Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

So Typical

What happens when you run a mess of ice fishing stories?

Those cold days in late fall and early winter turn positively springlike when your January issue comes out.

How warm has it been? At 6:30 p.m. last night, my in-vehicle thermometer read 57. And when I got to the front door, I noticed new leaves budding out on the rose bush beside it. A bunch of tulips or lilies are poking out of the soil in the front and backyards too.

Today comes word that this January is on pace to be the warmest on record in Seattle. Though the month is only two-thirds over, the average temperature so far has been 47.5 degrees, almost a full degree above the previous record, 7 above average, and 8 1/2 above last January’s, according to Lynda V. Mapes’ article in today’s Times.

Why has it been so warm? She writes:

The reason is simple: There is just no cold air anywhere in our region. It started early in the month with a grinding southwester that shoved all the cold air out of the Puget Sound area and even blew away Eastern Washington’s usual bowl full of cold air.

Then an easterly airflow pattern set in and is continuing to bring warm air our way. And it’s all going on in the larger context of an El Niño, which always means warmer, drier weather as the jet stream splits and sends our storms south.

I don’t know that it’s sent all of “our storms south” — Seasonal Affective Disorder is setting in with all these rainy, cloudy days — but the weather sure has made a mockery of ice fishing articles.

“Ain’t Dakota, But We Got Ice Too,” reads the headline of one of our stories this month.

Get your Sharpie out and mojo that to “Ain’t Dakota, And We Got Rotten Ice,” please.

“Ice on smaller trout waters is probably pretty rotten,” Chris Donley, WDFW fisheries biologist for far Eastern Washington, said in yesterday’s Weekender.

Added fellow biologist Marc Divens: “Usually this is a good time to fish Eloika or Newman lakes for their bass, perch, crappie and other fish. But I wouldn’t recommend anyone venture out on the ice on those lakes, at least not until we return to more normal temperatures with freezing days and nights.”

“With the recent warmer weather, I would not venture out onto the ice at Roses (Lake),” guide Anton Jones in Chelan, Wash., warned earlier this week.

Roses was only one of three top choices for ice aficionados in North-central Washington we wrote up in January. Typically safe waters in more elevated parts of the region are also suspect.

Argh. Ever tell you how much I hate ice fishing?

Well, I guess I don’t hate ice fishing, per se, just trying to cover the sport anywhere south of Yellowknife.

Back at F&H News, when I was the Mid-Atlantic edition editor, my writers and I felt pretty safe running a late-December/early January ice fishing issue, and of course the ice came off in New York and Pennsylvania.

So we quickly put together a follow-up open-water fishing issue, and of course the ice came back with a vengeance.

Ice, may you burn in hell.

If there’s a bright side, at least it won’t be so bitter up on Lake Roosevelt, where the trout fishing’s pretty good, or in Northwest Oregon, where the steelheading’s shining this winter.

And my writer Leroy Ledeboer points out, “Hey, they had several good weeks of ice fishing – more above Spokane and in the Okanogan – which in this state is about all anyone ever expects.”

But the only ice I want to see for awhile is while drowning my sorrows in a frosty mug of suds.

WSJ Reports On Nehalem Steelies, OR’s Runs

The Wall Street Journal has an unusual article in today’s business section: big runs of salmon and steelhead in Oregon.

The story leads and ends with a pair of out-of-work anglers on the Nehalem River, which could see as many as 3,000 steelhead back to the hatchery by the time this winter’s run wraps up.

That run, of course, follows up on the huge run of lower Columbia hatchery coho and upper Columbia hatchery steelhead last fall, and leads into this year’s forecasted record run of spring Chinook to the big crick.

“I got 85 pounds of filleted fish: salmon and steelhead mixed,” angler Adam Rice, an unemployed carpenter, tells reporter Joel Millman on the banks of the Nehalem.

Adds his fishing partner Lloyd Graves, on furlough from his painting gig, “No one likes to be unemployed … but this couldn’t happen at a better time.”

Last month, nearly 80,000 pounds of canned salmon were distrubuted around the state (which is suffering from a 12 percent unemployment rate) by the Oregon Food Bank, Millman reports.

The article includes an interesting graph showing the uptick in steelhead, coho and Chinook runs in recent years, and discusses why returns are believed to have jumped.


In last month’s issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine, we wrote up Lake Roosevelt for a good reason. The headline said it all, in fact: “From ‘Really Good’ To ‘Even Better.'”

Trout fishing on the monstrously long Northeast Washington reservoir was not only good last fall and improving as winter came on, but has been on a roll in recent years as well.

Explained Moses Lake-based scribe Leroy Ledeboer in our December issue:

So why has this gigantic reservoir gone from a very good to an excellent winter trout fishery over the years?

In a few words: more pen-reared trout.

These fall-winter and early spring trout pens are operated by a coalition of agencies – the Spokane and Colville Confederated Tribes and state Dept. of Fish & Wildlife – and a host of sportsman volunteers coordinated by the Lake Roosevelt Development Association handles daily feedings.

