Tag Archives: fishing

Night On The Columbia Leads To Big Walleye Catch

While you were dreaming of catching fish last night, a crew was pulling some pretty hefty walleye out of the Columbia, including two new boat records for a local guide.

CHAD DAWSON GOT THE TRIP OFF TO A GREAT START WITH A THEN BOAT RECORD 15-PLUS-POUNDER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Four fish with a combined weight of nearly 60 pounds came over the gunnel for Tri-Cities angler Jerry Han, a local dentist, and two friends.

“We were hoping to get a quality fish or two, but never expected what was about to happen!” Han emailed just after 2:00 this morning as he thawed out from his late evening on the water.

JERRY HAN FOLLOWED WITH AN 11-PLUS-POUNDER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

With the moon coming off full, they were out with Isaac Case, who has been posting a string of pics of nice-sized ‘eyes caught in the overnight hours in recent days and weeks.

“We trolled plugs for a little while and had nothing for an hour or so and then my buddy Chad Dawson hooked up and landed a huge walleye that went 15 pounds, 11 ounces,” Han reports.

KEN HOWARD’S FIRST WALLEYE WENT 13 POUNDS, 3 OUNCES. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“We thought that was great and would have been happy, but I got the next one at 11 pounds, 11 ounces. Then my buddy Ken Howard got one at 13 pounds, 3 ounces,” he says.

“The star of show, however, was the next fish that Ken caught that shoved the scale to 18 pounds, 13 ounces! The 15-pounder was the new boat record that lasted four hours until the almost 19-pounder came along,” Han notes.

A DIGITAL SCALE SHOWS KEN HOWARD’S SECOND WALLEYE WEIGHING IN AT 18 POUNDS, 13 OUNCES. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

If this was still the first years of the millennium, it would have been a new Washington record fish too. The current high mark is John Grubenhoff’s 20.32-pound walleye, caught in late February 2014.

WDFW doesn’t do creel checks for the species, but local fisheries biologist Paul Hoffarth tries to keep up on the scene.

“Heard they were doing well this winter. Decent numbers and mostly nice fish, size wise,” Hoffarth notes.

So, uhhh, Jerry, what sort of setup did you say the skipper was running, again?

ISAAC CASE SHOWS OFF THE BIG ONE OF THE NIGHT. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“I can say that color didn’t seem to matter, as all the fish bit a different plug each time,” he cagely reveals.

“I can say for sure that it was pretty rough getting up this morning — thank goodness for coffee!”

You can say that again!

Columbia Above Warrior Rock To Open For Springers; Cowlitz, Lewis Stay Open For Steelies

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

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon today approved a sport fishery for spring chinook salmon on the Columbia River that reflects a significant reduction in the number of fish available for harvest this year.

A SPRING CHINOOK NEARS THE NET FOR ANGLERS FISHING THE WESTERN COLUMBIA GORGE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

According to preseason projections, about 99,300 upriver spring chinook will reach the Columbia this year, down 14 percent from last year and 50 percent below the 10-year average. Those fish return to hatcheries and spawning areas upriver from Bonneville Dam.

In addition, fishery managers are also expecting much lower returns than last year to several major lower Columbia River tributaries, particularly the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers. On the Cowlitz, this year’s spring chinook run is projected to reach just 11 percent of the 10-year average and fall short of meeting hatchery production goals.


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Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said those projections are largely the result of poor ocean conditions, which have complicAted fisheries management in recent years.

“Anglers will still find some good fishing opportunities in the Columbia River Basin this spring, but conservation has to be our first concern,” Lothrop said. “We have a responsibility to protect salmon runs listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and get enough fish back to the spawning grounds and hatcheries to support future runs.”

Although salmon fishing is currently open from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Interstate-5 bridge, spring chinook usually don’t arrive in large numbers until mid-to-late March. The new fishing regulations approved today will take effect in the following areas:

  • Columbia River below Bonneville Dam: Salmon fishing will open March 1 through April 10 on the Columbia River upstream from Warrior Rock boundary line to Bonneville Dam. Anglers may retain two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each per day, but only one salmon may be a chinook. The lower river downstream from Warrior Rock will be closed to fishing from March 1 through April 10 to conserve spring chinook returning to the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers.
  • Tributaries: The Cowlitz and Lewis rivers will also close to salmon fishing March 1 to conserve spring chinook for hatchery escapement needs, but will remain open for hatchery steelhead retention. The Kalama River will remain open to fishing for salmon and steelhead, but the daily limit of adult salmon will be reduced to one fish on March 1.
  • Columbia River above Bonneville Dam: Waters above Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington state line above McNary Dam will open to salmon fishing April 1 through May 5. Anglers may retain two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each per day, but only one salmon may be a chinook.

