FLASH: MA 9/10 boosted to 45 days, Skagit kings open, 45-day season for Sekiu summer Chinook
SAN FRANCISCO - Befitting a 25th anniversary, the 2009 North of Falcon process will go down as a memorable one for western Washington salmon anglers.
The highlights of the 25-year-old season-setting process include an expansion in Puget Sound selective salmon fisheries, and the re-birth of a North Sound river fishery that hasn’t been open to sport anglers for over 15 years.
8CLICK HERE for NW Wild Country's ongoing coverage of the 2009-10 season structure.
FISH WIRE A.M. UPDATE: Holy s*&t, get a load of this Lake WA trout!
NEW Feb. 21, 2009 / 8:30 p.m
MEDINA, Wash. - Who needs steelhead when you can catch trout like this?
In the middle of the biggest population center in the Pacific Northwest. With nary another boat in sight.
That's Eli Rico and a Lake Washington fattie that taped out at 24 x 16 inches: 7.93 pounds!
"When we hooked it, I thought it was a Chinook," Rico says.
LAKE WA TECH PODCAST: Rico caught this fish shortly after getting off the air with the Wild Country crew last Saturday. Want adice on how, where and when to catch Lake Washington's awesome resident trout?
FISH WIRE FLASH: Voights Creek Hatchery damage: "Devastating"
NEW Jan. 11, 2009 / 12:00 p.m.
As the floodwaters begin to recede throughout western Washington, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife hatchery managers are only now beginning to get a preview of flood damages done to numbers fish-rearing facilities.
"I'm out at (the hatchery) right now," DFW hatcheries division manager Ron Warren reported Jan. 9 as he waded through the muck and mud at Voights Creek Hatchery in Orting, Wash. "I managed this facility for five years back in the 90s, and all I can say is, this is devastating. The creek is completely out of the creek channel for a half-mile or more onto adjoining properties. There's so much gravel and mud (in the facility) that I can't even describe it."
WDFW employees were ordered to evacuate the Voights Creek facility earlier in the week as the Puyallup River system exploded over all-time flood levels, leaving 1.6 million fry chinook, 780,000 yearling coho, 1 million coho eggs and fry, and 150,000 yearling steelhead inside the facility.
"We're just trying our best to keep fish alive with temporary pumps and the hard work of staff," Warren said. "We're completely inoperable."
"We've been working around the clock for last 3 days at Tokul Creek, too," Warren said. "We've lost the use of the primary intake there. Right now we have temporary water to keep the steelhead on hand alive. We hope to keep it going to full rearing capcity, but, truthfully, we're trying to buy ourselves some time to evaluate and try to react from there."
FISH WIRE TECH TIP: Learn dropper loop for best ice-fishing success
NEW Jan. 2, 2008 / 11:30 a.m
WENATCHEE, Wash. - In Minnesota, you learn how to tie a dropper loop before you learn how to tie your shoes.
Way out West - where the ice-fishing culture is still in the Paleozoic Age - the dropper loop is a secondary knot at best. However, if you plan on fishing through the hardwater of eastern Washington this winter, the dropper loop is a must-have in your knot repertoire.
"People around here don't know what the dropper loop is, so they're not really ice fishing," says Don Talbot of Hooked on Toys, the Ice Fishing Yoda of Wenatchee. "People go out there with only one hook, when you're allowed three in Washington. You want to be successful ice-fishing? Then LEARN HOW TO TIE THE DROPPER LOOP."
FISH WIRE FEATURE: North Sound blackmouth hotspots open Jan. 1
NEW Dec. 30, 2008 / 2:30 p.m
EVERETT, Wash. - Back in the 1970s and 80s - the heyday of blackmouth fishing in Puget Sound - the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife took weekly creel reports throughout most of western Washington's saltwater fisheries.
In January, February and March, those reports were filled with triple-digit numbers of fish taken around Camano Island, Saratoga Passage and upper Possession Sound.
Those same waters - now managed as Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 - re-open for business on New Year's morning after 60 days of no fishing. Everett-based saltwater sharpies are looking forward to some of the best blackmouth fishing of the year.
FISHWIRE FLASH: Forecasters call for nearly 300,000 Columbia springers
NEW Dec. 12, 2008 / 5:00 p.m
VANCOUVER, Wash. - Thanks to the inexact science of counting "paper fish", I've become increasingly hesitant to get excited about run forecasts. Having said that, I challenge you to look at the number 298,800 and not get a little twitchy.
