Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

The Hazards Of Using Gun Mag Galley Proofs As Kids Scratchpaper

The note that came home from school with our oldest son gave me more of a belly laugh than feelings of butthurt.

It was yet another reminder of how things have changed from my Sultan, Wash., elementary days, when a friend and I “shot” critters in Outdoor Life with pencils that we jabbed through the backs of pages into the rug of Mrs. Gudmunson’s second-grade classroom.

Ah, times of yore.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and River’s teacher said she had had a talk with him about his choice of scratch paper to do some math homework on.

Of all the used pages I have brought home from work for he and his brother to do whatever with, he’d apparently picked one from another of our newsstand magazines that featured a couple paragraphs from a gun review and a pic of a box of .22 LRs on the other side.

THE OFFENDING PIECE OF SCRAP PAPER MY OLDEST DID HIS HOMEWORK ON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

THE OFFENDING PIECE OF SCRAP PAPER MY OLDEST DID HIS HOMEWORK ON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Next time, he should choose paper without either, the teacher wrote.

Bad Daddy.

As many of you may know, my real day job is magazine editor. In addition to putting together each month’s issue of Northwest Sportsman, I’m also the executive editor of our other three titles: Alaska Sporting Journal, California Sportsman and American Shooting Journal.

Really, executive editor is a fancy way to say proofreader, as I do a lot of proofreading around here.

A whole lot.

We try to give every article in all four mags at least three reads to make sure most of the words are spelt real good before sending them off to our press, so as you can imagine we generate a bit of wastepaper.

Several years ago now, I looked at that pile and realized that it was all still half good.

What’s more, River and his younger brother Kiran could use the unmarked side for their own devices.

So I began taking stacks and stacks worth home for them to draw on, practice their writing skills, make paper airplanes, cut up for snowflake decorations, scrunch up pages to throw at their brother and/or shoot baskets with, etc., etc., etc.

Out of respect for my wife Amy’s views, I am pretty careful with what comes home on the American Shooting Journal proofs; I grade away from firearms, but never considered that a pic of plinking bullets might raise a fuss.

Undoubtedly, the teacher was following something in the school district’s rules and regulations, but yi yi yi.

I recognize I’m not going to save the world by myself, but every two weeks our large-sized blue recycling can is full, from spring through fall our green yard waste bin is sometimes so heavy I worry it’ll get away from me as I wheel it to the curb, and at some level bringing home all those marked-up proofs for scratch paper must help save a tree — or at least a really thick branch or two.

Saving trees is pretty important to my wife and sons — and me, as they’re key for Northwest fish, wildlife and wildlands.

So I was pretty amused by the irony in River’s teacher’s note.

Try and do the right thing and you still get in trouble.

Be all PC and get trumped by the PC Patrol.

I don’t do towering moral outrage so well, but I am sure there are those who might be fuming by this little episode as the latest example of political correctness run amuck.

Can’t say I would blame you.

“I doubt you would have even heard about this if you were in Eastern Washington,” a friend texted me.

Hell, I joked back, “I would have had a new subscriber!”

Our former American Shooting Journal editor tacked away from emphasizing the enviro angle to my son’s instructor in favor of trying another positive approach with her:

“We could explain that there are people who use these tools to hunt for their food, hence negating the need for animals to suffer in feed lots their entire lives until they are slaughtered and promptly neatly packaged, so the sensitive folks can choose their protein without any idea where it comes from,” she wrote from a well-defended sailboat (pirates, beware!) adrift in the Sargasso Sea.

Actually, she had an even better idea:

“I would be interested to know what the repercussions would be if this event happened again. I am definitely the type of person to push back on something like this, not overtly, but in a ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ way, and just keep letting it happen. Maybe that is why my mother always shook her head and said ‘Life will be challenging for you.'”

Yeah, fine, we’ll make sure River doesn’t do any more homework on the back of gun reviews — but teacher never said anything about pages with pics of dead critters!

Indeed, instead of being all butthurt, this could end up producing a lot of laughs.

And besides, it could’ve been worse, as our current American Shooting Journal editor pointed out:

“Good thing you don’t work for Playboy…”

The General Speaks, Bill Herzog, Part I of II

Editor’s note: The following article by columnist Terry Wiest appears in the May 2017 issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine. Part II in the series will appear next week and in the June issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine.

By Terry Wiest

I’ve been friends with Bill Herzog for a while now. The dude just flat out cracks me up. One thing I don’t think anyone denies is that he is a true master of the art of fishing. He loves being in the spotlight while teaching his craft, but isn’t one for bragging – he doesn’t have too. If you’re fortunate enough to fish with him, you’ll notice he’s super intense, yet calm, witty, hilarious, and always making the best of any situation. Most often, not only will you leave with fish, but also a side ache from laughing so damn much.

Smart as hell, Herzog gladly shares his knowledge when asked (he’s authored hundreds of fishing articles, including several in Northwest Sportsman). Even with his rock-star status in the fishing world, he remains very approachable, and is more than willing to share his stories of a life spent angling. In part one of this two-part series, I talked lighter subjects with my friend, “The General,” and next issue we’ll tackle some of his current projects, including his part in the “Four is Enough” campaign and a recent video series entitled “Steelhead Country.

Bill Herzog began his steelheading career during the golden age of the fishery in Western Washington, and was able to hit rivers that are now closed to angling for winter- and summer-runs. As he tells tales of a life spent on the water, he’s also working towards a sustainable future for the fish and fishery. (WILDSTEELHEADERS.ORG)

Terry Wiest: OK, why do they call you The General?

Bill Herzog: Oh my, it really happened by accident about 15 years ago or so. I was writing a section in Salmon Trout Steelheader called “How To,” where each issue I would explain, well, just like the title said, how to do something fishing related. I was also on the radio at that time, so a listener called in and said he liked my advice and looked forward to each issue. He said the only thing missing was a good tag line, so he asked what we could call him. Being the smartass that I am, I just said, “Oh, call me General Zog, man of steel, caffeine monster,” and a few other adjectives that just ran off my tongue. It was in reference to General Zod from Superman. For some reason listeners were paying attention and the name stuck.

TW What is your first recollection of wanting to fish?

BH I can’t remember when I didn’t want to fish. Growing up I had two uncles who lived for fishing. I can remember going to my Uncle Bob’s house and seeing a photo of him holding two steelhead from the Lyre River, rubber hip boots and all. I always thought to myself, “Man, I want to do that.”

Herzog considers himself lucky to have fished British Columbia’s Babine and Kispiox Rivers before their “discovery,” staying for a week and catching many over 20 pounds. (BILL HERZOG)

TW Tell me about your first steelhead.