In all open waters, only hatchery salmon and steelhead identified by a clipped adipose fin and healed scar may be retained.

Along with new area restrictions in the lower Columbia, fishery managers also reduced initial harvest limits for upriver spring chinook returning to the upper Columbia and Snake rivers. If those fish return as projected, anglers in the Columbia and Snake rivers will be limited to a total of 4,548 fish, compared to 9,052 last year, prior to a run size updated in May.

Lothrop noted that this year’s projected return of 99,300 upriver spring chinook is the lowest since 2007, but still well above the record-low return of just 12,800 fish in 1995.

“Experience has shown that warm-water ocean conditions present a challenge to salmon survival,” he said. “As in the 1990s, we have observed that cyclical warming effect during the past few years with similar results. During these times, we have to be especially cautious in how we manage the fishery.”

Anglers are strongly advised to review the rules for the waters they plan to fish, available on the department’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/

North Of Falcon Salmon Season Setting Begins Feb. 27; Meetings Scheduled

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

State fishery managers have scheduled a variety of opportunities for the public to participate in setting salmon fishing seasons for 2019, starting with the annual statewide salmon forecast meeting Wednesday, Feb. 27.

WDFW STAFFERS PREPARE TO OUTLINE 2018’S POTENTIAL SALMON FISHERIES TO THE PUBLIC AT THE LYNNWOOD EMBASSY SUITES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will present initial forecasts compiled by state and tribal biologists of the 2019 salmon returns at the meeting scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Lacey Community Center, 6729 Pacific Ave. S.E., Olympia.

That meeting is one of more than a dozen sessions scheduled at various locations around the state as part of this year’s salmon season-setting process. A list of the scheduled meetings can be found online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

State fishery managers rely on input from anglers, commercial fishers, and others interested in salmon as they work to develop this year’s fisheries, said Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s fish program.

“It’s important for us to hear what the public has to say about salmon fisheries,” Warren said. “We’re trying to make that easier this year by making video of some of the major public meetings available online. And we’ll again take public input electronically on our fishery proposals.”

Additionally at the upcoming meetings, fishery managers will discuss steps to protect southern resident orcas from disruptions from fishing vessel traffic and ways to consider the whales’ dietary needs in the fishing season-setting process.


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The declining availability of salmon – southern resident orcas’ primary prey – and disruptions from boating traffic have been linked to a downturn in the region’s orca population over the past 30 years.

“We’re working with the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop tools to assess the effects of fisheries on available prey for orcas,” Warren said. “These upcoming meetings provide opportunities for the public to understand the steps we’re taking to protect orcas this year.”

In addition to attending meetings, other ways the public can participate include:

  • Plenary session: State and tribal co-managers plan to hold an informal discussion during the public meeting, Wednesday, April 3, in Lynnwood. Details will be available on the webpage listed above. 
  • Meetings on video: The department intends to provide video of several public meetings. More information will be available online soon.

The annual process of setting salmon fishing seasons is called “North of Falcon” and is held in conjunction with public meetings conducted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). The council is responsible for establishing fishing seasons in ocean water three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

The PFMC is expected to adopt final ocean fishing seasons and harvest levels at its April 11-15 meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif. The 2019 salmon fisheries package for Washington’s inside waters is also expected to be completed by the state and tribal co-managers during the PFMC’s April meeting.

Columbia Springer Seasons To Be Set; No Fishing Below Warrior Rock?

Columbia salmon staffers will recommend that spring Chinook fishing only be open in the lower river from Warrior Rock up to Bonneville to help protect low returns to two Southwest Washington tribs.

A fact sheet out ahead of Wednesday morning’s 10 a.m. joint ODFW-WDFW hearing to set seasons says that that framework would yield a catch of 4,050 kept fish on the mainstem through April 10, though popular waters and beaches at Cathlamet/Westport, Longview/Rainier and Kalama/St. Helens would be closed.

THIS SEASON’S LOWER COLUMBIA SPRING CHINOOK FISHERY WOULD BE CONCENTRATED ABOVE WARRIOR ROCK TO PROTECT LOWER RETURNS OF COWLITZ AND LEWIS FISH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“The recommended season for the fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam is expected to minimize the harvest of Cowlitz and Lewis river spring Chinook and provide the protection to hatchery broodstock,” the document explains.

Randy Woolsley, a member of the Columbia River Recreational Advisory Group, says the returns are so low that managers can’t afford any impacts on those stocks from fisheries below the Lewis.

Poor ocean conditions in recent years are being blamed.

Woolsley says the situation is usually the opposite, with fishing focused lower in the big river to target typically more plentiful hatchery fish returning to westside streams and to try and protect ESA-listed springers headed to headwaters in Idaho and elsewhere.

