Category Archives: Headlines

Chrome Coho For NWS Pen

Jason Brooks, one of my Western Washington writers, floated the Humptulips River on the southwest side of the Olympic Peninsula for coho earlier this week with guide Mark Coleman (425-736-8920). Here’s his report:


So, my buddy Grant calls me on Sunday to let me know that the trip is “on” for Monday and that we need to meet Mark Coleman (All Rivers Guide Service) at 5:30 near the Humptulips, which means I had to pick up Grant at 3:30!

All goes well, and we spend some coin at the local 7-11 in Aberdeen, fill that gas tank as well, and head to the river with a balmy 21 degrees — not including wind chill.

As we stand on the gravel bar launch at 6:00, I start to tell Grant that it won’t be daylight for another hour or more when Mark walks up after parking his rig and says, “Let’s go!”


Now my idea of fun isn’t exactly floating down a river in the dark in sub-freezing temperatures, more like a margarita on a sunny beach in Mexico, which is what I kept telling myself as I began to lose the feelings of all my extremities!


Let me say, that “Boat Chute” just above the hatchery on the Hump is a bit like “Splash Mountain” at Disneyland, minus the warm sun, Briar Rabbit theme or the popcorn and cotton candy at the end.

OK, looking back on it, it is nothing like Splash Mountain, but again I kept telling myself, “This will be fun…”

At the moment of commitment, passing the point of no return, Grant and I get into a discussion of our PFDs. Mine is the auto inflatable one and his is the neoprene vest type. Mark isn’t wearing any and we both conclude that if the boat does flip, he is the smartest guy on the trip. After all, he will succumb quickly, while Grant and I will become bobbers and die slowly.

Just then the boat gets sucked down the chute … and we came out floating down the other side.

Finally the sun comes up and we begin to fish, and by 10:15 we had landed 10 coho and had our limit of chrome!




We tossed spinners and other lures, and fished your basic coho holding water — back eddies, frog water areas and the inside of the river bends (again, back eddies).

It was fast and furious — Grant caught three fish in four casts — but we did learn after pulling a few fish out of a hole the hole would go “dead” and we would move on. Mark said that the fish are stacked up tight in the holes and that once they get “stirred up,” it took a while for the fish to calm down and this was the reason we launched in the dark, as he wanted to be first at a certain hole he likes to fish. It turns out there was only one other boat on the river the entire day, so we pretty much had the entire river to ourselves.

We decide to spend the rest of the day float fishing jigs for steelhead, attempting to break my reputation. It was a close one: Grant had two take-downs but my reputation is well intact — no steelhead!

Hope all is well and sleep comes soon,


How Gregoire’s Budget Would Affect WDFW

Skip the county fair, lay off some high honcho in Olympia, buy 11 percent less hay for hungry deer and elk next winter.

Just a few of the lowlights for the Department of Fish & Wildlife from Gov. Christine Gregoire’s proposed 2010-11 supplemental budget, revealed Dec. 9. She’s attempting to deal with a $2.6 billion shortfall.

While her budget is balanced as mandated by law, Gregoire is also discussing raising taxes to “buy back” some social programs that would otherwise be cut.

As for positives, the agency is tasked with opening 200,000 more acres of private land for hunting, but the Department of Natural Resources is also being asked to close 22 primitive recreational facilities around the state.

Here’s a rundown of what would be affected for WDFW:

Reduce Outreach and Education
Funding for outreach and education programs is reduced by six percent. This reduction decreases funding for partnerships offering youth fishing opportunities, and eliminates funding for natural resource law enforcement education and outreach at fairs and outdoor shows.

Reduce Executive Management
The Department will reduce one executive management position and consolidate administrative and policy functions.

Reduce Wildlife Disease Monitoring

Funding for the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Laboratory and testing for contaminants in salmon and other species is reduced by 18 percent in Fiscal Year 2011.

Reduce Winter Feeding of Wildlife

Funding for the winter feeding of wildlife is reduced by 11 percent on a one-time basis.

Reduce Wildlife Area Management Planning
The Department manages over nine million acres of wildlife habitat. Funding for wildlife area management planning is reduced three percent, delaying approximately 20 plans and updates and the input from citizen advisory groups needed for those plans.