Forty-five netpens are strung in the 90 miles of lake from Kettle Falls to Keller Ferry, and in 2007 these turned out a whopping 750,000 yearling rainbows, large enough fish so that a high percentage escape walleye and smallmouth predation.

“We’ve been able to really up the trout numbers because we found that the kokanee weren’t surviving any better out of the pens than they were from direct release,” says Tim Peone, biologist at the Spokane Tribal Fish Hatchery in Ford, “so we went to straight rainbows in the pens, which do have much better survival rates.”

Peone, of course, has a vested interest in promoting the fishery.

As does his frying pan. Peone’s been feeding it pretty well in recent weeks. This morning he fired in this fishing report:

Fishing’s hot on Roosevelt now. Caught limits of trout ave 2 #’s on Friday (1/15) at Ft Spokane and lost a beauty kok at net.


Also caught limits of trout plus 3 nice kokes yesterday (1/19) at Spring Canyon all on surface flies and plugs.  Trout on right are all 3 plus #’s, kokes on left are 3, 3.5 & 4#.


While Gordie Steinmetz is a well-known regional walleye angler, he’s been working the rainbows, doing well with Berkley Frenzy No. 5s and 7s, doing well at Seven Bays, he told Ledeboer.

And Spokane angler Kelly Colliton, who was also working the lake in the middle of last week, told me that though one day was bad (“only two fish — they were nice though”), a couple days later, the bite turned on for 2- to 3-pound rainbows.

“They were hanging around 20 feet and liked the Rippin Minnows and purple Apex,” he reported


With fishing like that, I asked Leroy to give Northwest Sportsman readers a feel for how the rest of winter will play at the big lake. He reports:

For February and March, the best fishing could be much lower in this reservoir, out of Keller Ferry, in that broad mouth of the Sanpoil, Swawilla Basin or in Spring Canyon as trout move downlake with the freshwater shrimp and baitfish.

“Spring Canyon bank plunkers were doing OK on rainbows even in January,” notes Aulin Smith of Electric City, “but historically it’s not until February we trollers really get into them.

“My partners and I usually launch at Spring Canyon, troll a variety of K-flies and Muddlers, all baited with maggots, as well as Apex spoons. The trout are generally near the top, so even with our downriggers, we’re only going down 10 to 12 feet.

“But we also long- line straight mono, doing a lot of weaving, and we’ll run some planer boards. You have to experiment to be really successful,” he says.

No Pressure, None At All

Work life seeped into dream life last night: I was going to shoot a whitetail doe, but had to wait for her to walk out of the woods into a subdivision.

The map in my hands showed the hunt area boundary began right on the center hump of a cul de sac servicing the houses and extended from their back fencelines to the main road out front.

Deer country was off limits, but the shrubberies, backyards and patios were inside the kill zone.

Welcome to Bizarro World. Only it isn’t these days as animals and people shack up in each other’s worlds.

Behind me in my dream was a mess of state Fish & Wildlife folks — enforcement officers, a biologist, some flacks, heck, maybe even the Director — and a TV camera too.

No pressure, none at all.

I shifted my rifle from one hand to the other. I guess I was a Master Hunter or something and had been called in to take care of this particularly troublesome doe. I peered around a tree from time to time to track her progress towards the houses while we all fidgeted.

The only one not fidgeting was the doe, which was moving very slowly — but not towards the kill zone. This might all be much ado about nothing today, I thought.

True, I had other, more conventional deer-hunting dreams last night — chasing bucks in the hills and mountains — but this one really sticks out.

I’m pretty sure I dreamed it because of a pair of articles Jason Brooks and I put together for our February issue of Northwest Sportsman, which we sent off to press yesterday.

In the wake of late December’s Skagit Valley elk fiasco, we learned of another elk damage-control hunt being held in an even more challenging place.

How much more challenging?

Try just east of Goodytwoshoesville.

In a valley that’s even more populated.

Next to a state highway and an interstate.

In the vicinity of an outlet mall, a massive housing development, a golf course and extremely popular tourist attractions and hiking trails.

No pressure, none at all.

But since last summer, at least 16 cow elk have been culled from the growing herd by Master Hunters.

Oh, the reason you haven’t heard about it in the news? Like almost all of the rest of 2009-10’s general-season and damage-control hunts, there’s hardly anything to report – at least anything bad.

MASTER HUNTERS ARE A relatively new tool for Washington game managers to use for dealing with problem deer and elk, though Oregon’s has been in place since the early 1990s.

The programs help “promote the image of hunters, improve ethical practices and develop relationships between hunters and private landowners,” Brooks writes.

And as elk, whitetail, turkey and goose numbers continue to soar, the need for tightly controlled hunts will continue as farmlands in winter range continue to redevelop, national forests grow back in and available habitats shrink.