Warrior Rock sits just above the mouth of the Lewis, up which 1,600 springers are forecast back. For the Cowlitz, that figure is just 1,300. Both figures are below last year’s preseason prediction and actual returns, and are also less than hatchery needs.


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The fact sheet — which arrived by email unusually late in the day — states that in a 2018 guidance letter federal overseers said that both tribs’ hatchery fish are “critical” to efforts reintroducing springers into the upper ends of both watersheds.

Still, on the mainstem Columbia, prime stretches along Sauvie Island, plus the Interstate stretch between I-5 and I-205 and the western gorge would be open for fishing with a limit of one hatchery king a day.

With action typically picking up in early April, however, the limited number of boat ramps between Warrior and Beacon Rocks could make for “pretty crowded” launching conditions, Woolsley forecasts.

The water from Beacon to the dam would be open only for bank fishing, as usual.

Between the Columbia’s upriver springer forecast of 99,300 and the 30 percent run buffer, there are 3,689 mortalities available below Bonneville, just under 500 from the dam to Oregon-Washington state line, and 357 in Washington’s Snake River.

Staffers are recommending that the Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day and first few miles of the McNary Pools be open for a 35-day season starting April 1.

If there’s any good news, it’s that while the Willamette forecast is down but a bit better than 2018’s actual return, it is expected to be open seven days a week, with a modeled harvest of 11,000 springers.

F-f-f-f-free Fishing Days Coming Up In Oregon

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

It’s free to fish, crab or clam in Oregon on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16-17 of President’s Day Weekend.

ICE FISHERMEN TRY THEIR LUCK AT SOUTHERN OREGON’S DIAMOND LAKE. ANGLING THERE AND ELSEWHERE ACROSS THE BEAVER STATE IS FREE FOR THE FIRST TWO DAYS OF PRESIDENTS DAY WEEKEND. (JESSICA SALL, ODFW)

During these two days, no fishing licenses or tags (including a Combined Angling Tag or Columbia River Basin Endorsement) are required to fish, crab or clam anywhere in Oregon for both residents and non-residents. Although no licenses or tags are required, all other fishing regulations apply including closures, bag limits and size restrictions.


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This time of year, the best opportunity will be winter steelhead on the coast, stocked hatchery rainbow trout in the Willamette Valley and mid-coast lakes, and ice-fishing in northeast and southeast Oregon.

Look for the latest on fishing conditions and regulations at ODFW’s Weekly Recreation Report, which is updated every Thursday. Also see the trout stocking schedule to find out when your local lake is getting stocked with hatchery rainbow trout.

Washington Gillnet, Fee Hike Bills Set For Public Hearings In Oly

With few new fish- or wildlife-related bills introduced in Washington’s halls of power, it was a nice, slow week for the Olympia Outsider™ to recover from last week’s grievous shoulder owie (and get into rehab for his little muscle relaxant habit).

BILLS ADDRESSING SALMON HATCHERIES, SALMON HABITAT, SALMON PREDATORS AND SALMON CATCHING ARE ACTIVE IN WASHINGTON’S STATE LEGISLATURE.,  (NMFS)

Most of the action came as senators and representatives held public hearings on previously submitted legislation or lawmakers amended bills, including one addressing in part the game fish status of walleye, bass and channel catfish, or gave them do-pass recommendations.

One bill of note was dropped, SB 5824 from Sen. Doug Eriksen, a different take on recovering southern resident killer whales.

“Tearing down dams, major land grabs and land-use restrictions are not the answer,” the Ferndale Republican said in a press release out yesterday. “A more robust hatchery system not only would mean more food for orcas, but also more opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen, more tourism, and more good-paying jobs in our communities.”


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It would fund construction of a new public-private facility on Bellingham’s waterfront that would operate similar to how some in Alaska are, self-funded through the sale of returning adult pink and coho salmon, as serve as a test for more expansive use of nonstate hatcheries.

At this writing the bill hadn’t been assigned a hearing, nor had another new one (SB 5871) reauthorizing the Columbia River endorsement fee or a third addressing state land management (HB 1983).

Assuming the Great Glacier doesn’t surge out of the Great White North and shove Washington’s capitol into Black Lake over the next few snowy days, next week could still be an interesting one for watchers of state politics, as well as even the occasionally attentive Olympia Outsider™.

The nontribal gillnet phaseout and WDFW’s fee hike bills will be heard before both chambers’ natural resource committees, and who knows what other legislation is waiting in the wings.

Here’s more on those and other bills that are showing signs of life, though sadly the one designating Bainbridge Island (The Wolfiest!™) a sanctuary for wolves has not followed the lead of Punxsutawney Phil and reared its head above ground in any committee yet.

