CALGARY, Alberta — The immensity of the landscape wasn’t obvious at first, mostly because we were driving in the dead of night. Still, the awe inspiring contours of the route through the clouds could not remain obfuscated forever. It’s just that you could feel the surroundings before you could see them.
That’s what happens when you make a wrong turn coming through south central Canada following a midnight border crossing and wind up wending through the staggering Rocky Mountains of Banff National Park in the wee witching hours of the morning.
The smooth face of the massive ageless rocks revealed themselves in fits and spurts as the headlights snaked around each unfamiliar corner. At times the road narrowed as the mountain walls pinched together, towering and teetering overhead like the remnant pillars of a crumbled arch from the land before time.
As Orion’s cloak of stars did their best to keep the secrets of the countryside cloistered the world worked hard to prove that the darkest hour does indeed come just before the dawn. A series of ominous roadside signs peeled away as we powered up the mountain pass and made a white knuckled driver’s blood pressure rise — a burly black bear poised to pounce. A massive racked elk turning to stare down traffic. A reclusive regal mountain goat that appeared pissed to have any company at all.
If all of those cautionary images weren’t enough to make a greenhorn navigator turn around, or at least take a nap, the series of avalanche warnings that dotted the unfamiliar path certainly served to give the passengers pause. But the modern day wagon train was on a roll and the goal from the outset was to make good time, so they pressed on against the terror and thrill of the night and screamed in the face of the unknown.
With momentum and not much else on their side the caravan approached what they assumed would be a summit. That’s when the fog settled in.
The clouds that crowned the mountain tops fell in disorienting ribbons that dappled the highway like muddled dots on the Candyland trail and made each turn another adventure to forget. Headlights reflected like tinsel ribbons off of the vapors and blinded both driver and navigator. High beams on. High beams off. High beams on. High beams off. Neither option ever proved to be correct and sustained relief from the terrorizing uncertainty ahead was impossible to attain.
As the black top rolled out in short ribbons in front of us the end seemed like it would never arrive. We racked up miles on the rumble strips and motored on toward an uncertain tomorrow. On one side the rock solid slab of earth’s exposed structural flanks pushed us away with a repellent force like rebar and bad omens. On the other side an inky black abyss attempted to draw us over the line and into its unforgiving canyon clutches forever. Undeterred we pushed on with terrified screams from the back of the wagon helping to keep the perilous pull of gravity and poor steering from joining forces.
After what seemed like forever in a tar pit of fear the black sheet of night finally showed a crack in its foundation. A soothing shade of ocean blue began to seep like ink into a far off spot in the sky and everyone rubbed their eyes to make sense of the spectacle. After awhile the puzzle began to come together through the delirium — we were watching a morning sunrise as it poured itself like syrup all over the slick slopes of the regal Rocky Mountains just as it had each morning since the continents had drifted apart and then collided again on the other side of the world.
As we continued to slog forward against our drooping eyelids and the drag of time the sky came alive. Purples and blues swirled and dripped into the corners of the sky before turning red, yellow and orange on a cloudless palette. Then, as we came to the crest of the road to the vast other side the morning medallion made its grand appearance over the hump of the mountains and cast our magnificent surroundings in a bath of golden flake sun beams.
All at once the mountainside on our left became too big to comprehend and the depth of the precipice on our right became too terrifying to contemplate much more for risk of passing out. Sunlight danced like shorebirds and sprites on the rippled surface of a crystal clear alpine lake down at the bottom of the canyon. The promise of something new and unknown beckoned around each successive bend in the road.
As the day broke before our eyes we never let the grass grow beneath our wheels. The world rolled out in front of us like a cinema reel complete with sepia tones and technicolor. A story as old as the world itself unveiled its secrets as we watched from inside our tin can, floating in our own peculiar way.
When we finally made it down the other side we slowly realized what we’d witnessed even though we’d never found a moment to stop and breathe it all in with proper reverence and pace. We were simply grateful to make it to the other side alive, even with our lust with making good time.
Lucky for our us, the mountains and the canyons will still be there whenever we are ready to give them all our time and all our love. All we have to do is make it back and they will be waiting. They always do.
With most river angling option off on summer vacation the best, and in many cases the only, place to catch-and-keep salmon is out in the big salted pond where the sun sets each evening. In other words, ocean fishing is heating up off of Ilwaco and Westport. In Marine Areas 1 and 2 anglers are allowed to keep two salmon per day, including one Chinook per day. Off of the coast of the Olympic Peninsula anglers in Marine Areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) are also allowed two salmon per day. However, anglers off of Neah Bay are now required to release all Chinook, while anglers off of La Push may retain one Chinook per day. Wild coho must be released in all ocean areas.