BH I’ll never forget. It was 1971, fishing on the Puyallup River with Uncle Bob. He handed me some big black plastic rod with an Ambassadeur levelwind reel. I’d never cast a levelwind before, but Uncle Bob insisted only girls, beginners and Dallas Cowboy fans used spinning reels. I hooked an 11-pound chrome-bright hen and landed it using a red-and-white Dardevle spoon. That set my future of fishing in motion. My only regret was I never got a photo of that fish. Uncle Bob wasn’t into bragging and he thought photos of dead fish was nothing but that, bragging.

TW We all did things as kids we’d never think of doing now – care to share any moments?

BH I had a very fun childhood. I remember growing up we lived on the top of a huge hill in Tacoma. My cousins and I would take this huge mirror on a sunny day and then reflect it on the windshield of a car coming up the hill. You could see the cars swerving and tires were screeching, then we’d run and hide in the garage. I’m not sure how many wrecks we caused.

TW What about some fishing-related stories?

BH Never really did anything bad. I don’t think I ever broke any fishing laws intentionally. Probably the worst thing I did was skip school to go fishing. I went to Bellarmine Prep. I used to skip out and run to the Nisqually River to fish. But then it was only math class, so it was worth it.

TW You used to guide – how was that?

BH You know, I enjoyed it for a while.

I got into guiding because of an experience I had on the Cowlitz River with a guide I’ll not name. The guide basically set everything up, handed us our rods, we caught some fish, he collected his money and left. To me, I was expecting to learn something. He not only failed at this, but he barely spoke the whole time on the river.

It was then I told myself, “You know, I can do this and I can do it a lot better.” In my opinion, I did. I think a good guide needs to interact with their clients, needs to be a psychiatrist, a teacher, needs to teach technique, talk about history of the fish, the river, and, of course, make the clients comfortable and make them laugh. At the end of the day hopefully they caught fish, hopefully they learned something and, above all, hopefully they had a great time and want to continue fishing, whether with a guide or on their own.

TW Did you ever want to throw a client overboard?

BH Plenty! Yeah, it was those clients who, when they called back to book again, I’d say I was full but then give them a name and number of a guide I couldn’t stand.

There was my UPS driver. He’d deliver all my fishing gear and want to talk fishing. He’d never steelhead fished before but would always say he wanted to go. Finally he booked a trip on April 1, 1997, just him for the boat. The Skagit had been blown out for four days straight and it was just coming into shape, but probably a day early (I thought). I told him we’d at least look at the river, and if it wasn’t fishable, we’d reschedule.

So I took the sled and we headed downriver. Things weren’t looking good. But as we approached the Sauk, the river was this gorgeous steelhead green. There was a no-fishing-under-power rule, but I was a wee bit younger then, so I could actually row the boat so we could fish plugs. I put the dude’s plug back, set the rod in the holder and almost instantly it doubled over. He sat there and reeled it in like he was in his office. No expression, just kinda ho-hum. I almost sh*t; it was a chrome-bright 18-pound hen.

We did this eight straight times, hooking up within minutes of setting the plug back out. All the fish were between 16 and 19 pounds and they were all hens.

Another guide was coming downriver, so I motioned, let him know the hole was full of fish and let him have it. We’d already done our damage there and I wanted the other dude’s clients to experience it as well.

We headed down to the “Leaning Cedar” hole. It was by far the best day in my entire fishing life. We hooked another 25 fish! Total for the day was over 40 by 1:00. I decided we’d had enough and went in.

While I was ecstatic, the dude was pissed! Yes, pissed! He was even throwing expletives around because I didn’t give him a full day of fishing. He gave me my money, no tip mind you, and walked off.

I was dumfounded. This was my best day by far, ever, including Canada, and the dude was not happy. Wow.

About a month later there was a knock on my door. The dude showed up with a case of Henry Weinhards and a hundred-dollar bill. All he could say was, “Man, I’m so sorry, please, please take me again, I’m so sorry.”

Turned out, the day after fishing when the guy went to work he told his coworkers about our day. They said he was full of sh*t! It was only then that he realized this was not normal and he’d never experience a day like that again, ever. He thought my whooping and hollering the whole day was just an act and a way to get a tip.

OK, OK, I got another one.

I had an Asian father and son fish with me one day. It was really tough fishing but I worked my a** off. The whole day the son was nothing but smiles, the dad had on his angry face and didn’t speak hardly a word.

We were fishing plugs, so them being inexperienced I gave them both a demo on how to lift the rod from the rod holder. Sure enough, the old man’s rod doubles over. He reaches for the rod, grabs it by the label and pulls straight back.

All I heard was, “Crack, crack, snap” as the rod broke in two places, and then the line.

The old man looked at me and said, “Rod not strong.”

The kid was mortified.

At the end of the day we managed to catch a single fish. Like I said, it was tough fishing. The old man gave me $100 and walked away. This didn’t even cover my daily rates. The son followed him up and wrote a check for the difference, plus the cost of the rod and a nice tip.

As they drove by, the old man rolled down his window and yelled, “You not good guide, you only catch one fish.”

TW Every think about guiding again?

BH OK, here’s the deal. There are already too many guides on the river for the limited amount of fish we have in the rivers these days. I have too much respect for them, and they work their a**es off to get clients fish. Why would I join that pool and increase the number of guides?

Herzog provides instruction on a “steelhead river” at a sportsmen’s show. By one recent count, he’s authored over 500 articles, as well as a handful of books, and was a longtime cohost of Northwest Wild Country. “When I go out I know I’m going to catch fish; it’s getting others fish that satisfies me,” he says. (DR. BACKLASH)

TW Have you ever taken a dump in the river? Er, let me rephrase that – have you ever fallen in the river?

BH Haven’t we all! Yes, a lot.

My most recent was last year while fishing the Queets with Ashley (Nichole Lewis) and Richie (Underwood). I was in the middle of the river and hooked a chrome-bright summer-run. As I was backing up, a boulder let loose and I found myself sputtering and spitting water as I continued to hold my rod up. My immediate thought was, “Is this it? Should I let my rod go because I’m going to die?” Just then, as I was tumbling down the river, I felt something grab my neck. Luckily, Richie is a strong dude. He plucked me out. And, yes, I landed the fish.

I did an incredible Wile E. Coyote imitation once while fishing with Nick Amato. We were hiking through some thick brush up above the river. Then it happened – I took a step and there was nothing there. I plummeted about 20 feet straight down, Wile E. Coyote style, right into the roaring rapids. The only thing that saved me was a single rock that was above the water line that I was able to grab hold of. If not for the exact position of the rock, I don’t think I’d be here any more.

I will offer this advice: Always wear a wading belt and use a staff. Always!

TW How many 20-pound steelhead have you caught? What’s your largest ever?

BH Two hundred and thirty-one, including many over 30 pounds. I was very lucky and used to fish the Babine and the Kispiox before they were discovered. I’d stay for a week and it was nothing to catch 20 over 20 pounds in a week. In 1986 I caught 27 steelhead over 23 pounds in my weeklong stay.

Now if you want to go and stay a week it will cost you $10,000. Ridiculous, and not in my budget.

