Saggy skin jack-o-lanterns mope forgotten on the porch. Their gaping maws gather raindrop tears and serve as rotting sarcophagi for drowned fruit flies. Their blackened insides long for the light that once made them shine special and self-assured through the darkest nights.

A laughing little boy straps on his boots and throws off his coat on his way out the door. He has puddles to splash and the last straggler apples to salvage. He has cats to chase and goats to hug. He sees a school bus, stomps his feet and waves. A doting father holds him back. Like frost on forgotten fruit, it will all take him away soon enough. Of that there is no doubt.

In the daylight’s fog seven mourning doves scavenge through the detritus of the pig pen in search of forgotten fruits. They are unphased by the sleepy-eyed lumbering hogs as they slosh in circles through the mud. The tasty morsels that hide beneath the surface are worth all the risk. Stuffed to their beaks they take midday breaks in the naked branches of a century old maple and fill the air with the comforting coo of grateful songs.

A clutch of dead ducks are flung carelessly along the trail down by the river. Breasts out. Bones down. Sucker fish smashed on the rocks. Beer cans and broken bottles. Dripping hypodermic needles and busted rubbers. Trespassing four-by-fours ripping cookies in the redds. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Tired old dogs forget age old grudges and cuddle begrudgingly by the warmth of the season’s first fire. These days they have nothing to fight but the cold relentless march of time. It has been seven dog years since they’ve last seen winter, but they know another one is coming.

A bouncy barn cat brings dead things on the porch and regurgitates triumphant gut piles as proud offerings. It isn’t much but a mess to clean up but it shows the cat cares. She yearns to impress. Ye vermon be warned!

Slash piles snap and sizzle into cinders across the countryside and cast the sun’s routine rise and fall in a pixelated haze. It makes it harder to breathe and impossible to see into the future, but the fleeting blasts of color coagulating in the sky make it impossible to look away.

All the best distractions find a way to take their toll. All we can do is try to steal ourselves away a while inside our own intimate wrinkle in time.

FISHIN’

Angling effort is starting to spread out a bit on the Chehalis River with attention being paid to the lower stretches near Grays Harbor, the elbow around Elma, the Twin City flats and a wide selection of tributaries.

Increasing river flow has been the main driver behind that uptick in biting fish. On Wednesday the Wynoochee River above Black Creek was reportedly flowing at 839 cubic feet per second. At Grisdale the ‘Nooch was flowing at 454 cfps. That water has helped to flush out the last legs of the dogged Chinook run while sending in reinforcements of silver scaled coho. Some anglers have even been working the bass angle as the dip in air temperature is leading the bottom of some honey holes to turn over.

On the Cowlitz River the fishing has reverted back to its old and slow ways. That’s left the diehard anglers with little to do but long for better returns.

“We’re hoping. I haven’t heard much today,” said Karen Glaser at the Barrier Dam Campground in Salkum on Wednesday. “I see we did get a few more adults last week than jacks, so that’s a plus. Maybe the big ones will start showing up soon.”

She added that steelhead fishing is likely still a ways off. “A few summer run coming up from Blue Creek but I don’t think we’ll see any of the winter run until January,” added Glaser.

To wit – last week at the salmon hatchery separator crews recovered 1,301 coho adults, 1,243 coho jacks, 20 fall Chinook adults, five fall Chinook jacks, 154 cutthroat trout and 56 summer-run steelhead adults. Those workers also released 160 coho adults and 125 coho jacks into the Cispus River near Randle and another 106 coho adults and 176 coho jacks at the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood. A total of 482 coho adults, 583 coho jacks, eight fall Chinook adults, six fall Chinook jacks and eight cutthroat trout were put into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and 278 coho adults, 423 coho jacks and three cutthroat trout were deposited into Lake Scanewa in Randle.