Puget Sound also offers a number of summer salmon fishing options, particularly on the northern end near the Strait of Juan de Fuca. That being said, South Puget Sound (Marine Area 13) is also open and anglers are allowed to work two rods at a time so long as they have a two-pole endorsement.
For the angler who’s not afraid to put a few miles under their belt to reach the right spot the west end of the Olympic Peninsula offers a number of enticing options. The Bogachiel, Calawah, Dickey, and Quinault rivers all opened up to salmon fishing earlier this month. Those drainages join the Quillayute and Sol Duc rivers as prime fishing destinations in the primordial stomping grounds that time forgot. The Bogachiel and lower Calawah rivers should also be seeing an uptick in returning summer steelhead.
In Grays Harbor County the Humptulips and Wynoochee rivers are both promising waters for finding summer-steelhead. Even closer to home, the Nisqually River is also open for salmon fishing six days a week. Sport anglers are prohibited on the river on Sundays.
However, the Chehalis River and most of its tributaries remain closed to all fishing. That closure, which applies to trout and bass and all other game fish in addition to salmon and steelhead, has previously been pinned on a low return of summer Chinook. However, a recent prospect report from the WDFW changed course and blamed the closure on low stream flows.
Fishing options are also limited, if slightly less so, on the Columbia River system. Anglers were recently relieved of an obligation to purchase a special endorsement for salmon and steelhead fishing on the Columbia River and its tributaries as well as a requirement to use only barbless hooks. However, due to a palty projection for summer Chinook and sockeye that the WDFW has blamed on poor ocean conditions, those fisheries are expected to remain shuttered for the foreseeable future. Anglers are allowed to fish for hatchery origin summer steelhead from the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco all the way down to the mouth with a one fish limit. No night fishing is allowed. Last Saturday the WDFW counted 79 boats between Cathlamet and Bonneville with another 213 bank anglers on the Washington bank. In the lower river the bite for steelhead was most active around Longview.
Chinook salmon retention is also closed on the Cowlitz River but persistent anglers have been having some success targeting summer steelhead near the trout hatchery. Creel checks by the WDFW last week found no catch at all from the mouth to the I-5 Bridge near Vader but 30 bank rods between the bridge and the Barrier Dam kept 14 steelhead while 93 rods on 32 boats on the same stretch kept 71 steelhead.
At the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator last week, crews retrieved 20 spring Chinook adults, five jacks, 155 mini-jacks, and 172 summer steelhead. Those fish handlers also released three spring Chinook adults and one jack into the Cispus River near Randle, in addition to one spring Chinook adult, and one jack at the Franklin Bridge in Packwood. There have been no efforts to recycle summer steelhead back downriver in the last month. Early this week river flow below Mayfield Dam was reported at 2,430 cubic feet per second with visibility of 15 feet and a water temperature of 52.5 degrees.
Anglers on the Kalama River are currently allowed to fish for salmon between the mouth and the 1,000 foot line below the upper hatchery. The daily limit is six salmon or steelhead, of which one may be an adult. Last week the WDFW sampled eight anglers with no catch.
The Lewis River is currently closed to salmon retention from the mouth to Merwin Dam. That’s a shame, too, since last week the WDFW sampled nine bank anglers with two keeper steelhead and another to toss back, along with seven boat rods with four steelhead in the box.
As summer marches on the prospects for trout, warmwater fish, and other panfish will continue to rise. The WDFW has stocked many thousands of rainbow trout into Mayfield Lake over the last couple months and the ungainly tiger musky are always a big draw for anglers who like to stalk their prey in the shallows. Other lakes that have received summer stocks of rainbow trout include Goose Lake, Takhlakh Lake, and Council Lake. Mineral Lake, Lake Sacajawea, and Kress Lake have also received hefty shipments of brown trout in the not so distant past.
At the Merwin and Yale reservoirs of the Lewis River, kokanee fishing has been keeping anglers happy in recent weeks. Tiger musky have also been biting at Merwin Reservoir while smallmouth bass have been caught at Riffe Lake despite an unpredictable water level.
New regulations for black bear hunting are set to take effect with the end of July. First off, the WDFW has moved to make Aug. 1 the opening day for black bear hunting in all applicable areas. Previously the opening dates had rolled out over a staggered series of dates depending on the particular area. The change will result in an increase of between six and 11 days of hunting opportunity depending on the area.
