If you’ve ever seen The Snowman through a child’s eyes then you already know — You’re familiar with the pang of emptiness that fills the air when the atmospheric scales tilt and the temperatures takes your newfound friend away for good.
While adults are inclined to cheer the roaring thaw there is a pearl of innocence inside us all that longs to live in neverending snow day. Responsibilities are incessant and unrelenting. Snowdays are forgiving and exist solely for the pursuit of carefree fulfillment.
Have you ever stepped into a wide field blanketed in white and felt the rush of vertigo that must have left polar explorers gobsmacked? A countourless wave of white reaches from corner to corner and swamps your peripheral. More white falls from above. There is no end or beginning. Only you at the center falling in place. Those who fall turn into snow angels.
What is the word for the feeling of dread that saturates the soul when faced with the prospect of trekking across an unsullied field of snow? It’s like breaking up a legendary no-hitter in the ninth or flubbing the final line in an otherwise perfect recital. It’s the first knife spread from a tub of margarine or a ketchup stain on a pair of white pants. It is the forest full of humans. The ocean full of plastic. The countryside full of traffic. It is timeless perfection ruined for selfish pursuits today.
In the backyard chock full of snow the time slips away like flakes over the eves. A handful of snow slowly grows and becomes a series of lumps fused together by ice and intent. A pair of neon golf balls for eyes and a baseball nose. A crescent ring of charcoal black teeth and a set of evergreen twig arms. A safari hat to cap it all makes the snowman real, even if only the children know.
In the fleeting days since The Snowman was born he has lost his eyes to the sun and started to slump to the south. His teeth are falling out and his nose has rolled away. His right arm still waves to the house but the adults forget to look. Soon his head will fall like so many guillotine harvests. A yardsale of borrowed body parts will be all that remain in the muddy field.
In the realm of dreams though, the possibilities remain endless. The snow fields are unscathed. The Snowman is tall, and plump, and ready to swim through the frozen sky with their pure-heart creators in tow.
The problem with snow is it is too pure for this world and it reminds us why even when we manage to have nice things, fate deems that they are not long for this world.
Conditions are certainly different from last week but like visibility in area rivers it's unclear if the bite has changed course in a corresponding move.
The most recent data from the WDFW on the Cowlitz River didn’t include any creel sampling of anglers at any point on the river. However, the report did show that crews at the Cowlitz salmon hatchery separator collected a paltry seven winter-run steelhead. Those crews reportedly then put one of those adult steelies into Lake Scanewa and three into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park. River flows below Mayfield Dam were reported at 9,010 cubic feet per second on Monday and had dropped only slightly by midweek. Temperature and clarity measurements were not available.
The most recent creel data from the WDFW came on Feb. 4 and showed that 37 downriver bank rods had released one steelhead while 10 bank anglers closer to the hatchery had kept one steelhead and 26 boat rods kept 14 steelhead and released another. A hopeful soul would look a those numbers and hope that the late run of winter-steelhead have begun to find their way.
Anticipatory smelt dippers on the Cowlitz River will be as disappointed as anyone now that the WDFW has officially put the kibosh on any prospects for a recreational opening this year. According to the WDFW the return of smelt this year is expected to be even worse this year than last year when the once popular dipping opportunities were also shuttered.
The disappointing run last year prompted fish officials to close the fishery for the first time in five years. Gillnetters were only able to bring in 110 pounds of the tiny fish during an eight-day trial fishery. A daily haul of about 250 pounds is typically required before fishery managers set sport dippers free on the river.
This year the state won’t even conduct a trial fishery with commercial boats because the prospects are so uninspiring.
On the mainstem of the lower Columbia River anglers are currently allowed to target hatchery Chinook and steelhead from Buoy 10 to the I-5 Bridge at Portland. Steelhead anglers can stay on the prowl upstream to McNary. However, no creel sampling data has been provided in recent weeks.
White sturgeon is also open in two of the three Columbia River gorge dam pools. However, opening do not equal prospects as six anglers were skunked in the Bonneville Pool last week and one boat rod at John Day had no catch.
Salmon angling was similarly muted on area tributaries to the mighty Columbia. Six bank anglers had no catch on the Grays River while eight bank anglers and two boat rods had no catch on the Elochoman River. One bank angler had no catch on Abernathy Creek but four bank anglers managed to release one steelhead at Germany Creek. On the East Lewis River 14 bank anglers released one steelhead and two boat rods had no catch. On Salmon Creek 21 bank anglers all went home with nothing to show or tell for their efforts.
