Category Archives: Headlines

Advice From Angler Who Almost Bit It

“I am an idiot,” the subject line of madcapmag’s post today reads.

“I ignored my own advice and the promise that I made to myself that I’d never do anything stupid to catch some fish. Unfortunately, my lust for steel almost meant the end,” the angler writes.

The post, over on Gamefishin, details how madcapmag decided to cross a side channel of the Snoqualmie River near Tokul Creek, a stretch wadeable in the past, but not this morning.

And despite repeated mental warnings, slower going than usual, swifter water and even a near-dunking, Madcapmag continued across — and went down, losing two rods while being pushed downstream 15 yards or more.

“I would say I’m fairly safe. I do push some boundaries, but please, take my advice. No fish is EVER worth dying for. As soon as the first warning goes off, heed it. Don’t wait for another warning,” the angler writes.

The missing rods are described as a pair of 9-foot-6 St. Croix rods matched with Daiwa spinning and baitcasting reels.

It echoes something we ran in our November issue, an article by Jim McMillen about floating the Wynoochee River blind. He ran his drifter over two cottonwoods across the main river — and then hit the third dead on.

Update On Blue Mtns. Steelhead Management

Just got off the phone awhile ago with Glen Mendell, a state fisheries biologist in Southeast Washington. He says that in January anglers should watch for word on the dates and locations of one or two public meetings on the future of steelhead management in the Blue Mountains.

He’s rewriting harvest plans for rivers around the region — a process that began earlier this year but was sidelined as other brush fires came up — and says they will blend genetic plans required by the Feds with revisions to state hatchery practices.

“It may affect the number of fish coming back in the future,” Mendell admits.

But he claims that that’s only half the story.

While managers must address ESA requirements to recover listed wild stocks of steelhead, they must also balance that with angler harvest as part of mitigation for installation of the four lower Snake River dams.

“You can’t just do one or the other,” Mendell says.

The reason to watch this one closely is that the Ronde is one of the state’s best steelhead streams, putting out thousands upons thousands of summer-runs for fly guys, bait chuckers and plug pullers from September through April. Preliminary and final estimated catch stats from WDFW show that over 55,000 hatchery fish have been hauled ashore here over the past 13 seasons.

Season       Total catch
1996-97    3,378
1997-98    4,511
1998-99    1,440
1999-00    2,077
2000-01    5,755
2001-02    7,959
2002-03    5,842
2003-04    4,910
2004-05    4,661
2005-06    4,495
2006-07    3,062
2007-08    4,040
2008-09    3,343

It’s rather ironic, but part of the problem according to Mendell is too many hatchery steelhead returning the 600 or so miles from saltwater to the Ronde. Only 1,500 are required back to Cottonwood Creek, about 2 miles upstream from the Highway 129 bridge and Boggan’s Oasis, but far more than that have been coming back.

They may be spawning in the wild, diluting the genes of native steelhead in the Basin. And while the Ronde’s hatchery stock is known as “Wallowa” fish, they’re a composite of A- and B-runs from all over the Snake River basin, collected in the early 1980s in the lower river rather than in the Ronde itself.





Asked point blank if the plan rewrite means the end of steelheading on the Grande Ronde and other Blue Mountain streams, Mendell replies, “No, no. I don’t think there’s any chance we’re going to shut down all fishing.”

But he went on: “There are some places that may get shut down or limited, but we won’t know until the end of the process.”

That process includes the rewrite, as well as working with local tribes and the National Marine Fisheries Service, and then presenting options to the public, he says.

“Do you have any ideas?” Mendell asks of steelheaders and the public. “We do want to get public input. We’d like to have them attend.”

Springer Breakdown, River By River

Just to recap, here are the official preseason forecasts for most of the Columbia River system’s 2010 spring Chinook returns:

Columbia (above Bonneville): 470,000

Select (SAFE) Areas: 4,100

Cowlitz River*: 12,500

Kalama River*: 900

Lewis River*: 6,000

Willamette River: 62,700

Sandy River: 3,700

Wind River*: 14,000

Drano Lake*: 28,900

Klickitat River*: 4,500

Snake: 272,000

Yakima*: 16,600

Upper Columbia: 57,300

* Note: Predicted returns to the trib’s mouth.

Sound Crabbing To Close After Jan. 2


Puget Sound marine areas currently open for recreational winter crabbing will close at sunset Jan. 2, after which all sport crabbers licensed to fish for crab in the Sound will have 13 days to report their winter catch.

(The affected areas include 4, 5, 9, 10 and 13 in the western and central Strait of Juan de Fuca; Admiralty Inlet; Elliott Bay and the salt waters between Seattle and Bremerton; and Puget Sound south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.)

