Tag Archives: grande ronde river

Fishing Groups Raising Funds To Secure Lower Ronde Access Site

A bid to permanently secure public fishing and camping access to 2,000 feet of the lower Grande Ronde is about halfway to its goal, with another $16,500 needed before the end of 2019 to buy the 8-acre parcel.

AN ANGLER PREPARES TO RELEASE A WILD SUMMER-RUN STEELHEAD. (WILD STEELHEAD COALITION)

The plan is for several fishing organizations to buy the land from the owner, who is looking to sell but wants it to remain accessible to the public, and then transfer it to WDFW.

The Ronde is renown for its steelheading, especially in the fall, and the smallmouth bass fishing can be pretty good during warmer seasons.

The parcel is located between the mouth in Hells Canyon and the county bridge a couple miles upstream. It has parking and outhouse and is known by WDFW as Ebsen 1 and 2.

According to Washington State Council of Fly Fishers International, the state agency has had a recreational access easement to the land since some time in the early 1980s.

But now with owner Lynn Miller wanting to sell and WDFW not having the funding to acquire it in the short term, fishing groups have been tapped.

So far, the fly council, Wild Steelhead Coalition, Inland Empire Fly Club and an anonymous donor have raised over $15,000.

They’re now spreading the word in hopes of garnering the remainder needed to make a deal.

THE SITE SITS IN THE CENTER OF A LARGE SWATH OF STATE AND FEDERAL LANDS AND HAS OUTHOUSES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Columbia-Snake Steelhead Restrictions Tighten

Washington steelhead managers are tightening already restricted fisheries as this year’s A-run comes in below forecast.

HATCHERY STEELHEAD LIMITS ON WASHINGTON’S GRANDE RONDE AND OTHER STREAMS ARE BEING DROPPED TO ONE FOLLOWING A RUNSIZE DOWNGRADE. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Limits on hatchery fish are being reduced on a number of Blue Mountains streams, including the Walla Walla, Touchet, Tucannon, Snake and Grande Ronde, from three to one starting Sept. 1, per a bevy of WDFW emergency rule change notices out in late morning.

While the best fishing really isn’t until midfall, anglers will be required to quit steelheading once they’ve retained their daily limit.

There’s also a 28-inch maximum size on the Snake from its mouth up to the Couse Creek boat launch near the mouth of Hells Canyon in eastern Asotin County to protect a low return of larger B-runs.

It follows this week’s downgrade from 118,200 As and Bs expected back to now just 86,000.

A fact sheet out today says the decrease is mainly due to fin-clipped A-runs “tracking lower than forecast.”

ODFW and WDFW also extended the steelhead retention closure on the Columbia below The Dalles Dam through Sept. 30. It had been scheduled to reopen Sept. 1.

“Due to the recent run downgrade for upriver steelhead (primarily clipped A-Index fish), concerns exist regarding achieving hatchery broodstock needs,” the fact sheet states.

Inland Northwest steelhead returns have been struggling in recent years and managers have implemented a series of rolling closures going up the Columbia to protect the runs.

They’ve also closed fishing in the cool plume at the mouth of the Deschutes River, a thermal refuge where steelhead as well as salmon hunker to get out of the warmer Columbia.

The fact sheet says that the big river is running at 71 degrees, average over the past 10 years and down a degree since early August, and at about 116,000 cubic feet per second, or about 18,000 cfs lower than typical.

If there’s any good news, it’s that the forecast for unclipped/wild/natural-origin A- and B-run steelhead has dropped less sharply versus the preseason estimate, from 40,250 to 38,000, and that fall Chinook and coho returns so far at Bonneville Dam are “similar” and “consistent” with expectations.

The fact sheet states that king catches and release mortalities at Buoy 10 stayed within expectations during the keeper season, but staffers recommended that a planned nontreaty netting opener this week be rescinded because “it appears the majority of the URB sub-allocation planned preseason for August mainstem non-treaty commercial fisheries has been achieved” and managers did subsequently follow through on that.

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Snow, Cold Leading WDFW To Close Eastern Blue Mtns. Wildlife Areas To Protect Big Game

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

Two Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wildlife areas (WLAs) and multiple units of other wildlife areas in southeast Washington are closed to public access until April. These closures are aimed at cutting down on disturbances to deer and elk struggling through extreme winter conditions.