SALMON

Bill title: “Banning the use of nontribal gill nets,” SB 5617
Status: After garnering cosponsorship from 27 of Washington’s 49 state senators at its late January introduction, it is slated for a 1:30 public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 12. Sportfishing groups like NSIA are calling it a “historic bill” and are urging members to bundle up, chain up, and snowshoe their way to Room 3 of the J.A. Cherberg Building to sign in as “pro.”

LICENSES

Bill title: “Concerning recreational fishing and hunting licenses,” HB 1708 / SB 5692
Status: With a letter of support from 13 state sporting and conservation groups, WDFW’s fee hike bill has been scheduled for a 10 a.m. Feb. 15 public hearing before the House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources, which should provide an even better gauge for how much support it has.

Bill title: “Broadening the eligibility for a reduced recreational hunting and fishing license rate for resident disabled hunters and fishers,” HB 1230
Status: Lawmakers liked this bill, which would set the cost of licenses for resident sportsmen with a permanent disability confirmed by a doctor, a physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner at half what Washington hunters and anglers pay, giving it a unanimous do-pass recommendation out of House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources. Next stop: House Appropriations.

ORCAS

Bill title: “Implementing recommendations of the southern resident killer whale task force related to increasing chinook abundance,” HB 1579 / SB 5580
Status: While primarily addressing hydraulic code enforcement and saltwater forage fish habitat, a portion targeting walleye, bass and channel catfish for declassification was amended to retain game fish status but directing the Fish and Wildlife Commission to liberalize limits on the species where they swim with salmon this week by the House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resource.

Bill Title: “Concerning the protection of southern resident orca whales from vessels,” HB 1580 / SB 5577
Status: Had a public hearing before the House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources and is scheduled for an executive session next week.

Bill title: “Addressing the impacts of pinnipeds on populations of threatened southern resident orca prey,” HB 1824
Status: This bill directing WDFW to apply to NOAA for a permit to take out the maximum number of sea lions to increase salmon survival for orcas has been scheduled for an 8 a.m. Feb. 14 public hearing with the House Committee on Environment & Energy.

HUNTING

Bill title: “Concerning visible clothing requirements for hunting,” SB 5148
Status: Hunter pink received a unanimous do-pass recommendation from the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee and was sent to Rules Committee where it’s set for a second reading before placement on the Senate Floor calendar.

WILDLIFE

Bill title: “Concerning wildlife damage to agricultural crops,” HB 1875
Status: Dropped this week by a pair of elk country lawmakers, Reps. Eslick and Dent, this bill changing who is on the hook for agricultural damage from deer and wapiti from hunters to the state general fund is scheduled for a 10 a.m. Feb 15 hearing before the House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources.

PREDATORS

Bill title: “Establishing a nonlethal program within the department of fish and wildlife for the purpose of training dogs,” SB 5320
Status: Enjoyed a lot of supportive baying during a public hearing and the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee gave it a 6-1 do-pass recommendation and sent it to Rules for a second reading. House version (HB 1516) receives a public hearing today.

OTHER

Bill title: “Designating the Pacific razor clam as the state clam,” HB 1061
Status: Could get a “show” of hands, or at least ayes and nays, after a Feb. 15 executive session in the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Relations.

Bill title: “Concerning payments in lieu of real property taxes,” HB 1662 / SB 5696
Status: Received public hearings in both chambers, with wide support for changing how counties are reimbursed for lands WDFW wildlife area acquisitions take off property tax rolls. Scheduled for an executive session with the House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources next week.

Bill title: “Ensuring compliance with the federal clean water act by prohibiting certain discharges into waters of the state,” HB 1261 / SB 5322
Status: Public hearings held in both chambers’ environmental committees on this bill addressing suction and other mining in critical salmon habitat, with executive session scheduled by the House panel next week.

ALSO ACTIVE

SB 5404, “Expanding the definition of fish habitat enhancement projects,” would include eel grass beds, scheduled for an executive session by Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks this afternoon, assuming Snowmaggedon The Reckoning stays away.

HB 1341, “Concerning the use of unmanned aerial systems near certain protected marine species,” given a do-pass recommendation by House Committee on Innovation, Technology & Economic Development and sent to Rules 2 Review

SB 5525, “Concerning whitetail deer population estimates,” addresses Northeast Washington herds, scheduled for a 1:30 p.m., Feb. 14 public hearing before Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks

Washington Bass, Walleye, Channel Cats Would Remain Game Fish But With Liberalized Regs Under Bill Amendment

Walleye, bass and channel catfish would not be declassified as game species in Washington, but the Fish and Wildlife Commission would need to liberalize limits on them in all waters where sea-going salmonids swim.