That's the initial forecast for the upriver Chinook component on the Columbia River for 2009, and number that - if correct - would signify one of the most robust spring runs on record. One caveat, though: Columbia fish prognosticators have over-estimated three out of the last five runs by an average of 44 percent.
On the board: Several key management measures for Columbia springers are being discussed even as I write this, including a new buffer system that WDFW and ODFW say will mitigate innacurate forecasts or overly successful harvest.
TUNE IN Saturday, Dec. 13 as the Wild Country crew takes our first look at Springer Fever 2009 with Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association president Trey Carskadon. If you miss the interview, it'll be available in our WildCast Center on Monday.
AUBURN, Wash. - If you were to rank whitefish in order of popularity for winter fisheries in Washington, they'd fall below panfish and barely above burbot ... or would they? 8Read more
STEELHEAD REPORT: Churned-up Cowlitz "getting greener" for steelhead
NEW Nov. 28, 2008 / 2:30 p.m.
SALKUM, Wash. - Steelhead fishing on the Cowlitz River had ground to a halt last week, thanks to massive sediment releases from Mayfield and Mossyrock dams. And while visibility below Barrier Dam is still minimal, it looks like the water is shaping up better for weekend plunkers and plug-pullers.
"The lakes (Mayfield and Riffe) are solid mud," Don Glaser at Barrier Dam Campground reported on Nov. 28. "We had mud dumping into both Riffe and Mayfield."
Mud in, mud out: with an ever-increasing amount of sediment in both reservoirs, the only choice for dam managers has been to release water from both Mayfield and Mossyrock dams, which has pushed a plume of brown good right down the Cowlitz's gullet.
Visibility, consequently, has been poor to non-existent.
"I fished it (early Thansgiving week) and wish I hadn't," said guide Bill "Swanny" Swann. "There was zero visibility, and we didn't catch hardly anything. That thing was dirty, dirty.
Visibility hadn't improved significantly by Black Friday (Glaser reported it at 6 to 8 inches), but there are signs that the river might be steelhead green again within a week.
"In the last three days, I've seen a difference in color," Glaser says. "I can see a little bit of glacier green on top of the Cowlitz, and Riffe has some green streaks on top."
In the meantime: Plunkers and plug-pullers will do the best while the Cowlitz is stull mucky. Glaser reports that fresh steelhead and coho are being caught from Barrier Dam and Blue Creek by bank anglers plunking sand shrimp on short leaders (18 to 24 inches) and boaters backtrolling plugs close to the bank.
FISH WIRE FLASH: They're heeeeeeeeeeeeeere ...
NEW Nov. 23, 2008 / 4:40 p.m.
ARLINGTON, Wash. - I wrote in the November issue of Northwest Sportsman that the traditional Thanksgiving kickoff to winter steelhead season had become a thing of the past. It has, for the most part, thanks to brood stock hatchery projects and truncated runs that fade into December more often than they get cranking in November.
I also wrote that you'd be insane to ignore early-arriving steelhead in the Skykomish, Cowlitz, Snoqualmie and Chehalis system.
Heads up, people: they're heeeeeeeeeere.
Mark my words, the winter 2008-09 is going to be one of the best in recent memory. Early fish have been arriving in the Cowlitz for nearly three weeks, we're already seeing reports on fishing forums of steelhead at Reiter Ponds, guys like Bill "Swanny" Swann (above) are whispering about good numbers of early fish in the Chehalis system, the Calawah is - in the words of Wild Country co-host Bill Herzog "stuffed with fish" - and the Snoqualmie is starting to percolate.
Now, if we can luck into some cooperative weather (i.e. good water conditions), it'll be game-on for Thanksgiving weekend.
Check back on Wednesday as I file our first Steelhead Report of the season. This will be a regular mid-week anchorpoint here at NWWC.com, with the latest info on metalhead fisheries throughout the West.
See you on Wednesday.
FISH WIRE: Wilson River winter Chinook fishery in "the Twilight Zone"
NEW Nov. 19, 2008 / 11:30 a.m.
TILLAMOOK, Ore. - Looking back at some of the Wild Country archives, I keep stumbling across references to November Chinook fishing in tributaries of Oregon’s Tillamook Bay. Any other year, I’d be heartily recommending Tillamook-area guides to Wild Country listeners.
FISH WIRE: Brace yourself for October, November to remember on Snake
Oct. 13, 2008 / 9:00 p.m.