BULL ELK GATHER NEAR A PONDEROSA ABOVE WASHINGTON’S GRANDE RONDE DURING 2016-17’S HARSH WINTER IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS. (WDFW)

Heavy snow loads and colder than normal temperatures are causing physical stress to wildlife in the area. The 4-O Ranch and Grouse Flats WLAs, along with the Weatherly Unit, Shumaker Unit, and all Asotin Creek WLA units south of the North Fork of Asotin Creek and Campbell Grade are closed to human activity. Minimizing contact between humans and animals will help the chances of survival for wildlife.

“The 2019 winter has been more severe than normal in February and elk and deer are at the lowest end of their nutritional state. It is thought that the fall drought, lack of fall green up, and the dry summer may have resulted in elk being in poorer than normal condition entering the winter. Elk and deer have been documented dying of starvation in places in southeast Washington. Reducing any further stress from disturbance will be important to maximize survival,” said Paul Wik, District Wildlife biologist

These closures will mostly impact shed hunters who use the approximately 27,190 affected acres to recover antlers dropped by deer and elk this time of year. Adjacent U.S. Forest Service public lands are still open for winter recreation activities at this time.


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“We know it’s an adjustment for the public, but we need their help. Abiding by the closure helps to protect our wildlife for long-term population health,” Wik said.

Closed areas are marked with signs to the extent possible. Fishing access is still available for the river corridor on the Shumaker unit. Motorized travel on county maintained roads through the areas is also still allowed.

More information on WDFW wildlife areas can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/

Steelheaders Now Required To Stop Fishing After First Keeper On SE WA Rivers

THE FOLLOWING ARE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Eastern Washington steelhead fishery change

Action: Change the daily limit on steelhead to one hatchery fish. Anglers must stop fishing for steelhead once they reach the daily limit.

STEELHEADERS ON THE GRANDE RONDE AND OTHER SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON RIVERS WILL HAVE TO QUIT FISHING ONCE THEY RETAIN THEIR FIRST HATCHERY FISH, WDFW HAS ANNOUNCED. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date: Immediately through April 15, 2019.

Species affected: Steelhead.

Location:

Grande Ronde River: From mouth to the Washington/Oregon state line.

Touchet River: From the mouth to the confluence of the North and South Forks.

Tucannon River: From the mouth to the Tucannon Hatchery Road Bridge.

Walla Walla River: From the mouth to the Washington/Oregon state line.

Reason for action: The 2018 Columbia River forecasted return for upriver steelhead was 190,350. The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met on Aug. 26 to review the A/B-Index steelhead passage at Bonneville Dam. TAC downgraded the total expected A/B-Index steelhead run size at Bonneville to 96,500. The run was adjusted again on Sept. 25 to a total of 92,800 A/B Index steelhead with 69,500 clipped and 28,300 unclipped fish. With continued concerns between co-managers for A run steelhead and impacts to wild fish, the department believes it is important to reduce daily limits to protect steelhead within the river network.

Additional information: All steelhead with unclipped adipose fins must be immediately released unharmed. In addition, anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for steelhead.

Anglers should be sure to identify their catch, as chinook and coho salmon may be present during this fishery and are not open to harvest. Anglers cannot remove any chinook, coho or steelhead from the water if it is not retained as part of the daily bag limit. Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2018-19 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including possession limits and safety closures. Please continue to check emergency rules if you are planning to fish for steelhead within the affected area.

Information contact: Jeremy Trump, District 3 Fish Biologist (509) 382-1005

Snake River steelhead fishery change

Action: Changes the daily limit on steelhead to one hatchery fish. Anglers must stop fishing for steelhead once they reach the daily limit

Effective date: Immediately through March 31, 2019.

Species affected: Steelhead.