The bite on the Chehalis River died down during the low water that resulted from the extended freeze. As a result area anglers are brimming with hope that the rising waters of the big snow melt will entice more steelhead up the mainstem from Grays Harbor.
On Monday the Chehalis River level was coasting along at 153.5 feet at Mellen Street in Centralia but that flow had increased to about 162 feet by Tuesday night. Flood stage is set at 168.5 feet at that location but the level looks like it will continue to drop off slowly through the weekend. On the Wynoochee River the flow was reported at 918 cfps above Black Creek and 284 cfps at Grisdale on Wednesday.
In Olympic Peninsula fishing news, the Quinault Tribe announced last week the voluntary closure of their commercial blueback sockeye salmon fishery on their namesake river. That closure was enacted in response to a forecast by the WDFW that calls for a historic low return of the unique salmon species. That dismal forecast follows a return of just 6,619 blueback salmon last year, the third smallest run on record.
The run typically runs from April through June. A press release from the Quinault Tribe noted that the blueback salmon run is made up almost entirely of native fish instead of hatchery fish, which is rare in Washington.
“The Quinault Nation has a long history of conservation to preserve salmon for future generations. Our responsibility as stewards of this irreplaceable resource demands the utmost caution,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation, in a press release. “We applaud the Quinault River Committee for following our longstanding tradition of preserving our history and the Quinault Blueback salmon by declaring this closure two months before the fishing season starts.”
The Quinault Tribe didn’t pull any punches when searching for a culprit to blame for the poor returns. They pointed a finger at warm ocean conditions linked to global climate change.
“It’s time to hold oil companies accountable for their past record of denying climate change and their current obstruction of policies to reduce climate pollution,” added President Sharp, in the release. “The devastation of our iconic blueback salmon has struck at the core of what it means to be Quinault. This incalculable loss jeopardizes the cultural identity of our people and our ability to support and nourish our families. We will be stepping up efforts to hold Big Oil accountable for their environmental exploits, stop illegal poaching and looking at every other option to help displaced fishermen, including declaring a fishing disaster.”
The press release added that blueback salmon have played an integral role for the Quinault Tribe historically, providing a food source during typically lean spring months. The closure will also mean hard times for families who depend on fishing for an income.
“The intertwined history of the Quinault people and Blueback salmon predates European contact and like many of our neighboring tribes we only took what we needed and wasted nothing,” said President Sharp in the release. “None of us ever imagined the last salmon era may now be upon us.”
In the 1950s returns of Quinault blueback salmon averaged almost a 250,000 fish.
Goose hunters have a few more days to bang away in the coastal strip of Goose Area 2. That strip of hunting ground is located west of Highway 101 in Grays Harbor and all of Pacific County. Hunters there will be allowed to target most geese through Feb. 16.
However, National Wildlife Refuges and WDFW WIldlife Areas will remain closed to hunters during that time. Another round of goose opportunity began in the inland section of Area 2 on Feb. 9 and will continue through March 9. Elsewhere, the late goose opening in Area 1 will continue through Feb. 20.
Most designated areas remain open for cougar hunts but hunters should be sure to check with the WDFW before heading out to the field. That extra effort has been recommended since the new year when cougar areas became subject to restrictions based on cumulative harvest numbers from the fall and winter season. In areas where the take remains below the quota hunting will continue through April 30.
Bobcats, fox, raccoons, snowshoe hares and cottontail rabbits will all bear through the Ides of March when those seasons traditionally end. Trapping seasons for beaver, badger, weasel, marten, mink, muskrat and river otter will continue through the end of March. And, as always, coyotes are legal fodder year round.
Roadkill salvage is also legal in Washington with the use of an emergency permit provided by the WDFW. Permits are available online and must be obtained within 24-hours of any deer or elk salvage. Permits can be found at wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/game_salvaging/application.html.
Hunters who hope to bag themselves a black bear this spring have until the end of the month to submit their applications for a permit. Applicants will then have to wait for a lottery drawing that will dole out 272 permits for western Washington and 509 permits for the other side of the mountains.
Applicants must first purchase a special permit application and a 2019 hunting license that includes bear as a species option. Permit applications cost $7.10 for Washington residents and $110.50 for out of staters. The cost is only $3.80 for youths under age 16. Anyone selected for a hunt in GMUs 101, 105, 108, 111, 117, and 418 will have to complete a bear identification test in order to prove they can tell the difference between a legal black bear and an off limits grizzly.