““We can’t just go out and catch every animal that gets crosswise and haul them out
to the forest,” says WDFW’s Dave Ware pointing to disease, parasite and animal crowding issues. “Yes, it’s out of sight, out of mind, but you’re not doing the animal any favor. Catching isn’t the answer everyone thinks it is. There’s not always a place for other animals.”

Nor can they just be stuffed in zoos.

With Washington’s enrollment period open through mid-February, Brooks and I looked into both states’ programs.

We learned they’re anything but shortcuts to big-bull and -buck tags.

“Most of our hunts are doe and cows tags,” ODFW Education Services manager Chris Willard in Salem told me.

Added Master Hunter liason, Sgt. Eric Anderson in Olympia: “While there still are opportunities for Master Hunters to get premium tags, they’re very much diminished” from the levels of WDFW’s old Advanced Hunter Education program.

For Anderson, Master Hunters are “the gold standard of hunters trying to protect our heritage.”

“Over half of the Advanced Hunters were purged from the system for violations of state fish and wildlife laws … We have a zero tolerance policy with the new Master Hunter program,” he told me.

It was always a little embarrassing to find Advanced Hunter grads written up in WDFW Enforcement’s quarterly newsletters (“AHE Hunter and Friends Party and Poach,” reads a headline from the winter 2007-08 edition).

Both states require prospective Master Hunters to clear background checks, as well as complete wildlife volunteer work and pass written and shooting proficiency tests. And in Washington, enrollees must go through Crime Observation and Reporting Training and pledge to abide by the Master Hunter Code of Ethics.

Willard says Oregon is going to try and emulate more of Washington’s program.

In the wake of the Skagit fiasco, which was an open general bow season, Capt. Bill Hebner told me that the solution may lay in Master Hunters.

Which really worries some. Writes Brooks:

Does this mean that we are going to see a trend to more Master Hunts when it comes to damage control and hunts close to the public’s eye? What does this mean for the majority of hunters?

Not everyone can put in the time, money and effort to complete the MH program, and even under the current requirements, not everyone could qualify. Are these programs providing an uneven and unfair advantage to an “elitist” group?

These are just a few questions and concerns that are brought up online and cause heated discussion.

Brooks talked to Gene Brame, who actually accounted for one of those 16 elk taken by Master Hunters that I mentioned above, on qualifying.

“I think it can be done,” said the retired Tacoma man.

Added recent Master Hunter grad Eric Bell of Granite Falls of the written test: “You definitely had to know the information, almost memorizing sections of the material.”

Despite Oregon’s program being on the books for almost two decades, there really aren’t that many Master Hunters. According to Willard, of the 5,300-plus Oregonians who’ve applied, only 1,234 have cleared all tests. And only 123 applied for Master Hunter-only tags last year.

In Washington, at the end of December 2009, there were 1,892 in the program with 395 pending aps, said Anderson; he figured three-quarters of those would clear.

To apply to be a Master Hunter in Washington, call (360) 902-8412 or email In Oregon, call (503) 947-6028 or email

See You Again Soon, Sauk?

That the Sauk would close early was not unexpected.

A month before last Friday afternoon’s official notice, Washington managers hinted the popular winter-spring catch-and-release fishery on the remote North Cascades river for big, brawny wild steelhead was iffy.

And a month before that, somewhere around Thanksgiving, I got word that the preseason forecast was not good.

It’s a bummer, but in a weird way, part of me is actually relieved.

Good, I’ll have a full compliment of hall passes for Columbia springer flame runs.

And I won’t have to drive that godawfully long piece of asphalt between I-5 and the Sauk. Beautiful as it is, 31.9 miles of highway has no right to be so long.

Won’t have to wade sketchy crossings or take the fishmobile down that one grown-in logging road to get to where I hooked something large.

Can save my spoons and jigs for another river.

BRAVE AS THAT SOUNDS, this feels like the start of what happened to my other fave, the Skykomish.

Its trophy steelhead fishery was put on hold in 2001  (the Sauk’s season was cut short too that year), and there’s never been enough fish back since to give us a go. Finally, the Sky’s season was written out of the regs, and who knows if anything will ever reopen.

In its place, I went to the Sauk.

As I write this, I can smell cottonwoods breaking into leaf on warm downriver breezes, hear the drumming of grouse in the flats – and feel the thump of whirring blades as a helicopter surveying spawning beds flew over me last spring.

I asked the river’s biologist about it and he was worried about how few redds there were.

A bad sign for future runs.

It was one of the last, best hopes in a regional basin where steelhead are listed as a threatened species.

“I fished a few of my favorite runs on the Sauk today,” wrote Skykomish Sunrise yesterday on Piscatorial Pursuits. “The water looked nice, and it was good to be out on the river again. However, I couldn’t help but to feel as if I was making one last visit to a relative that is about to die.”

There are several photos of the river in that thread that are good for remembering the good times.

THAT’S MY OWN ADMITTEDLY SHORT VIEW. A guy with the long view is Bill Herzog.

Last winter, the woes of winter-runs were the subject of several blogs – elegies, really – by the veteran Northwest steelheader.