My largest ever was 44×24 inches, which computes to 35 pounds. It was a monstrous buck on the Babine River. Funny thing is, it took all of five minutes to land. One screaming run and that was it.

TW Favorite place to fish?

BH The rivers! That’s it. I love them all.

TW Now, I have some inside scoop. I met your ex. She said I could always believe how many you said you caught and what you caught them on, but never believe where you said you fished. Is that true?

BH OMG, yes, back then that was true. I’d fish the Dosewallips, Duckabush and the Skokomish – yes, the Skok. We’d absolutely annihilate the fish. It was so good and we’d never see another soul on the river. People would see photos and I’d say, “Oh yeah, the ’Nooch was good to us.” They’d study the picture, trying to figure out exactly where on the Wynoochee it was. LOL, they never could figure it out.

Now, heck, who cares. There’s no reason to try and keep secrets. No one is going to steal my fish. If they use my techniques, well, good for them.

Herzog at home with wife Brenda. These days the couple lives in the Wenatchee area. (BILL HERZOG)

TW Now, we’ve all been skunked; I’m assuming that’s true with you?

BH Umm, a lot. Hell, even Buzz Ramsey gets skunked – ask him. Especially these days, if anyone tells you they don’t get skunked, they’re full of chocolate hotdogs.

TW Funny, I already knew that because I’ve asked you before how you did and you’ve told me when you’ve gotten the goose egg. Admirable.

BH Yep, I’ve already been skunked twice this season. Not proud of it, but it is what it is.

TW We all know you love to chuck metal. Other than that, what’s your favorite technique.

BH Plugs! There’s nothing like a plug strike. They are so dang effective too. If you know how to pull plugs correctly, it’s what you need to do.

Bobber and jigs are also a favorite – even if I have to use a spinning reel, LOL. In fact, I think more people should use bobber and jigs. Not only are they incredibly effective, but they are also the most delicate on the fish. When was the last time you saw a fish bleed out after being hooked by a jig? Never.

TW Besides steelhead, what’s your favorite species to fish for?

BH Wild, nasty, midteener, ballistic coho. I love them and they love spoons and spinners. Man, when they hit, they’ll practically rip the rod from your hands. Whew, what a rush.

I also love fishing for cutthroat – any kind of cutthroat. One of the most gorgeous fish, and just a blast to catch.

TW Most of us have heard you on the radio and you seem a natural in front on the mic. I’ve been on air with you and you’re a machine, even while cracking everyone up. Were you the class clown?

BH Absolutely, you know it! I was a little dude in high school. I didn’t grow until a few years later. So here I am, this little dude with a mullet, you know, looking like Bud Bundy. I was either going to be the funniest kid in school or get my ass kicked. It was an easy choice.

TW I hear you do a pretty mean standup. Where can we catch you, if not on the river?

BH Oh, sh*t yeah. I’ve done several open mic nights in Seattle. I love being in the spotlight and making people laugh. It’s how I approach my seminars. Even while providing good information I get a high from hearing people laugh at what I’m saying.

I’ve worked hard to come up with a great routine. It’s funnier than hell.

If I could do it all again, I would have gotten more into comedy in the 1970s and ’80s and concentrated on a career other than fishing. I could see myself doing a show like Seinfeld; we have similar styles of humor. I would have been killer. But it didn’t happen.

TW You’ve caught a few fish so far in life. What’s the single most important thing you would tell someone just getting into fishing?

BH Don’t get caught up in all this social media crap. OMG, it’s rampant and it doesn’t accomplish getting you on more fish. Ha-ha, this is from a guy who’s on the radio, TV and in magazines.

You know, if you’re good, help others. Teach others how to fish; that’s what it’s all about. Have a great time, have fun, laugh. To me it’s more important to watch others fish and get them fish. Yes, I’ve caught a few. When I go out I know I’m going to catch fish; it’s getting others fish that satisfies me.

Fishing is very therapeutic. I spend a lot of time fishing by myself. It’s helped me out in life. It keeps me sane. It keeps me from shooting more people. Joke – that was a joke there, kiddies. NS

Editor’s note: In part two of this series, Bill Herzog gets more serious, talking about the state of steelhead in Washington, the stock’s future and projects he’s working on to help out the resource.

Bob Heirman Hikes On

It was with a heavy heart that I took my boys to a local wetland last Saturday to release coho fingerlings they’d been raising at school.

The weekend before, Robert “Bob” Heirman, a sportsman in the truest sense of the word, one who’d stocked untold numbers of fish into the rivers, lakes and ponds of the county just to our north (and in which I did a lot of growing up and where I’ve done plenty of fishing), had passed away. He was 84.

HEIRMAN WAS SOMEBODY I looked up to, a lifelong angler who took to the cutthroat-bearing “jump over” creeks around his hometown as a young boy in the 1930s and never looked back.

A train engineer by trade, he was the longtime secretary-treasurer of the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club, and in 1993 published Snohomish: My Beloved County.

The late Bob Heirman’s book cover shows the author leaning on a giant cedar near the South Fork of Canyon Creek, outside Granite Falls, during a 1981 steelheading trip.

As much a paean to the wonderful fishing he enjoyed from tidewater to foothills canyons to lofty tarns way back in the Cascades, it’s also a eulogy for the demise of the habitat needed to support salmon, steelhead and trout.

Gleaning his short stories for ideas on where to fish, you can’t help but get angry about how growth has destroyed so much as the county has rapidly urbanized, and how the runs have fallen, though there are remnants to hold on to tightly.

I remember a call in 2010 from Heirman. He was reacting to a rule change closing streams and beaver ponds – “a horrible loss of angling opportunity,” he’d called it.

He had tough words about the folks at Fish and Wildlife’s regional office, who were zealously trying to protect listed salmonids – and who also eventually backtracked to reopen some of his waters above waterfalls and other barriers where it made sense to.

OUR FISH, WATERS and fisheries need more people like Bob Heirman. The evidence is all around us.

One day last winter, Amy threw the boys and I out for a walk in the rain, and as is my custom, I led us over to a nearby stream to see how it was flowing. Except this time, it stank – a “run away from” creek, a travesty to the small waters so “vital to our salmon and trout production and … so valuable to fish enhancement as to be priceless,” in Heirman’s words.

Bob’s legacy will live on with his club, the ethic that comes through in his book and the county park where he spent a lot of time plunking for steelhead back in the day (and later this summer will provide anglers with access to returning pink salmon) and that bears his name, Heirman Wildlife Preserve at Thomas’ Eddy, land at one time threatened with a subdivision.

It’s funny, but when River and Kiran were letting those little coho go, a bunch of their fish somehow ended up named Bob, Bob Jr. and Bob Jr. Jr. It now seems a fitting tribute. –Andy Walgamott

River and Kiran release coho into a wetland at Grace Cole Natural Area. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

My Steelhead Smolt Did Not ‘Survive The Sound’

Blitz just got nixed.