Fund Hatcheries Using Partnerships
The Department will identify hatcheries that primarily benefit a specific region, with little commercial production, that are suitable for partnerships with local groups. It is assumed that two hatchery facilities will operate without General Fund-State support by July 2010.

Reduce Fisheries Management Authority
Reductions are made to the expenditure authority for five accounts. No planned work will be reduced. (Special Wildlife Account-Federal, Sea Cucumber Dive Fishery Account Nonappropriated, Puget Sound Crab Pot Buoy Tag Account-Nonappropriated, Washington Coastal Crab Pot Buoy Tag Account-Nonappropriated, Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Account-State)

Less Scientific Assistance for Salmon Recovery

On a one-time basis, technical assistance to local salmon recovery efforts is reduced by 2.5 percent. This reduction means lead entities will have less access to engineering and biology technical support from the Department.

Eliminate Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group Advisory Board #

Funding is eliminated for the Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group Advisory Board. (Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group Account-Nonappropriated)

Restore Aviation Funding

As part of a re-evaluation of statewide aviation needs, funding is restored for the maintenance and operation of the Department’s Partenavia aircraft. The Partenavia is ideally suited for survey missions and fish planting, and will assist the Department of Natural Resources with fire suppression coordination.

Revenue Accounting Correction
The Department will correct the way in which payments to the contractor who developed and operates the Washington Interactive Licensing Database system are accounted. The contractor receives a fee from the license surcharge paid by users of that automated licensing system. The contractor’s fee has been treated as negative revenue, rather than as revenue into and expenditures out of the State Wildlife Account. Correcting this will require higher expenditure authority for the agency and increases accounted revenue by an equal amount. This accounting correction has no net fiscal impact. (State Wildlife Account-State)

Maintain Core Administrative Functions

The Department’s indirect rate for administration and overhead from federal grants has been reduced, resulting in a net loss of approximately $3.8 million for the 2009-11 Biennium. The lower revenue creates a deficit in basic administrative services, such as payroll, contracts, budget, and accounting. The Department will absorb roughly half of these impacts through vacancy management. Funding is provided on a one-time basis to partially restore the loss from the lower indirect rate. This funding allows the agency to avoid eliminating 26 administrative staff positions above the 28 positions eliminated in the 2009-11 Budget. (State Wildlife Account-State)

Operating Costs for New Wildlife Lands
In Fiscal Year 2009 the Department completed land acquisition transactions for 9,067 acres. These acres were acquired with legislatively approved and allocated capital funds through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. The necessary operating funding to maintain these new land acquisitions is provided, enabling the Department to utilize and manage new wildlife areas, natural lands, and water access sites, and to provide safe access, clean toilets, and weed control.

Wildfire on Department of Fish and Wildlife Lands

One-time funding is provided for fire suppression activity costs incurred during Fiscal Year 2010. The majority of these costs are for on-site fire suppression, but also include restoring native perennial vegetation to control erosion and limit the spread of noxious weeds.

Payments in Lieu of Taxes and Assessments
Ongoing funding is provided to pay for statutorily required payments to local government entities. The Department is required to compensate counties for lost property tax revenue for department owned lands through payment in lieu of taxes. In addition, the Department pays local assessments for weed control, storm water management, lake management districts, and diking districts.

Derelict Gear Removal Technical Adjustment
Funding for derelict fishing gear removal is redistributed between fiscal years so that the program can operate steadily throughout the biennium.

Fund Support Programs Proportionately
Funding is provided to help replace General Fund-State subsidies that were eliminated in the 2009-11 Budget, using available fund balance in a dedicated account. As part of the Department’s review of how various funds contribute toward agency-wide services, funding ($210,000 per year) is provided beginning in Fiscal Year 2011 to pay for administrative support services proportionately. Another $250,000 per fiscal year will support the automated Washington Interactive Licensing Database system, allowing it to operate at its normal capacity after state general funds were eliminated. (State Wildlife Account-State)

Increase Hunter Access on Private Land

In response to the demand for additional hunting lands, the Department will bring 200,000 additional acres of private land under contract for recreational access. Contract leases provide a new revenue source for rural landowners, and the Department provides some funds for minor improvements to prevent or mitigate litter and vandalism. Hunting generates $350 million of economic activity annually, which is especially welcome in rural parts of the state. The program is funded through special hunting permit application fees. (State Wildlife Account-State)