Since 1973, we have lost OVER F-O-R-T-Y winter steelhead fisheries due to closure or lack of returning fish. I’m not going to list them all here … but here are some examples from my journal notes.

Back in March of ’83, here’s where I was steelhead fishing: The Big Quilcene River, Duckabush River, Skokomish River, Dosewallips River, a whole lot of trips to the Dungeness, Nisqually and Carbon Rivers, the upper Quinault River and a wonderful new catch and release fishery on the Skykomish.

My fishing partners and I landed over 200 steelhead from those rivers that month.

Go ahead, try to fish any of those places today. The steelhead for all rights and purposes are gone from most of those rivers, a few have runs falling off the table and only the Quinault from that list is still open in March.

Want to fish in April now? Join everyone at the last buffet still open, the Quillayute system’s Bogachiel, Sol Duc and Calawah. After that system is hammered to death by every poor angler still willing to put up with overcrowded streams … well, how about bass fishing?

Hell no. I’ll golf before I’ll fish for bass.

BUT THE MAN MUST FISH, and last winter Herzog did find good action on immature Chinook, or blackmouth, in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

In our February issue, which we’re sending to press shortly, he tells Tim Bush about the “new funk” for that fishery, which reopens in mid-February.

The myriad passes and banks in the nearby San Juans also come into prime shape, and author Wayne Heinz has collected 101 years of blackmouth wisdom for his map feature.

Speaking of maps, Larry Ellis highlights South Oregon Coast rockfish, lings and Dungeness – crabbing’s so good he’s been throwing back legals.

Then there’s Tillamook steelhead, and Lake Roosevelt walleye AND rainbows. Used to be it was all about the bugeyes this time of year on the upper Columbia reservoir, but trout action’s been the “best in a decade,” say some, so we track the fish downlake for you.

Just a sampling of the winter keepers we serve up around the Northwest in our February issue, which should be out to subscribers and newsstands soon.

Even if my heart was set on fish to release.

‘A Pile Of Steelhead’ Show In NW OR


The same conditions that led to a banner run of hatchery coho salmon last year appear to have had a similar effect beneficial to winter steelhead.

Several Northwest Region fish hatcheries operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are reporting strong returns of winter steelhead. The good early winter steelhead returns come on the heels of a strong coho run last fall. Biologists believe that good flows for outbound smolts in 2008, followed by favorable ocean conditions contributed to better than average survival rates for both runs of fish.

“We have a pile of steelhead showing up in some of these rivers,” said Robert Bradley, assistant fish biologist for ODFW’s North Coast Watershed District.


On the coast, early hatchery winter steelhead have provided good fishing opportunities in several streams. When angling conditions have been favorable, catches of early returning hatchery winter steelhead have generally been good. Large numbers of fish are still available in the river, as evidenced by increasing numbers of fish being collected at hatchery traps. The North Fork Nehalem in particular has seen periods of very good fishing since mid-December. Well over 1,000 returning adult hatchery winter steelhead have been trapped at Nehalem Hatchery so far this season.

The Necanicum River, Big Creek, Gnat Creek, Klaskanine River and Three Rivers (in the Nestucca River basin) are other streams offering good early season hatchery winter steelhead opportunities. Due to their smaller size, these streams tend to be in fishable condition more often, as they clear more quickly than larger streams.

“There will be lots of bright, chrome fish in these streams for the next two or three weeks,” said Bradley. “In another month, most of the early returning hatchery winter steelhead will be gone, so we really encourage people to get out and take advantage of this opportunity while it lasts.”

Farther inland, the Sandy and Clackamas rivers and Eagle Creek are seeing large returns, and ODFW’s fish counting station at Willamette Falls is seeing some of its largest steelhead crossings in recent years, according to Todd Alsbury, district fish biologist for ODFW’s North Willamette Watershed.


The six coastal streams are relatively small, and most of the fishing in their waters is done from bank. All six streams are reasonably accessible by vehicle or by foot, although anglers need to be mindful of private property. Persons who possess disabled angler permits may fish from an ADA accessible fishing platform located immediately below the Nehalem Fish Hatchery. The lower Sandy and Clackamas are popular for both boat and bank fishing. Eagle Creek is a bank fishing-only stream.

The bag limit is two adipose fin-clipped steelhead a day.

Recorded information about current river conditions can be accessed by calling the Nehalem hatchery at 503-368-5670 or the Big Creek hatchery at 503-458-6529. Weekly reports are also available on ODFW’s Web site at

Instead Of All No-go, Some Go-slow?

Instead of 13 miles of no-go zone, how about 2 miles around Lime Kiln Point to protect feeding killer whales and an 11-mile “go-slow” zone that would still allow anglers a chance to hook Chinook?

That’s part of what WDFW is asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to reconsider along the west side of San Juan Island in a 7-page letter submitted by agency director Phil Anderson in mid-December.