STATE LAWMAKERS RECOMMENDED THAT LIMITS ON LARGEMOUTH BASS, LIKE THIS ONE CAUGHT AT A NORTHWEST WASHINGTON LAKE, AS WELL AS SMALLMOUTH BASS, WALLEYE AND CHANNEL CATFISH LIMITS BE LIBERALIZED IN WATERS BEARING SEA-GOING SALMONIDS LIKE CHINOOK. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committee this morning voted 8-6 to amend HB 1579 to that effect.

The bill mostly deals with enforcement of hydraulic codes, but targets the nonnative smolt eaters as part of its suite of changes meant to help out struggling orcas and their key feedstock.

I think we should do everything we can to encourage recreational fisheries to catch as many of those fish as possible so that they’re not predating on Chinook salmon,” prime sponsor Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Burien) said during a public hearing last week.

There already are no size or catch limit restrictions on smallmouth, largemouth, walleye and channel cats in the Columbia below Chief Joseph Dam and Snake and both of their tribs, a move WDFW implemented in 2016 following ODFW’s lead.

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But as written the change would liberalize regulations for the species on Lakes Washington and Sammamish and a host of other stillwaters connected to streams that serve as spawning and rearing habitat for not only Chinook but also coho, sockeye, steelhead, bull trout and other anadromous species.

For instance, Cottage Lake near Woodinville, Big Lake near Mt. Vernon, and Lake Sawyer east of Auburn.

WDFW’s SalmonScape illustrates the scope of other potentially affected waters.

And it also shows ones that may not, at least under the bill as it’s currently written — important spinyray lakes such as Banks, Billy Clapp, Moses, Potholes, Scooteney and Sprague in Eastern Washington, along with Seattle’s Green, Snohomish County’s Goodwin and Roseiger, and Bellingham’s Whatcom.

The state mapping product shows those have not been documented to have salmon present in or above them.

But eventually Rufus Woods and Lake Roosevelt could, if efforts to reintroduce Chinook to the Canadian Columbia go through.

Walleye and smallmouth are primarily in the Columbia system and largemouth are ubiquitous in lakes across Washington, and all can spawn naturally, but channel cats, which tend to only be able to spawn in the warmest of our relatively cool waters, have been planted in select lakes when funding has been available to buy them from other states.

While the issue of how to classify fish that are from the Midwest and elsewhere east of the Rockies is of concern to WDFW and the state’s warmwater anglers and guides, the bill has primarily elicited pushback for the elements strengthening how the agency permits work around water, including repealing all but automatic approvals for residential bulkheads on the saltwater, which can impact forage fish spawning habitat.

Rep. Bruce Chandler, a Republican from eastern Yakima County, called the bill “an imposition of changes that really apply to Puget Sound.”

Chairman Brian Blake, a Democrat who represents Washington’s South Coast, termed it a “work in progress,” but nonetheless asked fellow lawmakers to move it forward.

All eight Democrats voted for a slate of amendments to the bill, while six of the seven Republicans voted against, with the seventh absent.

The bill also would require anglers who fish for smelt in saltwaters to buy a license, a move that would annually yield an estimated $37,400, according to a legislative analysis.

A version in the Senate, SB 5580, had a public hearing yesterday. It was supported by WDFW and tribal and environmental groups, and opposed by building and business associations, with concerns from the state farm bureau.

To go into law, they would have to pass both chambers and be signed by Governor Inslee, and then, at least as far as bass, walleye, and channel cats go, the Fish and Wildlife Commission would need to make the changes to the regulations, though it could be also be done via an emergency rule.

Editor’s note: An earlier version reported HB 1579 received a do-pass recommendation out of committee. In fact, the vote was whether to amend the bill, which occurred. It remains to be given a recommendation.

Boat Ramp, Access Improved At Baker County’s Phillips Reservoir

THE FOLLOWING IS A JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE AND OREGON STATE MARINE BOARD

Boaters and anglers now have improved access to Phillips Reservoir, with the recent completion of the Mason Dam boat ramp. Mason Dam is a popular and heavily used boat launch facility. Phillips Reservoir receives approximately 5,000 boating use days annually.

IT WILL BE A LITTLE WHILE BEFORE THE ICE COMES OFF OF PHILLIPS RESERVOIR AND BOATS CAN LAUNCH, BUT WHEN IT DOES ANGLERS WILL FIND AN UPGRADED RAMP AT THE DAM ACCESS. (USFS VIA ODFW)

This project was identified in the Oregon State Marine Board’s “Six-Year Plan” as a priority to replace the deteriorating boat ramp. The half-century old boat ramp was part asphalt, part concrete and part gravel/dirt. The ramp was unsafe and difficult to use at nearly all water levels.

