AREA WHERE A CLIENT OF GUIDE ELMER HILL PICKED UP A BIG ONE. (MID COLUMBIA RIVER GUIDE SERVICE)

“Fish near the bottom with smaller-sized herring or anchovies where you can get them,” Hewitt suggests.

He advocates keeping a tight spin on your bait, even if it requires sewing the mouth of whole herring shut.

“Because most springers run 10 to 15 pounds, there is no need to use 4/O and 5/O hooks as for the fall run. You can size down to a 2/O if using good quality hooks like Gamakatsu or VMG.”

With an expectation of some 200,000 hatchery kings expected to head up the Snake this year, the lowest part of the river — from Highway 12 up to the no-fishing area below Ice Harbor Dam — opened today. And though it hasn’t been that productive in past years, Dauble got some more tips from Hewitt:

Watch for McNary salmon counts to build before chancing a trip up the lower Snake. The main boat launch is a Hood Park. Once on the water, you won’t find much company because opportunity is limited.

As an example, although the river necks down on the north shore downstream of the navigation lock – in theory funneling and concentrating upstream-migrating springers – the feature-less channel is U-shaped from dredging. In addition, boats are vulnerable to barge traffic and high velocities from spilling. Thus, it’s easier to work shorelines well downstream of the dam.

Indeed, one characteristic that Hewitt likes about the lower Snake River is that “fish tend to be closer to shore.” Here he mixes in size 13 Kwikfish and Worden’s FlatFish with the more traditional herring offering.

There is a small but loyal bank fishery on the south shore downstream of Ice Harbor Dam for springers sneaking up the inside of Goose Island in less than 10 feet of water.

This Saturday, much more of the Snake will open in Washington, Idaho and Oregon.

In the Evergreen State, fishing has been expanded too. Open waters include from the railroad bridge below the Tucannon River mouth up to 1 mile above Little Goose Dam; from Casey Creek upstream 6 miles to the fishing deadline at Lower Granite; and from Blyton Landing boat ramp 12 miles above Lower Granite 19 miles upstream to the launch behind the Quality Inn in Clarkston.

One of the more infamous though productive areas in that whole stretch is The Wall at Little Goose, where the daily limit is one adult and one jack — but you gotta stop fishing after you catch that adult king, under new regs this year. I spoke to Spokane angler Jeff Main about that fishery in our April issue:

All the water rushing out of Little Goose Dam in spring pushes fish to the side of the river and makes it tough to hold bait in the current. So the anglers who fish The Wall – below the dam on the south side – use cannonball weights of up to 48 ounces, according to Spokane fisherman Jeff Main.

WHAT IT'S LIKE TO HIT THE WALL. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

“That’s just to keep your stuff in front of you and not in the next guy’s rig,” says the combat fishery vet.

He makes his own cannonballs melting down tire weights from a buddy and sells them on Craigslist for $10.

Anglers’ baits are basically just 5 feet apart, and typically they’re herring these days, prawns in years past. Main’s involves a pair of spreader bars and a cutplug and a whole herring, a light leader to the weight and 30- to 60-pound mainline.

After rigging up, Main goes to one of the 12 built-in pole holders the Corps of Engineers has affixed to the railing (there’s room for another dozen and a half anglers if they’ve brought their own holders), drops his bait in and puts the rod in the bracket.

HEAVY GEAR IS REQUIRED AT THE WALL. (JEFF MAIN)

Sounds easy, right? Let’s back up a moment. To claim one of those rodholders or a spot on the rail, it’s a mad dash when a gate opens at 6 a.m. and anglers drive and dive for the available spots.

“That’s part of the rush of fishing. You jam it in park, jump out and grab any spot,” Main says.

After hooking a fish, the angler fights it from above and sends a buddy down a walkway to the river.

“There’s a 10- to 15-foot difference between the angler and the netter,” he says.

WALKWAY DOWN TO THE LANDING AREA. (JEFF MAIN)

Indeed, it’s not your ordinary fishery, but Main says you do meet some interesting characters at The Wall.

“It’s not like the Grande Ronde where it’s finesse fishing and the scenery’s beautiful. But a lot of fish are caught there, and that’s why we go,” he says.

KRIS FROHBERG OF SPOKANE WITH A WALL SPRINGER. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

This Saturday also sees Chinook openers on a host of Idaho rivers, including parts of the Clearwater and its North, South and Middle forks; lower Salmon River; and Little Salmon River.

And IDFG and ODFW jointly opened the Snake River from Dug Bar up to Hells Canyon Dam. They expect something like 15,000 springers to run into the dam, far more than managers need for egg-take goals. The daily limit is four hatchery fish, but only two adults.

‘The Kayak Guy Checked A Limit’

Northwest Sportsman’s ko-kayak angling kolumnist Mark Veary has been regulating on the Multnomah Channel.

He’s limited on springers the last two times out — Friday and yesterday.

“Herring have been failing me this year so I switched over to a spinner with no bling,” reports the Hillsboro man. “I managed two on Friday and another two on Sunday. Life is good.”

Uhh, yeah, we’d say so.