The Feds last year proposed a five-month-long 1/2-mile-wide no-go buffer along most of the shoreline as part of a broader set of vessel restrictions in Puget Sound to protect ESA-listed orcas, “the subject of intense curiosity from kayakers to tourists crowding the decks of commercial whale-watching vessels.”


NMFS argues that orcas are adversely affected by boat noises.

But closing off the island’s west side from May through September raised hackles among anglers and others.

“It’s one of our best Chinook spots, and to lose that part of our fishery is disappointing, and a little alarming,” charter captain Jay Field told local outdoor radio show host Joel Shangle in a column for ESPN last fall.

Anglers fear it is only the beginning, and that it may lead to more quality fishing areas in the San Juans and Puget Sound being shut down.

Following three public meetings last fall, NMFS invited written comments then extended the deadline into 2010.

WDFW submitted their comments to NMFS acting regional supervisor Barry Thorn on Dec. 15. A copy was provided to Northwest Sportsman today.

The agency’s main idea is a more limited no-go zone, just the 2 miles from Bellevue Point south past Lime Kiln Point.

The rest of San Juan Island’s southwest shore, says WDFW, should instead be a slow-go buffer closed to all boats except recreational fishing boats, nontreaty and treaty commercial fishing boats, kayaks and private landowner vessels. Those boats would be limited to 7 mph and couldn’t raise wakes.

An additional 1/2-mile go-slow buffer would also be added off the no-go zone.


Some of the ideas are echoed in a guest editorial by Val Veirs and Jenny Atkinson of The Whale Museum, printed in Dec. 24 issue of the San Juan Journal, and were brought up in public meetings.

WDFW also suggests “the development of an education and certification program to certify all fishing vessels, kayaks and private landowner vessels that are eligible to enter the Go-Slow Zone.”

But the agency has other concerns too. Moving sport and nontreaty commercial harvest of Chinook from that area could lead to higher catches of ESA-listed Puget Sound kings elsewhere in the islands where Fraser River-bound salmon are less prevalent. And barring nontreaty netters might just make the area more attractive to exempted Indian fishermen.

“The benefit of reduced stress on whales from reduced non-treaty commercial fishing vessel traffic could be offset by an increase in treaty fishing vessel traffic,” WDFW’s letter says.

The state also contends the socioeconomic analysis in NMFS’s environmental assessment was “deficient.” If commercial boats fishing on BC-bound sockeye and pink runs there are barred, they may miss out on their share of lucrative runs and that “could affect the economic viability of the fishery in Puget Sound.”

And the Fed’s theory of little local economic impact due to reduced recreational angling draws disagreement too.

Today, CCA also released a position statement. It’s posted on Bloody Decks and here.

Comment is open through Jan. 15.

’10 NW OR Trout Scheds Out!

One-point-two million fish dinners are on their way to lakes, reservoirs and ponds around Northwest Oregon.

The state Department of Fish & Wildlife today released their trout stocking schedule for the North Coast Watershed, and the North and South Willamette watershed districts.

Fresh fish have already arrived this week at one water, 350 1-pounders at Junction City Pond.

“These are beautiful fish and will make a lot of people happy if they’re lucky enough to reel one in,” said Hal Boldt, fish liberation coordinator for ODFW’s Northwest Region.

And next week, 1,850 8- to 12-inchers will hit Walter Wirth Lake near Salem (Exit 253 off I-5, west to Turner Road SE, south on it then left to park), 350 8- to 10-inchers will be released into Huddleston Pond in Willamina.

All totalled, 96 waters will be planted around the region this year. The fish range from 8-inchers on up to 10-pounders

“The trout stocking program enriches the lives of tens of thousands of Oregonians,” adds Boldt.


The fish are produced at ODFW’s Alsea, Nehalem, Scio, Eugene, Oakridge and Maupin trout hatcheries. The cost of the program is covered primarily through the sale of Oregon fishing licenses.

Taking The Guv Fishing

We’ve written in this space about Oregon’s fisherman in chief, Ted Kulongoski, but how about other Northwest governors? Any others out there who can work a rod, past or present?

We get an answer, sort of, from Tony Floor. He puts out a monthly newsletter as part of his job as fishing affairs director for the Northwest Marine Trade Association. In January”s column, out yesterday, he writes about fishing former Washington governors Gardner, Spellman and, reaching back to more civil days, Evans.

So how did the guvs do on the briny blue? TF writes:

I watched former Governor John Spellman, back in the early 80’s, when playing a feisty blackmouth salmon at Sekiu, become so busy with changing hands with the fishing rod which is necessary when smoking a pipe, that the rod flew out of his hand, skipped about 6 times across the water and go away. That means, the big (one got) away. Oops!

I was fishing with former Governor Booth Gardner also at Sekiu when he inquired about a boat, trolling next to us, with a metal short pole, attached to the top of the gunnel, with wire line going into the water attached to a large lead ball. “What’s that?” I learned that there are no downriggers or downriggers balls in the Governor’s Office. What a shame.