Not the Seahawks mascot — the Seahawks mascot-themed wild Nisqually steelhead.

A day after my green-blue-and-silver-colored smolt set off down the river on its grand journey out through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, I got the bad news that Blitz had made it just 6.83 miles before going belly up.

AN UNFORTUNATELY FAMILIAR POSITION, AS IT TURNED OUT, DURING THE SHORT LIFE OF BLITZ THE WILD STEELHEAD SMOLT, MAY THE FISH GODS HAVE MERCY ON HIS (OR HER) SOUL. HERE HE (OR SHE) WAS BEING IMPLANTED WITH AN ACOUSTIC DEVICE TO TRACK ITS PROGRESS THROUGH PUGET SOUND, BUT NOT 6.83 MILES INTO ITS JOURNEY, A DIGITAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ACTUAL STEELHEAD MET ITS DEMISE IN THE NISQUALLY RIVER. (LONG LIVE THE KINGS)

Let us pause now for a moment of silence.

They can’t tell me why my little Blitzy died, but the river sometimes known as the Nasty has high enough levels of PDBEs — the stuff that makes products more flame resistant — to mess with the health of steelhead, increasing their risk from predators.

That’s according to the organizers of Survive The Sound, an interactive challenge that on Monday launched four dozen digital fish replicating the swims of actual radio-tagged steelhead as part of an effort to draw attention to the plight of the state’s fish in Puget Sound waters.

“Your fish didn’t survive the Sound,” commiserated Lucas Hall at Long Live The Kings, which put together the campaign with help from Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc.

BLITZ THE NISQUALLY STEELHEAD SMOLT. (LONG LIVE THE KINGS)

Yesterday morning Hall said his email was blowing up after some of the game’s 1,100 participants learned their fish had succumbed on the first day of their 12-day journey from the Nisqually or Skokomish Rivers to the open ocean.

Blitz lived through day one, as would 47 percent of the smolts in reality, but on day two that percentage dropped to 42, sacking Blitz, among others.

The road won’t get any easier for those survivors, which have many challenges ahead, including hungry harbor seals.

As the faux smolts make their trip, LLTK programmed text boxes to talk about the perils beyond pinnipeds and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and which have grown as Pugetropolis has developed.

Yesterday’s informed me that where in 1917 we would have likely seen at least 325,000 to possibly as many 800,000 adult steelhead returning annually, today only 13,000 do, and the stock is listed under the Endangered Species Act.

“The reality is, steelhead are dying, and that’s something to be mad about,” says Hall. “If people are mad, good.”

He said what happens to each fish is a computer-randomized outcome. A “ghost fish” will continue to make the journey, keeping me informed of other perils.

A MAP SHOWS THE PROGRESS MY SMOLT HAD MADE BEFORE MEETING ITS DOOM HALFWAY TO THE MOUTH OF THE NISQUALLY RIVER. (SURVIVE THE SOUND)

I got to wondering about just how many Puget Sound smolts might have made this annual spring journey 100 years ago, so I asked state fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull.

He gave me a range of possibilities, based on LLTK’s estimates and survival rates varying from a high of 20 percent down to today’s 2 percent. They suggest production of just 1.625 million smolts to produce 325,000 adults under the very best of conditions to 40,000,000 needed to yield 800,000 under the worst.

Barkdull says a 10 percent survival rate would “make sense” to him, so 3.25 million smolts producing 325,000 returners.

I’m cranky Blitzy got killed so early in his (or her) outmigration, but through Survive the Sound’s 48 smolts, I hope people outside of our fishing and hunting world also get pissed enough to learn more about how to get more young steelhead out and safely back as adults.

Kids Release Coho Into Lake Washington Trib

If it’s spring, it’s planting season.

Time to plant coho salmon, that is.

For the third May in a row, my sons and their friends from up the street turned out the fingerlings they’ve been raising at their elementary school from eggs donated by the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery.

Once again I was there to document the morning at Grace Cole Nature Park in Lake Forest Park, at the north end of Lake Washington, through pictures, but this time I had the late Bob Heirman on my mind. He passed away last weekend, after a long life full of fishing, conservation work and similar fish releases.

Around 30 volunteers, kids and their parents showed up to help release the fish at Grace Cole Park, a shady wooded alcove in Lake Forest Park on a tributary of McAleer Creek, at the north end of Lake Washington.

This year the kids at Ridgecrest Elementary were given 205 coho eggs to raise, down from last year’s 250. Some years they get as many as 300, according to organizers of the release.

Each kid ends up getting to release about a dozen coho each over several runs to the pond. They also get to name their fish, and this year Bob was popular. Here, Eliza releases Straw, Stick and Brick, although I’m not sure which one is the shy one not making an appearance.

My oldest, River, heads for the pond with a couple fish. It was a little bit tougher to get him to go to this year’s release but afterwards we had a good talk about the need for people to care about the fish as well.

Couldn’t help myself but to try and repeat a shot I took last year

This is the pond the coho are released into to rear. How many make it back as adults, probably very few if any. But it helps to connect the kids with the fish, and I think we can all appreciate that

The juniors release their silvers, although Kiran’s looks a little bit skeptical …

… but eventually decided to test the waters.

At a pond close by, mallards had a large brood, somewhere around eight ducklings. A lot of work has gone into making Grace Cole Park more natural, with large efforts to remove invasive ivy and other nonnative plants.

Salmon berries bloom and begin to ripen. Hopefully some of my sons’ coho similarly grow and ripen in return.

Job done till 2018. Thanks to the volunteers, the school district for their interest, and the state for providing the eggs.

Afterwards, Amy and I needed coffee, and while she ran into the Starbucks at Lake Forest Park Town Center, River, Kiran and I watched a stream roll past for awhile. It provided a moment of contemplation to talk to them about fish and what they need. A lot of work has gone into making this creek more natural, but so much more is needed around our region. I hope events like this and WDFW’s School Cooperative Program can continue to connect the kids with creeks and coho.

New Early Winter SW WA Steelhead Strains An Option As WDFW Outlines Coming Changes

A press release out from Southwest Washington steelhead managers bears bad news and good, and an intriguing possibility.

Due to the recently approved Mitchell Act biological opinion, the end of early-timed Chambers Creek steelhead releases is coming soon to three rivers.

But WDFW plans on upping releases of local late-timed hatchery stocks and releasing a bridge stock in some waters.

And what’s more, NMFS’s huge document carves out room to develop new runs that would return in November, December and January.

That said, the first of those new early steelhead might not show up for, at minimum, 10 Thanksgivings.

Still, reading between the lines, one wonders if there might be hope of restoring the Cowlitz’s famed early winter fishery that way as well …

THE WASHOUGAL RIVER’S CHAMBERS CREEK EARLY WINTER STEELHEAD PROGRAM WILL BE PHASED OUT IN FAVOR OF ONE BASED ON KALAMA WINTER-RUNS. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s WDFW’s press release in full:

Anglers who fish for steelhead in five tributaries of the lower Columbia River can expect to see some changes in those fisheries as a result of new federal requirements for state hatchery production recently issued by NOAA-Fisheries.

