Stately maples line the checkerboard neighborhoods of the town that time forgot. Squirrels find refuge in their sprawling canopy while fat fingered leaves curl into arthritic fists and oxidize overnight in the face of a fast encroaching cold front.
The sleepy burg had no stop-lights, except for a 4-way intersection that cast red bursts of light in every direction. A curious man in tattered shorts and slip-on sneakers hoists a black umbrella overhead while seamlessly snaking over cracked sidewalks on a snub nose skateboard.
A car honks. Brakes squeal and raindrops hiss on a rust encrusted muffler. The skater swivels to safety and bangs a calloused hand down on the crunched trunk of the bellowing wagon as it fishtails down the street emitting a million profanities per gallon.
Across a large abandoned plot that’s overgrown with yellow blasts of Scotch Broom and brown pedal daisies two eyes peak from behind a noxious hedgerow. Looking left. Then right. A well-fed coyote with a plush fur coat steps into the road in broad daylight. He stops on the centerline and enjoys a leisurely moment. Then, in a paranoid rush he begins examining his surroundings to make sure he not being watched by some ognery anvil toting roadrunner with an score to settle.
In the center of town a throng of oaks surround the marble bust of a logger barron founding father. Pigeons perch on his armless shoulders and passersby plug their noses to avoid the putrid aroma that permeates the pores of this place. A spider weaves an intricate web behind the false frames of his respectable square spectacles and moss grows on the cracked brick at the shaded base. A shoeless man sleeps in the litter choked bushes nearby, waking up intermittently, scratching unspeakable sights unseen and screaming obscenities at the sulfur soaked sky.
They say it was a planned city. They still insist it is the smell of money.
A hawk hovers in concentric circles overhead while mice scatter for cover that is too far to reach in time. Turning its tail to the sun the strong taloned bird rockets toward the earth before pulling up at the last moment and fatally puncturing its prey. A limp body dangles from its feet as the avian hunter relaunches for another trip toward the disappearing thermals of summer.
Two hand prints are set in the crumbling faux stone of the sidewalk that runs in front of his childhood home. A swollen root writhes in slow motion beneath the slab and sends the compromised concrete jutting at odd angles toward a shattered glass sky. A soggy fallen maple leaf smothers the barren soil. It smells like wet leather and old books, stale smoke and live nightcrawlers. A bulbous button of fungus bulges in the residual warmth beneath that foliage comforter.
A tree breathes. A sky cries. A bird lives and a mouse dies. The skater pushes away from the corner while a backfiring car speeds away. He bends over and plucks a frilly blue gilled mushroom from the lumpy front yard he used to call his playground and twirls it in his fingers as spores flutter in spirals like fresh ground pepper.
His roots have made sure that he will always be connected to that place. Even if he ever figures out how to leave.
Area fishing prospects took a big hit Thursday when the vast majority of the Columbia River became off limits to all salmon and steelhead fishing. That closure covers the river from Buoy 10 up to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco, as well as several tributaries.
Tributaries closed to salmonid fishing include Deep River in Washington and a handful of Oregon watersheds. The closures come just weeks after the WDFW moved to shutter steelhead fishing in the same areas due to depressed returns. A weak return of fall Chinook that is running about 29-percent below the preseason projections has now necessitated this additional closure.
"We recognize that this closure is difficult for anglers, but we have an obligation to meet our ESA goals so that fisheries can continue in the future," said Bill Tweit, WDFW Columbia River fishery coordinator, in a press release. Tweit added that the preseason projection for fall kings was already expected to be just 47 percent of the recent 10-year average.
A pair of special sturgeon harvest opportunities on the Lower Columbia should help to soften the blow for anglers hoping to hook a big fish. Those openings will take place between the Wauna powerlines and Bonneville Dam on the Saturday’s of Sept. 15 and Sept. 22. The daily limit is one legal size fish between 44 and 50 inches, with an annual limit of two fish, but retention of green sturgeon is always prohibited. A report from the WDFW noted that the effort and subsequent catch has been light recently during the ongoing catch-and-release fishery.
The odds of a rewarding trip to the Cowlitz River have been trending up in recent weeks and a healthy dose of replenishing rains this week will likely keep the bite on the rebound. In a bit of a reversal though, most angling effort has been targeted closer to the mouth lately as new fish make their way into the system. Last week the WDFW sampled nine boats with 25 rods below the I-5 Bridge and found six keeper Chinook, six jacks, and two steelhead on board, along with 26 Chinook, five jacks and two steelhead released. Between the freeway and the salmon hatchery the WDFW found only three boats with six rods and two steelhead in the box.
At the salmon hatchery separator last week crews recovered 51 summer-run steelhead, 78 spring Chinook adults, two jacks, 111 fall Chinook adults, 25 jacks, 30 cutthroat trout, 27 coho adults, and 13 jacks. Those fish handlers also released seven spring Chinook adults, four coho adults and one coho jack into the Cispus River near Randle, along with 59 spring Chinook adults, two spring Chinook jacks, three coho jacks and six cutthroat trout at the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood. Additionally, 98 fall Chinook adults, 18 jacks, six coho adults, eight jacks and six cutthroat trout were planted into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.