But the prince of governors to take fishing has to be former Governor Dan Evans. What a nice, nice man, who has great instincts in playing a tough, large king salmon. On one trip, after playing the fish for considerable time, due largely to his light-handed techniques, the fish came unpinned at the boat. Dan simply said, “Gosh darn it. He got away.” I thought to myself….gosh darn it, what does that mean? I was thinking more about cardiac, inability to close the deal and profanity. Not out of the mouth of Governor Dan Evans. Forever, a class act, a gentlemen and a thinker.

Floor also speaks highly of Washington’s U.S. Congressman For Life, Norm Dicks, who actually is a strong advocate for salmon, recreational fishing and mass marking. So how is it fishing with Dicks?

Fishing with Norm is like riding on the space shuttle, from lift off to 100,000 feet. The floating in space part comes at the end of the trip. In order to ride with Norm, I take 10 swigs of Geritol, 14 chocolate bars and hibernate for a week prior to the trip. Following the trip, I hang upside down in the closet for 24 hours inducing a coma reaction for two weeks. He is high energy and the man loves his salmon fishing. Passionate? Try a positive application of fanatical. Every fish is “I got ‘em boys! It’s the big one!!! Get your gear out of the water!!!” Somebody, help me now.

Top 10 Hunt, Fish Trips Of The ’00s

It was epic. Salmon bit off the canoe’s starboard side, off its port side, off the bow, off the stern.

Pinks, pinks, pinks. Surging, jumping, thrashing.


The humpers bit for hours.

They bit every chunk of glitzy bent metal Bell and I threw at them.

We were tapped into the mother school and could do no wrong on the Snohomish River north of Seattle that day in late summer 2001 when the world was still (reasonably) sane.

And it was among the 10 best fishing and hunting trips I’ve gone on this decade.


Other floats for pinkos on the river and Puget Sound during 2001 as well as 2003’s runs could easily fill out a top-10 list for yours truly.

Indeed, if it were up to me, I’d call the 2000s (officially known as the “International Decade for the Promotion of a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World”), the Decade Of The Pink for how well they’ve returned to Puget Sound rivers, culminating in Humpfest 2009.

And then there were their sizes — Avis’s Humpzilla at one end of the decade, Adam Stewart’s 15.4-pound state record at the other. Heck, those weren’t pinks, they were Pinkosaurus Rexes!

But let’s throw some variety into this exercise, shall we? With the 2010s dead ahead, here’s one last glance back at nine other top fishing and hunting trips from the 2000s:

* EARLY 2000S, A RAINY, BLUSTERY DAY in the flooded Snoqualmie Valley that started out slowly for Bell, Olenik and I. We were barely concealed along a fence row at the very back end of “The Prison Farm,” an honor dairy farm for low-risk inmates from the jail at Monroe. Right at shooting light, a flock of teal came in and great shot that I am, I managed to bag one.

It helped that Olenik had shot it first and slowed it down.

But things improved, especially after Bell, in a colossal lapse of judgment, left early to go home to the Missus.

As the weather worsened, huge flocks of wigeons and mallards winged their way up the valley. Olenik’s calling turned many, and as the whoosh of wings lowered and lowered over our menagerie of decoys, we popped out from behind grass and sticks leaning against the fence.

So many birds came in that day that we almost ran out of shells before finally limiting and pushing overstuffed decoy bags back through flooded fields to our rigs.

* I’D SEEN WHAT A GOOD SILVER BITE could be like in the saltwater while fishing the Everett Coho Derby at Possession Point earlier in the 2000s, but those rod-yanking antics were nothing compared to what I experienced out at the CR Buoy with one of my writers last August.

There I was, wishing I’d taken the Bonine well before jetting out of the mouth of the Columbia River and grimly focusing on the stump of a volcano on the eastern horizon to ward off seasickness, but “the damned rods kept going off.”

Primarily it was the back two, both still running Divers, (Fish) Flashes and cut-plugs. The one straight out the back on my side would suddenly have a seizure, then the one on the other side would shiver. A 13- or 14-pounder grabbed my bait, circled the boat, tangling three lines, and when I set the line back out after bonking the fish, I managed to tangle up two more lines.

It was chaos, but that’s coho fishing, said (Andy) Schneider, aka AndyCoho — tangles, madness and lots of bites. Indeed, my second keeper was one of three fish that bit all at once and sent us into another frenzy.


One of the trio was on the rod of (an) angler whose name won’t be revealed. It bit right next to the boat. He lost it. He lost another at the net when the barbless hooks pulled out of the fish’s mouth. He leapt at his rod like a jumping jack only to be just a second too late many times. It became almost comical, and it was clear that while the Fish Gods were up against a pretty hot coho bite, they had some tricks up their sleeves for those who would flaunt the banana ban.

* THE SUMMER OF 2006 WAS one of the funnest and busiest of my life. Amy and I got hitched in June on the Oregon Coast, we toured Crater Lake and Germany, and the plan for our August honeymoon was a weeklong horseback trek across the Pasayten Wilderness that I knew would take me to many mountain lakes brimming with trout (oh, and fulfill lifelong dreams for both of us).