In accordance with the new requirements, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will no longer release Chambers Creek winter steelhead into the Kalama, Coweeman, or Washougal rivers after this year. The same is true for Rock and Salmon creeks.

Developed in Puget Sound and introduced to the Columbia Basin in the 1950s, the Chambers Creek stock will be prohibited from release into those tributaries after this year under a federal biological opinion (known as a “BiOp”) issued by NOAA-Fisheries in January.

Eric Kinne, WDFW hatchery division manager, said the department expects to release the last of about 200,000 Chambers Creek fish into those waters later this month. Starting next year, the department will replace those fish with steelhead from local stocks.

“The BiOp concluded that eliminating that stock would help protect the genetic integrity of wild steelhead populations,” Kinne said. “We are committed to recovering wild salmon and steelhead populations, while providing sustainable fishing opportunities for anglers in the Columbia River Basin and throughout the state.”

Kinne said Chambers Creek fish will return to rivers and streams for the next three years, after which area fisheries will depend on steelhead from local stocks. To support those fisheries, WDFW plans to:

· Release a total of 135,000 local Kalama late winter steelhead – an increase of 45,000 fish – into the Kalama River each year. In the long term, WDFW plans to develop an early-timed run, similar to that of the Chambers Creek stock, that will return from November through January.

· Release winter steelhead available from the Eagle Creek hatchery in Oregon as a near-term replacement for Chambers Creek stock in the Washougal and Coweeman rivers and in Rock Creek.

· Replace Chambers Creek fish with Kalama late winter stock in Salmon Creek.

On the Kalama River, WDFW also plans to substitute a local broodstock – Kalama summer steelhead – for Skamania-origin summer steelhead.

Kinne said WDFW’s plan for replacing the Chambers Creek fish will increase the annual number of smolt plants by 50 percent, although the department’s effort to develop an early-timed run that corresponds to the Chambers Creek return will likely take a decade or more.

“Anglers will definitely miss that early winter steelhead fishery until we can establish an early run using local stocks,” Kinne said.

Meanwhile, state fishery managers are preparing for future requirements of the federal BiOp, which will be phased in through 2022. The next phase focuses on salmon hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin, establishing new requirements on the type, number and location of salmon released by hatcheries in Washington, Oregon and Idaho that receive federal funding under the Mitchell Act.

Approved by Congress in 1938, the Mitchell Act was designed to compensate northwest states for impacts to salmon runs resulting from dams, water diversions, pollution and logging in the Columbia basin. Under the BiOp, state, federal and tribal hatchery operations that do not comply with the new regulations risk losing federal funding provided under that law.

Seven of those facilities operated by WDFW below Bonneville Dam receive approximately $5.5 million in Mitchell Act funding per year.

One provision of the BiOp calls for reducing annual releases of “tule” fall chinook salmon in Washington state by 5.4 million fish, partly offset by higher fish production in Oregon. Other requirements include the installation of six new weirs – at a cost of more than $1 million – along with increased monitoring and reporting responsibilities.

Kelly Cunningham, deputy assistant director of WDFW’s Fish Program, said the new requirements will put a strain on the department’s resources.

“For the past decade, WDFW has made substantial progress in restructuring our hatchery system to protect wild fish,” Cunningham said. “But the kind of changes envisioned under the BiOp will require new funding. Without additional support, we will not be able to achieve the goals set by NOAA-Fisheries, and will be forced to reduce hatchery releases or halt production at some hatcheries altogether.”

Cunningham said he and other fishery managers will be conferring with NOAA-Fisheries on implementation of the BiOp during each phase of the process.

The federal BiOp on Mitchell Act hatcheries is posted at: http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/publications/hatchery/mitchell-act/mitchell-act_opinion_011517.pdf

ODFW Deploys Drones To Survey North Coast Elk

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

From their vantage point high atop the Oregon Coast Range, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Herman Biederbeck and two researchers from Oregon State University can see almost forever as the first rays of sunlight peek over the top of Saddle Mountain in the distance to the east.

Below is the Young’s River basin and a patchwork of thousands of acres forest land interspersed with clear-cuts – ideal elk habitat.

A DRONE FLIES NEAR SADDLE MOUNTAIN, IN THE FOOTHILLS OF OREGON’S NORTH COAST, DURING INITIAL TESTING FOR USE DURING ELK SURVEYS. (RICK SWART, ODFW)

The researchers, Jonathan Burnett and Cory Garms, both Ph.D. students in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management at OSU, want to find out whether unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or “drones” can be used effectively to count elk in this kind of terrain.

Preliminary results of field trials conducted on the North Coast near Astoria suggests that they can.

ODFW HERMAN BIEDERBECK AND OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY RESEARCHERS JON BURNETT AND CORY GARMS MONITOR THE FLIGHT OF A DRONE. (RICK SWART, ODFW)

“UAS technology has promise to be relatively inexpensive and safe – much safer – than the way we survey elk now, which is generally from a helicopter,” said Biederbeck, a wildlife biologist with ODFW for 38 years.

This year’s field trial in Clatsop County is the first time that UAS technology has been used to count elk in Oregon, although ODFW has used drones to survey salmon spawning in rivers and as well as cormorant abundance along the Oregon coast.

(RICK SWART, ODFW)

ODFW conducts yearly elk population/composition surveys to make sure that age and sex ratios stay healthy.

“It’s part of our mission to monitor these populations to ensure they are being well managed for the public,” said Biederbeck.

This year drones were used in two field trials, one in January and another in March. The first tested the drone camera’s ability to capture imagery that allows biologists to classify elk by age and sex. A later field trial tested the aircraft’s ability to measure elk densities in forest stand types, another useful metric for managing elk.

ODFW currently contracts helicopters at a cost of $1,000 to $1,100 an hour to do this job. The agency staffs them with ODFW employees who look for and document elk in flights conducted year after year over the same survey units for statistical accuracy.

MANNED VS. UNMANNED AIRCRAFT

Each aerial system has its advantages and disadvantages, according to Biederbeck, who notes that with a helicopter, observers can view great expanses of landscape in real time by scanning their eyes in front and to the sides of the airship. Crew members can also ask the pilot to reposition the machine for a better look at animals, which can be especially helpful when it comes to distinguishing elk calves from adults. In addition, helicopters are much heavier and more powerful than drones and can fly in a wider range of weather conditions. The down side is unless they have a hand-held camera on board, observers only get one chance to classify elk – right then and there.

In addition to their relatively low cost, drones have the advantage of recording images that can be reviewed on a computer back at the office. Human safety is one major benefit of the UAS. People can get hurt or even killed in a helicopter. For example, two ODFW biologists, Holly Huchko and Eric Himmelreich, suffered broken bones but fortunately survived a helicopter crash a few years ago while conducting fish surveys on the Umpqua River in southern Oregon.

