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Outdoors Report: Get on the floor and play
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Outdoors Report: Get on the floor and play

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On a recent sojourn to Coldwater Lake and the southern flank of Mount Margaret, blanketed by the purple shadow of the moon, I was reminded of Terrapin Station, a tune spun by the good old Grateful Dead.

“Inspiration, move me brightly...Light the song with sense of colour...Hold away despair…” it begins.

“Where crickets and cicadas sing…” it continues. “In the shadow of the moon...”

It is a rare and different tune, that Terrapin Station, and like any junction worth the brass of its turnstiles, it can transport its visitors to another time and space if they’ve got the patience. But you’ve got to really hear it. You can’t just listen.

Indeed, inspiration has a habit of revealing itself in the most unexpected of places, so long as you’re open to the experience. Sure, you can chase those sloppy saturated mountain moonrises or the melting wax sunsets that puddle and blob on the ocean’s deep horizon. But those are the extreme edges of our panorama and they are obvious. It’s the in between places where you have to keep your eye out and your ear open, as it were.

It’s in the backyard sandboxes and bird feeders. It’s in the sidewalks cracked by tree roots and the hedges of every horse pasture. It’s in the view of every window nook and just beyond the threshold of every front or back door.

But sometimes we don’t quite manage to perceive what’s right in front of us. Or, rather, we perceive it but don’t recognize it for what it is. Sometimes adults don’t remember the most important part. But children always do.

Every child knows what to do in a mud puddle. Every child knows the best forts are in trees and the best castles are made of sand. Every child knows what to do with a puffy dandelion, or the fresh fallen snow. And every child knows what to do upon a shooting star.

Last week was Christmas, and maybe that’s why it’s been easier to see things through a child’s eyes. I’m old enough to remember when a little boy asked his grandmother to play with his new toy cars. Grandma said she’d love to but admitted, regretfully, that she just didn’t know how.

After all these years, it had been too long.

This excuse carried no weight with the just-turned-four-year-old Play-Skool philosopher. Looking up at his grandmother with a furrowed brow of mild disappointment he retorted, “All you have to do is get on the floor and play.”

And that right there is some free advice worth hearing.

Fishin’

The new year brought new openings for big fish on the Columbia River. The sturgeon fishery is now open seven days a week in the three lower river dam pools (Bonneville, The Dalles, and McNarry) until further notice. From Bonneville to The Dalles anglers are allowed to keep white sturgeon that measure between 38-54 inches in fork length. There is a 500 fish harvest limit in that pool.

Salmon and steelhead anglers will no doubt continue to wet a line on the big river between Washington and Oregon. From Buoy 10 to The Dalles dam anglers are now allowed to keep two hatchery steelhead per day as part of their two-adult salmon daily limit. From Buoy 10 up to the I-5 Bridge in Vancouver, anglers can retain both hatchery steelhead and hatchery Chinook that measure at least one foot in length until the end of March.

Of course, the springer salmon bite on the lower Columbia doesn’t typically pick up until late March. However, early arrivers are always in the mix and tributaries like the Elochoman, Coweeman and Lewis rivers are known for their early arriving winter steelhead. Up beyond the Lewis River dams, the kokanee bite has been noted as “fair to good” at the Merwin and Yale reservoirs.

As for the mainstem salmon run in 2021, the overall the springer push is expected to be comparable to last year. The preseason forecast calls for 143,200 total adults, which would be 700 more Chinook than arrived in 2020. Of those anticipated fish, 75,000 adult Chinook are expected to reach the upper watershed, which would be the second lowest total since 1999.

There were no creel check numbers available from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife from last week but the salmon census at the Cowlitz hatchery went on unabated. Crews retrieved 1,577 coho adults, 159 coho jacks, 18 cutthroat trout, 20 winter-run steelhead adults, and four summer-run steelhead adults. Thousands of returners were also trucked into the upper Cowlitz River watershed, including 1,003 coho adults, 134 coho jacks, seven winter-run steelhead adults, and one cutthroat trout that were dropped into Lake Scanewa near Randle. Coho fishing has also been keeping anglers busy at Riffe Lake.

In the Tacoma Power river report flow below Mayfield Dam on Monday was reported at around 6,630 cubic feet per second on Monday but that flow rose to 10,700 cfps by Friday. According to Tacoma Power that discharge is expected to increase to around 14,500 cfps by Jan. 5.

Salmon fishing is also open on several Willapa Bay tributaries, including the Naselle River.

Interestingly, one doesn’t have to hit the coastal streams or big river dammed waters these days to find big fish. Thanks to recent hatchery stocking efforts there are several ponds and lakes that will do just fine.

Over the last several weeks the WDFW has planted around 200 adult hatchery steelhead in lakes around Pacific County. Those allotments include about 40 ten-pound steelhead to Case Pond in Raymond, and upward of 100 steelies to Black Lake in Ilwaco. Snag and Western lakes, also known as Radar ponds, near Naselle each received about 15 more of the lunkers. According to the WDFW, recent rains conspired to push surplus steelhead that exceeded broodstock needs at the Forks and Naselle hatcheries, which greased the wheels for the notable deposits.

Longview’s Lake Sacajawea was also planted in late December with almost 3,500 hatchery rainbow trout. That tally included 936 trout weighing more than a pound each, 25 triploids checking in at almost ten pounds each, and fifty of the five pound variety.

Out on Silver Lake the weeds aren’t so bad this time of year but all the warmater fishing has also died down. Luckily, crappie and perch are still hitting hooks.