The recent project replaced the old potholed boat ramp with 430 linear feet of cast in place concrete ramp that improved access and will make the site more usable during low water conditions.

Phillips Reservoir provides good fishing for rainbow trout and yellow perch from mid-April through July and again in the fall as the water cools, according to Tim Bailey, district fish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The reservoir also provides good ice fishing for the same species from mid-December through March, according to Bailey.  Since 2016, ODFW has stocked the reservoir with trophy-sized rainbows, providing additional opportunity to catch bigger fish. It is scheduled to receive 4,500 trophies this spring from May through June.


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Mason Dam boat ramp is the first access site that visitors encounter at the reservoir. In addition to the boat ramp, amenities include an accessible vault toilet and parking for vehicles with boat trailers. The Mason Dam boat ramp is the only year-round boat ramp at Phillips Reservoir. The reservoir is typically ice-covered from mid-December through the end of March but the site also offers access for ice fishers during that time.

Cost of the project was approximately $275,000, which was paid by several partners, including the Oregon State Marine Board, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife through a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration grant, and the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

For more information about boating access and boating regulations, visit http://www.boatoregon.com/map.

SW Washington, Columbia Gorge Fishing Report (2-5-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 13 bank anglers kept 2 legal sturgeon and released 5 sublegal sturgeon.  14 boats/30 rods released 17 sublegal and 1 oversize sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool– Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool– 31 bank anglers kept 1 legal sturgeon.  9 boats/18 rods released 2 sublegal sturgeon.

FRANK URABECK AND GRANDSON SPENCER EWING GOT INTO A PRETTY NICE GRADE OF WINTER STEELHEAD DURING A RECENT OUTING ON THE QUINAULT INDIAN RESERVATION. (SPENCER EWING VIA FRANK URABECK)

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 2 boats/4 rods kept 1 walleye.

The Dalles Pool– No report.

John Day Pool– 16 boats/28 rods kept 18 walleye and released 5 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 10 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.  2 boats/4 rods had no catch.

Elochoman River – 17 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead and released 3 steelhead.  1 boat/2 rods released 2 steelhead.

Abernathy Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Mill Creek – 3 bank anglers had no catch.

Germany Creek – 10 bank anglers kept 2 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 26 bank rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  12 bank rods kept 2 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.  3 boats/6 rods kept 6 steelhead.

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Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered four winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

All the fish collected last week were held at the hatchery for broodstock needs.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 4,920 cubic feet per second on Monday, Feb. 4. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 43.2 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

East Fork Lewis River – 18 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.

Salmon Creek – 26 bank anglers kept 3 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Trout Plants and stocking schedules:

Yuasa: Lots Of Midwinter Blackmouth, Shellfishing Ops; Ode To Jensen’s Smokehouse

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

We are lucky to live in an area of the country where anglers have a legitimate chance to catch salmon year-round, and much of that is accomplished by a program requiring hatchery chinook and coho to be adipose fin clipped prior to release.

Washington has the largest hatchery production on the planet, which annually pumps out more than 200-million juvenile fish in hundreds of state, tribal and federal hatcheries. Since the mid-1990s mass-marking has played a critical role with salmon management to keep sustainable fisheries open while doing our due diligence of recovering wild salmon stocks.

HAPPY BLACKMOUTH ANGLER. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

A recent Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) memo to Governor Jay Inslee dated May 1, 2018 showed Puget Sound hatchery and wild chinook populations have increased by 14 percent over the past 10-years. Returns of just hatchery chinook to Puget Sound over the last 10-years have increased by 24 percent.

Hatchery production helps an angler identify between an unmarked wild fish versus a hatchery fish, and if it wasn’t for this type of technology, we’d likely be taking up another sport like golf or lawn bowling.

I beg to differ and pick salmon fishing for my pure enjoyment! After all feeling the tug of a hard-fighting salmon is way more satisfying than aimlessly hitting – along with my wicked slice – a golf ball.

Soon after the holiday parties concluded, three key marine areas (central and northern Puget Sound and San Juan Islands) reopened their doors Jan. 1 to some of the best winter blackmouth – a term commonly given to chinook for their dark gumline – fishing.

“What we’re seeing (in Area 7) is some pretty good fishing, but nothing great and I’ve heard of fish in all the top-20 usual spots around the islands,” said Derek Floyd, owner of Anglers Choice Fishing Charters in Anacortes.

Included in those top picks are Clark and Barnes Islands; Sucia Island; Parker Reef; West Beach; Spring Pass; Thatcher Pass; Peavine Pass; Point Thompson; Obstruction Pass; Waldron Island; Lopez Pass; and Presidents Channel.

By far the most hysteria involving winter chinook was central Puget Sound (Area 10) which closed on Jan. 20.

