Tag Archives: Portland

New USFWS Director Talks Fishing, Hunting, More With Northwest Outdoor Reporters

Local hook-and-bullet reporters talked with new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith about expanding fishing and hunting access, building the base for conservation, hatchery salmon production and clean water at last weekend’s Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show in Portland.


Skipwith, a biologist and lawyer who was confirmed to the position 52-39 by the Senate in mid-December, also spoke with and before representatives from the region’s fishing and hunting industries and ODFW staffers.

And she stopped in at the nearby Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, where she enjoyed a “phenomenal visit,” she told a radio show host.

Well known for its waterfowl hunting, the refuge is among many whose purchase was aided by Duck Stamp dollars.

“We recognize that hunters and fishers are the backbone of conservation,” Skipwith told Terry Otto of The Columbian when asked why she’d come West to the show, which she termed the second largest in the country.

“That is where we need to make sure that we are engaging with the industry, to come here and let them know that we appreciate what they are doing and that this aligns with what this administration is about,” she said.

During an interview with John Kruse of America Outdoors Radio for broadcast this Saturday, Skipwith termed the expansion of fishing and hunting opportunities on national wildlife refuges, which ramped up during the Obama Administration and has continued with the Trump Administration, “one of the bread and butters of what the Fish and Wildlife Service is doing right now,”

“How do we expand those opportunities. How do we look at access? Are we engaging all of the traditional audiences. Are we engaging the new audiences? Are we engaging the states as much as we can? And so we’re always looking at finding ways to do that. We look at ways our regulations allow for ways to increase fishing and hunting opportunities,” she said, adding that 1.4 million acres have been opened for our favorite activities over the past year alone.

USFWS also just announced that with public input it was developing a list of priority 640-plus-acre landlocked parcels to unlock, but the administration was also criticized at the same time by Backcountry Hunters and Anglers for contradicting that goal by proposing to slash the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 97 percent.

A marathon and trail runner originally from Indiana and with roots in the Deep South, Skipwith also talked about “cultivating” people to begin using public lands with Kruse.

She told Otto that with so many people in close proximity to national wildlife refuges, “(It’s) educating folks that you don’t have to go all the way to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. There are places in your backyard that you can go to experience the great outdoors as I have, and it’s something that is very important to me.”

Skipwith is the first black USFWS director. She holds degrees in biology, genetics and law. Prior to her confirmation, she was an assistant director in the agency for two and a half years, and before that worked for Monsanto.

Asked by Randall Bonner, a Corvallis-based outdoorsmen who freelances for this magazine and others, about recent administration moves around the Clean Water Act — “protections that ensure healthy ecosystems for our fish” — Bonner reported on his Rain or Shine blog that Skipwith replied, “The USFWS makes the best decisions they can based on science.”

Touching on proposed mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed as well, Bonner wrote, “Let Director Skipwith know what you think about conservation of our salmon, steelhead and trout streams that need clean water.”

Speaking of salmon, she confirmed to Otto that USFWS has a role in boosting production.

“You have commercial fishing, recreational fishing, tribal nations, and so knowing that this is a species that is important to various stakeholders, knowing that the federal government has an interest as well, we will be working with all the parties. It’s not going to be a single group that is going to have a solution. It’s going to be a team effort,” Skipwith stated.

Northwest Sportsmen’s, Boat Shows Take Center Stage

Winter days a great time to check out what’s new in fishing, hunting, find deals, get advice at shows around the region.

Along with the big antler racks, the gun raffle he signed up for and the guy with the sparky fire tool thingy, what caught the eye of my youngest son at the fishing and hunting show we attended last winter was a school of fish.

Walleye to be exact.

As a gaggle of anglers began to settle into their chairs by the massive fish tank ahead of the arrival of the next expert speaker, Kiran sidled up to a corner and a few of the bugeyed Midwestern transplants swam over to say hello.


He’ll be able to renew his acquaintance with the fish as sportsmen’s show season kicks off in the Northwest, starting this weekend in Tri-Cities.

And surely 2019’s debut of the walleye tank is among the best new displays to come online in recent years as organizers look for ways to entice us hunters and anglers to take a day off work or come in on the weekend to see the sights.

Yes, that may seem in this day and age like a tough sell as we face low fish runs and harder hunting, but I find it invigorating to walk the aisles with fellow sportsmen, not to mention educational given all the seminars to take in.

And if I buy some new gear – expect to see hundreds of new products at some shows – a few scones and maybe book a trip along the way, all the better as I’m supporting our causes and keeping them strong and viable.

This winter features two dozen different shows in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and southwest British Columbia, with about half just an exit or three away on the I-5 corridor and many more in key Inland Northwest cities.