On Wednesday river flow just below Mayfield Dam was reported at about 2,410 cubic feet per second while water visibility has been about 13 feet with a temperature of about 53 degrees. However, some anglers have likely experienced hiccups in their program due to a pair of boat launch closures this week. The Barrier Dam boat launch was closed on Sept. 10-11 while the Blue Creek boat launch will be closed until Sept. 14 for regular maintenance.
Additional creel sampling from the WDFW last week showed one bank angler with no catch on the Elochoman River, along with two bank anglers and two boats with no catch on the Wind River. On Drano Lake five boats kept three Chinook and one jack while 19 bank anglers kept four Chinook on the Klickitat River.
The first meaningful burst of rain in several months has Chehalis River anglers re-rigging their poles as they switch from bass to salmon fishing. The boat launch at Borst Park has been busy this week along with numerous walk-up bank access spots in the Twin Cities area.
Anglers in Grays Harbor have reported an uptick in hungry salmon in the lower river and at some point, in theory, those fish will decide to turn upriver from Elma. In the meantime, river flow on the Wynoochee River, where steelhead anglers are always sure to flock, was reported at 470 cubic feet per second above Black Creek and at about 375 cubic feet per second at Grisdale.
As we wade into the second round of fall hunting season it’s time to send out a plea to area rifle, musket, and bowmen – Send us photos of your most recent hunting exploits, along with a description of the hunt specs, and we’ll use your trophy shot to titillate readers in an upcoming special edition hunting guide. Please send submissions, and as much information as you’re brave enough to provide, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop them off in person at The Chronicle office by Sept. 21.
In the meantime early archery hunts for deer will continue through Sept. 23 or Sept. 28, depending on the particular unit you plan on prowling. Additionally, archers will have until Sept. 20 to continue pursuing elk in the early season. Locally, some of the best grounds for encountering a trophy elk are in GMUs 520 (Winston), 506 (Willapa Hills), 530 (Ryderwood), 550 (Coweeman) and 560 (Lewis River). Hunters who are willing to travel to the Olympic Peninsula for Roosevelt elk may be able to bump into mature bulls around the Quinault Ridge (638), Matheny (618), and Clearwater (615) units.
Youngsters will be able to hunt pheasants across Washington on Sept. 22-23 for a two-day junior hunt. Senior hunters and those with disabilities will then be able to hunt pheasants from Sept. 24-28, with one extra day tacked on the end for seniors. General upland game seasons are ongoing with opportunities to bag forest grouse, cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares. Grouse hunters in Thurston and Pierce counties should look below 2,500 feet of elevation, particularly in thick timber patches. Some of the densest grouse populations can be found on JBLM (GMU 652), Elbe Hills and Tahoma State Forests (GMU 654), Weyerhaeuser’s Vail Tree Farm (GMU 667), and Capitol State Forest (GMU 663). This year the WDFW is asking hunters to return the wings and tails of forest grouse for a long-term study. Collection barrels will be placed strategically around the state and the WDFW asks that hunters freeze the remains if they are not able to return them on the day of harvest.
Additionally, hunts for band-tailed pigeons will take place statewide from Sept. 15-23. In Grays Harbor and Pacific counties there is only one large mineral site where those pigeons are known to congregate but band-tailed pigeons are also known to congregate near red elderberry and cascara, which are most abundant in 5-10 year old clearcuts. Crow hunting will remain open through the end of the year as will general turkey hunts in GMUs 101-154 and 162-186.
Bear hunts, which got hunting season started in August, will continue through Nrov. 15 in Washington where hunters are allowed to take two bears per season. However, only one of those bears can be taken in eastern Washington. On the wet side of the state prospects are best in coastal areas of Clallam and west Jefferson counties, along with the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Cougar hunting is also prime in those rural and sparsely populated counties, as well as the forests of Pierce, Lewis and Thurston counties. Typically, the Skookumchuck area (GMU 667) produces the greatest number of cougar harvests in the district.
The pause button was recently hit on goose hunting in Areas 1 & 2 but a pair of special youth and senior duck and goose hunts are lurking just around the corner. Those hunts will take place in western Washington on Sept. 22-23, and then on Sept. 29-30 in eastern Washington. First though, youngsters will be allotted a special hunt for geese on Sept. 16-17 across the state.
Hunts are also underway for bobcats, fox, raccoon, mourning doves, cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare. As always, coyotes are legal hunting fodder across Washington with no annual bag limit. Additionally, as ruminants come into rut it is a good time to remember that roadkill salvage is legal in Washington, with the exception of deer in Cowlitz County.
Last week the WDFW released a tentative list of razor clam digs that are set to begin in October and then run off-and-on through the end of the year, including a planned New Year’s Eve dig. However, final approval for the digs will be dependent upon results of marine toxin testing conducted closer to the actual digging dates.
"We're releasing a tentative schedule to give people plenty of time to make plans to go digging this fall,” explained Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW, in a press release.