Location:  Snake River from the mouth (Burbank to Pasco railroad bridge at Snake River mile 1.25) to the Oregon State line (approximately seven miles upstream of the mouth of the Grande Ronde River)

Reason for action: The 2018 Columbia River forecasted return for upriver steelhead was 190,350. The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met on Aug. 26 to review the A/B-Index steelhead passage at Bonneville Dam. TAC downgraded the total expected A/B-Index steelhead run size at Bonneville to 96,500. The run was adjusted again on Sept. 25 to a total of 92,800 A/B Index steelhead with 69,500 clipped and 28,300 unclipped fish. With continued concerns between co-managers for A run steelhead and impacts to wild fish, the Department believes it is important to reduce limits to protect steelhead within the Snake River.

Additional information:  All steelhead with unclipped adipose fins must be immediately released unharmed. In addition, anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for steelhead and. Anglers should be sure to identify their catch, as chinook and coho salmon may be present during this fishery and are not open to harvest. Anglers cannot remove any chinook, coho or steelhead from the water if not retained as part of the daily bag limit. Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2018/2019 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including possession limits, safety closures, etc.

Please continue to check emergency rules if you are planning to fish for steelhead within the affected area.

Information contact: Jeremy Trump, District 3 Fish Biologist (509) 382-1005

Nez Perce Optimistic About Snake Basin Coho Reintroductions

By Rick Itami

With salmon and steelhead runs across the Northwest experiencing low run counts in most river systems, anglers these days glom on to any visage of hope they can find.

For us Inland Empire anglers, the Nez Perce Tribe is providing such hope through their quiet efforts to reintroduce coho salmon to the Clearwater River and Grande Ronde River basins.

The Clearwater River Basin

History tells us that the once plentiful Clearwater River coho started declining in the 1800s because of habitat degradation. In 1927, the Washington Water Power Company (now Avista Corp.) constructed the Lewiston Dam to produce electricity and aid in flood control.

The original Lewiston Dam had a fish ladder, but it accommodated only steelhead resulting in the extirpation of Clearwater Chinook salmon and any remaining vestiges of a coho run. A second fish ladder was installed in the early 1950s that seemed to help the Chinook salmon run somewhat, but it was too late for the coho.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game tried to re-establish coho in the Clearwater River Basin beginning in 1962. But that effort was discontinued after only 31 coho were counted at Lewiston Dam in 1969. The Lewiston Dam was finally taken out in 1973 after the construction of Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River caused a reservoir pool that backed up into the lower Clearwater River, rendering the Lewiston Dam ineffective. By 1985, coho salmon in Idaho were determined to be extinct.

The Nez Perce Tribe began working diligently to reintroduce coho salmon to the Clearwater River in 1995. Becky Johnson, Production Division Director for the Nez Perce Tribe’s Department of Fisheries Resource Management, is a key manager in the effort to reintroduce coho salmon to the Clearwater River Basin. Johnson provided the following information about how the Tribe carried out the project.

NOAA’s Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and the Mitchell Act Program provided the Nez Perce Tribe with more than $5 million since 2000 for the project. The Clearwater River Basin Coho Restoration Project also got a jump-start when the Tribe was allowed to acquire surplus coho eggs from the Lower Columbia River as part of an agreement between Northwest tribes and state and federal agencies resulting from U. S. v. Oregon.

After initial supplementation efforts using Lower Columbia River coho eggs were successful, returning adult coho are now collected at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery, Kooskia National Fish Hatchery and Lapwai Creek. Over the years, the tribal program has grown and now releases 830,000 to 1.1 million smolts annually. Coho smolts are released each spring into Clear Creek and Lapwai Creek, both tributaries of the Clearwater River. In 2014, about 90 percent of the adult coho returning to Lapwai Creek were allowed to spawn naturally.

The final 2014 count of coho salmon over Lower Granite Dam — the last dam the fish have to negotiate before reaching the mouth of the Clearwater River in Lewiston, Idaho — was 18,048 fish. Mike Bisbee, Jr., Tribal Project Manager for the Clearwater Basin Coho Reintroduction Program says the 2014 adult return far-exceeded the project goal of 14,000 returning adults and gave hope for the future of the run.

