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Fish Rap: Catching up on the outdoors

Fish Rap: Catching up on the outdoors

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Let’s get this part out of the way right from the jump — There’s simply no way to keep up with all the happenings in the wide and wondrous wildscape where we find ourselves nestled.

The verdant valleys and craggy peaks are too numerous, and remote. The shady hollows and sun dusted meadows are as ubiquitous as they are hidden. And that’s OK.

A picture, I’ve deduced, is worth about a thousand words and we would need pages full of them in any effort to paint an adequate picture. Between big fish and trout, deer and elk, forest floor mushrooms and the succulent bivalves in salted waters, the natural spaces of our environment are abundant with bounty.

But this ink and these pages are not just for the hunters, and fishers, and gathers among us. This space is also for any hikers or joggers, and kayakers or walkers, and birders or bikers, and backyard astronomers or front porch philosophers who have any love for the out of doors at all. Going forward The Daily News will devote regular coverage to topics intended to help you find new ways to engage with the world outside, whatever that may mean for you.

In a time of sustained isolation and a collective cabin fever it seems more important than ever to find spaces that might provide some refuge from the ordinary. It feels important to search for outlets that might offer some relief from the constant flickering of screen time fluorescence.

So be sure to check the Weekend section of your Friday edition of The Daily News for regular dispatches on mossback topics like where the fish are biting, where the bucks are brazen, where the beaches are open, and any other evergreen topic under the sun.

There might be bad jokes from time to time and there’s sure to be plenty of oversized fish tales and campfire yarns, too, just to keep you coming back. We may not have enough room for all the pictures, let alone words, it would take to tackle every subject every time, but every editor I’ve ever had would confirm that I’ll take my best shot.

Fishin’If you were wondering what that collective reverberation was in the predawn air the last couple of mornings the answer is neither volcanic or seismic in nature. Instead, it was the sound of anglers throughout the land grabbing their gear from cluttered garages and, if they’re lucky, hitching up their buddy’s boat and riding shotgun on their way to fish for Buoy 10 salmon.

Friday marked the much anticipated opener of the mighty Columbia summer salmon fishery. As such, thousands of anglers were expected to head for the river and try their luck in the days to come.

“As much as we enjoyed ocean salmon and trophy sturgeon fishing, nothing can compare to what takes place during the Buoy 10 season,” noted area fishing guide, Lance Fisher, in a blog post leading up to the big river opener.

The Buoy 10 opener, which is a bit later than usual, also loosens salmon fishing regulation upriver and the timing may prove to be a boon for sport anglers.

A preseason forecast provided by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife called for 420,430 fall Chinook to make a run up the Columbia this year. That number is an increase of nearly 45,000 kings but still represents just 57 percent of the 10-year average return. The silver run is not likely to be as strong with just 140,190 coho salmon projected to return to the Columbia River this fall. A return of that size would equate to just 39 percent of the 10-year average return.

Kings come first on the docket, though, and according to Fisher the bite should be hot right off the bat.

“Over the past month or so, the salmon have been putting on weight while munching on baitfish just outside the mouth of the river,” Fisher noted. “Chinook have started their run up the Columbia River and we’re ready to chase them in the freshwater as they head to their birthwaters.”

Over the last fortnight anglers have had mixed results on the Lower Columbia River, although the Kalama waterfront has been particularly busy.

In Woodland two weeks ago the WDFW sampled 52 bank anglers who released six steelhead while 15 rods on seven boats had no catch. Last week 33 bank anglers along with eight boat rods had no catch at all.

Kalama had 182 surveyed bank rods keep three Chinook and three steelhead two weeks ago while releasing one Chinook and nine steelhead. Another 34 rods on 17 boats released one Chinook and one steelhead. Last week 141 bank anglers kept six Chinook and one jack while releasing one jack and five steelhead. Another 27 rods on 13 boats had no catch at all.

The Cowlitz River had nine rods on six boats show off one keeper Chinook to state samplers two weeks ago. Last week, though, 58 rods on 25 boats kept four Chinook and four jacks while releasing two steelhead.

In the Longview area 127 bank anglers kept seven steelhead and released two steelhead two weeks ago while 21 rods on 11 boats showed off one keeper Chinook and four steelhead, and told of one released jack. Last week another 42 bank anglers released two steelhead while 35 rods on 19 boats kept just one Chinook.

Angling effort has been fairly muted near Cathlamet recently, and with good reason. Two weeks ago 16 bank anglers had no catch but ten rods on three boats kept six steelhead. Last week three bank anglers had no catch and one bank angler was also skunked.

Anglers who ventured up from the mouths of those Columbia River tributaries also found some success last week, especially on the Cowlitz. Between the I-5 Bridge and the mouth of the Cowlitz 52 bank anglers kept six steelhead and two rods on one boat managed to bring home another steely. From the I-5 bridge to the Barrier Dam 48 more bank rods kept 21 steelhead and released one more while 120 rods on 40 boats kept 63 steelhead.

