Everything was ready to go. He’d checked the weather. Changed the oil. Cleaned the cab. Kicked the tires and even greased the old sticky wicket tailgate. Besides the fact that his cranky back was aching already and his hip wasn’t lagging far behind, he felt about as ready to go as a worn out old bucker had any right to feel.

The grass had been growing tall and threatening to burst with seed heads at any time. The manure that they’d spread last fall was long gone and fat blades of cellulose and nitrogen combined to crop up in its place.

Down in the lower field the banks of the river taunted the farm boys stuck up by the barn. The bends of the river were home to tall trees that offered midday shade and camouflaged the carefree bodies that had been sneaking away from the high school in increasing numbers in an effort to soothe their severely inflamed senioritis. Their laughing voices cut through the woodline and sailed over the pasture like hawks on the breeze before bouncing off the big red barn. The crusty booted hayseeds liked to brag about the big hog bass that they’d surely pull out of those waters if they weren’t full of rowdy recreationists. In reality, it didn’t matter who was down there or what they were doing, or if there were even any fish to be had at all. There was always more work to be done on the farm. Even when they worked ahead, burning the proverbial candle at both ends, the next day always brought news tasks that hadn’t existed the day before but now seemed imperative to the forward momentum of the haywire and duct tape country bumpkin operation. The whole thing was more than a little bit Ma and Pa Kettle, but it had always felt like home to them.

When the season changed and baked the pig pen mud the ensuing scent was almost sweet to their senses. When the midday sun settled on the beehives and raised the frequency of their hum they could feel the productivity inside as if it were generated from inside their own ribcage. The diesel and tractor grease combined to fill the air around the barn with a down home aromatherapy of sorts and the baby birds were always chirping inside the walls of the hay loft.

The brothers had grown up on the farm and they never really thought of leaving. Although they did wish that they could make it down to that river during the day when all the other people seemed to be so free. But their father had told them to get things in order. They still needed to fix the hay elevator, check the plugs on tractor, and fix the temperamental tines on the tedder that had been sitting broken since last summer.

So they toiled away with greasy knuckles and torn overalls while the dust floated like sprites around their heads. They turned wrenches and banged rusted metal with rubber mallets. They tossed hay to the cows and cursed the damned pigs for tipping over the water trough once again.

They knew that their pa was going to return soon and they wanted to be sure that everything was in order when he arrived. Everything always went smoother that way. They knew he’d kicked those tires and they double checked the rusty old tailgate just to be sure it was swinging to the old man’s liking.

As they moved the equipment from here to there and pulled the trusty old red tractor around to the front the water color splendor of the twilight sky stopped them dead in their knobby tire tracks. It seemed like forever could be held in those moments of complete stillness. The world seemed to go silent even as the motor rumbled and the smoke stack burped. Those mechanical reverberations were bound by time and space to the earthly plane while the oil slick sky seemed to roll and wave and with the geometry and timing of an infinite canvas. The brothers sat together, one in the driver's seat, the other side saddle on the dented fender, as the tractor shook their bones and the sky wrapped around their brain like the tendrils of sweet pea vines until the dark of night enveloped it all.

That night they slept soundly and awaited their father’s return from the road weary work that took him away for days at a time. When they awoke there was a sound that was strange yet relentlessly familiar — It was the pitter patter of rain on a tin roof.

When they walked downstairs and into the kitchen their father was sitting at the table drinking his morning coffee black and staring out the window.

“Good morning boys. I guess we’ll be working in the barn today,” he said to his sons as he pulled his favorite mug from his cracked lips. “With this weather we won’t be cutting for at least another week.”

As the update sank in and a new day’s to-do list began to percolate in their collective minds the brothers groaned and pulled out a pair of chairs from the kitchen table.

“Damned weatherman,” they all exhaled in unison, but not another word was spoken.

FISHIN’

Frugal anglers can stop rubbing their nickels together this weekend in order to take advantage of “Free Fishing Weekend”. That two-day offering on June 8-9 will allow anglers in Washington and Idaho to wet a line without a license in any waters that are already open for fishing.