And then the Tripod Fire blew up in Okanogan County. It pulled our outfitter away to forest fire duty and put our trip on indefinite hold.

We pouted about it a bit, but ended up doing an overnighter up to Minotaur Lake in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness north of Stevens Pass. The fishing there wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, but it was worth getting into the heights (though I don’t think I’ll ever get Amy to hike back up that trail again!)

About a week later we found ourselves way up in the sky again — on board a jet to Sitka to fish for half a week with Amy’s grandfather and one of his friends in the area. The day after we landed, we loaded the gent’s boat down with fuel, food, shrimp and crab pots, and all of our gear for two nights at a U.S. Forest Service cabin halfway back to Juneau.


I thought I had left this world once when I camped alone at Roosevelt Grove of Cedars in extreme Northeast Washington — signs warned hunters that not only were grizzly bears in the area, but so were caribou. CARIBOU! — but Moser Island, tucked up in Hoonah Sound was out of the solar system to me.

Our cabin’s log recorded bears on the beach (Ed’s friend’s dog growled at the cabin’s door at odd intervals in the night), mountains and trees towered over us, and the Dungies were huge — HUGE, like dinner plates for a king.

The fishing was so-so — we didn’t haul in any barn-door halibut like Ed and his friend had the year before — but what made the trip all the more memorable was the shrimping. Ed’s friend’s devotion to shrimp made Forrest Gump’s buddy Bubba look like a bush leaguer.

We literally hauled four garbage cans — the big 55-gallon jobbies — worth of spot and coonstripe shrimp out of 300- and 400-foot-deep waters, and believe it or not, peeled three-fourths of them! I wore my left thumbnail down to the quick.

* BELL AND I WERE HUNTING NORTHEAST of Mt. Spokane, hard up against the Idaho border, on a mix of DNR and private land during the late season one November. And while we did see deer — and my first cow moose — the really cool thing was the place we were staying at and the land itself.

A friend of ours, Olenik, used to seasonally work for the Forest Service up there, and he made friends with coworkers. One of those guys — Ken Bancroft, now deceased — built his place by hand, as I recall, and it had tons of exposed woodwork and a self-composting toilet you threw cedar chips into after pooping.

But what made it particularly cool was that it was literally built into rock that’s a minimum of a third of a billion years old — some of the oldest in Washington.

Officially, it’s the Newman Lake Gneiss, dark but sparkly and riven with laminations. Cretaceous stuff, über-alt rock, right there in the living room next to the TV.

It not only backed part of Bancroft’s house, but we wandered over it as we coursed the woods and rounded knobs in hopes of shooting Bambi. We occupied but the barest, most infintesimal flicker of a moment in that rock’s extraordinarily long time on this planet. Lord only knows how many glaciers have tried their best to shave it down, how many rainstorms have tried to wear it away, what sort of dinosaurs must have grazed upon it.

I can’t say that I’ve ever hunted cooler terrain.

* BUT I HAD A SLIGHTLY MORE SUCCESSFUL whitetail hunt on even older rocks, like Precambrian, billion-year-old material, several years later.

It was early November 2006, and Dad and my modus operandi was a whole lot different than what we’d done just weeks before for muleys. Armed with antlers for rattling and wearing brand-new insulated boots trailing a cotton swab doused in doe-in-estrus scent, I hunkered in Westside-dense woods. Bell and Olenik alleged they’d been successful here other times.

Dad was hunting with me, but was a ways off. I had found an area that seemed pretty bucky — rubs, beds, poop, etc. — so I sat down, waited and rattled. And rattled and waited.

Then waited and rattled some more.

There was a moment when I could hear something 40 yards or so off through thick brush. Nothing ever showed itself in that direction, but my rattling did bring in a coyote from the opposite side, which I texted Dad about.


The afternoon wore on. The sun clouded over. Despite the boots, my toes began to get cold. So did my butt. The woods were barren.

Typical Walgamott luck: Rattling’s never this unproductive in all those other articles and TV shows, I thought. Maybe it was time to head back to Kelly’s bar and grill down in Newport, or the hotel to see how other hunters had done.

I gave it another hour, and whether my now-half-hearted rattling actually did the trick or not, a gray buck suddenly appeared 20 yards away to my left. He was moving through and I figured I had one chance to slow him down, so I banged the antlers. He stopped, turned and came towards me. There was nothing but fur in the scope, but I dropped him with a shot to the neck.

I had felt kinda silly with that special hot-doe mojo, muley rack and oversized boots, like an Alabama Bubba or something, but it had all worked.

We dragged the small 4×5 out over the snow to the truck and hung it at the Golden Spur to clean.

* MUST’VE BEEN THE WINTER BEFORE DUSTY DIED. Mr. Routh, one of his friends and I were down at the Lincoln Creek Hunt Club, sitting in a waterfowl blind on a flooded field.

We had a jug of Admiral Nelson, and it must’ve done something to our calling because the ducks sure were uncooperative and the geese stayed high.