CLARKSTON, Wash. - Brace yourself for the hottest 60 days of steelhead fishing on Planet Earth.
As I write this, a gigantic biomass of Onchyrancus mykiss is flooding over the dams of the Snake River system, on a collision course with an eager angling public humming with excitement from Clarkston to the bowels of Hells Canyon.
Army Corps of Engineers fish passage counts for Little Goose and Lower Granite dams - the two dams just below the Lewiston/Clarkston nexus on the middle Snake - reveal figures that'll give any self-respecting steelhead angler a chubbie: 151,080 hatchery metalheads over Little Goose, 144,916 more over Lower Granite.
Those figures are both about 25 percent higher than the 10-year average, and among the highest early-October counts in years.
Translation: the Snake River between Lewiston/Clarkston and Heller Bar is about to go off the chain. Mark my words: the next two months will see some of the best steelhead fishing the Snake River has ever seen, and that's saying something for a fishery that routinely produces several thousand blushy-cheeked sea-run rainbows every year in October and November.
THE FISHING WIRE: Lippincott, Treffrey lead NW Bass after windy Day 1
Oct. 4, 2008 / 6:05 p.m.
RICHLAND, Wash. - As if battling 82 other teams isn't challening enough, Mother Nature decided to drop the gloves on Marc Lippincott and Chris Treffrey on Day 1 of the 2009 Northwest Bass Championship Challenge in Tri-Cities.
Give 'em credit, though: the Columbia River became a raging, snarling beast this afternoon, and the Spokane duo didn't even flinch. Lippincott and Treffrey (pictured at left) weighed in 17.34 pounds to narrowly lead the team of Jeff Abbott and Robert Flowers (17.06 pounds) on a day that NW Bass director Gary Stiles summed up in one word: "Brutal".
"It was balmy in the morning, flat gorgeous, and about 10 o'clock it started to blow up," Stiles said about the 30-mph gusts that buffetted boats fishing both up and downriver from Tri-Cities. "It was tough out there."
Jared Turner and Soap Lake veteran Paul Hall - who finished fifth at the FLW Series event held here two weeks ago - enter Day 2 in third with 14.74 pounds, James Garrett and Brandon Crestian are fourth with 14.62. Don Hogue and Roy Lehrman round out the top five with 13.46 pounds.
"Dude, the wind was HOWLING," Hall said. "Luckily we got some fish in the morning, before it kicked up, because by the afternoon it was blowing so hard, you couldn't even feel it when you had a bite. I think tomorrow is going to be a grind-it-out day."
National Weather Service forecasts for Sunday morning are much more favorable for the 82 competing teams, with highs near 70 and south/southwest winds topping out at 11 mph.
"That's manageable," Stiles said. "Hopefullly that (forecast) will be right."
NW's biggest bass payout: The top team in the Championship Challenge will drive away with a Triton 196 rigged with a 225-horsepower Mercury outboard and MotorGuide trolling motor, plus a cash payout as high as $14,000 if they're fishing out of a Triton.
"Triton really stepped up and made this their event," Stiles said. "They're the ones who really made this (championship) possible."
THE FISH WIRE: Southern Oregon trophy Chinook season blown away
UPDATE - Oct. 2, 2008 / 5:30 p.m.
BROOKINGS, Ore. - Mother Nature giveth, and she taketh away.
Just 24 hours after surrendering one of the snappiest fall Chinook bites on the West Coast of North America, the Pacific Ocean off the mouth of the Chetco River exploded in a withering blast of 30-mph winds, gale warnings and massive seas, throwing a massive monkey wrench into the 2008 Chetco River Terminal Ocean fishery.
Less than 24 hours after Brookings, Ore.-based outdoors writer Larry Ellis filed this report on the Oct. 1 opener, all hell broke loose on the south coast: light winds turned into 30-mph gusts on Thursday, and National Weather Service forecasts are calling for 40-mph blasts and 19-foot seas by Saturday morning.
All of which makes the 49-pound hawg pictures on The Fishing Wire page that much more precious.
Longtime Wild Country Fire Crew buddy Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing (shown above with an opening-day king) reports that the fishery will open again for one day on Saturday, Oct. 11, to finish up the 250-fish quota.
THE FISH WIRE: S. Oregon trophy Chinook season opens with a bang
Oct. 1, 2008 / 10:30 p.m.