"If you haven't fished in Washington, or want to introduce fishing to someone new, this is the weekend to get out there," said Ron Warren, assistant director of the WDFW fish program, in a press release.

The opening is applicable to freshwater and saltwater fish as well as shellfish.

“We want everyone to have the opportunity to get outside and enjoy all that Washington’s waters have to offer,” added Warren. “Free fishing weekend is a time that we welcome anyone who is curious about fishing to give it a try.”

Out at Silver Lake in east Cowlitz County the Silver Cove RV Resort will hold an educational day on the water on Saturday in conjunction with the first of the free fishing days. An observational pond will be present and staff will be on hand from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. to teach greenhorns how to catch fish like trout, perch, bluegill, and crappie.

Swift Reservoir opened to trout fishing on May 25 and the bite is expected to hit full stride over the next few weeks. The daily limit is 10 fish with a minimum length of eight inches. Nearby, Yale and Merwin reservoirs have been putting plenty of Kokanee on the line as of late. Rainbows have also been biting in Merwin near the dam.

Mayfield Lake is stocked with several thousand rainbow trout that are currently busy feeding and growing to catchable size. Tiger muskies are beginning to prowl for meals more regularly at Mayfield, as well as Merwin. Carlisle Lake (Ol’ Mill Pond) in Onalaska has been a hot spot for bass in the early going.

The biggest news on the fishing front is that a regulation that required the use of barbless hooks on the Columbia River and its tributaries for salmon and steelhead has now mostly gone the way of the dodo bird. That rule change went into effect on June 1 for large swaths of the Columbia River system. Requirements related to the Endangered Species Act prevent the barbless regulation from being lifted in its entirety. For now anglers can opt to use barbed hooks from Buoy 10 up to the Chief Joseph Dam along with all Columbia River tributaries between Buoy 10 and McNary dam. It’s important to note that sturgeon anglers are still required to use barbless hooks.

The restriction on barbed hooks for salmon and steelhead lifted on June 1 on the following area waters:

A) Barbed hooks allowed for salmon and steelhead:

- Blue Creek (Lewis County), from the mouth to Spencer Road

- Cispus River (Lewis County)

- Columbia River, from a true north/south line through Buoy 10 to Chief Joseph Dam

- Coweeman River and tributaries (Cowlitz County)

- Cowlitz Falls Reservoir (Lake Scanewa) (Lewis County)

- Cowlitz River (Cowlitz County); Barbed hooks are also allowed for cutthroat trout

- Elochoman River (Wahkiakum County)

- Grays River (Wahkiakum County)

- Grays River, West Fork (Wahkiakum County)

- Kalama River (Cowlitz County)

- Lewis River (Clark County)

- Tilton River (Lewis County)

- Toutle River (Cowlitz County)

- Toutle River, North Fork (Cowlitz County)

B) Selective gear rules still in effect; barbed hooks now allowed:

  • Abernathy Creek and tributaries (Cowlitz County)

  • Coal Creek (Cowlitz County)

  • Delameter Creek (Cowlitz County)

  • Germany Creek (Cowlitz County) and all tributaries.

  • Grays River (Wahkiakum County)

  • Grays River, East Fork (Wahkiakum County)

  • Grays River, South Fork (Wahkiakum County)

  • Grays River, West Fork tributaries (Wahkiakum County)

  • Green River (Cowlitz County)

  • Kalama River (Cowlitz County): From 1,000 feet above fishway at upper salmon hatchery to Summers Creek and from the intersection of 6000 and 6420 roads to 6600 Road bridge immediately downstream of Jacks Creek.

  • Lacamas Creek, tributary of Cowlitz River (Lewis County)

  • Lewis River, East Fork (Clark/Skamania counties): From mouth to 400 feet below Horseshoe Falls.

  • Mill Creek (Cowlitz County)

  • Mill Creek (Lewis County): From the mouth to the hatchery road crossing culvert.