The WDFW anticipates that the overall razor clam population has increased significantly across the coast since last season. But, Long Beach is still lagging behind due to an episode of low salinity in the winter of 2017 that caused the expiration of loads of replacement clam recruits.
"The good news is that future digging opportunities look really great, with some opportunity even at Long Beach,” Ayres added. “This is shaping up to be a great season for digging on the coast.”
Proposed razor clam digs through the end of October are listed below, along with evening low tides and beaches:
· Oct. 11, Thursday, 8:58 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
· Oct. 12, Friday, 9:41 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
· Oct. 13, Saturday, 10:26 p.m.; +0.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
· Oct. 25, Thursday, 7:55 p.m.; -0.5 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
· Oct. 26, Friday, 8:36 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
· Oct. 27, Saturday, 9:19 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
· Oct. 28, Sunday, 10:08 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Additional proposed digging tides can be found on the WDFW website.
Young anglers and hunters will have one day for target practice and reel cranking on the state’s dime, so long as they are prepared to travel over the mountains for the privilege. On Sept. 22 the WDFW will serve as hosts for free National Hunting and Fishing Day at Sun Valley Shooting Park near Yakima between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
“This family-oriented event, just 30 minutes outside Yakima, is a great way to introduce youth and newcomers to target shooting, hunting, fishing, and conservation activities,” said David Whipple, WDFW hunter education division manager, in a press release.
National Hunting and Fishing Day was made official by Congress in 1971. During the event youths younger than 18 will be allowed to shoot WDFW firearms, archery gear, and air rifles, while collaborating with WDFW hunter education instructors, Master Hunters, and members of conservation organizations.
Attendees who prefer to angle their day away will be able to catch and keep trout while receiving instruction for operating spinning reels.
“Going fishing is a great way to get outside, relax, and spend time with your friends and family,” said Steve Caromile, WDFW warmwater fish program manager, in a press release. “It also gives us the opportunity to mentor others to be good stewards of our state’s natural resources.”
The event will also offer free shooting safety gear for the first 500 youngsters, along with door prize drawings and learning activities like how to hunt turkeys and basic knot tying.
The Sun Valley Shooting Park is located at 1452 Suntargets Rd, Moxee, in south central Washington.
On Monday the state began moving mountain goats from the overcrowded Olympic Mountains to remote portions of the North Cascades. That effort is part of a collaborative effort between Native American tribes, the National Park Service, WDFW, and the U.S. Forest Service after it was determined that the mountain goat population on the Olympic Peninsula had outgrown its habitat.
Additionally, mountain goats are non-native to the Olympic Mountains, where they were first introduced in the 1920s. However, they have historically roamed the Cascade Mountain range before suffering extensive depletion during the last century. Area tribes helping with the operation include the Lummi, Muckleshoot, Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Swinomish, Tulalip, and Upper Skagit tribes.
The current plan calls for the removal of each of the estimated 725 goats living on the Olympic Peninsula. This first effort will continue for two weeks with another pair of fortnight efforts scheduled for the coming year.
“Mountain goat relocation will allow these animals to reoccupy historical range areas in the Cascades and increase population viability,” said Jesse Plumage, USFS Wildlife Biologist, in a press release.
Transportation of the goats has included the use of motor vehicles, helicopters, hand carts and state ferries across Puget Sound. The plan calls for the animals to be darted with tranquilizer from helicopters before being taken to a staging area off of Hurricane Hill Road near Port Angeles. The WDFW has stated their intention to release the goats at five sites in the Cascades this month. Two of those areas are on mountain peaks near Darrington in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The other areas include Mt. Index, on the Skykomish Ranger District of the MBS, Tower Peak in the Methow area of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and the headwaters of the Cedar River Drainage.
“The translocation effort will relieve issues with non-native mountain goats in the Olympics while bolstering depleted herds in the northern Cascades,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum, in a press release. “Mountain goats cause significant impacts to the park ecosystem as well as public safety concerns.”
The era of mountain goats on the Olympic Peninsula became numbered following the goring death of a hiker several years ago. Authorities have noted that goats are known to flock to areas popular with human visitors due to the prevalence of salt rich sweat, urine and food along trails. Those encounters are expected to happen less frequently in the vast Cascades.
“In addition, the north Cascades has an abundance of natural salt licks, while the Olympic Peninsula has virtually none,” Harris added. “Natural salt licks greatly reduce mountain goats’ attraction to people.”
The public has been invited to provide public comments to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission during a two-day public meeting in Olympia. That meeting was originally set to contain extensive discussion about Columbia River salmon policy and wolf management but those topics were removed from the docket on Wednesday.
The meeting is still set to include discussion of future crab fishing seasons, hunting, and land management decisions. Hunting changes up for discussion include the possible addition of four game management units to Southwest Washington in relation to the ongoing hoof root malody afflicting elk in the region. A prospective change to crab seasons would allow crabers to set crab pots out two weeks earlier in most areas of the Pacific Coast. Land management items will include a proposal to accept a transfer of 130-acres of land in Cowlitz County while purchasing 58 acres of timberlands in Columbia County.
Additionally, the commission will listen to public comments on a proposal to establish a four-fish limit for halibut.