To the Nez Perce Department of Fisheries Management, the success of the coho reintroduction program helps fulfill its goal of “putting fish in the rivers” to rebuild natural spawning runs and to restore harvest opportunities. This all came to fruition for the Nez Perce Tribe in 2014 and Bisbee says that he and his crew received a lot of pats on the back by Tribal members, both young and old. He and his crew were able to take dozens of excess coho out of the fish trap in Lapwai Creek and give them to Tribal members for the first time last year. In addition, many tribal members were successful harvesting coho individually. The return of the coho salmon has great significance to Tribal members as it helps bring back an important part of their cultural history.

For Clearwater River sports fishermen in Idaho, the reintroduction of coho salmon meant a totally new species to pursue. And some were wise enough to realize that this opened up an opportunity to catch a state record that would permanently put them in the record books.

Ethan Crawford of Moscow, Idaho was the first to set the Idaho record by catching a 9.4 pound, 31-inch female on October 18, 2014 — just a day after the Idaho Department of Fish and Game opened the coho season.

That record didn’t last long, however. On November 9, 2014, Steve Micek from Idaho Falls, Idaho hooked and landed an 11.8 pound coho while fishing with his son Greg. Micek said he hooked the fish on the last cast of the day, using a half-ounce silver KO Wobbler.

He wasn’t impressed with the fight, however, saying the fish “hit like a snag” and was in the net after only a few strong pulls. He attributes the lack of fight to “spawning behavior.”

STEVE MICEK AND HIS IDAHO STATE RECORD COHO, AN 11.8-POUNDER CAUGHT NOV. 8, 2014. (IDFG)

I accidently hooked and landed a nice bright female coho with firm red meat. I say accidentally because I was trolling lighted lures for steelhead early in the morning before sunrise. When the sun came up, I decided to switch to fishing shrimp under bobbers. So I started reeling up my trolling rod with the lighted lure. As soon as I speeded up the retrieve, the fish struck and I happily landed my first Idaho coho that went into the cooler with some steelhead we had caught earlier.

Since many Idaho anglers have never fished for coho salmon before, they naturally have to learn how it’s done properly. Many successful anglers cruised the Clearwater River in their boats until they observed coho salmon rolling on the surface. Then they would throw spoons or spinners like the Blue Fox, twitched jigs, or trolled plugs for them. Favorite colors were silver, chartreuse, pink, cerise and black or combinations thereof.

Toby Wyatt, owner and operator of Reel Time Fishing (208-790-2128), a successful guide service out of Clarkston, Washington says that his clients did well trolling Mag Lips 3.5 plugs in the Doctor Death colors, drifting beads, and casting spoons like the silver Little Cleo or the pink Vibrax Blue Fox spinner.

He said that the bite was never really hot and five to six coho a day was the norm. He targeted the mouths of creeks and hatcheries where coho were released and said he observed a lot of fish that simply would not bite.

Then in 2015, poor ocean conditions caused near record low runs of coho salmon. The low number of adult returns caused the Tribe to miss its broodstock needs for the year which in turn, caused hatchery releases of smolts in 2017 to be low.

According to Johnson, “Once you get into a ‘hole’ like that it can be hard to climb out unless ocean conditions really turn around and are good again.”

In the fall of 2018, Johnson estimates 1,200 to 1,400 adult coho returned to the Clearwater River basin. While this was too low a number to allow for a sports fishing season, she says Tribal staff should have enough eggs to produce the 500,000 juveniles for the Clearwater program that will be released in the spring of 2020.

The Grande Ronde River Basin

With the initial success of the reintroduction of coho salmon to the Clearwater River basin, the Nez Perce Tribe turned its attention to the Grande Ronde River basin.

On March 9, 2017, the Tribe held a ceremony to release 500,000 coho salmon smolts into the Lostine River on the Woody Wolf Ranch just east of the town of Wallowa, Oregon. According to Johnson, coho once flourished in the Grande Ronde River Basin but the fish pretty much disappeared by around 1986.

COHO SMOLTS RELEASED INTO THE LOSTINE RIVER ON THE WOODY WOLF RANCH, MARCH 9, 2017. (RICK ITAMI)

This project is co-managed by the Nez Perce Tribe and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The release was made possible by obtaining Lower Columbia River coho smolts from the Cascade Hatchery on Tanner Creek — the same hatchery from which coho smolts came from for the initial releases into the Clearwater River Basin.