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

Highlights from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s weekly Recreation Report include:


  • Over 200 adult, fin-clipped coho were stocked into Galesville Reservoir recently. Anglers can harvest one of these fish per day as a “trout” over 20 inches. For information on boat launching conditions, call 541-837-3302.
  • Both the Smith and South Umpqua rivers open for winter steelhead fishing on Dec. 1.
  • Winter steelhead are starting to appear in many rivers and creeks, including the Chetco, Coos, Coquille, Rogue, Umpqua and Tenmile. Look for fishing to pick up after some good rain helps get fish moving.


  • Big Creek is low and clear. A few early winter steelhead are being caught. Expect angling to pick up over the next few weeks as more fish enter the system. This small stream is a good bet early in the season. Bobber and jig, spinners, or baits drifted along the bottom all will produce fish.
  • A few early winter steelhead are available in the Klaskanine system. Look for fishing to improve steadily over the next few weeks. More rain is needed to raise the stream to good, fishable levels. Use light gear and approach holes carefully to avoid spooking fish.
  • A few early winter steelhead are available in the lower Necanicum. A few chinook are still be in the river, but most are spawning and should be left alone. The river is very low.


  • Large brood trout were released this week at several Willamette Valley ponds, including Junction City, Walter Wirth, Walling, West Salish, Mt. Hood, and St. Louis #6. The fish are 4- and 5-year-old rainbow trout from ODFW’s Roaring River hatchery and range in size from 8 to 18 pounds.
  • Winter steelhead are starting to arrive in the lower Willamette, Clackamas and Sandy rivers.
  • Sturgeon fishing is fair on the lower Willamette River.


  • Good numbers of summer steelhead remain in the Deschutes primarily from Maupin upstream to Pelton Dam. The highest density of steelhead are likely to be from South Junction upstream to Warm Springs. Anglers are reporting good success on both flies and lures. As a reminder, the Deschutes River upstream of the northern border of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation closes December 31, 2009. Anglers who catch a tagged hatchery steelhead with an orange anchor tag, are encouraged to report catch information to ODFW at 541-296-4628 or via the internet at Anglers catching a tagged wild fish should release it immediately without recording any information.


  • Water conditions on the Umatilla River have been low and clear and steelhead fishing has been good.


  • Bottom fishing is good when ocean conditions permit. Ling cod should begin moving into shallower waters to spawn. Divers may find success spearing along rocky jetties for ling cod and black rockfish.
  • A series of minus tides starting around sundown on Sunday, Dec. 12, will provide clamming opportunities for those with lanterns. Recreational and commercial clam harvesting is open on the entire Oregon Coast, from the mouth of the Columbia River to the California border. This includes clam harvesting on beaches and inside bays.
  • Ocean crabbing opened Dec. 1. Crabbing in the ocean this time of year can be very productive, but also dangerous because of wind, sea and bar conditions.

Jacked Up

Let’s get the absurdly large number out of the way first.

Plugging 2009’s off-the-charts jack return past Bonneville Dam into the standard run-prediction model, anywhere from 1 million to 1.5 million adult spring Chinook could begin returning to the Columbia in the next few months.

Yeah, up to 1.5 million of the best-tasting fish in the solar system, all holding at some point in the Interstate hole.


More upriver springers than have entered the big river in all the runs since 2002. And nearly four times as many as came back in 2001, the all-time record back to when they slapped all that concrete and steel across the Columbia on the eve of WWII.

Only problem is, the mathematical inputs to get a million-springer march are seriously suspect.

“I don’t think we’ll be predicting that, but I don’t know,” says Cindy LeFleur. “That’s just my personal opinion.”

Mike Matylewich is somewhat more certain: “I wouldn’t have a lot of confidence with that forecast.”

And Stuart Ellis is around 100 percent positive: “Nobody’s going out on a limb to say a record return, but we should see a pretty good run. But the crux is, what’s a pretty good run?”

