Tag Archives: grande ronde river

Without Boggan’s, ‘Fishing The Ronde Will Never Be Quite The Same’

I’ll be rooting around my parent’s basement on Thanksgiving Day, searching for an old yellow notepad that’s gathered nearly 20 years of dust.

The words scrawled across those 70 or 80 pages go with a few dozen slide photographs I dug out of the back corner of my cramped attic yesterday afternoon and put on the light box.

I hadn’t meant to resurrect them all for another year and a half, for a magazine feature I’ve mulled, but then I learned that Boggan’s Oasis burned down Saturday night and I needed to remember right then.

ALL THAT REMAINS OF BOGGAN’S OASIS, THOUGH THE MEMORY OF THE ICONIC RESTAURANT ALONG HIGHWAY 129 HALFWAY BETWEEN ASOTIN, WASHINGTON, AND ENTERPRISE, OREGON, WILL LIVE ON IN THE HEARTS OF LOCAL RESIDENTS, STEELHEADERS, HUNTERS AND OTHERS WHO’VE STOPPED IN FOR A MILKSHAKE, A BOX LUNCH OR DINNER. (JENNIFER BRISTOL)

All that’s left of the restaurant is twisted metal, fallen cinder blocks and a hollow place in the hearts of everyone who knows this country.

Let me tell you about my connection to it.

I spent two weeks in a cabin and trailer above Boggan’s in March 1999, taking the aforementioned notes and images while fishing for steelhead above and below the iconic restaurant along Washington’s Grande Ronde.

I remember the kindness and wonderful meals served up by the owners, Bill and Farrel Vail, who today aren’t sure if they will rebuild or not.

“I’m 84, and my lovely wife, she’s 82,” Bill told the Spokesman-Review. “It will work out. Everything’s in God’s hands. It will work out.”

They’d been up later than usual Saturday night to watch Gonzaga beat Utah State when they heard some noises and realized the restaurant was ablaze.

With no fire stations able to respond and the fire’s heat having destroyed a water pump that otherwise might have helped hose things down a bit, there was nothing for the Vails to do but watch the business they’ve owned since 1983 burn.

If there’s solace, I’m told by a local resident that the shuttle service and cabins are still available; check at the double wide or call (509) 256-3418.

But the restaurant is “a complete loss.

I remember back in ’99, after the day’s steelheading was done, eating dinner there and tracking the Zags as they made their first deep run in the Final Four.

IMAGES FROM A MARCH 1999 STEELHEADING STAY ON THE GRANDE RONDE RIVER OUT OF BOGGAN’S. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

I know I took a lot of notes as the plug rods bounced on those floats down from Cougar Creek, but I hope to find in the pages of that yellow pad in my folks’ basement more memories from the wonderful evening sessions spent with fellow fishermen and others inside the cozy restaurant.

It was an important way station for those headed north or south by road, or east or west on the river.

Whether you were going to end your day at the takeout below Boggan’s or start there on the float downstream to Schumacher, whether you were coming from Enterprise headed for Asotin or vice versa, in a land where services are few and far between, Boggan’s was where you stopped for breakfast, lunch, dinner, local information or just to let the brakes cool at the base of the Rattlesnake and Buford Grades while you enjoyed one of their famed milkshakes.

“That place truly was an oasis in an otherwise isolated part of the world,” noted Chris Donley, a steelheader as well as WDFW’s regional fishing manager. “I’m going to miss the pay phone to check in at home and some great all-you-can-eat meals served up with love from Farrel. More importantly, this was Bill and Farrel’s home. I worry for them that they have a place to go during the holidays and beyond. I will miss the place and all its worn-out quirks. Fishing the Ronde will never quite be the same.”

I remember stopping at the restaurant in the mid-90s during a winter circumnavigation of the Blues and Greg using that payphone to make a call home to his folks.