BROOKINGS, Ore. - One of the most enthusiastic Chinook bites of the season occurred today outside the Port of Brookings Harbor as anglers fished the opening day of the Chetco River Terminal Ocean season, also known as the Chetco Hawg Season. All the filet tables at the port were filled with salmon for the greater part of the day as anglers filleted Chinook averaging 30-pounds or larger.
"Certainly the boats that came in early all had limits or close to it," said Eric Schindler, Ocean Salmon Project Leader for ODFW.
Schindler says that 3 years of commercial boat restrictions have played a large part in the success of this season's opener, but cites another reason as probably having a higher indication for the aggressive bite.
"The other thing that is probably as much or more of a factor is the fact that we have a low pressure system coming, and that gets Chinook antsy," notes Schindler. "That pressure translates underwater to those fish. They know the rain's coming, their genetics kick in and they start getting belligerent. Fish start nosing in toward the mouth with that low pressure coming and they don't like anybody annoying them with those hooks in front of them."
Most fish were indeed caught close to shore, with many kings caught in 35 to 40 feet of water between the jetty jaws and the red can buoy.
There were numerous fish in the 40-pound class showing up at the cleaning station facility located at the Port of Brookings Harbor. According to Schindler, the 250-fish recreational guideline was nearly met with a total of 189 Chinook caught.
"It was like the good old days," said one of the local fishermen, who was weighing in his 42-pound king at Sporthaven Marina. Unfortunately the individual did not enter Sporthaven's Hawg Derby. Had he done so, he would have taken a cool third place.
So far the largest derby fish tipped the scales at 49 pounds with another angler holding onto second with a 44-pound king. Third place was being held by Wayne Barker of Brookings for his 38-pounder.
Weather woes: Due to inclement weather, the U.S. Coast Guard may be closing the Chetco River bar for the next 3 days, so it is highly doubtful that the remaining days of the fishery will remain open unless ODFW extends the fishery.
Schindler says that with such a high amount of Chinook being taken, ODFW officials will be making that decision soon.
"It's not going to be an easy decision," adds Schindler."I was hoping it was going to be easy one way or the other. If it had been blown out and we had very little catch, it would be obvious that alternate dates were called for. As the day started out today we could have reached 250 fish and we could have answered the question from that direction. But now we're three-quarters of the way through the guideline and I don't know exactly how that's going to play out."
THE FISH WIRE: Kromm takes lead heading into final day of Columbia FLW
Sept. 19, 2008
KENNEWICK, Wash. - How about a little game of Wild Country trivia?
Q. What do Paul Hall and Ron Hobbs, Jr. have in common?
With the field of 123 professional bassers whittled down to 10 for the final day of the four-day $1 million event, both Hall and Hobbs are faced with the unenviable task of making up 5 pounds in one day on tournament leader King Kromm.
David Kromm, that is.
Kromm (pictured at left), a Kennewick local who's routinely regarded as the Tiger Woods of the Columba River, hauled in 16 pounds 8 ounces to leapfrog past Idaho angler Neil Russell into first place with 44-13, building a 3-pound cushion on Russell and a 5-pound lead on California angler R.J. Bennet, Hall and Hobbs. Kromm's 16-plus-pound bag of smallmouth was one of three over 16 for the day - including an eye-popping 18-11 weighed in by Idaho's Ken Wick - and it gave the Triton pro an extra 2 pounds on Hall and Hobbs, who brought 14-03 and 14-05, respectively, to the scales at Columbia Point Park.
Final day weather change: Competitors fished the first two days in hot, stagnant weather, with a slight cloud cover rolling in to break up the heat on Friday morning. If weather forecasts for Saturday's final are correct, though, the late-summer heat wave will surrender to mid-morning showers and scattered cloud cover, both of which should put the Columbia and Snake's smallies on a more aggressive bite.
Saturday schedule: Final weigh-in for saturday's final will start at 4 p.m. at the Wal-Mart in Richland. Live-time information will be available on FLW Live immediately after weigh-in begins.
Evans on air: FLW CEO Charlie Evans will join the Wild Country crew on air live from Tri-Cities on Saturday. Tune in in the 6 o'clock hour as the FLW's head honcho discusses the future of big-money bass fishing in the Pacific Northwest.
THE FISH WIRE: Hall holding strong on Day 2 of Columbia River FLW
Sept. 18, 2008
KENNEWICK, Wash. - Heading into the second day of the FLW Series National Guard Western Open on the Columbia River at Tri-Cities, Wild Country all-star Paul Hall anticipated that a flaccid current might shut down his Day 1 go-to spot.