According to creel sampling conducted by the WDFW last week the best odds were up in Glaser’s neck of the woods. Above the I-5 Bridge 87 bank rods kept two coho jacks, one steelhead, and five cutthroat trout while releasing 28 Chinook, two coho, one jack and one steelhead. Another 24 rods on 11 boats kept four coho, 11 jacks, and two steelhead while releasing five Chinook jacks, one coho jacks and three cutthroat trout. From Vader to the mouth of the Cowlitz 12 bank rods showed no catch at all while one boat rod released two coho jacks. River flow below Mayfield Dam was reported at 4,350 cubic feet per second on Wednesday. Visibility has dropped by about two feet down to 12 feet in recent weeks and water temperature has dropped a couple of degrees down to 51.6 degrees. Retention of Chinook is currently closed on the Cowlitz River and its tributaries.

LIkewise, all salmon and steelhead retention remains closed on the Columbia River from Buoy 10 up to Pasco. However, the WDFW recently announced that the new year will bring a return of fishing prospects to the mighty Columbia. Beginning Jan. 1 anglers will once again be able to retain spring Chinook salmon and winter steelhead between Buoy 10 and Pasco. Those fisheries have been closed for all of autumn due to an overtake of fall Chinook that coincided with a depressed run that saw just 31 percent of the anticipated king run reach Bonneville Dam.

Many Columbia River tributaries are currently open to salmon or steelhead retention. Last week the WDFW sampled six anglers on the Grays River with no catch but seven bank anglers on the Elochoman showed one keeper steelhead and reported 15 released coho. On the Kalama River 31 bank anglers kept four coho and two steelhead while releasing two other silvers. Another six rods on three boats released one Chinook. On the Lewis River 12 bank rods kept two Chinook and released one coho while 33 rods on 17 boats kept one Chinook, three coho and coho jack. On the East Fork Lewis four bank anglers released one coho and two steelhead.

As of Nov. 13 fishing rules were adjusted on the Lewis River and Cedar Creek. That rule change eliminates salmon retention from the mouth of the Lewis River up to Johnson Creek and closes the Lewis River to all fishing between Johnson and Colvin Creeks. Cedar Creek is also closed to all fishing from the mouth up to the Grist Mill Bridge. Those closures will remain in effect until further notice due to low returns of wild fall Chinook and hatchery coho. The closures are intended to help with spawning and broodstock objectives. Hatchery steelhead will remain open to harvest on the mainstem Lewis River below Johnson Creek.

As Thanksgiving draws near trout anglers are setting their sites on the annual Black Friday fishery. That yearly offering is intended to provide an out of doors alternative to maniacal shopping extravaganzas that have taken over the holiday weekend.

In preparation for the special fishery the WDFW has been busy planting 147,000 hatchery trout of “catchable size” in lakes across the state with thousands of trout measuring at least 15 inches and tipping the scales at up to three pounds. Those fish will buffer millions of small fry trout that have already been planted by the WDFW this year.

“This is a great reason to avoid holiday shopping a little longer and enjoy a fun day on the water with family and friends,” said Steve Caromile, WDFW warmwater fish program manager, in a press release.

Lakes set for stocking in southwest Washington include Fort Borst Park Pond and South Lewis County Park Pond (Ol’ Wallace Pond) in Lewis County, Kress Lake in Cowlitz County, Battle Ground Lake and Klineline Pond in Clark County. Additionally, Cases Pond will be stocked in Pacific County, American and Tanwax Lake will be loaded up in Pierce County, along with Black, Long, and Offut Lakes in Thurston County.

HUNTIN’

Modern firearm hunts for elk in western Washington came to a close on Wednesday but that means that rifle toters will be able to begin targeting bucks again for a few days. That late buck hunt will run from Nov. 15-18.

Weather conditions are looking poised to cooperate with that popular hunt, which, according to the WDFW typically accounts for about one-third of the region’s annual buck harvest. Those inflated success figures are boosted by ragged weather that puts the animals on the move along with their testosterone driven quest to find a doe in estrus. Some of the best odds for black tail harvest are typically had in GMUs 663, 648, 672, 660, 621, 627 and 633. Next week muzzleloaders and archers will be able to get in on the buck hunts when those seasons open on Nov. 21.