  • Olequa Creek (Lewis/Cowlitz counties)

  • Outlet Creek (Silver Lake) (Cowlitz County)

  • Salmon Creek (Lewis County)

  • Skamokawa Creek (Wahkiakum County)

  • Stillwater Creek (Lewis County)

  • Swift Reservoir (Skamania County): From the posted markers approximately 3/8 mile below Eagle Cliff Bridge to the bridge; from the Saturday before Memorial Day through July 15.

  • Toutle River, North Fork (Cowlitz County): From the mouth to the posted deadline below the fish collection facility.

C) Fly fishing only rules still in effect; barbed hooks now allowed:

1. Kalama River (Cowlitz County): From Summers Creek to the intersection of 6000 and 6420 roads.

Steelhead fishing typically picks up on the Kalama River in June. The bite is also likely to increase on the Elochoman, South Fork Toutle, Cowlitz and Lewis rivers. Spring Chinook should also continue to come back to the Kalama River this month. Last week on the Kalama the WDFW sampled a dozen bank anglers with two Chinook jacks released. Another five bank anglers on the Lewis River were skunked while five boat rods had no catch. Three bank anglers on the Elochoman last week also had no catch to show or tell about.

However, the Cowlitz River did provide a bit of action for anglers who could ferry themselves up and down the river. Nine bank rods on the lower river last week were skunked as were six rods between I-5 and the Barrier Dam but 10 rods on four boats just down from the hatchery were able to keep three steelhead.

Last week at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator crews retrieved 34 spring Chinook adults, five jacks, 17 summer steelhead, and three winter steelhead. Hatchery employees then released seven spring Chinook adults, one jack, and one winter-run steelhead in Lake Scanewa near Randle. Another steelhead was dropped into the Tilton River at Morton. Recycling efforts for steelhead continued last week as well with the total number of fish trucked back down river for another run at the gantlet rising to 71. River flow has been holding just below 3,000 cubic feet per second this week with water visibility at 10 feet and the temperature reading 48.5 degrees. Recent rains should help to call a few more fish upriver as well.

A catch-and-keep sturgeon fishery on the lower Columbia River came to a close on June 5 but anglers who still have a hankering for river monsters can soon head upriver to Lake Roosevelt. Those waters will be open to sturgeon harvest beginning June 15.

“This is the third year in a row that anglers have the opportunity to fish for white sturgeon in Lake Roosevelt,” said Chris Donley, Region 1 Fish Program manager, in a press release. “This is a great opportunity for anglers to get out and pursue one of the greatest native sportfish in Washington.”

The dam pool is full of hatchery stock sturgeon that have reproduced and survived better than fish officials anticipated. That abundance of sturgeon has opened the door to another harvest opportunity. Fish must be between 53-63 inches in length in order to be eligible for harvest.

Salmon (ocean and coastal waters): Salmon fishing gets underway daily in all four marine areas of Washington’s ocean waters later this month. In marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport), anglers can retain two salmon, only one of which can be a chinook. Anglers fishing in areas 3 and 4 (Neah Bay) will have a two-salmon daily limit. In all marine areas, anglers must release wild coho.

Looking elsewhere around the region, the Hoh River opened up for hatchery Chinook, steelhead, and trout harvest on June 1. However, the Chehalis River has been and continues to be shuttere to all fishing.

The WDFW has announced several changes to the summer salmon seasons in Puget Sound. The official forecast is calling for low returns of wild Chinook this year which has prompted a reduction of sport opportunity.

“Anglers should expect shorter chinook salmon fishing seasons in several Puget Sound marine areas,” said Kyle Adicks, WDFW salmon policy lead, in a press release. “We want to make sure anglers have plenty of notice about changes to some of the popular chinook salmon fisheries in Puget Sound.”

Significant changes have been announced for marine areas 7, 8-2, 9, 10, and 11, along with Tulalip Bay. Conversely, coho fishing is expected to improve this year. Additionally, salmon fishing will remain open in South Puget Sound year round.