Turns out our boy Paul is psychic.
With the Columbia trickling along at a near standstill on Thursday, Hall (pictured at left) had to bail out of his upriver spot after scratching up only a handful of small fish in five hours of fishing the area that had produced his opening-day lead. When it was all said and done, though, the Soap Lake veteran managed to weigh in 10-06 pounds of smallmouth to land in fifth place heading into cutdown day at the $1 million event.
"I hadn't even caught a limit by 1 o'clock," Hall said. "I had maybe 4 pounds (of smallmouth). I couldn't get any good bites on the spots I was fishing yesterday, so I had to leave those spots alone and go looking. I was in damage-control mode in the afternoon."
His damage control approach may have saved Hall's tournament as he pieced together a strong bite over the last two hours of the day, and quite possibly discovered a fallback spot if Day 3 turns into another slack-current affair.
"In practice, I had caught a few fish a little higher up than where I caught them this afternoon, but I think I might've figured out where they go when the current is dead," Hall said. "Considering I caught my biggest fish the last couple of hours of the tournament, I feel pretty good."
Russel grabs lead, Kromm lurks: Hall's two-day total of 25-05 puts him in fifth, behind leader Neil Russell (29-10), Kennewick hotshot David Kromm (28-05), Roy Hawk (28-00) and R.J. Bennett (26-05). Fellow Wild Country alum Ron Hobbs, Jr., sits in sixth place, just 5 ounces behind Hall with an even 25 pounds.
Staying the course: Hall will stick with the techniques and spots he found success with on Days 1 and 2: drop-shotting and jigging grubs in spots where current has pushed baitfish out onto current breaks.
Weigh-in begins at 2:30 p.m. PST, and can be seen live on FLW Outdoors.
FISH WIRE EXCLUSIVE: Focus on main points for August musky
July 20, 2008
July sunshine is both a boon and a blessing for western Washington musky hunters. While the 90-plus-degree temperatures are certainly welcome after the recently passed Second Coming of the Ice Age, the musky fisheries of the Westside are blooming with species that are far more troublesome than Quagga mussels and Mediterranean clone caulerpa: SkiDoos, Ski Nautiques and Master Crafts.
"Boat traffic is horrifically increased," says Mark Wells, vice president of the Northwest Tiger Pac. "The middle of summer is a tough bite in general because fish move into deeper waters and suspend. You get all those recreational boaters out there, and it makes it even tougher."
This is especially true at suburban Lake Tapps, but you'll find increased pleasure-boat traffic at Mayfield Lake and Merwin Reservoir as well. The best way to deal with it?
Don't deal with it.
"You have an early morning bite and a late evening bite, and if you have some bad weather, get your butt out there," Wells advises. "Those water-skiiers won't be out there when the weather is bad, so you better be."
Suspended fish: As water temperatures and daylight hours reach their maximum levels this month, look for fish to move to deeper positions off main lake structures. Finding balls of bait will be your first step in locating muskies, which will typically be suspended 12 to 20 feet down.
"(Muskies) will be just off structure in deeper water, below bait," Wells says. "You can see schools of baitfish on your radar. Turn the fish ID off on your depth finder and you'll see marks for bait. Look under them and you'll see large arches - those are muskies."
If you can get a bait down to them, they'll be ultra-aggressive: "Their metabolisms are high and they're feeding aggressively, so the strikes and fights are fierce," Wells says.
Summertime gear box: Wells recommends a mix of jigs, body baits, spinners and spinnerbaits to target aggressive, suspended fish.
"The fisheries (in Washington) call for a lot of baits in the 4- to 6- or 5- to 7-inch range," Wells says. "I caught a fish this weekend off of deep timber fishing a 1 1/2-ounce jig, but in the summer I'll fish a lot of Ducktail jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and bucktails. A lot of their stuff is sized right for our local fisheries. I like natural colors: black, white, brown. I know guys, though, who really like reds, and those colors don't imitate a damn thing. They catch fish with those colors, though."
Check out the Musky Thing (a 7/8-ounce, 6-inch tube-skirted spinner), the Weed Warrior Bucktail or Weed Warrior Tandem spinnerbait, all from Ducktail. Bikini Bait Company Beer Belly gliders are also effective, as are various brands of countdown baits.
Sportco in Fife has the largest selection of musky gear in western Washington, but you'll also find some musky tackle at Auburn Sports & Marine. You can make do with oversize bass gear in a pinch, but don't forget the steel leaders.