Likewise, archers and muzzleloaders will be able to return to the woods in search of elk on Nov. 21. GMU 560 (Lewis River) offers promising opportunities that extend into parts of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and in District 17 (Pacific and Grays Harbor counties) elk from the Willapa Hills and Olympic Mountain herds are hiding away. GMUs 658, 672, 673 and 681 are some of the most popular with hunters but the highest elk harvest numbers in District 16 (Clallam and west Jefferson counties) are generally reported in GMUs 615, 602, 612, and 607.

The arrival of darkness on Thursday will mark the official end of the first fall hunting season when black bears are removed from the legal fodder list. Those hunts began to open up on Aug. 1. Permitted black bear hunts will be offered again in the spring.

However, hunts for cougars will continue through at least the end of the year in all open GMUs. After ringing in the New Year harvest data will be crunched in order to determine which areas will need to be closed in accordance with harvest quotas. Many areas will remain open through April.

With more wind and rain in the forecast bird hunting will continue to take up more and more of the focus of area hunters. Most locally produced waterfowl have already been hunted or decided to move out of the area, but birds from the great white north continue to swoop in for pit stops along the Pacific Flyway. In particular, numbers of white-fronted geese appear to be far above their ten year average. Goose hunting is ongoing in Goose Management Area 3 (Lewis and Skamania counties) but goose hunts will not resume until Nov. 24, on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays only, in the inland portion of Goose Management Areas 2 (Cowlitz, Clark and Wahkiakum counties). The coastal section of GMA 2 in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties will remain open through Dec. 2 on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays. Conversely, hunting opportunities for ducks, snipe and coot will wing on uninterrupted through Jan. 27. Prime locations for locating ducks include slack waters along the Chehalis River, the muddy inlets of south Puget Sound, the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, and the old Coal Mine near Centralia. Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor are also dependable places to stumble upon ducks.

Forest grouse can be targeted statewide through the end of the year and quail hunts will continue in western Washington through the end of the month. Prospects for quail and grouse are best in the southern and western reaches of the Olympic Peninsula from Matlock to Forks. Luckily, pheasant hunts are easier to access for local hunters. The general season in western Washington will continue through the end of the month but several release locations will stay open into December. Those locations include Fort Lewis, Scatter Creek and Skookumchuck wildlife areas. Pheasant deposit locations also exist in East Lewis County, out Lincoln Creek, and near Brady.

If you still need a turkey for the Thanksgiving table there are a few areas that remain open. GMUs 101-154 and 162-186 will remain open through the end of the year but all other fall hunting grounds for wild turkey have already been shuttered.

On Nov. 1 trapping season opened up in Washington for beavers, badgers, weasels, marten, mink, muskrat and river otter. Those animals can only be harvested through legal trapping methods. Trapping season will remain open through the end of March.

Bobcat, fox, raccoon, cottontail rabbits, and snowshoe hares are all legal hunting fodder through March 15, and of course coyotes are legal to shoot all year long. However they can’t be targeted at night during big game hunting seasons.

Additionally, roadkill salvage is legal in Washington so long as one obtains a free emergency permit from the WDFW.

CLAMMIN’

The seasonal pursuit of succulent bivalves are likely to resume next week just in time for some holiday sand shoveling.

A four-day clam dig is proposed to run from Nov. 22 (Thanksgiving day) through Nov. 25 at three different coastal beaches. Those digs are still awaiting confirmation pending marine toxin testing. A decision should be announced by the end of this week.

Proposed razor clam digs through December are listed below, along with evening low tides and beaches:

Nov. 22, Thursday, 5:55 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

Nov. 23, Friday, 6:36 p.m.; -1.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

Nov. 24, Saturday, 7:20 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks

Nov. 25, Sunday, 8:05 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

Dec. 6, Thursday, 6:01 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

Dec. 7, Friday, 6:40 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

Dec. 8, Saturday, 7:16 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

Dec. 9, Sunday, 7:53 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

Dec. 20, Thursday, 4:51 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

Dec. 21, Friday, 5:35 p.m.; -1.0 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

Dec. 22, Saturday, 6:20 p.m.; -1.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

Dec. 23, Sunday, 7:05 p.m.; -1.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

Washington law allows clam diggers to keep up to 15 razor clams per day. No high-grading is allowed so all clams must be kept regardless of size of condition. Diggers age 15 and older must possess a valid fishing license and all harvesters must both dig, and carry their own clams.