According to Bruce Eddy, Manager of the Eastern Region of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the initial goal for the reintroduction is to have broodstock for 500,000 juvenile coho salmon. When asked when the Department might open a coho season for sports anglers, Eddy said that it may be as long as 10 years, depending on all the factors involved.

The Nez Perce Tribe waited expectantly for the first returning adult coho to the Lostine River weir in the fall of 2018. Then on October 26, 2018, a female coho entered the weir — the first coho salmon to return to the Lostine River since 1966.

As Johnson put it, “It goes without saying that we’re super excited to see these coho return home.”

At the time of this writing, Nez Perce staff had trapped 125 coho that were later released to spawn naturally in the Lostine River.

FEMALE COHO TRAPPED AT THE LOSTINE RIVER WEIR ON OCTOBER 26, 2018 — THE FIRST SINCE 1966. (NEZ PERCE TRIBE)

Johnson says they think about 800 coho bound for the Lostine River crossed Lower Granite Dam, based on PIT tag data.

She adds, “Coho that didn’t make it all the way to the Lostine weir likely are spawning in the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers,” of which the Lostine River is a tributary.

At any rate, it appears that the target return of 500 adults was met in 2018. That’s good news, even though the overall return did not allow a sports fishing season, which wasn’t anticipated anyway.

Johnson sees poor ocean conditions as one of the biggest challenges to the reintroduction of coho salmon. As she puts it, “Warm water, low prey base — not good conditions for salmon and steelhead.”

But looking into the future, Johnson says, “I am optimistic about attaining self-sustaining runs in the Snake Basin. Coho were once abundant here and the habitat in a lot of the tributaries up here is available and vacant. Developing a stock that is able to navigate 500 to 600 miles over eight dams out to the ocean and then have the stamina to migrate home that same distance over those same dams as an adult was the challenge when we started reintroduction in the 1990s. We’ve seen great success with that from our Clearwater program. I believe the greatest challenge now is climate change and tough ocean conditions.”

We sports anglers are cheering the Nez Perce Tribe on in their efforts to restore coho salmon to the Clearwater River and Grande Ronde River basins. Having had a taste of a fishable run of coho in 2014 gives us hope for more of the same in the future for both basins.

In this day and age, when disparate groups are fighting each other over fishing rights and oftentimes driven by selfish motivation, it’s refreshing to see the Nez Perce Tribe forging ahead with substantive actions to bring coho salmon back to the Inland Northwest with little fanfare.

Just as the benevolent Nez Perce Tribe saved Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery from certain starvation in the fall of 1805, we hope they can now bring back sustainable runs of the magnificent coho salmon.

Editor’s note: Rick Itami is an angler and outdoor writer based in the Spokane area. His work has appeared in several Northwest sporting magazines, including ours.

Boggan’s Back Open, Grand Celebration Planned For This Weekend

A popular waystation on one of the Northwest’s best steelhead rivers is back open after a fire destroyed it last fall.

“They’re serving 10 to 15 people with ice cream,” said Bill Vail at a noisy Boggan’s Oasis earlier this afternoon.

(BOGGAN’S OASIS)

He and wife Farrel are planning a two-day grand reopening this weekend at their restaurant just above the banks of the Grande Ronde River at the bottom of the Rattlesnake and Buford Grades, between Clarkston and Enterprise.

It will feature a 1950s theme, described as “fitting” for all the milkshakes and hamburgers served there during the Vails’ ownership since 1983.

The establishment dates back to the 1940s, but on Nov. 19, a blaze left the building a smoking shell, burning so hot it melted their grill.

ALL THAT REMAINED OF BOGGAN’S OASIS AFTER LAST FALL’S FIRE. THE DISASTER FOLLOWED A HELLACIOUS WINTER THAT SAW OWNERS BILL AND FARREL VAIL CLOSE THE DOORS MORE THAN THEY HAD IN ALL PREVIOUS ONES COMBINED. (JENNIFER BRISTOL)

But thanks to insurance, the Vails were able build again, though finding contractors so late in the construction season was a bit tricky.

“The layout’s about the same, but it’s a bigger building,” said Bill.