LeFleur represents Washington on a panel of Columbia River fishery managers and biologists headed up by Ellis. It also includes the states of Oregon and Idaho, five Northwest tribal groups – repped by Ellis and Matylewich’s Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission – and three federal agencies, NMFS, USFWS and BIA.

A mil-plus springers is so stupendous that they’re all taking a much longer, harder look than usual at all the dam- and hatchery-count data, ocean conditions and what’s going on with other runs to figure out the 2010 preseason prediction. In the buildup to the expected Dec. 11 release, there has been “lots of meetings and lots of discussion about the causal factors to those high jack numbers and what to do about it,” says Ellis.

NEVER IN THE HISTORY of all jackdom have so many run up the Columbia as this year – 81,782 through June 15, the last day Chinook passing Bonneville are officially counted as springers. It pulverizes the old record, 24,363, set in 2000, which led to the biggest run since at least 1938, 439,895. And it begs the question, Why did all those so-called precocious, ready-to-breed 3-year-old salmon come back early to their tribs everywhere from Stevenson and Winthrop, Wash., to Orofino, Idaho, to Enterprise, Ore.?

Managers say they just don’t know.

According to Ellis, early speculation about what might have caused that “high jacking rate” included theories that some hatcheries were feeding their smolts richer fish chow or inriver conditions helped them get to the ocean quicker (the faster fish grow, the quicker they sexually mature, the more likely they are to jack). Another discounted suggestion was that they were just smaller than usual adults.

“What that kind of leaves is something going on in the ocean,” Ellis says.

Unlike fall Chinook which turn up in commercial catches out in the North Pacific and give some idea of where they roam, after just three or four months at sea, the biologists lose all sign of the prized spring salmon.

“We don’t know where they are, don’t know the factors affecting their survival,” says Ellis.

CLEARLY, COLD OCEAN TEMPS were a good thing for all Columbia stocks in ’09. But with springer returns the last five years coming in anywhere from 42 to 149 percent of forecast, and later and later too, there are now questions about whether the high numbers of jacks last April, May and June mean great survival for the entire year class of springers that went to sea in 2008, or just the jacks themselves.

“They may not mean much of anything for the adult run,” Ellis suggests.

And that’s a problem because managers generally use one year’s return of jacks and jills (3-year-old hens) to predict how many of their older brethren will return the following season, which in turn is important for fishermen.

If there are a lot of jacks, there should be a lot of adults and thus liberal bag limits; if there aren’t, there probably won’t be a big run and tighter rules govern.

Last year, 22,352 jacks came through Bonneville, roughly a quarter of this year’s return, and produced an adult run forecast just shy of 300,000, so ipso facto, 4 times 300,000 is …
Ellis was among a group whose “back of the envelope” jottings came up with a run size of 1 million to 1.5 million. But he says that it’s “unreasonable” to expect even a doubling of 2001’s record run.

So instead he and others are trying to figure out how to somehow “scale” the jack return to come up with a prediction.

“But what’s appropriate?” he asks. “We don’t know. We haven’t done this before.”

The only thing riding on it are, oh, say, impact limits to protect Endangered Species Act-listed wild spring Chinook which in turn dictate sport, tribal and commercial fisheries.

But far from giving Ellis a headache it’s part of what keeps him coming into the office and diving into data and the strange, strange ways of salmon.

“The fish are kinda doing their own thing. It’s a constant game to figure out what they’re doing, what’s affecting their survival and trying to nail it down,” he says. “These fish don’t let go of their mysteries as easily as we’d like them to.”

And while the mystery of how many may come in next year will begin to be unraveled this month, we won’t know for sure how accurate that guess is until next summer, when the run actually finishes up.

In the meanwhile, what should you and I expect?

“Be flexible in your fishing plans,” Ellis suggests. “We may see a whole lot more, or a whole lot less than we announce in December.”

Springfield Man Faces Charges In Deer Case


A Springfield man is facing multiple charges after Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife troopers served a search warrant related to the unlawful killing of several deer.  The investigation started with a November 2009 arrest in Lake County and ended with the execution of a search warrant at the suspect’s home and pending charges in Lane County.