The best odds are typically had about one or two hours prior to low tide. During the upcoming tides no digging is allowed on any beach before noon.

CRABBIN’

Beginning Thursday crab crackers will once again be able to deploy recreational pots in Willapa Bay. That opening comes a full two weeks earlier than the typical Dec. 1 opening date for the area.

The early opening will allow recreational crabbers to target Dungeness crab in Marine Area 2-1 (Willapa Bay). The decision to jump start the season was made on Oct. 15 at a Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Olympia.

According to a press release, “The earlier opening for pot gear will provide some additional opportunity for recreational crabbers prior to the opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in this area.”

MEETIN’

A pair of public workshops have been scheduled in coming months in order to provide opportunity for the public to provide input to the WDFW regarding ongoing changes in salmon management practices in Willapa Bay.

The management policy has been designed under the premise of helping to restore wild salmon runs while reducing conflicts between commercial and recreational fisheries in the bay. Those practices are also intended increase economic bigor in the area while propping up sport and commercial fishing interest. The policy was approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2015.

“Willapa Bay salmon fisheries are very popular and contribute significantly to the local economy,” said Chad Herring, WDFW fish policy lead, in a press release. “We need input from the public on the implementation and performance of the policy.”

Both meetings will be open to the public and held at the WDFW regional office in Montesano. The meetings are scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Nov. 17 and Dec. 15. Final action on the policy is expected to be taken by the commission during their February meeting.

The WDFW office is located at 48 Devonshire Road in between Montesano and Central Park. Additional information about the policy and meetings can be found online athttps://wdfw.wa.gov/about/advisory/wbsag/.

GREETIN’

The WDFW is hoping to let the public get to know the newest agency director with an assist from technology.

On Nov. 28 the WDFW will host a digital open house with Director Kelly Susewind, who took over the job on Aug. 1. Susewind will take the opportunity to discuss the agency's long term objectives for preserving fish and wildlife while promoting outdoor recreation.

“The department’s work is fundamental to people’s quality of life and livelihoods in Washington,” said Susewind, in a press release. “The webinar will allow me to introduce you to my values and approach and also hear what’s important to you.”

Participants can log into the webinar on the WDFW website (wdfw.wa.gov) beginning at 6:15 p.m. The conference is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. That online offering is intended to buffer a series of live meet and greets that took place across the state earlier this month.

Susewind grew up in Aberdeen and says he fancies fishing, hunting and other outdoors pursuits.

"I am committed to the mission of this agency, and that means hearing from people who care about Washington’s fish and wildlife,” Susewind added. “I want to share what I have learned, but the main goal for inviting people to these events is to hear what they have to say.”

A recorded version of the webinar will be available for review on the WDFW website beginning Nov. 29.

CHOPPIN’

Anyone interested in procuring their own Christmas tree from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest can now obtain a special cutting permit to do so.

Those permits went on sale on Nov. 15 and can be found at a variety of locations in the region. Permits cost $5 with a limit of five permits per household. Fourth grade students are eligible for a free cutting permit after completing the Every Kid in a Park program online at www.everykidinapark.gov.

The best trees are found at higher elevations and forest conditions can change rapidly in late fall and early winter. Most forest roads are not maintained for winter driving so before heading into the sylvan acres with your saw be sure to pack survival essentials like water, a flashlight, a first-aid kit and plenty of dry clothes and blankets.

A press release from the U.S. Forest Service notes that, “Tree cutting and travel may take longer than anticipated, so let a friend or family member know where you’re going, get an early start, and leave the woods well before dark.”

Passes can be obtained at the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District in Randle, the Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument in Amboy, but those locations will both be closed on Thanksgiving. Other, privately operated permit vendors, include the Ashford General Store, Ashford Valley Grocery, Elbe Junction, Elbe Mall, Blanton’s Market in Packwood, Fischer's Market in Randle and Randle One Stop.

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