Out in the great wide open the sport season for halibut have been extended. Beginning June 15 marine areas 3 and 4 will be open, while marine areas 1 and 2 are set to open on June 20. The nearshore fishery in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco and Chinook) opened up for recreational effort seven days a week beginning Thursday.

HUNTIN’

A six week statewide wild turkey hunt has finally come to a close in Washington. That final general opening of the spring ended on May 31. Now hunters are required to run in their turkey reports, whether they were successful in bagging a bird or not. Reports can be filed by phone at 1-877-945-3492 or online at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/#/login.

With the close of spring turkey hunts the next general hunting season will not be open until August when black bear seasons kick back into gear. However, coyote season is unregulated in Washington and remains open year round.

Anyone who applied for a special hunting permit earlier this spring should be sure to keep their eyes out for a notification of results. Winners will be notified online later this month with the permits set to arrive by mail in mid-July.

Last week former Morton-White Pass football coach Aaron Poquette collided with a deer while driving on Highway 12. Luckily the old coach is okay, but the deer was not.

“Deer took a perfect tackling angle and even made sure to keep his head in front. Did everything right but physics still wins sometimes,” wrote Poquette in a decidedly East Lewis County tweet.

That’s good enough reason to remind readers that roadkill salvage is legal in Washington in almost all instances. State law allows for the harvest of most road rashed deer and elk with the use of an emergency permit provided by the WDFW. However, deer are not legal for salvage in Clark, Cowlitz or Wahkiakum counties in order to protect endangered populations of Columbia white-tailed deer. 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.

SHRIMPIN’

Several marine areas have been opened up for additional shrimping opportunity in recent days. However, those openings exclude the harvest of the much coveted spot shrimp.

Marine areas 8-1, 8-2, 9, 11, and 13 opened on June 1 and will remain open until further notice. On June 3, Marine Areas 7 East was added to that list of openings for non-spot shrimp with an end date that is to be determined. Any spot shrimp harvested during these fisheries must be returned to the water immediately. There are a few areas that are open to spot shrimp harvest include marine areas 4, 5, 6, and 7.

Shrimpers who like to head to Hood Canal will be happy to know that two days have been added to the previously scheduled fishery. Marine Areas 12 will now be open on June 21-22 from noon to 4 p.m. each day.

“This is a rare opportunity for shrimp harvesters to enjoy back-to-back days on Hood Canal in June,” said Don Velasquez, WDFW shellfish biologist, in a press release. “It’s a beautiful part of Washington to experience while shrimping.”

PROTECTIN’

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has made like a plastic Jesus and listed the pinto abalone sea snail as endangered.

The native sea creature was harvested and encroached upon with reckless abandon in previous decades due to its ornate shell, enticing taste, and less than vigorous reproductive habits. From 1992 through 2017, the population of pinto abalone sea snails fell by an estimated 97 percent. Legal fisheries for the snails have been closed before but the populations have failed to recover.

“Males and females spawn directly into the water, and without sufficient population density, fertilization does not occur, and the animals fail to reproduce,” said Hank Carson, WDFW research scientist, in a press release. "Our abalone captive-breeding and reintroduction program is a promising recovery strategy, but much work remains to achieve self-sustaining populations in the state.”

With the endangered listing in place several agencies are now working on an official recovery plan. The 2019 legislature provided $900,000 for recovery work through June 2021.

“When it comes to recovery of the Puget Sound ecosystem, everything is connected and attention to detail is important,” said Senator Christine Rolfes from Washington’s 23rd district. “Recovery of lesser-known species like the nearly depleted pinto abalone is critical for a healthy and more resilient Puget Sound and the salmon and orca whales we all love. I’m glad the legislature agreed to support this effort.”

Additional information on abilone snails can be found online a wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/haliotis-kamtschatkana.

VISITIN’

Out of doors enthusiasts and those who are just trying to shake cabin fever will be allowed to visit Washington’s State Parks free of charge on June 8-9. Those openings coincide with “Free Fishing Weekend” and provide an opportunity for families to get out and enjoy what may otherwise be prohibitively expensive.

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