Several years later, during that 1999 trip, my mom called the restaurant and left a message to tell me that F&H News wanted me to come in for a job interview at their Seattle office. I put the magazine off a week so I could fish some more, but did eventually hire on there.

As editor of the Washington edition, me or Randall Peters would call Bill for a report on the steelheading, which was typically all right if not good, even if the boys at the tackle shop in Clarkston thought otherwise than the savvy businessman on the Ronde.

The history of Boggan’s traces back to the post-World War II era, and is named for its original proprietor. Even as the nearby farming towns of Mountain View, Anatone, Paradise and Flora faded into history, Boggan’s was a coal that continued to burn in one of Washington’s most remote corners.

During the Vails’ ownership, smallmouth and steelhead runs increased markedly, and if you’d asked me after my 1999 trip, I would have told you it would have been impossible for the fishing to have been any better than it was that March.

A nine-fish day, a seven-fish day. Yes, I was in the hands of someone on their way to expert status, but I hit three on my own one day from the bank and felt pretty good about that, even if it was just below Cottonwood Creek.

That winter-spring season was actually only so-so for summer-runs, at least when measured against the years that proceeded it, one of which saw more than 325,000 fish over Lower Granite Dam and a Ronde harvest in excess of 13,000.

But the fishing wasn’t very good at all this past winter, one of the harshest to hit this country in several decades.

The river froze, then blew out. Participation in Boggan’s annual derby was half of usual, and only 29 steelhead were weighed in.

“No fish turned in at all after March 7,” they told me. “This year we are trying to forget.”

Those words, written in April as the Ronde tried to green up for the last week of season, were hopeful, but would be followed by a poor return this year.

And now the fire.

Looking through old slides and reading notes from days gone by won’t bring back the Boggan’s I knew, or anyone else did, but I hope to get back there this Thursday, as my family and I sit down to give thanks for what we have, and have had.

TO BE FINISHED PROPERLY …

Washington Easing Hatchery Steelhead Limit Restrictions On Southeast Waters

Washington fishery managers are partially scaling back steelhead bag limit restrictions on waters in the southeast corner of the state.

As of Sunday, Oct. 15, daily limits will increase from one to two hatchery fish on the Walla Walla, Touchet, Tucannon and Grande Ronde Rivers.

GRANDE RONDE AND SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON ANGLERS WILL SOON BE ABLE TO RETAIN TWO HATCHERY STEELHEAD A DAY AS DAM COUNTS INDICATE MORE ARE RETURNING THAN FEARED JUST TWO MONTHS AGO. (GREG OLENIK)

However, the Snake will remain catch-and-release only from the mouth up to Clarkston. But between there and the Couse Creek boat ramp, near the mouth of of Hells Canyon, the river will also offer a two-hatchery-steelhead limit, though any longer than 28 inches must be released.

That’s to protect expected low returns of B-runs headed back to Idaho rivers.

Above Couse Creek, any hatchery steelhead can be retained, daily limit two.

Idaho managers are also mulling easing restrictions.

Going into this year’s season, Washignton’s fishing regs pamphlet listed a three-hatchery-steelhead limit on most of the rivers, except the Snake where fall season was yet to be determined.

Though this year’s A-run of steelhead is still well below average, it’s not looking as critically poor as it was in midsummer, when dam counts suggested we might only see 54,000 back.

That led Washington, Oregon and Idaho managers to chop bag limits or switch to catch-and-release-only fishing in the Snake and its tributaries.

But since then more have been counted at Bonneville Dam, and the preseason forecast of 112,100 has just about been met and will probably be exceeded.

“These measures will help ensure that sufficient numbers of wild and hatchery fish return to their natal streams,” said Chris Donley, WDFW regional fisheries manager. “But we’ll continue to monitor the steelhead run over the coming months, and either curtail the harvest of steelhead if needed, or provide more harvest opportunity if possible.”

Along with bag limit tweaks, the mandatory steelhead retention rule will be waived on Washington waters, but anglers will need to quit for the day after keeping two.