Last week crews at the Cowlitz salmon hatchery retrieved 764 summer steelhead, 30 spring Chinook, 29 spring jacks, 195 spring mini-jacks, and 30 cutthroat trout. As part of the ongoing summers recycling program 662 steelhead were trucked back down river and released at the I-5 boat launch. This week Tacoma Power reported water conditions below Mayfield Dam as 55 degrees ith 11 feet of visibility and a flow of approximately 2,450 cubic feet per second.

Other tributaries were a little more hit and miss last week. For instance, one bank anglers on the Kalama River had no catch to show or tell about while eight bank anglers on the Lewis River kept three steelhead.

There are also little fish to be caught this time of year in area lakes and ponds and dammed reservoirs. Topping the list is Lake Mayfield. Over the last month that reservoir has been planted with more than 10,000 hatchery rainbow trout averaging just less than one pound each.

Goose Lake and Takhlakh Lake have also received shipments of hatchery rainbows in recent weeks while kokanee fishing continues to pay dividends at Merwin and Yale reservoirs. Both Merwin and Mayfield are also prime trolling grounds for big ugly tiger muskies.

Additionally, panfish are being pulled from the warm waters of Lake Sacajawea, Kress Lake,and Silver Lake in Cowlitz County.

HUNTIN

With leaves all on their trees and sun bleached grasses in every direction it may not look like hunting season to most people, but that doesn’t mean that bears don’t need to keep their head on a swivel.

Black bear seasons opened on Aug. 1 and will continue through Nov. 15. Hunters should avoid shooting sows with cubs.

But bear hunters aren’t the only people out in the woods right now as big game hunters use the end of summer to scout for their preferred target. Adding to intrigue this week was a decision by the WDFW to release 2,723 additional deer tags and award 115 more elk tags.

Hunters who put in, but were not selected, for a multi-season elk permit earlier this year might be lucky enough to get their name drawn this go round.

“The next sequential 115 hunters on the original official draw list of elk multi-season tags will have an opportunity to buy the remaining tags,” said Peter Vernie, WDFW licensing division manager, in a press release. “By using the existing official draw list from April, this prevents large group gatherings at retail locations and keeps the opportunity fair.”

Prospective elk hunters may also use the WILD System beginning at 10 a.m., Aug. 18 to see if they are eligible to buy a multi-season tag. At that same time prospective deer hunters will also be able to purchase the newly released multi-season deer tags. In order to qualify a hunter rmust have purchased a 2020 deer multi-season special hunt application as well as a general season deer license.

Hunters who obtain multi-season tags are allowed to hunt all three weapon choices (modern firearm, muzzleloader, archery), according to the season, until their tag is filled.

Out of the woods and into the boardroom, the WDFW is seeking comments from the public in regard to proposals for the 2021-23 hunting seasons. A full list of proposals will be released online on Aug. 17 at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/season-setting.

Public comments will be accepted though Sept. 15. A series of virtual meetings will lead up that comment deadline including subjects such as waterfowl (Aug. 20), carnivores, small game, upland game, and furbearers (Aug. 25), general topics and equipment (Aug. 27), licensing (Sept. 1), elk (Sept. 3), deer (Sept. 9), and mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and boundaries (Sept. 10). The meetings are set to begin online at 6 p.m.

“Your input helps us develop our recommendations for the 2021-2023 hunting seasons,” said Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager, in a press release. “While recommendations will be designed to maintain sustainable populations, we’re also looking at this as (a) way to improve customer service.”

Written comments may be mailed to the WDFW Wildlife Program, PO Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504.

BIRDIN

For those who simply enjoy watching birds, but not necessarily through barrel mounted crosshairs, late summer marks the beginning of the great migration.

Tens of thousands of shorebirds like dowitchers, yellowlegs, and sandpipers, are already making their way south from arctic breeding grounds along the coastal byway. Sandpipers in particular are known to put on aerial displays between Ilwaco and Ocean shores.

Whereas the spring migration happens all at once, the fall migration can be a haphazard parade of adults and juvenile flocks all according to their own preferred pace. Flocks of geese have already been heard honking overhead and even rare fine feathered friends like Asian shorebirds have been known to make an appearance.

PICKIN

Blackberries are in bloom all along neighborhood alleyways and backwoods ditches alike. Whether they are small and tart and native to the area or of massive and bulging Himilayan decent, those berries noir are prime for picking nearly any direction you look.

However, if you can manage to make the trip huckleberries offer a more rarefied picking, and munching, experience.

August marks the start of huckleberry season in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and pickers who have made the trek before are always keen to go back. However, a permit is required in order to harvest berries, or other delicacies, within the forest boundaries.

Free permits for personal consumption allows for up to one gallon of huckleberries to be harvested per day, and up to three gallons in a year. Berries harvested under those free permits may not be sold.

Areas where berries may not be harvested include the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, all legislated wilderness areas, and the “Handshake Agreement” area of the Sawtooth Berry Fields.

Personal picking permits may be obtained online at apps.fs.usda.gov/gp.

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