HUNTIN’

The WDFW is offering extra incentive for hunters to complete their reports this year. Anyone who files their hunting reports for black bear, deer, elk or turkey hunts by Sunday, Jan. 10 will be entered into a drawing for one of nine special deer and elk permits for 2021.

“Special hunts include five deer permits and four elk permits in various areas of the state,” said Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager, in a press release. “This is a great opportunity for hunters to get an incentive for turning in their hunter reports early.”

To be eligible, hunters must file a report for each tag in their name for 2020. Those reports are required regardless of the success of the hunt. The deadline for those reports is Jan. 31, after which a $10 late fee may be imposed.

“Annual hunting reports are a primary source of information for managing game populations and developing future hunting seasons,” Aoude explained.

Glassing forward a ways, the WDFW began taking applications for spring black bear hunts on Jan. 2. Permit applications will be accepted through the end of February.

In the first month of the new year waterfowl will continue to be the main focus for persistent hunters. In Pacific and Grays Harbor counties the drainages of the Willapa and Chehalis rivers are the most dependable places to find water birds. The backwaters of the Columbia River do the trick in Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties.

Most areas in Southwest Washington will remain open through the end of January. However, Goose Management Area 2 (Coastal), which includes Pacific County and the portion of Grays Harbor County west of Highway 101, goose hunting is allowed Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays. In GMA 2 (Inland), which includes the section of Grays Harbor County east of Highway 101, goose hunting is open Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays only through Jan. 17. A special identification permit is also required in GMA 2, which includes Cowlitz, Wahkiakum and Clark counties. In Pacific County, a seasonal brant hunt will begin on Jan. 9. That opening has a two bird limit daily limit and will end on Jan. 31.

DRONIN’

Scientists will be utilizing drones through the end of February in order to conduct flyover surveys in areas of the Hoffstadt Unit of the Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area.

Those flights are slated to take place over public lands on up to three dates, depending on weather and other conditions.

“By using a drone, we can gather important data from areas that are difficult to access by foot,” said George Fornes, WDFW biologist, in a press release. “For this aerial survey, we are focusing on the area around the mouths and lower sections of Alder and Deer creeks.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will also be involved in the survey. The Hoffstadt Unit is located along the North Fork Toutle River.

CRABBIN’

Another week and another change to recreational crabbing regulations has hit the coast due to the scourge of domoic acid. This week the WDFW moved to once again close the central coast to crab harvest. That area includes Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor and areas north of Point Chehalis up to the mouth of the Queets River.

“We wish we had better news, but our first priority is public safety,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said in a press release. “The Department of Health will continue marine toxin sampling in all marine areas as weather and ocean conditions allow. Our decision on whether or not to open crabbing areas will be based on these sampling results.”

Marine Area 1 off of Ilwaco also remains closed, but crabs may still be harvested from the Columbia River before the end of the jetty.

BIRDIN’

Reports of sick or diseased birds have been on the rise in Oregon and wildlife rehabilitators are worried that dirty bird feeders might be to blame.

In a cruel twist of the knife, when the weather gets nasty and the temperature drops there’s typically an increase in calls from bird lovers regarding dead birds in yards and near feeders. According to experts, the easily available food source draws in a menagerie of birds and creates a condition where diseases can easily be transmitted. Common maladies include salmonella, E. coli, and a host of viruses, parasites, and fungal diseases.

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, chickadees and other seed loving birds are the most commonly affected species.

“If you enjoy seeing birds and feeding them in winter, please provide a clean and healthy environment for them,” said Dr. Colin Gillin, ODFW State Wildlife Veterinarian, in a press release. “When you feed birds, be sure to start with clean feeders and to disinfect feeders periodically.”

Safe bird feeding tips from avian experts include:

- Take down feeders and stop feeding for several weeks if bird deaths are noted.

- Provide fresh feed or seed.

- Use feeders made from non-porous material like plastic, ceramic, and metal.

- Clean feeders, water containers and bird baths regularly.

- Use soapy water and diluted chlorine bleach.

- Clean feeders weekly if you have large numbers of birds at your feeders.

- Clean up old seed hulls and waste below feeders.

- Spread feeding over several areas or feeders to prevent overcrowding.

- Share this info with neighbors and friends who also feed birds.

- Contact ODFW (866-968-2600/ Wildlife.Health@state.or.us) if you see sick birds.

SNOWIN’

There’s been a steady lahar of people sledding on the slopes way up Spirit Lake Highway before Coldwater Lake in recent days and if smiles and laughs are to be believed, good times have been had by most. However, the road is closed just beyond the parking lot to Coldwater and chains are recommended for anyone traveling to the area due to sporadic fits of snowfall.

Up at White Pass two new inches of snow fell overnight on New Year’s Eve, with eight new inches dropping over the previous day and a half. That snowfall brought the total base depth up to 70 inches at the summit with 44 inches piled up at the base. Midday on Friday the mountain temperature was 33 degrees. The Nordic area is open all weekend and will resume normal Thursday-Sunday operations next week. The tubing area is also open all weekend.

Over at Mt. Hood Meadows on Friday there was a mix of rain and snow falling with winds too strong to ignore. The slopes received ten new inches of snow over the previous 48-hours bringing the total snowfall up to 158 inches with a base of 96 inches in the mid-elevations. Temperatures were falling as the day went on with rain turning to snow.

A statement on the Mt. Hood Meadows conditions report noted:

“A stormy year is now in our rear view mirror, replaced by a stormy day on the mountain. But that’s ok... I can think of no better way to kick off a new year than charging down meticulous groomers, and slaying stashes of powder.”

Both day and night runs are currently in operation.

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