State fishing rules require that all sport crabbers submit catch reports for the winter season to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) by Jan. 15 – even if they did not catch any crab. With the end of the winter crab season, which runs from Sept. 8 to Jan. 2, all Puget Sound marine areas will be closed to recreational crabbing until summer 2010.

Sport crabbers should be aware that if they fail to submit a winter catch report, they will receive a $10 fine when they purchase their 2010 crab endorsement, said Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish policy lead.

“The 2009 winter crab fishing season is the first one for which fines will be issued, but we’re hoping everyone turns in their catch reports and avoids the penalty altogether,” Childers said.

“By submitting their catch data, crabbers play an important role in managing the Puget Sound crab fishery,” he said. “We need to hear from everyone who was issued a winter catch card – including from those who didn’t catch any crab.”

To submit catch reports, crabbers may send their catch record card to WDFW by mail or file their report on a special webpage on the department’s licensing website. The mailing address is WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The online reporting system will be available Jan. 3-15 at .

Sport crabbers who file their catch reports by the Jan. 15 deadline will be entered in a drawing for one of 10 free combination fishing licenses, which allow the holder to fish for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species during the 2010-11 season.

SW Washington Fishing Report



Cowlitz River – No report on angling success is currently available.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 449 coho adults, 15 jacks, 244 winter-run steelhead and four sea-run cutthroat trout during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.   During the week Tacoma Power employees released 25 coho adults, one jack and one winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton, 84 coho adults and four jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, 151 coho adults, seven jacks and one steelhead adult into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellowjacket Creek, and 45 coho adults and three jacks into Lake Scanewa.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 8,800 cubic feet per second on Monday, December 14. Water visibility is eight feet.

Under permanent rules, December 31 is the last day to fish for hatchery steelhead on lower Mill Creek near the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery.

Kalama River – Anglers are catching some steelhead.

Lewis River – Bank anglers are still catching steelhead around the salmon hatchery but overall fishing was a little slower last week.

Under permanent rules, wild Chinook must be released on several rivers  beginning Jan. 1 including the mainstem Columbia from Buoy 10 upstream to the I-5 Bridge, Cowlitz (including Cispus),  Deep, Kalama, Lewis (including North Fork) rivers plus Lake Scanewa (Cowlitz Falls Reservoir).

Under permanent rules, Dec. 31 is the last day to fish for salmon on the mainstem Columbia from the I-5 Bridge to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco and the Elochoman, Tilton, and Washougal rivers plus Drano and Mayfield lakes.

A Compact/Joint State Hearing is tentatively scheduled for February 18 to consider the 2010 mainstem Columbia recreational spring salmon seasons.


Until further notice, recreational sturgeon fisheries will continue as scheduled under permanent regulations.  The Compact may consider modifications to the March-December 2010 mainstem Columbia sturgeon recreational fisheries at the February 18 hearing when additional Commission guidance is available.

Lower Columbia mainstem and its tributaries from the Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines – White sturgeon may be retained daily beginning Jan. 1.   Daily limit 1, minimum size 38” fork length and maximum size 54” fork length.

Lower Columbia mainstem and its tributaries from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – Light effort and catches.  Remains open for white sturgeon retention Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays only.  Daily limit 1, minimum size 38” fork length and maximum size 54” fork length.

Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam – Sturgeon may be retained beginning Jan. 1.  In Bonneville Pool, the daily limit is 1 fish, minimum size 38” fork length and maximum 54” fork length.  From The Dalles Dam to McNary Dam, the daily limit is 1 fish, minimum size 43” fork length and maximum size 54” fork length.  Ending date for all pools depends upon when the individual guidelines are met.


Lacamas Lake – Received 6,000 catchable size rainbows Dec. 14.

Icehouse Lake (near Bridge of the Gods) and Little Ash Lake (near Stevenson) – Depending upon the weather, both may be planted with catchable size rainbows this week.

Rowland Lake near Lyle – Planted with 53 brood stock rainbows averaging 8 pounds each and 13 weighing 4 pounds each on Dec. 14.

Upper Columbia Good For Steelhead: Guide

Guide Anton Jones of Darrell and Dad’s Guide Service in Chelan reports:

What’s hottest is drifting purple shrimp baited jigs under slip bobbers for Steelhead in the Upper Columbia.  The lower basin of Chelan and Rufus Woods Reservoir should continue to be productive.  Roses Lake is mostly covered with thin ice with seams of open water.