(BOGGAN’S OASIS)

With its breakfast, lunch, dinner and desert menu, and rental cabins nearby, Boggan’s has been the kind of place where fishermen start and end their days during the fall-to-spring steelhead run.

“They’re already catching fish,” Bill reported.

While state managers dropped the limit to one hatchery summer-run a day, for some anglers it will be enough just to be able to stop by Boggan’s again.

“It feels good and we’re happy to start the next chapter in our lives,” Bill said.

Snake, Tribs Steelhead Limit Again Reduced

Snake River steelheaders will see reduced bag limits again this fall following a significant downgrading of the run earlier this week.

Oregon fishery managers this morning announced that anglers will only be able to retain a single hatchery fish when seasons open tomorrow, Sept. 1, on that state’s portions of the Snake and Grande Ronde Rivers, as well as its Imnaha River.

WITH POOR RETURNS SO FAR, OREGON STEELHEAD MANAGERS ARE AGAIN DROPPING THE LIMIT ON HATCHERY FISH ON THE SNAKE, GRANDE RONDE AND IMNAHA TO ONE A DAY. (BRIAN LULL)

WDFW followed in the afternoon with one-fish bags taking effect  Sept. 4 on the Washington Grande Ronde, Walla Walla, Touchet, Tucannon and Snake, and closing steelhead retention and night fishing the lower White Salmon River.

“Making this change now will help us meet our conservation objectives for wild steelhead and still allow anglers some fishing opportunity,” Eastern Washington Fish Program Manager Chris Donley said in a press release. “However, we will continue to monitor the run of steelhead to the Snake River and adjust as necessary.”

Idaho announced similar restrictions on the Clearwater, Snake, Salmon and Little Salmon earlier in the week.

It’s the second year in a row that Northwest officials have had to reduce the limit in response to low returns and concerns about wild steelhead.

An ODFW press release said that downstream dam counts were at “historically low” levels, just 25 percent of the 10-year average.

Earlier this week the A- and B-run forecast was reduced from 116,000 to 96,500, just about half of the preseason prediction of 190,350.

The agency said lowering the limit is meant to “reduce fishing pressure on sensitive wild stocks of steelhead, in addition to ensuring enough hatchery fish return to facilities in the Snake River basin to meet production objectives.”

“We found that this approach was successful last year to increase survival and returns to wild spawning tributaries and hatchery facilities,” said Jeff Yanke, ODFW’s district fish biologist in Enterprise, in a press release.

ODFW and WDFW have already closed steelhead retention on the mainstem Columbia from Buoy 10 to Tri-Cities, as well as the lower Deschutes and John Day Rivers, and closed fishing at night on Washington’s Drano Lake and the Wind River.

However, hopefully this year’s run mimics 2017’s.

By midfall, numbers had picked up at Bonneville Dam and managers were able to ease the restrictions.

Indeed, ODFW’s press release on today’s announcement uses the word “temporary,” but also that the change will stay in place for the time being as they monitor the run’s progress to Oregon waters.

WDFW Bumping Steelie Limits On SE WA Rivers Back To 3, Extending Tucannon Season

THE FOLLOWING ARE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

WDFW announces steelhead fishery changes on some Snake River tributaries

Action: WDFW is rescinding emergency rule changes on the Grande Ronde, Walla Walla, and Touchet rivers that limited steelhead retention to two hatchery fish. Beginning Feb. 1, the daily limit for hatchery steelhead in those rivers will increase to three fish, as listed in the 2017/2018 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

WASHINGTON ANGLERS WILL BE ABLE TO RETAIN THREE HATCHERY STEELHEAD A DAY STARTING FEB. 1  ON THE WALLA WALLA, TOUCHET, GRANDE RONDE AND TUCANNON RIVERS. (BRIAN LULL)

Locations:

Walla Walla River from the mouth to the Oregon state line.

Touchet River from the mouth to the confluence of the North and South Fork Touchet Rivers and all tributaries.

Grande Ronde River from the County Road Bridge (approximately 2.5 miles upstream from the mouth) to the Oregon state line and all tributaries.