“We saw an unprecedented catch per angler effort with close to half-a-fish per rod,” said Mark Baltzell, a WDFW salmon manager. “We had incredible success and turnout.”

WDFW staff indicated it was some of the best fishing seen in Area 10 for the past several years and the good weather was also a factor for early closure – fishing was supposed to be open through March 30.

WDFW preliminary estimates and fishery projections indicated the Area 10 total encounter guideline of 2,997 chinook had been achieved with 738 boats and 1,561 anglers catching or releasing 3,351 fish (734 were kept).

I’ve said it once before, and I’ll say it again that making fishing plans sooner than later will guarantee you more time on the water. It’s a new era where catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (the minimum size limit is 22 inches) will dictate the length of seasons.

In the San Juan Islands (Area 7) winter fishery can’t exceed 3,176 total unmarked encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters, and midway through last month they were at 8 percent or 859 encounters. In northern Puget Sound the encounter ceiling is 10,004 chinook. Areas 7 and 9 have a one hatchery chinook daily limit.

The chinook fishery on the east side of Whidbey Island (Areas 8-1 and 8-2) has a total encounter of 5,474, and was at 29 percent or 1,597 encounters. Areas 8-1 and 8-2 have a one hatchery chinook daily limit. WDFW plans to provide regular catch updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

In Puget Sound, seek out chinook at Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Double Bluff off Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Point No Point; Possession Bar; Mats Mats Bay; Marrowstone Island; and Foulweather Bluff.

Other areas open for winter chinook are south-central Puget Sound (11); Hood Canal (12); and southern Puget Sound (13).

Whatever fishing location whets your appetite just be sure to find the baitfish (herring and candlefish) and you’ll likely find hungry chinook in the mix.

Lastly, I’d go fishing sooner than later as most areas could close in a moment’s notice if catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (the minimum size limit is 22 inches) are achieved. WDFW plans to provide updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

The San Juan Islands winter fishery can’t exceed 3,176 total unmarked encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters. In northern Puget Sound the encounter ceiling is 10,004 chinook; and central Puget Sound (Area 10) it is 3,596. All three areas have a one hatchery chinook daily limit.

Anglers can also make plans to fish for winter chinook in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles to Freshwater Bay (Area 6) when it opens Feb. 1 through April 15 and Sekiu (Area 5) from Feb. 16 through April 30.

If bottom-fishing gets you excited then mark March 8 on your calendar because that’s when Ilwaco, Westport and La Push opens for lingcod.

Other important dates are Feb. 27 when WDFW unveils their salmon forecasts during a public meeting, 9 a.m., at the Lacey Community Center. Other dates include North of Falcon meetings on March 19 at the DSHS Building in Olympia and April3 at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites. Final seasons will be adopted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council on April 11-16 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Sonoma, Calif.

Iconic Greenwood smokehouse closes its doors

After 34 years, the iconic Jensen’s Old-Fashioned Smokehouse in Greenwood, has shuttered its doors but hopefully this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this highly popular store where anglers have gotten their catch custom smoked in a variety of delicious ways.

“It has been a privilege to serve many of my customers over the years, and if I could redo my life, I’d do it all over again,” said Mike Jensen, owner of this family business in North Seattle since 1985. “I’ve gotten phone calls from people as far away as New Jersey who’ve said our smoked salmon is the best. Those kinds of comments really helped save the day and were very gratifying.”

JENSEN’S SMOKEHOUSE WAS IN BUSINESS ON GREENWOOD AVENUE IN NORTHWEST SEATTLE FOR 34 YEARS, SMOKING AS MUCH AS 3,000 POUNDS OF SALMON A DAY DURING PEAK SEASON. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Jensen – whose parents started a smokehouse in Bremerton many decades ago – says keeping his business going has been very tough the last five years where he employed up to 25 workers at peak periods from summer through fall. During slow times they’d produce about 300 pounds of smoked products per day, but during busy months they’d generate about 3,000 pounds daily.

“Hiring workers has been difficult in recent years as well as other issues like wage increases so I just felt it was time to retire,” said Jensen who is 64. “My wife (Kathy) retired a couple years ago and our 30-year anniversary is coming up (in February) so this is a nice way to launch into our next decade of marriage and walk into the sunset.”

Running the business hasn’t been easy as his wife and their home is located at the Lake Limerick Country Club near Bremerton. This meant Mike spent weekdays away from home and his beloved family.

“We love to play golf and pickleball, go on long hikes and water ski on the lake, and now I’ll get more time to do those kinds of special things,” Jensen said. “I’d also like to travel south in the winter to warmer places where I won’t hear my teeth chattering.”