Shrimp baited Rock Dancer jigs by Mack’s Lures under a slip float is the ticket.  Now that the super cold has passed you really should get out there.  You may never see Steelhead Fishing this good again.  You’ve just got to check out this week’s pictures.



And You Thought Egg Cures Were Bad For Salmonids

Columbia Basin Bulletin reports on a new study in the journal Ecological Applications that looks at “extrapolating sublethal pesticide exposures to the productivity of wild salmon populations.”

Even as work is done to improve habitat for runs of Northwest salmon that are listed under the Endangered Species Act, study coauthor David Baldwin at NOAA is quoted as saying, “However, not much research has been done to determine the importance of pollution as a limiting factor of ESA-listed species.”

Baldwin et al’s abstract says, “Our results indicate that short-term (i.e., four-day) exposures that are representative of seasonal pesticide use may be sufficient to reduce the growth and size at ocean entry of juvenile chinook.”

And as quoted by CBB, Baldwin adds, “The seasonal transport of pesticides to salmon habitats over successive years might slow the recovery of depressed populations.”

One extrapolation CBB points to shows that in 20 years, exposed Chinook would only increase 68 percent while those in pristine habitat would grow 523 percent.

Writes CBB:

The researchers argue that improving water quality conditions by reducing common pollutants could potentially increase the rate of recovery. Looking to the bigger picture, “This should help resource managers consider pesticides at the same biological scale as physical and biological stressors when prioritizing habitat restoration activities,” Baldwin said.

Why am I clogging up your brain bits with this? Pesticides are commonly used in the Northwest’s vast agricultural lands, from Puget Sound and Willamette Valley to the Columbia Basin and Snake River Plain, helping to produce things we all eat and drink.

More 2010 Salmon Forecasts

The Columbia Basin Bulletin today fleshes out more 2010 salmon forecasts for the Columbia Basin. To wit:

“The preliminary estimate for 2010 is for a return of 124,600 sockeye to the basin. That total would still be the seventh highest return dating back to at least 1980.”

“The Willamette spring chinook return to the Columbia is predicted to nudge up to 62,700 next year, including 45,900 adult hatchery fish. That would be up from 2009’s actual return of 39,410, which was the fourth lowest return since 1970.”

“The 2010 upriver summer chinook return is expected to surge to 88,800 adult fish, of which 67 percent are likely be 4-year-old fish. The 2009 jack return of 22,264 was 300 percent of the recent 10-year average.”

At the end of their story, CBB also provides some interesting stats on recreational and commercial salmon catches in 2009.

Bear Gall Bladder Buyers Sentenced

UPDATED 12-24 William Page of Ferry County, Wash., was sentenced Dec. 18 to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine for illegally buying bear gall bladders, and a Spokane grocer was also fined for buying them as well.

Page, a Curlew butcher, was convicted last month of purchasing six bladders, KPLU reported Dec. 17.

Mike Cenci, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Deputy Chief of Enforcement, says that his agency will also get to keep $1,800 they “made” during undercover sales of bladders to Page.

Cenci told radio reporter Doug Nadvornick that Page admitted to buying 35 gall bladders in 2007 and 2008.

The Associated Press also reports that Jason Yon, who owns Jax Foods, was fined $1,000 on Tuesday. Yon twice purchased two from undercover agents for $400 each time, Cenci says. 

A search warrant found two bladders in Yon’s freezer, he says, and adds that Yon is expected to be sentenced soon.

Bear gall bladders are believed by some to have aphrodisiacal powers. 

“We really rely on concerned sportsmen to get word of this,” Cenci adds. “They are our friends. They’re responsible for (initiating) 80 percent of our cases of trafficking.”

He says that the state’s five undercover wildlife detectives are getting better at sleuthing out bear gall bladder cases.

“We investigate three or four a year. It’s safe to say more is going on. If we were working on bear bladders full time, we could be chasing 12 a year,” Cenci says.

But WDFW faces long odds of catching everyone due to a lack of manpower. He says he only has 135 fish and wildlife officers to cover the state’s 68,000 square miles plus thousands of square miles of ocean.

He feels that a lot of gall bladders come from bears that are illegally hunted with hounds.

In related news, the January 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine features an article on the Asian wildlife trade — “An exposé of the world’s most notorious wildlife dealer, his special government friend, and his ambitious new plan.”

The story says, “For too long in too many countries (including the U.S.), placing the word ‘wildlife’ in front of the word ‘crime’ had diminished its seriousness,” and it details how a special agent — who’s also a lifelong hunter — brought Anson Wong, a wildlife smuggler described as the “catch of a lifetime,” to justice.