Dates: Feb. 1, 2018

Species affected:  Steelhead

Reason for action:  Lagging steelhead returns during the summer of 2017 led fishery managers to close, or reduce bag limits, for steelhead fisheries in most of the Columbia River and its tributaries. Increases in the abundance of migrating steelhead over Bonneville Dam and the Snake River Dams allowed fishery managers to provide for some increases in harvest opportunities during the Fall 2017 and Winter 2018 in the Snake River and select tributaries to the Snake River. Fishery managers now feel it is appropriate to further increase limits within tributaries to remove excess hatchery steelhead.

Other Information:  Anglers should refer to the 2017/2018 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for regulations.

Emergency rules remain in effect on the Snake River. More information is available at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=2073.

WDFW did not put emergency rules in place on the lower 2.5 miles of the Grande Ronde River, so anglers should continue to refer to the 2017/2018 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for regulations.

 

WDFW makes changes to Tucannon River steelhead and other gamefish fisheries

Actions and locations:

Tucannon River, downstream of the Tucannon Hatchery Bridge

Extend the fishery for gamefish, including steelhead, through April 15. The fishery previously was scheduled to close Feb. 28.
Increase the daily limit on hatchery steelhead to three (from two) fish.

Mandatory hatchery steelhead retention is required.
Barbless hooks are required while fishing for steelhead and gamefish.

Release all other species.

Tucannon River, from the Tucannon Hatchery Bridge upstream Is closed to fishing.

Dates: Feb. 1 through April 15, 2018.

Species affected: Hatchery steelhead (with clipped adipose fin) and all other gamefish.

Reason for action: Lagging steelhead returns during the summer of 2017 led fishery managers to close or reduce bag limits for steelhead fisheries in most of the Columbia River and its tributaries. Increases in the abundance of migrating steelhead over Bonneville Dam and the Snake River Dams allowed for some increases in harvest opportunities during the Fall 2017 and Winter 2018 in the Snake River and select tributaries to the Snake River. Fishery managers now feel it is appropriate to increase limits within tributaries to remove excess hatchery steelhead.

Other Information: Anglers must stop fishing for steelhead for the day once they have retained three hatchery steelhead. Hatchery fish, marked with a clipped adipose fin, must have a healed scar at the location of the missing fin.

All wild steelhead, those with unclipped adipose fins, must be immediately released unharmed.

In addition, anglers cannot remove any steelhead from the water unless they plan to retain the fish as part of the daily bag limit.

Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2017/2018 Fishing in Washington sport fishing rules pamphlet for other regulations, including possession limits, safety closures, etc.

Boggan’s Owners Hope To Rebuild After Fire Burns Grande Ronde Icon

The owners of an iconic restaurant along the fish-rich Grande Ronde River hope to rebuild after fire gutted their establishment last month.

Bill Vail says he and his wife Farrel are awaiting word back from their insurance company and will look at that with an eye towards what it would take to get the milkshake machine and grill going again at Boggan’s Oasis.

“That’s still our plans,” he said late last week.

BOGGAN’S OASIS BURNS ON THE NIGHT OF NOVEMBER 18. (JENNIFER BRISTOL)

The Vails have owned the restaurant at the intersection of Washington’s Ronde and Highway 129 since 1983 but witnessed it burn to the ground on the evening of Nov. 18.

Bill says that the fire was too hot to make a determination about what caused it.

“Our large grill totally melted,” he said.

But what has since burned just as bright, and for far longer, has been the outpouring of support for the Vails and Boggan’s. A Go Fund Me account for the 80-plus-year-olds had raised over $3,600 as of last week.

“It’s left us so we could hardly talk on occasion,” said Bill. “It’s come from all across the United States and even Europe. That’s one of the reasons we want to rebuild.”

 

FROM THE ASHES OF NOVEMBER’S FIRE, THE OWNERS OF BOGGAN’S ARE CONSIDERING REBUILDING. (JENNIFER BRISTOL)

In the meanwhile, the lights are on in the cabins, though you’ll want bring your own grub — “We can still put them up, but we can’t feed them at this time,” Bill said — and the shuttle service is still operating.

As for the steelheading, well, let’s just say the Ronde looks a lot better than it did for much of last steelhead season.

“The water is absolutely beautiful,” Bill said last Friday morning. He reported some floating ice, but otherwise it was “very, very fishable.”

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 …