Jensen’s commitment to his company was a family affair. Over the years, his son Scott and two daughters Mariah and Theresa helped with bookkeeping and the front counter and prepped and packaged products. Each of his kids have moved onto other successful ventures, but all learned how a company functions at the family smokehouse.

Their custom work was beloved by customers as fish or meat/poultry products were hand cut, filleted and each batch brined then hot or cold smoked with care that included specialty toppings like garlic and pepper. Double pepper was one of my favorites! Each of the finished products were then vacuum-sealed and date stamped for freshness.

They also sold products to retail grocery stores like QFC, Uwajimaya and to vendors at Pike Place Market. Their closing will leave a void in the smoked seafood industry.

“It’s a pretty serious disappointment that we couldn’t keep the business going,” said Jensen where his 34-year-old company has stood in a building erected in 1955.

The building is expected to be demolished by 2020 and replaced with a four-story townhome although current Jensen employees are trying the reopen the business for 12 months and then hopefully relocate elsewhere.

“It has been an honor to serve the community for so long and I’m glad for what I have accomplished in life,” Jensen said.

Dig into this shellfish news

There’s nothing more fun then digging up your favorite shellfish during the winter time especially when oysters are in prime eating condition.

The only overriding factor is that winter low tides occur in the dark so packing along a powerful lantern coupled and flashlight or headlamp is vital when hitting your favorite Puget Sound and Hood Canal beach.

In Whatcom County, Birch Bay State Park in Whatcom County is open year-round for shellfish and is a great oyster beach. In Jefferson County, Shine Tidelands State Park is an excellent beach for Manila, littlenecks and butter clams. Belfair State Park located in Mason County is productive for mainly oysters.

In Hood Canal, Dosewallips State Park is excellent choice for oysters and clams. Eagle Creek near Lilliwaup is a good spot for oysters. Point Whitney Lagoon and Tidelands and Wolfe Property State Park are decent for clams and oysters. In Kitsap County, Port Gamble Tidelands has acres of clams. The Quilcene Bay Tidelands is a good clam digging spot. Decent oyster beaches are Triton Cove, Twanoh State Park and West Dewatto.

Best upcoming low tides are Feb. 1-5; and Feb. 15-22. For tides, go to http://www.saltwatertides.com/dynamic.dir/washingtonsites.html.

Remember all eastern mainland beaches from Everett into southern Puget Sound are closed due to unsafe pollution levels. For details, go to WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/beaches/2019_ps_clam_oyster_seasons.pdf.

Be sure to follow all the shellfish rules, daily limits, and gathering etiquette such as filling-in all holes, shucking all oysters and leaving shells on the beach where you found them.

For emergency closures, call the marine biotoxin hotline at 800-562-5632 or visit the DOH website at www.doh.wa.gov Check the state fisheries hotline at 866-880-5431 and website at http://wdfw.wa.gov

Here are next dates for those looking to hit the coast for razor clams (WDFW usually gives final notice on openings a week before each series of digs): Feb. 1, 4:48 p.m. is plus-0.2 feet at Twin Harbors and Copalis; Feb. 2, 5:28 p.m. is 0.0 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Feb. 3, 6:04 p.m. is -0.1 at Twin Harbors and Copalis. Other tentative dates are Feb. 15, 3:11 p.m. is 0.4 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Feb. 16, 4:08 p.m. is -0.3 at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Kalaloch; Feb. 17, 4:59 p.m. is -1.0 at Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch; Feb. 18, 5:46 p.m. is -1.4 at Twin Harbors, Mocrocks and Kalaloch; Feb. 19, 6:31 p.m. is -1.5 at Twin Harbors; Feb. 20, 7:14 p.m. is -1.3 at Twin Harbors; and Feb. 21, 7:56 p.m. is -0.8 at Twin Harbors.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

We’ve just wrapped up the first two derbies in the series – Resurrection Salmon Derby and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic – and each was a great success with a good turnout and plenty of winter chinook around to catch.

THE GRAND PRIZE BOAT FOR THE 2019 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Another successful boat show ends Feb. 2 with many getting their first looks at the sleek grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston. The boat is powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motor on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronics stereo. Other sponsors who make the derby series a success include Silver Horde Lures; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; Harbor Marine; Salmon, Steelhead Journal; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Sportco and Outdoor Emporium; and Prism Graphics.

The boat will be pulled to each event by a 2018 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of our sponsor Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.

Next up in the derby series is the sold-out Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 7-9 (http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/). That will be followed by the Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 8-10 (http://gardinersalmonderby.org/); and Everett Blackmouth Derby March 16-17 (http://www.everettblackmouthderby.com/).

There are 15 derby events in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and the drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at the conclusion of the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22.

For derby details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.
I’ll see you on the water!