SUNDAY'S ACTION WASN'T ALL RIDING MONSTER WAKES FROM OFFSHORE BOATS -- THERE WERE CHINOOK TO BE CAUGHT TOO. MARK VEARY, OUR KAYAK COLUMNIST, LIMITED ON THE MULTNOMAH CHANNEL. (MARK VEARY)

But Sunday actually started out pretty slow, Veary reports, with few hook-ups.

“After a pee break and some nourishment we were back on troll against a fairly heavy current. Progress was less than .5 mph and I opted for a 6-ounce weight to ensure I was in the zone.”

“Looking up at the shore I silently remarked to myself that I’d hooked a few fish in this location. And, as if on queue, my rod starts a slow throb. ‘No way…’ Yup! Throb, throb … BENDO! Ka-ching! Chrome lovin’ flopping around in my lap,” he writes.

Afterwards, looking to paddle from one side of the channel to the other, he had an interesting moment as an offshore boat decided to thread the needle between Veary and another small craft 30 feet away.

There was some cursing.

But the angler found redemption when his rod went off the second time.

“I was loving the walk back to my car with a limit on the clip! Every jaw dropped and even the fish checker was beside herself,” Veary writes. “Most boats had scratched up maybe 1 fish for 4 rods today and the kayak guy checked a limit. When I asked what the score for the day was, the gal from DFW smiled and said, “You just doubled it!”

Score one, err, two, for the Tupperware Navy.

Term of the Day: ‘Cleptoparatism’

What happens when you mix two species of meat eaters with a bunch of meat? That’s right, cleptoparatism.

That’s what’s occurring at Bonneville Dam as California sea lions and Steller sea lions gather to feast on a building spring Chinook run.

As salmon have begun pouring over the dam — 7,719 alone yesterday, and 23,106 for the year — some of the big, fat Stellers haven’t been acting so stellarly. They’re snatching the salmon out of the mouth of their smaller relatives. While Californias can weigh as much as a grizzly bear, 1,000 pounds, Stellers can be double that size and then some — up to 2,500 pounds.

But the lighter lions aren’t backing down either.

Reports the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

“To date, Steller sea lions have stole fish from California sea lions 115 times, from other Stellers 5 times, and California sea lions have stolen prey from other California sea lions 9 times. California sea lions to date have been observed to catch 667 salmonids, and Steller sea lions have caught 237 salmonids.”

A record number of Stellers have gathered at the dam this year, though numbers of Californias are down, CBB reports. It’s believed both brands have killed 1,140 springers and steelhead so far, as well as 1,094 sturgeon, a record amount of sturgeon that is still growing though the pinnipeds are switching over to salmon.

Managers are culling some of the Californias, but can only haze away the Stellers due to more stringent federal protections.

Dam King Count Jumps 7,700

Ummm, just in case you weren’t among those 1,500 boats off Vancouver last Saturday, or haven’t slapped one of the 18,714 Columbia springers caught through April 11 on your grill, or still need some sort of official confirmation that the salmon are in, they’re officially in.

Yesterday’s dam count at Bonneville was 7,719, the biggest day of the year, and the biggest one-day springer tally since May 4, 2008.

After a slow start, the run is quickly catching up to the 10-year average. A total of 23,106 Chinook have gone over so far this year, 67 percent of the 34,537 that have passed the dam through tax day over the past decade.

As recently as March 31, only 14 percent of the 10-year average had passed the dam.

The forecast calls for around 470,000 upriver springers this year. Managers huddled Wednesday after the sport catch blew through the roof last week, but decided to keep the river below I-5 open through the regularly scheduled close of season, this Sunday, even though it was likely that the catch guideline for upriver-bound kings would be broken.

This morning, my Southwest Washington spy reports that yesterday’s score at the Kalama Marina at 3 p.m. was 51 boats with 52 springers, and he says his girlfriend spotted something like 100 boats waiting to launch out of Goble this morning.

That usually reliably on his post font of all things Columbia springerific, Joe Hymer, has abandoned his Vancouver office this morning and is probably amongst the madness somewhere on the lower river, perhaps menacing the sea lions with his fish bonker, cursing the sluggards at the launch line or racing to the top of the drift for another downhill run.

Fishing should pick up upstream too. Detail from the dam count through yesterday indicates that at least 193 PIT-tagged springers headed for Rapid River in Central Idaho have gone over Bonneville, 41 to Wind River, 34 to Catherine Creek on the Grande Ronde, 26 to Drano, 24 to the Clearwater and 23 to Icicle. Hatchery managers place passive-integrated transponders in the heads of a portion of their juvenile salmon and can track their movement via arrays set up at select dams and hatchery wiers.

Earlier this week, WDFW and ODFW announced Snake River system opening dates.

WA Coast King Quota Tripled

(WASHINGTON AND OREGON DEPARTMENTS OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASES)

Salmon anglers will have improved fishing opportunities for chinook on the coast and in the Columbia River, while most recreational fisheries in Puget Sound will be similar to seasons adopted last year, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Meanwhile, Oregon’s Fish & Wildlife Commission next week will be asked to adopt 2010 ocean salmon seasons for sport and commercial fisheries for state waters in keeping with Pacific Fishery Management Council guidelines that will be adopted April 15.