On December 4, 2009, OSP Fish & Wildlife Division troopers from Bend and Springfield offices served a search warrant in the 1300 block of R Street in Springfield.  The search warrant was authorized in connection with an investigation initiated by OSP Senior Trooper James Hayes’ arrest of RANDYLL P. SCAIFE, age 30, from Springfield, on November 18, 2009 in Lake County.  SCAIFE was arrested and lodged in Lake County Jail after killing a large 4×4 mule deer on Oatman Flats near Silver Lake.


During the subsequent investigation and search warrant service, OSP Fish & Wildlife troopers developed evidence of four unlawfully taken blacktail deer bucks.  Troopers seized deer meat, spike elk antlers, and compound bow and arrows.


SCAIFE was cited to appear in Lane County Circuit Court on the following charges:

* Theft in the First Degree (3 counts)
* Unlawfully Taking Deer (4 counts)
* Unlawfully Taking Elk (2 counts)
* Theft of Lost, Mislaid Property

FWC Taking Longer Look At Lead Ban

Following public comment last weekend on tweaks to Washington’s fishing regulations, WDFW will take a longer look at two specific proposals: lead fishing weight bans and bottomfishing and halibut restrictions off Neah Bay.

A press release from the Fish & Wildlife Commission says:

During the December meeting, the commission directed WDFW Director Phil Anderson to develop alternatives for public processes on two proposals that have drawn considerable interest. Anderson is scheduled to present the proposals at the commission’s January meeting in Olympia.

The two alternative processes would address a proposal that would ban the use of small lead fishing tackle at 13 lakes in Washington, and a proposal that would close fishing for bottomfish and halibut off the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula.

Commissioners indicated that more public-input opportunities might be needed before a decision is reached on the two proposals.

The proposal prohibiting the use of lead weights weighing less than half an ounce or lead jigs measuring less than 1.5 inches is designed to protect loons from being poisoned by ingesting small lead fishing gear lost by anglers. The other proposal is intended to provide additional protection for bottomfish and halibut in an area extending 1.5 miles offshore and stretching about 4 miles from Cape Flattery east to Neah Bay.

Some sportfishermen have bitterly opposed the lead ban.

Posthunt Survey Finds Good Methow Buck Numbers

Surprises continue in the upper Methow Valley.

After a solid general hunt last October, biologists recently counted 3,500 muleys on the winter range in Washington’s western Okanogan County, and found a 20:100 buck-to-doe ratio.

That latter fact surprised the gent who did the survey, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife game bio Scott Fitkins,who spoke to Northwest Sportsman writer Leroy Ledeboer earlier today, especially in light of an 88 percent increase in this fall’s harvest over last year’s and his expectations of just an OK hunt going into the season.

“He said an editor who couldn’t hit his ass for a barn door got one too,” Ledeboer joked.

Twenty-to-100 is the highest buck-to-doe ratio since 2002, which saw 26:100, acccording to WDFW data. Recent seasons have seen posthunt ratios as low as 16 (2007) and 14 (2004).


However, 3,500 deer is on the lower end of where the Methow muley herd’s been in recent years. A string of three bad winters hit fawns hard.

Speaking of fawns, doe-to-young’n ratios were more average, and at 77:100 slightly disappointing to Fitkins. Ledeboer says the biologist expected more considering how many fawns he and others were seeing in the summer.

The other bit of good news is that, so far, the Methow Valley is free of snow. While it’s early yet (and it could be bad for salmon, steelhead and irrigators next year), it’s good for the deer which are nonetheless shivering through some cold conditions this week. Fitkins told Ledeboer it was 6 below zero in Winthrop this morning.

As for the Lookout Pack of wolves, three pups and the radio-collared breeding pair were recently spotted, Fitkins told Ledeboer. Two others were spotted up high as well.

He also reconfirmed something that had been discussed on recently — the relative small size of the pack’s alpha female and male — 70 and 85 pounds.

“When people think of wolves, they’re much larger than these,” Ledeboer says. “He says these are small wolves, not tundra wolves.”

Interestingly, Fitkins also told the reporter that the wolves had been spotted eating spawned out salmon in the upper Twisp River.

OSP Seeks Tips On Arrow-wounded Alsea Elk


Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division is asking for the public’s help to identify the person(s) responsible for the illegal kill of a 4-point bull elk in the Alsea unit near Mapleton.  A reward of up to $500 is offered by the Oregon Hunter’s Association for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case.