In retrospect, that was probably a good thing.

But it was only later, after Dusty had a heart attack while covering a high school basketball game out in Forks (probably got a wink from one of the cheerleaders), that I realized how stupid I’d been to not take him up on more of his invites.

Heck of a fun guy to get into the outdoors with.

* I’M PRETTY SHORT AND scrawny — I played nose-tackle in junior varsity football with rolled eyes — so when it took the guy I was sitting next to over an hour and a half to bring an oversize sturgeon to the boat, I found myself fervently hoping to only catch a shaker as we set up again below Bonneville Dam in September 2004.

Yeah, I know, not very manly, but the angler, a Cabela’s PR man over 6 feet tall and around 200 pounds, was literally shaking and spent after battling that 10-foot-long beast for over 4 miles down the Columbia. He could barely hold up his beer can.


Heck, with my spaghetti arms, I had visions of being yanked over the side of the boat and disappearing into the tailrace of the dam by Leviathan. I think that if our guide, Louis McMinds, had looked away for a second, I might have rubbed some eau de armpit on the shad bait as a repellent.

An 8-footer bit instead.

* THE SPRING OF 2002 WAS WHEN we “discovered” bass.

The green meanies were all over the place — not just the big-name lakes.

Washington and Sammamish and Spanaway and Stevens get the ink for their stellar fisheries, but not so well known is that every little podunk pond the Great Glacier left behind in Pugetropolis has bass, and how.

Chain Lake, an unremarkable 23-acre bog north of Monroe, has bass.

Lake Ballinger, partially ringed by green fairways, has the green fish.

Bosworth? Bass. Cottage? Can do. Wagner? Woo yeah, buddy.

Bell and I hit a mess of them. I hit a mess of them.

It was fantastic. We didn’t have to get up super early. There was barely any competition. We could hit a couple three lakes in a day. We didn’t have to buy a glittery boat (in fact, that pink-salmon-slamming canoe worked just as well on largies). Our rods and reels were really for trout and steelhead. We caught sweet bass.

Yeah, we were pestering the fish on their beds. Yeah, some might consider it unethical (true, I wouldn’t pester salmon or steelhead on their beds).

Yeah, it was a hell of a lot of fun, and one that spawned one of my favorite articles for F&H News: The anti-basser’s guide to bass fishing.

All this bassing culminated in two noteworthy hook-ups on Storm Lake.

One day while cruising its woody northeastern shoreline, I spied a great behemoth of a Mama Bass, she saw me, we eyed each other for three hours, she saw everything in my tackle box. Bell and I came back and I hooked her — briefly.

And then I came back alone and … hooked myself. For some reason, old netting hung in a tree near the bass’s bed, and somehow my lure got tangled in it, and for some reason my thumb got tangled in the hook which was tangled in the net. Good thing I had the pliers handy, otherwise I might still be there.

Never did hook her again, but the lily pads at the lake’s north end later yielded a pretty good-sized bass.

The next state record is out there, and somebody fishing a backwoods pond in Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston or Lewis county in a jonboat or canoe or rowboat will catch and report her this decade.

* A FLOCK OF GRAY BIRDS erupted from the trees on top of Rainy Pass off Highway 2 and dove into the old growth below. What in the heck are those, I wondered.

They didn’t glide like blue grouse. In fact, they started flapping and gaining elevation and flew away over the ridge!

They were too big to be camp robbers, and for that matter, too small to be wildly lost Himalayan snowcocks or German auerhahns.

In all my time in the highlands, I hadn’t seen anything like them. But they looked tasty.

Turns out they were bandtailed pigeons, among the Northwest’s wildlife comeback stories. Once nearly shot out of existence, strict protections have helped bring the species back. Washington’s hunt reopened in 2002 with a narrow season — just eight days in mid-September — and low bag limit of just two.

Bell and I were among the first several hundred or so hunters to get the special permit required to hunt the birds, and it led us to the mountains high above Swede Heaven and Darrington.

We bumped up and down Siegelson Ridge, scoured the clearcuts above the North Fork Stillaguamish’s South, Middle and North branches for the flighty buggers. We’d climb up to the knife-sharp ridgelines and set up for the every-half-hour passage of a flock … usually just out of range.


The pigeons — the breast meat is red and slightly bigger than a doves — were there to feed on cascara and other ripening berries before winging their way south for the winter. With an ocean of peaks and meadows, they didn’t have to stick to one place.

But we found that there was one particular old snag they really liked. It was leaning out over the void and you had to be careful when you shot because if you only wounded a bird, it would glide into a bowl 1,000 feet below. Bigfoot country.

All in all, it was a pretty good way to enjoy the outdoors, and an example of how all is not going away when it comes to fishing and hunting rights.

I have to admit to not having gone bandtail hunting for several years now, but Bell has continued, either driving up to Siegelson or hiking into DNR land near his home.

And on more than one occasion, he’s come back home empty-handed only to find a flock on his feeder in the backyard.