South of Cape Falcon, the PFMC is expected to adopt the first significant ocean fisheries for chinook salmon since 2007. However, the fisheries will still be relatively restricted because stocks of Sacramento River chinook salmon continue to be weak for the third straight year.

North of Cape Falcon the PFMC may adopt larger quotas for chinook salmon due to higher forecasts for Columbia River chinook. Coho salmon predictions are down, however, and quotas will be smaller than last year.

Washington’s 2010 salmon fishing seasons, developed by WDFW and treaty Indian tribal co-managers, were approved today during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (PFMC) meeting in Portland. The fishing package defines regulations for salmon fisheries in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s ocean and coastal areas.

“This comprehensive package of fisheries meets our conservation goals for wild salmon populations, while providing a variety of salmon fishing opportunities on abundant stocks,” said Phil Anderson, WDFW Director. “Developing these fishing opportunities wouldn’t be possible without strong cooperation between the state, the tribes and our constituents.”

One of the most promising opportunities this year will be fishing for chinook salmon on the coast and in the Columbia River, said Anderson.

Nearly 653,000 fall chinook are forecasted to return to the Columbia River this season, about 234,000 more chinook than the number returning last year. The increased numbers represent strong returns to Spring Creek and other Columbia River hatcheries, which traditionally have been the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

As a result of the anticipated run, the PFMC today adopted a recreational ocean quota this year of 61,000 chinook. That’s well above the 2009 ocean chinook quota of 20,500.

The PFMC also implemented a pilot mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in Washington’s ocean areas. Mark-selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon, which are marked with a missing adipose fin, but require that they release wild salmon.

The selective fishery for hatchery chinook in marine areas 1-4 will run from June 12-30. Anglers will have a daily limit of two hatchery chinook.

“This is the first season we will have a selective fishery for hatchery chinook in the ocean,” said Anderson. “By using this management tool we can meet our conservation goals and give anglers an additional opportunity to fish for hatchery chinook in the ocean.”

While the chinook forecast is up, the Columbia River coho return is expected to be down this year. Nearly 390,000 Columbia River coho are projected to make their way along Washington’s coast this summer, compared to one million coho in 2009 – the largest return in nearly a decade.

The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific Coast, set a recreational coho harvest quota of 67,200 coho. Last year’s ocean coho quota was 176,400.

Recreational ocean salmon fisheries for chinook and coho will begin July 1 off LaPush, Neah Bay and Ilwaco and July 4 off Westport.

All areas will have a two-salmon daily limit, only one of which may be a chinook. As in past years, only hatchery coho salmon with a clipped adipose fin can be retained in ocean fisheries.

In the Columbia River, the Buoy 10 fishery will be open for chinook and coho beginning Aug. 1. Through August, anglers will have a two-salmon daily limit, only one of which may be a chinook. From Sept. 1 through Dec. 31, anglers will have a daily limit of two fish, but must release chinook.

The mainstem Columbia River from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open for recreational salmon fishing from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. Anglers will be allowed to retain one adult chinook as part of their daily bag limit. Beginning Sept. 12, chinook retention will only be allowed upstream of the Lewis River.

In Puget Sound, most salmon fisheries in the marine areas will be similar to last season, said Pat Pattillo, salmon policy coordinator for WDFW.

However, one major change for 2010 will occur in the Elliott Bay chinook fishery. Responding to a low forecast of Green River wild chinook, fishery managers reduced the Elliott Bay recreational fishery from four days each week to three – Friday through Sunday, said Pattillo. The fishery is scheduled to begin July 2, but salmon fishing after Aug. 8 will be closed unless in-season tests show the run is large enough to meet spawning goals for wild chinook.

In the freshwater, the Skokomish River fishery was converted to a selective fishery for hatchery chinook this year to meet conservation goals for wild chinook, said Pattillo. The Skokomish, from the mouth of the river to the Highway 101 Bridge, will be open from Aug. 1 through Sept. 30 with a two salmon-daily limit, but anglers must release wild chinook and chum.

In addition, state and tribal fishery managers altered their fishing seasons on the Skokomish River to avoid gear conflicts, said Pattillo. The Skokomish River upstream of the Highway 106 Bridge will be closed to sportfishing each Monday from Aug. 1 through Sept. 13 (with the exception of Sept. 6) to ensure treaty tribal fishers can fish unimpeded, he said.

To avoid similar gear conflicts, the recreational fishery on the Puyallup River also was changed, said Pattillo. This summer, a portion of the Puyallup River – upstream of Freeman Road – will open for salmon fishing Aug. 1, about two weeks earlier than last year. Downstream of Freeman Road will remain closed to salmon fishing until Aug. 16, when it will open for fishing seven days a week except closed Aug. 22, 29, 30 and Sept. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13 and 14.

“We worked closely with the Puyallup Tribe to develop fisheries on the Puyallup River that maintain opportunities for anglers and tribal fishers, and help increase safety,” said Pattillo.

Specific regulations for marine areas in Washington and a portion of the Columbia River will be available next week on WDFW’s North of Falcon website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/northfalcon/ ).