The drones used in this year’s experiment on the North Coast cost about $1,700 apiece, according to Burnett, although the thermal sensor adds another $3,500 to the cost of the system.

A DRONE SITS ON A LOGGING DECK PRIOR TO TAKEOFF. (RICK SWART, ODFW)

As darkness gives way to dawn, the first of two drones is prepared for flight. It is jet black in color, with flashing red night lights on the sides, and thermal imaging equipment on board. Its job is to detect elk hidden in the trees by keying in on their heat signatures with a heat-sensitive infrared camera.

A second drone – white, and equipped with a high definition video camera – will fly as soon as the black one gets back from its mission. The video camera is mounted on a gimbal that lets the drone operator tilt, turn, and pan the camera with a joystick that can also steer the aircraft.

After a turn at the end of one run along the serpentine-shaped run, the camera swivels from pointed directly at the ground to straight ahead toward the next GPS waypoint. The recording is set to overlap video from each pass so the video from each stretch can be “stitched together” with imaging software to so that every inch of the survey area is pictured.

The drones can fly essentially the same survey areas as helicopter in a single flight, according to Biederbeck, but likely take more passes because cameras do not have the same field of view as humans, who are able to scan the whole horizon and turn quickly from side to side with a simple twist or turn of the head.

With takeoff just minutes away, Burnett double-checks the flight path glowing from a laptop in the back of his SUV. A yellow line on the computer screen shows the exact course the aircraft will follow, a series of switchbacks. The route is made by programming GPS coordinates into the drone’s navigation system ahead of time.

A MAP TRACES THE PATH OF THE DRONE OVER ELK HABITAT. (ODFW)

REGULATORY BARRIERS REMAIN

Each flight lasts about 30 minutes, and the drone follows GPS coordinates automatically, although the pilot can override the navigation software to assume control the vehicle manually. FAA rules require a designated spotter be present and maintain visual contact with the aircraft throughout the flight. The aircraft are battery-powered and are programmed to return to base automatically whenever they detect their batteries are getting low.

This technology is a potentially powerful tool for conducting scientific inquiry, according to Burnett, although many regulatory barriers to effective implementation remain, notably Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules.

“Throughout this study there have been two major regulatory limitations to assessing the true cost-benefit of using UAS for elk survey,” said Burnett. One limitation is the current 400-foot altitude ceiling. The other is the requirement to maintain line of sight on the aircraft during its flight.

Higher altitudes and greater coverage area on each flight would translate to fewer flights and lower odds of counting the same animals more than once, according to Burnett.

“This technology demonstration is one small step in bridging the gap between what we currently can do and what we ultimately want to do,” he said.

Biederbeck and Burnett expect to extend this research by seeking FAA waivers and perhaps acquiring a fixed-wing UAS with up to three-hour flight endurance that may be equipped with both thermal and color cameras.

“There is more operational technology out there. We’ll have to see how costs and FAA regulations affect our ability to use them,” said Biederbeck.

‘They Just Want To See Stuff Die’: 10 In SW WA Under Suspicion Of Widespread Poaching

Fury.

That’s all I’m feeling now.

Overnight, news broke that 10 Southwest Washington residents are being investigated for illegally killing a repulsive number of deer, elk, bears and other wildlife over the last 20 months.

“The death toll continues to increase,” says WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci this morning. “We figure around 100 animals taken during closed season, in excess of limits or without proper tags, but the vast majority are closed season.”

TV news coverage shows head upon head upon head of bucks — 26 found during search warrants served by one-third of Washington’s fish and wildlife officers in March, according to Portland station KPTV.

BUCK HEADS AND A RIFLE SEIZED DURING SEARCH WARRANTS SERVED IN COWLITZ COUNTY IN MARCH. (WDFW VIA KPTV)

Also unearthed, multiple videos of hounds baying bears, a style of hunting that was outlawed 20 years ago. The individuals are believed to have killed close to 50 bruins; in one video, a man can be heard to say that a particular flat had yielded four.

 

(WDFW)

(WDFW)

(WDFW)

Another image shows a bobcat that appears to have been chewed up by dogs.

(WDFW)

The animals are believed to have been killed in both Washington and Oregon going back to at least August 2015.

“If not for the efforts of Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division troopers, who knows how long they’d have continued taking deer,” credits Cenci.

During this past winter’s harsh conditions, OSP wildlife officers set up trail cams to catch those responsible for leaving a trail of headless deer in a prime mule deer controlled tag unit, stealing bucks from legitimate hunters.

(WDFW)

It is unclear if the two men OSP asked for help identifying in mid-April about White River Wildlife Area wildlife violations in early February were tied to the case or not.

“It just kept growing,” OSP Lieutenant Ryan Howell told KPTV about the case. “The offenses, not only did they occur in The Dalles, they were all over the state of Oregon and Washington. This was something that was going on a long time, and something that would continue if we didn’t loop in Washington.”

(WDFW)

It left game wardens seething.

“These individuals involved with this case are what I would term the worst of the worst,” WDFW Region 5 Capt. Jeff Wickersham told KPTV. He said they suspects were “going out there and killing to kill.”

Similarly Cenci, who called the suspects “wholesale natural resource murderers” on camera, can’t answer the question why someone would do this.

“Because they’re just killers. They just want to see stuff die. It’s a sick and twisted mentality; you and I will not get it,” he told Northwest Sportsman. “It’s so shocking. Most human beings wouldn’t do this.”

At first glance, the alleged crimes would appear to qualify as spree killing of wildlife, which allows for straight-away first-degree poaching charges to be filed, although some of the suspects may also be repeat offenders and be subject to that anyway.

The case comes as Washington lawmakers considers WDFW’s budget for the next two years.

“We’re really short on staff,” Cenci says. “Our officers are completely frustrated — they were patrolling areas these guys were wholesale poaching. We need to do more to put more officers in the field.”

While the Eyes in the Woods program is successful and hunters and citizens can be rewarded for turning in poaching tips, more needs to be done to combat despicable acts like this.

“As the Legislature considers our budget, I have to hope they’re aware of our relevance to the quality of life in Washington state,” says Cenci.

Upon learning of the case this morning, a friend of mine was mulling an aspect of sharia law, cutting off the hands of the offenders.

We don’t do that in the United States, but so help me, this is so egregious that I hope when county prosecutors on both sides of the Columbia get these charges, they act on them, cut no deals — zero, none, prosecution to the fullest extent of the law — and absolutely nail the perpetrators for these heinous actions.

Killing for the sake of killing cannot be tolerated.

There She Is: Vancouver Hunter Aims To Make Mrs. America Pageant

First stop, Mrs. Washington Crown This Monty In Olympia For Jena Cook , Who’s Taking Hunting’s Message To Beauty Contests

By Chris Cocoloes

As the contestants for the Mrs. Washington America Pageant gather in Olympia for the May 20 event, every woman qualified for a chance to reach national stage will have her own backstory. Here’s a guess: Mrs. Vancouver, Jena Cook, has one of the most compelling.