The WFW approved seven straight days of razor clam digging earlier this week after marine toxin testing revealed the succulent bivalve are ripe for eating. Those digs will begin on Friday at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks.
The digs will include a set of rare opportunities at Kalaloch Beach on the west end of the Olympic Peninsula.
The upcoming dig is approved on the following beaches, dates, and evening low tides:
Feb. 15, Friday; 3:11 p.m.; 0.4 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Feb. 16, Saturday; 4:08 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Kalaloch
Feb. 17, Sunday; 4:59 p.m.; -1.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
Feb. 18, Monday; 5:46 p.m.; -1.4 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
Feb. 19, Tuesday; 6:31 p.m.; -1.5 feet; Twin Harbors
Feb. 20, Wednesday; 7:14 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors
Feb. 21, Thursday; 7:56 p.m.; -0.8 feet; Twin Harbors
According to WDFW coastal shellfish manager, Dan Ayres, the last round of digs was a success for all who could pry themselves off the couch.
“I worked at Copalis on Superbowl Sunday, to give my crew a chance to watch that ‘fantastic’ game and digging was excellent. Most folks got their limits well before low tide,” wrote Ayres in an email to the FishRap command center. “If the weather is good, and the surf remains low, I would expect similar results during the coming February dates.”
In January a round of digs at Kalaloch were cancelled due to the federal government shutdown. According to Ayres the there’s still a possibility that those dates will be made up at a later date.
“We're reaching out to the Park to find out if they think there will be any issues with the February Kalaloch razor clam opener,” noted Ayres. “They have offered some additional dates, that we hope to announce soon.”
The upcoming dig even includes a day at Long Beach which has been largely clam starved over the last year.
“Razor clams are fun to gather and great to eat, and the seven-day schedule should provide opportunities for diggers to find a time to gather their clams for late winter get-togethers with friends and family,” said Ayres, in a press release.
All razor clam diggers age 15 and older are required to possess a valid fishing license in order to partake. State law allows diggers to harvest up to 15 clams per person and each clam dug must be taken regardless of size or condition.
Ayres recommends that diggers hit the beach between one and two hours before low tide for best results.
The WDFW is seeking out public comments in regard to nine proposed land conservation projects across the state.
Those projects include saltwater shoreline projects on the the Strait of Juan de Fuca and shrub-steppe habitat recovery for sharptail grouse in Okanogan County. Written comments will be accepted through Feb. 25.
“Our goal is to protect land and water for people and wildlife throughout our state,” said Cynthia Wilkerson, WDFW lands division manager, in a press release. “WDFW lands give visitors a chance to explore Washington’s natural places, while preserving our natural heritage.”
An overview of the proposals can be viewed online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/acquisitions/.
Sales of climbing permits for Mount Saint Helens were delayed this year due to the shutdown of the federal government but sales are set to begin in mid-March so long as nothing else goes awry.
“A firm date should be announced soon, once they have had a chance to recover from the shutdown,” noted a press release from Taylor Feldman, outdoors programs manager for the Mount Saint Helens Institute.
Permits typically sell out for the year within days, if not hours, once sales open to the public.
“We thank you for your interest in climbing this iconic volcano,” noted Feldman.
Up in the mountains it seems like the heavens have opened and dumped their good graces upon the peaks.
As of Wednesday morning the temperature at the base of White Pass was 24 degrees with a 19 degree measuring up top. However, it’s the snow totals over the last week that are ink worthy. Over the second half of Wednesday White Pass picked up eight new inches of powder with a full foot of new snow since Tuesday. Those deposits brought the total base at the summit up to 108 inches with 80 inches at the base. Last Wednesday those totals were reported at 82 inches up top and 42 inches down below.
“Check out those snow totals! Light bottomless powder is the call today!” noted the White Pass snow report page. “Keep in mind that you should ski with a partner and stay in sight of one another. Tree well danger increases with every additional inch of powder. Educate yourself, obey all signs, stay safe and have a great day!”
On Wednesday Progression Park was open but Ribeye was closed. The nordic area is open Thursday through Sunday each week. The tubing area is open Weekends as well as next Monday for Presidents Day. Night skiing is open all Saturdays and this Sunday until 9 p.m.
On Tuesday 15 inches of new snow fell over twelve hours and 23 inches over the entire day.
“Stay calm on the roads getting here. There's plenty of pow to go around!” added the White Pass snow report.
Up to date information on operations and conditions can be obtained by calling the White Pass snow-report hotline at 509-672-3100.