The second change that was given the go-ahead simplifies the season harvest limit. Previously hunters were limited to two bears per season with just one bear allowed from east of the Cascade mountain range. The new limit allows hunters to take two bears per season regardless of location.
Black bear season is the traditional starting gun for the popular fall hunting seasons that will begin to open up hot and heavy in September. With the final countdown in full swing the WDFW is reminding new hunters that the time to take care of their hunter’s education requirement is now.
"Since most hunting seasons don't open until September, summer is a great time to enroll in hunter education to ensure you can participate in fall hunting seasons," said David Whipple, WDFW hunter education division manager, in a press release. "WDFW recommends completing a hunter education course early because late summer and fall courses fill quickly.”
All hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972 are required to complete an education course prior to purchasing a license. This day in age hunters are able to fulfill their education requirements online or through a traditional classroom setting.
Until the evergreen curtain rises on black bear season anxious hunters will have to pass the time staking out coyotes who are running out of hay fields to hide in. Coyote hunting season never closes in Washington.
For anyone who travels in Washington it’s important to remember that state law allows for the harvest of most roadkill 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.
The upcoming week will see shrimpers descending on Hood Canal in Marine Area 12 for a set of bonus spot shrimp fishing dates. The WDFW has noted that the quota for the big shrimp has not yet been reached in that area. The good news is tempered somewhat since the opening is set for the middle of the week as opposed to a weekend. That recreational fishery is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, July 23-24, when shrimpers can actively put gear in the water from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Other areas still open for spot shrimp fishing include Marine Areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, 6 (outside the Discovery Bay Shrimp District) remain open for spot shrimp fishing. Marine Area 9 is open for coonstripe and pink shrimp fishing, but closed for spot shrimp.
Ducks Unlimited and the WDFW have teamed up in order to finalize the purchase of 1,100 acres of land near Westport. The land will be managed by the WDFW as an extension of the Elk River Unit of the Johns River Wildlife Area with a state intent to benefit both wildlife and people.
“The new addition to the Elk River Unit is one of those truly special properties,” said Greg Green, Ducks Unlimited manager of conservation programs, in a press release. “The opportunity to purchase and protect a large property near the coast with such ecological and recreational diversity is unique. Ducks Unlimited is pleased to have provided a major supporting role for WDFW on this effort, and we look forward to future restoration and public use planning.”
What’s more, the WDFW is expected to finalize the purchase of another 600 acres in the area by the end of the year. The recently acquired property is said to include large swaths of freshwater and saltwater marshlands as well as old-growth Sitka spruce trees. A wide variety of animals already make use of the area on a year-round basis, including numerous species of waterfowl, elk, black-tailed deer, and black bears.
Hikers, birders, and hunters are also expected to benefit from the land acquisition. While access will be limited to walk-in entry from the perimeter of the property to begin with there are plans in the works to improve access to the heart of the area.
“This purchase wouldn’t have been possible without the strong support of Ducks Unlimited,” said Larry Phillips, WDFW’s coastal regional director, in a press release. “We are excited to explore potential opportunities for habitat restoration on this property that would further benefit waterfowl and other wildlife.”
The land purchase came with a price tag of roughly $2 million. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grant Program provided about $1.5 million of that bill while the Washington State Department of Ecology provided another half million dollars through the Washington Coastal Restoration Initiative. Ducks Unlimited reportedly provided “in-kind matching funds to coordinate negotiations and closing,” noted a press release.
Fish officials from Washington and Oregon are preparing for a meeting where they will present ideas and concerns regarding the future of salmon management on the Columbia River. The public is invited to attend but will not be provided an opportunity to present comments.
The meeting will be conducted by the Joint-State Columbia River fishery Policy Review Committee. That group first began meeting in January.
“Since the first meeting of this group, department staff from both Oregon and Washington have provided informational material and analysis for review,” said Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River policy coordinator with the WDFW, in a press release.
According to the press release, “The Aug. 1 meeting will include an overview of Columbia River fishery management, progress to date from the past PRC meetings, and discussions on ways to improve policy and regulatory concurrence between the two states in 2020 and beyond.”
The meeting is slated for Aug. 1 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Room located at 4034 Fairview Industrial Dr. S.E. in Salem, Oregon. The meeting will also be streamed online.
In 2018 the WDFW finished a five year review of salmon management outcomes in the Columbia River Basin. Materials from previous PRC meetings can be accessed online at wdfw.wa.gov/about/commission/joint-policy-review-committee.