Here’s a quick look at what’s new and interesting at some of this year’s events:

THE AFOREMENTIONED WALLEYE tank was part of the Washington and Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Shows in Puyallup and Portland, and O’Loughlin Trade Shows’ Trey Carskadon called it a “huge hit last year and back again this year with big names.”

“Walleye Alley is an opportunity to learn the ins, outs and places to catch walleye in Washington state and the Columbia,” he says.


Eastside guides Shane Magnuson and Austin Moser will be in heavy rotation on the tank, and the Midwest’s Johnny Candle will be on tap too.

Also returning in late January to Puyallup is the Outdoor Cooking Championship, where the lords of the grill and barbecue pit put their briskets, steaks and hamburgers head to head – or mouth to mouth, in this case – in competition for points in national and international cooking contests.

“It’s a big deal! Last year, we had no idea how big a deal it really was until we started tasting some of the samples – OMG!” gushes Carskadon.

The chefs will also be serving up cooking tips in seminars, joining an absolute plethora of regionally renowned anglers, guides and experts on stage –somehow, 40 hours worth of seminars are packed into each day!

“It’s a true parade of pros with names like Buzz Ramsey, Robert Kratzer, Del Stephens, Glen Berry, Dan Kloer, Johnnie Candle, Brett Stoffel, Terry Rudnick, Brad Hole, Tyler Hicks and many others,” says Carskadon.


Those last two gents – Hole and Hicks – will be at the Kayak Fishing Pavilion, exclusive to Puyallup, as angling out of the nimble craft continues to explode in the region and nationwide.

For they and other techy fishermen, there’s a seminar series at Puyallup and Portland in early February that should help new and longtime Garmin owners get the most out of their electronics. In terms of good old-fashioned, hands-on skills, expert Brett Stoffel will be giving advice on how to survive in the wild in case of emergency.

For the kids, local bow clubs Skookum Archers and Sylvan Archers members will be on hand for instruction at Puyallup and Portland, respectively, while the Baxter’s Kid’s Trout Pond is “a perennial favorite” at all three shows (the third, the Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show, is in Redmond, in mid-March), and one which annually yields fish up to 10 pounds.

“A little known fact: The uncaught fish at the end of the show are donated to a local food bank,” notes Carskadon.

Other fun stuff includes the “Fistful of Corkies” game, in which you dip into a bin of the drift bobbers from Yakima Bait, dump them in a cup and if one of those size 12s in fire tiger or whatever has a Toyota logo, fish on! you just won a prize.

“There are hundreds of incredible prizes like coolers, apparel, packs, socks, rods, camp gear and much more,” says Carksadon. “At the very least you’ll leave with a handful of Corkies – for free.”

You also stand a chance to win a gun safe, rifle, tools or boots from Fort Knox, Ruger, Gerber and Danner, among other prizes, via the Head and Horns Competition at all three shows. According to Carskadon, it doesn’t just have to be a critter you harvested last fall; it can be “one your great great uncle harvested a hundred years ago.”

(Speaking of a century ago, see the next page’s sidebar for what was at a 1924 sportsmen’s show in Seattle.)

Specific to Portland in early February is the Leupold VIP Movie Night, a first, and featuring “short hunting movies along with the celebrities that are in them.” At press time the lineup hadn’t fully been set, but Randy Newberg, the well-known public land hunter and advocate, was scheduled, and there will be raffles.

Fellow hunter Steven Rinella and several members of his show will be around for what’s being dubbed MeatEater Sunday “to celebrate this wonderful opportunity to learn how to prepare and cook all kinds of wild game.”

Portland’s own Maxine McCormick will also be holding fly rod casting seminars, representing “a rare opportunity to learn from the world’s best – not the world’s best teen or world’s best female flycaster, but the world’s best, period,” says Carskadon.

Also only in the Rose City, the Englund Marine Bait Rigging lab, with tips on setting up for tuna, halibut, Chinook and other top species from expert anglers, plus what’s known as “Retail Row,” part of what makes the Portland show so huuuuuuuuuuuuge.

Along with many of the same features as the other two O’Loughlin events, the Redmond show will see the new Sportsmen’s Cooking Competition, which organizers have high hopes for. You can also check out how fast of a draw you are for free and then clamber through hundreds of travel vehicles at what’s billed as “Central Oregon’s Largest RV Show.”

Info: otshows.com


ONE THOUSAND BOATS, 400-plus different exhibitors, 200 free seminars, nine full days, 3 acres worth of boat tech and gear, and two locations. Welcome to the 2020 Seattle Boat Show, slated again for late January into very early February.