Cook’s submitted platform – the pageant encourages participants to document what they’re passionate about – doesn’t mention desiring world peace but instead “focuses on the importance of ethical hunting conservation through wildlife and habitat management and restoration.”

HUNTER BY DAY, BEAUTY QUEEN BY NIGHT. JENA COOK WAS NAMED MRS. VANCOUVER AND WILL BE VYING FOR THE TITLE OF MRS. WASHINGTON AMERICA ON MAY 20 IN OLYMPIA. HER PLATFORM INCLUDES PROMOTING HUNTING AS A WAY TO “TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHERE MY PROTEIN COMES FROM,” AS WELL FOR ITS WIDE-RANGING CONSERVATION BENEFITS. (SHAUN COOK/STCIMAGERY.COM; JENA COOK)

“It’s definitely been a topic of conversation,” Cook says with a laugh about the potential shock value of sharing her views on hunting with the beauty pageant community.

But this is who Cook is and she won’t apologize for it to the politically correct/anti-hunting establishment. And this will also provide her – and by extension, Northwest sportsmen – an opportunity to explain what she does and why she does it to an audience that probably doesn’t have much background in this arena.

“There have been a couple of people who have been a little sour on the subject, because all they can think of is animal cruelty,” Cook, 27, says on how she’s been received among the pageant community. “The way I try to approach it is, I always say I’m a hunter who hunts for meat, and sport comes with that. It’s not about putting a rack on the wall.”

MAKE NO MISTAKE, Cook grew up embracing the outdoors, even if she wasn’t yet “in love” with hunting. The Vancouver native was introduced to fishing by her dad, Craig Meriwether, who hunted with her older brother. More comfortable with a rod and reel than a shotgun, Cook stuck to fishing, but as she got older, she began to embrace the idea of knowing where the protein she’d eat came from. Already having learned to shoot at a younger age, the reality that she was dating a hunter made it a no-brainer to give it a try someday. Finally, she and her boyfriend at the time went waterfowl hunting along the Columbia River Gorge. It didn’t go very well.

How bad?

“It was, and pardon my language, a sh*t show,” says Cook. “Of course, since it was duck hunting, the weather was sooo beautiful. I didn’t have the right gear and I was freezing. I was doing everything in my power not to complain so I wasn’t that girl that was dragged along.”

“I remember the dogs bringing back the ducks and I was fine watching the ducks get hit, come down and the dogs bringing them up and setting them down at my feet. And I thought, ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do right now. Is it like fishing? Do I bonk their heads?’ So my ex came up and said, ‘You’ve got to put them out of their misery,’ and grabs it and whacks it on a rock right in front of me. And it just sprays blood right at me and across my face. I happened to be standing in the right spot, so it went from my knees, up my torso and across my face – a perfect stream of blood. So that was my initiation into duck hunting.”

Cook ultimately kept dating hunting but not her boyfriend at the time. (“He’s an ex for a reason,” she quips.) And that she eventually fell in love with a longtime friend, Shaun Cook, who is also a passionate sportsman, only ensured that she would become just as obsessed with the sport.

They married in June 2015 and have shared, besides wedded bliss, numerous hunting adventures close to their Southwest Washington home and beyond, including memorable deer and elk trips to Wyoming, where Cook really fell head over heels for hunting, with a big assist from her husband.

“It was something he was really investing me – being his hunting partner, not so much that I was just along for the ride,” she says. “He expected me to pull my weight but I was there as an equal partner. Investing all that time together and bonding as a married couple, it was something that was so different. I feel bad for people who won’t get to experience that.”

Of course, they are husband and wife, so they’ll chirp at each other when they think one is making too much noise while searching out big game.

“He’ll tell me I’m the loud one,” Cook says, “and I’m like, ‘You’re delusional; you’re not the gazelle that you think you are.’”

JENA GREW UP FISHING WITH HER DAD, CRAIG, AND DID SOME HUNTING BEFORE MEETING SHAUN COOK, WHOM SHE MARRIED TWO YEARS AGO AND HAS GONE ON NUMEROUS TRIPS AROUND THEIR SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON HOME AND AS FAR AFIELD AS WYOMING. (JENA COOK)

ULTIMATELY, WHILE SHE enjoys the quality time with Shaun and the sport of the chase and the shot, Cook savors the idea of knowing exactly the source of what she and Shaun put on their table.

She’s also pregnant, and when she takes the stage at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts in Olympia, she’s going to be eight months into her term. Not only is there a good chance that she’ll be the only woman vying for Mrs. Washington who hunts, she says she’ll be the first in the pageant’s history to be visibly showing while she competes.

“That’s already an added kind of intrigue for me,” she says of her chances.

The Cooks even went out hunting last fall when Jena was in her first trimester, though the mom-to-be-admitted, “I could really feel the difference, fatigue wise; I felt bad (for Shaun) because I wasn’t the best hunting partner. I just got burned out.”

The endgame, though, is harvesting meat without fearing what chemicals or byproducts store-bought meat can contain. So now that she’ll be soon feeding the family’s new addition, the idea of hunting to fill the freezer is going to be even more invaluable to their cause. She found it fascinating that Gerber, the venerable baby food company, initially bottled leftover organ meat (such as liver and beef heart), which was considered to be heavy in nutrients and promote growth in infants.

“I was looking at in Native (American) cultures; when a couple was expecting or starting to try to conceive, they always would give that couple organ meat from animals to make sure they were getting all the nutrients,” Cook says. “And I took that really seriously because going into this pregnancy I’ve been trying really hard to get enough of these iron-rich and all-natural meats. And I want to make sure that’s what’s going into my baby.”

So the next edition to the Cook family – the couple is going to be surprised whether it’s a boy or girl – probably shouldn’t expect all Cheerios or a couple French fries as a snack when hungry. Meat pâté or some other semblance of protein is more likely.

“I want to know that, ‘Hey, that came from our elk from last season, and I know for a fact that it hasn’t been processed or filled with any hormones.’ It’s really satisfying, and you can take pride in that as a parent and provider. It’s a unique experience that we are kind of losing, culturally.”

SO HOW DOES a woman who clearly likes to get her hands dirty – not only does she fish and hunt but Cook was also a former high school wrestler on the boys’ team – also masquerade as pageant participant just a step away from competing for a Mrs. America crown?

First and foremost, when asked if she was OK with carrying around a tomboy moniker, Cook skewed more towards “offbeat” than simply just one of the guys.

“Awkward and gangly – yes, but I did love messing with my hair and dying it every color under the sun. I wore everything from 1950s sock-hop attire to punk rock to country girl stuff,” she says. 