ODFW Also Reducing NE OR Steelhead Limits, Optimistically Calls It ‘Temporary’

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

Bag limits for hatchery summer steelhead will be reduced to one fish per day for the Grande Ronde and Imnaha Rivers when the season opens on Friday, Sept. 1. In addition, there will be no harvest allowed in the mainstem Snake River but catch-and-release will be allowed.

AS INLAND NORTHWEST STEELHEAD MANAGERS ELSEWHERE ARE DOING, ODFW IS LOWERING LIMITS ON THE IMNAHA RIVER AS WELL AS GRANDE RONDE, AND INSTITUTING CATCH-AND-RELEASE-ONLY REGS ON THE SNAKE AS PART OF A “TEMPORARY” MEASURE DUE TO LOW RETURNS. (ROGER PETERSON, USFS)

Fishery managers decided to reduce the bag limit to correspond with the historically low Columbia River steelhead counts observed in 2017. As of Aug. 28, only 70,000 hatchery and 25,000 wild steelhead had passed Bonneville Dam, which is only 30 percent of the most recent 10-year average. The catch-and-release regulations in the Snake River mirror those implemented by the state of Idaho on Aug. 17, which restricted steelhead fishing to catch-and-release statewide.

Oregon officials expect the reduced bag limits to be temporary, but support a conservative start to the season when facing a hatchery and wild steelhead run this low. “Despite the poor outlook, our current estimates suggest enough fish will return to sustain hatchery programs and provide fish for recreational harvest,” said Jeff Yanke, ODFW District Fish Biologist in Enterprise. “A one-fish limit allows for a small level of harvest, but also prevents a situation where anglers are forced to put back an injured hatchery fish.”

Managers will hold off on further changes until more of the steelhead run arrives closer to home. So far, only 5 percent of Grande Ronde and Imnaha steelhead have moved upstream of the Columbia River. Yanke expects to have a much clearer picture by late October.

“This is the lowest run we’ve seen in decades, but I’d encourage anglers not to panic and give up on fishing this year. Coupled with the right river conditions, even in a low run year, we can still have a worthwhile steelhead fishery,” Yanke added. “Folks will just need to have a little more patience, and that is one quality steelhead anglers always bring to the river.”

SE WA Steelheading Restrictions Taking Effect Sept. 1

Though steelhead counts downstream are picking up from a very bad runsize update earlier this month, Washington managers are restricting fisheries in the state’s southeast corner.

The Snake River will only be open for catch and release fishing for the species, while limits on the Walla Walla, Touchet, Tucannon and most of the Grande Ronde are being reduced to one hatchery steelhead a day because of a very low return.

FOR THE TIME BEING, GRANDE RONDE STEELHEADERS FISHING ABOVE THE COUNTY BRIDGE NEAR THE MOUTH WILL BE LIMITED TO ONE HATCHERY STEELHEAD A DAY, THOUGH MANDATORY RETENTION HAS BEEN WAIVED FOR THIS DESTINATION FISHERY. ERIC STEIN CAUGHT THIS NICE SUMMER-RUN BELOW COTTONWOOD A FEW YEARS BACK. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

The changes, which also include waiving of the mandatory retention rule, take effect Sept. 1 and are posted on WDFW’s emergency rule-change notices page.

In mid-August, steelhead managers updated this year’s already low forecast of 112,100 A-runs to just 54,000,

“With a significant reduction to the preseason forecast for Group A steelhead reducing bag limits will minimize impacts to natural origin fish and assure that WDFW will meet broodstock needs for the hatchery program,” the agency explained.

Since that runsize update, however, counts at Bonneville Dam have improved and now sit at 66,933, a figure that includes mostly As but now-arriving Bs as well.

It is also still just a third of the 10-year average through Aug. 28 of 222,333, and it’s the fewest through that date since 1978.

WDFW says it will monitor the run to see if it improves and can offer more opportunities.