Along with all the latest and greatest in fishing boats to drool over, the calling card for this mammoth show primarily held at the Emerald City’s CenturyLink Field Events Center is the huge number of fishing and crabbing seminars led by experts. I mean, if you’re going to have a boat, you should get some use out of it, right?!?

To that end, the Northwest Marine Trade Association, which puts on the show, annually puts together a stellar who’s who lineup of speakers, and this year’s is notable because it includes Del “Tuna Dog” Stephens. He’s one of the driving forces in offshore albacore angling since the fishery exploded earlier this millennium (last season saw Oregon’s sport catch of 100,000-plus destroy the old record). Stephens is on deck the afternoons of Jan. 30 and Feb. 1 to talk about the use of new technology for finding and catching tuna and albie fishing from A to Z, respectively.


Fellow briny blue angler Tommy Donlin is coming back to touch on those fightingest fish in our Pacific waters, as well as halibut, lingcod and Chinook. In fact, salmon are a topic for many other speakers, including Nick Kester, Chris Long, Keith Robbins, Tom Nelson, Kent Alger, Austin Moser, Aaron Peterson and others.

A new speaker this year is Leland Miywaki, who came up with the Miyawaki Beach Popper and who will go deep on fly fishing the salt for coastal cuttroat trout – a wildly overlooked opportunity – and salmon.

And Larry Phillips will wave the flag for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife during presentations on coastal fisheries and a Q&A on the myriad issues the agency is dealing with.

Info: seattleboatshow.com


The year was 1924. There wasn’t exactly a walleye tank on site and probably no seminar speakers either over in Tent 4, but that July did see Seattle’s second annual Sportsmen’s Show, held at the corner of 3rd and Blanchard, not far from the Pike Place Market.

While doing genealogy research last year, my mom discovered an article about the show in the July 12 edition of The Seattle Daily Times, where it was front-page, above-the-fold news.

One of the show’s anchors was the state Department of Game, which had a 15,000-square-foot exhibit with featured a “little brook” running between pens with wildlife, including 11 elk calves captured by “teacher-trapper” Dora Huelsdonk from the Hoh River country, as well as cutthroat and bass.

Along with a mammoth reproduction of Mt. Rainier and Snoqualmie Falls, there were also displays of old shotguns and ammo. That year’s show was set to run seven days and was open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. No word whether fire-starting trinkets were available for purchase, but the event was also a membership drive for the Seattle Sportsmen’s Club. –AW

COMING AGAIN TO Central Washington are a trio of shows in January and February, and among the highlights is the second annual Yakima Bait Yard Sale at the Sundome in Yakima, where you’ll find fishy lures and more at “ridiculously low prices,” according to Shuyler Productions

Between that venue and halls in Tri-Cities and Wenatchee, Northwest Big Game displays will be on tap, along with head and horns competitions and plenty of seminars from local experts like Wayne Heinz, Jerrod Gibbons, Jesse Lamb, Rob Phillips and others on bass, walleye, kokanee and others species.

If you’re looking for some ideas for cooking up your catches and kills, Richy Harrod of Harrod’s Cookhouse will be in the kitchen.

The young’ns can try their luck at North, West and South Lunker Lakes, if you will, at all three shows. The Valley Marine Kids Korner will be at each too. And at Yakima there’ll be a fun trout race on Saturday afternoon. I’d put five on Finny McFinface!

Shuyler reports that its first show of the season, the Tri-Cities Sportsmen’s Show at the HAPO Center (formerly TRAC), will also have an expanded arena that will feature boats, campers, trailers and more.

Info: shuylerproductions.com

AND THE GRANDDADDY shindig in our region, the Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show, will celebrate its 60th anniversary in mid-March, and organizers are making a renowned event even better.

“For the 2020 show we have added a second seminar room and many new outfitters and guides have joined,” reports Wanda Clifford of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council.


The Big Horn show might be best known for its big bucks and bulls competition – “how it all began,” INWC touts – and as always there will be certified Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young measurers on hand.

There’s also a trout fishing pond, gun raffle, shooting and archery ranges and other kid- and family-friendly things to do.

“The Reptile Man will be joining us for Saturday and Sunday, and Family Day [March 22] will bring free activities for the family,” adds Clifford.

For grown-up sportsmen and -women, ladies night is Friday with half-off drinks.

“We are bringing back our $8 entry off an adult ticket for Thursday, and our She Shed was so successful we are bringing in a Man Cave this year as a raffle item,” adds Clifford.

Info: bighornshow.com/info

For the full list of Northwest sportsmen’s and boat shows, go here.