And sure enough, when she was young – fifth and sixth grade – Cook entered a couple smaller pageants around the Vancouver area. (“What little girl didn’t want to be a part of that?” she muses.) Her parents offered this stipulation: If you want to do it, you have to fundraise yourself to help pay the fees. So Jena went door to door around local businesses to secure sponsor dollars so she could enter.

“I did my last pageant when I was 16 in a local event. But it wasn’t about the fun of it or the sisterhood of the community,” Cook says. “These girls had an eye on the prize and saw themselves as the future Miss America. It was a totally different ballgame. But even though I was competitive this was just supposed to be a super-fun experience.”

When she realized that fellow competitors were channeling their inner Mean Girls by attempting to sabotage each other in various ways, Cook seemed done for good. But now that she’s a married adult, the Mrs. pageants that are held around the state and the country don’t seem to breed such cutthroat competition. They’re more about showcasing what young women have accomplished in their lives already.

“I WANT TO SHOW THAT EVERYDAY NORMAL PEOPLE CAN TAKE PRIDE IN HARVESTING THEIR OWN MEAT AND EXPERIENCING NATURE,” JENA SAYS. “CONSERVATION IS A LEGACY AND SOMETHING I TAKE SERIOUSLY BECAUSE I WANT TO PASS THIS ONTO FUTURE GENERATIONS.” (JENA COOK)

And if you can assume she may have the most unlikely of passions among her peers vying for the crown of Mrs. Washington, this is a golden opportunity to put hunting in a positive light. When she interacts with other pageant entrants, Cook will ask if they eat meat, then query them on what they know about where that piece of beef or pork came from. It seems like a fair and viable request, doesn’t it? Cook understands that such a potentially volatile and controversial passion will “either help me or hinder me.”

“I tell them, ‘I simply decided to take it upon myself to take responsibility for where my protein comes from. And then I give back with my conservation efforts to make sure that the resource remains available,’” she says. “When they say, ‘I couldn’t go out and kill something,’ nobody is asking them to. So why is it a bad thing that somebody is OK with accepting that responsibility to take it upon themselves with what they are eating?” NS

Editor’s note: To request appearances or if interested in sponsorship opportunities for Mrs. Vancouver Jena Cook, email Mrslisajacobsvancouver@gmail.com. For more on the Mrs. Washington America Pageant, go to mrswashingtonpageant.org.

Western Columbia Gorge Provides A Few Springers

Man, these flame runs down from Seattle for Columbia River springers are not as easy to make as they once were, but when a Sunday boat ride invite aligned with a planned early afternoon rendezvous near Vancouver to pick up my oldest son after a week with his Oregon grandparents, it was on!

My writer Andy Schneider had done pretty good on the first two days of last weekend’s four-day opener, and while Saturday was a bit tougher, we still had high hopes for yesterday’s fishing.

Despite a slow start to season, anglers have begun to figure out the secret formulas for this year’s run, the Bonneville count is finally getting going and to be fishing so late in April usually means good action as the run hits in bulk.

We’ll see if there are enough upriver-bound springers left in the quota for another day, but this is how we waylaid a couple yesterday, in pictures run through the photo-editing app Prisma’s various filters, just because:

Dunno why I do this to myself instead of getting a hotel room near the fishery the night before, but after getting out of bed around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning (and having not really gotten more than three hours of sleep), blast-off time came early at my house in Shoreline.

After a couple pit stops, including one unplanned swerve off the interstate to puke because I was overly excited to fish, I made it into Oregon well ahead of schedule.

We would be fishing the western Columbia Gorge, which at 5:45 a.m. this time of year is still on the dark side. Out in the predawn gloom, a few boats idled, waiting for clients and fellow anglers to arrive.

Andy was serving up the springers a real breakfast buffet of prawn spinners, green- and blue-dyed cutplugs and one without special sauce, hoping one would show what the bite of the day would be.

At first, Andy had three of our five rods rigged up with Fish Flashes behind 4- to 6-ounce weights off 14-inch droppers. But despite the Columbia’s big volume and murky waters, fellow anglers’ catches nearby soon showed us that naked brined herring is what the fish seemed to want this day, and so off went all the flashers.

After a 10- to 15-minute run upriver from the ramp, we arrived in the fishing grounds with the rest of the fleet.

The weather was nice for most of the morning, with light winds and only passing sprinkles. Beacon Rock rises in the background.

As ever, Ollie, Andy’s faithful fish hound and duck hunting companion, kept a sharp eye out for the bite, as well as passing pinnipeds. We saw several cruising through, two of which caught salmon.

Springer success! The rod right behind me went off and Steve S stood and quickly fought his fish into the net, getting us on the board fairly early on.

Andy smiles while taking a picture of his coworker and his salmon.

Steve admires his Chinook, roughly 8 to 10 pounds worth of scrumptious deliciousness. This year’s fish are coming in in interesting sizes, with some PIT-tagged 4- and even 5-year-olds barely over the 24-inch mark, which otherwise would designate them as 3-year-old jacks, according to a Bill Monroe story.

A boat makes a run upriver as the sun tries to poke through the clouds. Boaters were mostly trolling uphill while zigzagging against the current and being pushed downstream, though a few were fishing downhill.

Multnomah Falls spills out of a side canyon. The gorge here was shaped by the same Missoula Floods that dug out Eastern Washington’s Channeled Scablands and Grand and Moses Coulees. Today, trains, semitrucks and passenger vehicles race up and down the path to the Pacific.

We do crazy things for fish – this boat seemed on the small side for such big water. It was near here the CRITFC boat went down earlier this month, leading to the loss of one crewmember after a wave went over the bow of their 26-footer, capsizing the boat, which then sank.

After a couple hours with little action, Brenda Skinner’s rod went off. As the crew cleared rods, I got this snap, then realized I needed to grab the back line. As I did so, her fish came to the surface right behind the boat and I could see that it was a very, very nice Chinook, but in its thrashing, it threw the hooks, leading to disappointment.

It was in 2000, I believe, that I first fished for springers in the Columbia Gorge, and in doing so came to realize that spring has its own subtly beautiful colors as the trees take leaf again. This year, spring is behind schedule, but wondrous nonetheless.

Unfortunately for me, I had to be back to the ramp by 11:30 or so to go meet my inlaws and grab my son, River, who’d spent his spring break at their house on the Oregon Coast. In the end we could have fished for nine more minutes, as I beat them to the rendezvous point, and who knows what would have happened. Not long after I hit the road, Andy sent me an update, his pic of coworker Tony with a nice king.

It can be a long haul between points north and the springer-bearing streams of Southwest Washington, but for many anglers it is worth it to get after the year’s first salmon. Even though my drive with River back to Shoreline was a slog — when is this rain ever going to just give up?!?! — I was glad I’d gone and I look forward to many more trips, hopefully one day with both my sons.

About a block from home, I remembered to take a pic of a clock to show when my flame run wrapped up, this trip at 4:10 p.m., roughly 14 hours 20 minutes and 440 miles after my flight like a bat out of hell began.