On December 5, 2009 at approximately 8:00 a.m. OSP Sergeant Lowell Lea and Senior Trooper Scott Salisbury responded to a complaint of an injured 4-point bull elk lying on the shoulder of Highway 126W near milepost 10 at the intersection with USFS Road 2610 (David Ridge Road).  Upon arrival they found a bull elk with a fresh arrow wound in its side.  Troopers were able to salvage the bull elk and meat was donated to charity.

Evidence collected at the scene indicated the bull elk had been shot as it stood on the highway shoulder.  Witnesses located told troopers the bull was seen with a herd of elk feeding on the side of the highway at about 4:30 a.m.  The reporting person found the injured bull elk at 7:30 a.m.

The Alsea unit is currently open to the bow hunting of cow elk and is closed to the hunting of bull elk.

Oregon State Police is interested in any information to help with this investigation, including the description of any vehicles seen parked at that location between the hours of 4:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.

Anyone with information is asked to call Senior Trooper Salisbury at (541) 997-9635 ext. 33 or the Turn in Poacher (TIP) number at 1-800-452-7888.

Columbia Sturgeon, Smelt Fishery Recommendations Out

A report out today from the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife on 2010 sturgeon seasons recommends that “the current four-year sturgeon management agreement be renewed for one year (2010) with modifications to the harvest guideline.”

“The Joint Staff will likely recommend that the combined white sturgeon harvest guideline be reduced from the current guideline of 40,000 (36,800 actual harvest) beginning in 2010. Although a new guideline has not yet been developed, initial modeling indicates a reduction of up to 35% may be needed to compensate for reduced sublegal and legal abundance,” the Dec. 7 Joint Staff report reads.

January and February fisheries will probably be laid out at a Dec. 17 meeting between the agencies while seasons for the rest of the year will likely be set during a Feb. 18 meeting, the report says.

As for smelt, managers are once again proposing a “level one” fishery, i.e. the most conservative one.

A level one fishery is defined as “one 12 – 24 hour fishing period per week for the mainstem Columbia River commercial fishery. Recreational and commercial dipnet fisheries consisting of one 12-24 hour fishing period per week would be used to monitor returns to the Cowlitz River. The daily bag limit for Washington tributaries should be ten pounds per person at these low levels of abundance.”

There’s good news and bad on how smelt, or eulochan, are doing. The Joint Staff report says:

“Positive abundance indicators for 2010 include: (1) modest improvements in adult eulachon returns during 2006 (landings and CPUE), (2) a moderately improving level of Age 2 bycatch in the Canadian ocean shrimp fisheries during 2009, (3) a moderate increase in total smelt biomass tonnage in the Canadian ocean shrimp fisheries in 2009, and (4) favorable ocean conditions starting in 2007 and continuing through 2009. Negative abundance indices for 2010 include: (1) low mainstem Columbia River larval densities during the winters of 2005 through 2007, (2) decreasing adult smelt biomass estimates from the Fraser River and, (3) adult landings were weak in brood years 2005 and 2007. Taking a weighted average of the positive and negative indicators for each age component of the run suggest a slight improvement for 2010 compared to 2009. The main components of the 2010 run (age 3 and 4), should strengthen; however, the age 5 component will remain weak.

Seasons should be set Dec. 17 as well.

Pity The Poor, Shivering Poacher (Not)


Sr. Tpr. Collom (Central Point) received a report that a man was taken to the hospital with hypothermia from a field in the Howard Prairie area, and a dead spike buck was found nearby.

Collom’s investigation revealed a spike buck was shot, killed, field dressed, and hidden in some brush.

The poacher decided to go back and retrieve it in the early morning hours around 1:00 a.m. Later in the early morning light, some hunters in a nearby cabin heard a man groaning and yelling for help. They responded and found a man with a bloody nose, suffering from hypothermia.

The man was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Medford. He had apparently hit his head while dragging the spike buck out to his vehicle and laid in the field until the people heard his yells for help.

Collom contacted the man in the hospital and plans to re-contact him when he is released to issue him a citation for Unlawfully Taking Spike Buck Deer.