Stumptown Part I of II

The Esteemed Mr. Whiskers Of Portland

By Terry Otto

Catfish are the Rodney Dangerfield  of Stumptown’s fishing scene: they never get any respect.
Salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and other species get all the  glamour, all the press, all the covers, but catfish are a worthy target themselves. They grow big, they fight hard, bite easily, and their fillets are light and tasty. And while they get little respect from some, they are getting attention from an increasing number of anglers in Portland and Vancouver who have figured out how much fun Mr. Whiskers can be.
In fact, there are so many good local spots that I couldn’t fit them all in one article. So, this issue we’ll look at Portland-area catfisheries, and next month, discover the plentiful opportunities on the north side of the Columbia River.
Get your drawl on, grab some stinkbait and let’s look at PDX waters.

Every single source for this story pointed to the Gilbert River first, and it may well be the best catfishery in the Portland area. This Sauvie Island stream flows from Sturgeon Lake to the Multnomah Channel and is home to big channel cats, a few blue cats and plenty of bullheads. But despite giving the D River a run for its money as the state’s shortest, it’s long been well known for whiskerfish, says Mark Nebeker, the manager of the state wildlife refuge on the island.
“The Gilbert River is very popular for catfish,” he says. “The fishing platform at the mouth is open all year, and they catch a lot of bullheads there, but there are more and bigger catfish further up the river.”
Nebeker says that not all the bullheads are small, and some reach very respectable sizes. Channel cats can run as big as 18 to 20 pounds, and he once checked a blue catfish in the 30-pound range.
Eric Tonsager of the Oregon Bass and Panfish Club is a bona fide catfisherman who spends most of his time on Eastern Oregon rivers, but he wets a line for cats near home once in a while. He likes to fish the Multnomah Channel and the Gilbert River, an area he confirms is no secret.
“There is lots of effort there,” says Tonsager. “There are people at the fishing platform all the time when the weather is warm.”
He says bank access is very good along the Gilbert, and he points to the Big Eddy as being one of the best spots.
“It’s a sharp, 90-degree turn in the river, and lots of big catfish are taken there,” he says.
Worms and other insects are good choices for bait, but Tonsager says anglers need to “gob that worm on the hook. If you leave tips trailing off, the perch and other small fish will nibble them off.”
From time to time, he also uses cutbaits such as northern pikeminnow cut into 1-inch cubes. He leaves them at room temperature for a bit; just to get some smell going.
“But don’t let it rot!” he warns.

There is a good population of channel catfish throughout the Willamette, and they migrate out of the big river into the tributaries in the spring to spawn.
“When the temperature hits about 60 degrees, the channel catfish move up into all the rivers that dump into the Willamette,” says Tonsager. “They move into the Tualatin, the Yamhill, and Oswego Creek – all of the tributaries.”
When the heat arrives, the fish head back down to the Willamette to spend the summer in the deep holes, and they become very nocturnal. The bite is best from dusk to dawn.

You might expect a set of waters with a name that hearkens to the country’s catfishing heartland to feature whiskerfish, and you would be correct.
“All of the St. Louis ponds have catfish,” confirms Gary Galovich, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife warmwater biologist. “They are in Ponds 1 through 7.”
He reports that there is no stocking schedule, but he puts channels into the small lakes along I-5 just south of Woodburn when his budget allows. Cats to 20 pounds  are sometimes caught here.
The species are also planted in Wilsonville Lake, Woodburn Lake and Hartman Pond on a semi-regular basis.
Henry Hagg Lake is popular for bullheads, which grow well and reach sizes of 12 to 15 inches. Of course, all warmwater habitats around Portland have bullheads, but they are predominately in the 5- to 7-inch range.

One of the enduring mysteries of whiskerfish in the Northwest is the story of the 15-pound white catfish caught in the Tualatin River in 1989. Deemed the Oregon record for the species, however, it is the only verified white catfish ever taken in the entire state. How did it get there?
That’s a good question, says Galovich. His research turned up records of 300 white catfish brought up from California in 1951, and placed in a defective holding pond.  “When they drained the pond they only found 12 left,” says Galovich.
While the rest escaped into the Willamette system, Galovich says the chances of them surviving, spawning, and continuing the line, and eventually producing the record fish is unlikely.
“It could have come from somebody’s private pond,” says Galovich. “Or it could have been released in the river, but we  don’t know.”
The Tualatin fishes well for channel cats in the spring, but a boat with a shallow draft is needed. There are few good bank access spots on the river. NS

Stumptown anglers have a lot of choices for local catfish. This leviathan was caught at the St Louis Ponds. (RICK SWART, ODFW)

Stumptown anglers have a lot of choices for local catfish. This leviathan was caught at the St Louis Ponds. (RICK SWART, ODFW)