In the garden of his mind it was always rabbit season. Well, unless it was duck season. He’d always had a bit of trouble keeping them straight.
That’s what a lost cause lifelong blood feud will do to a an old fuddy duddy. It makes their hat flop over like over-proofed dough. It makes crow’s feet dig in and spread across their face. It makes their first and second chins sag and their hair grow gray where it still grows at all.
Those darn critters had put the sour in his puss ever since he started patrolling his papa’s grounds as cherub cheeked little pipsqueak toting his trusty slingshot at his side.
His grandfather had been an artist at everything he undertook. He eschewed coffee cans full of worms in favor of English tea and rooster tail flies. He ignored the siren’s clap of the old 12 gauge in favor of the silent flight of a bow slung arrow. Mostly though, he loved his garden.
The rows were not rigid and angular like the pockmarked patchwork he’d seen plaguing the countryside once when he rode shotgun in a rickety old crop duster. Instead, he allowed the arc of gravity and the pull of the sun set the course. It was the same way that water picked its preferred route downhill and he saw no way, or need, to improve upon it.
Old branches bent and bowed where pathways curved. Their entangled interaboration created boundaries and supports that were strong like marble columns but inviting like the arches of old churches.
Inside his garden the old man had always allowed the wild things within it to twist and tangle and spread as they pleased. His only cuts were inflicted carefully in order to give the things he loved more room to grow. He loved equally the volunteer clover that spread as ground cover each spring and the trellised raspberries and roses he’d planted with his wife after their wedding that always flowered into the fall.
His one concession he could not fully hand over to the whims of nature was the old english rock wall he’d constructed around the garden’s perimeter over the years. He moved and stacked the stones as they surfaced out of the tilth and looked on proudly as they grew taller, and stronger over the years.
He found the jagged angles of the wall to be comforting and he often slumped into the shade of their corners when he grew tired and wished to rest. They also helped to keep the neighbors ornery cows from trampling his sacred space, although they were never much help with the deer. They always waited until the night before harvest day to nibble whatever they pleased.
Forever concerned with the wellbeing of others the grandfather had taken the time to engineer smoot-holes at the base of his stone fence so that the smallest of the wild critters could still find their way into its folds. The tiny arches were spaced at random intervals around the perimeter like tunnels to a secret space. Only the smallest of critters could find their way in through the portals, and that included a warren’s worth of rabbits.
The grandson had spent his youth stalking the perimeter of that garden. Always concerned about keeping this or that pest from ever entering again. His grandfather’s logic had always seemed twisted like the hairs of his beard.
Why would the old man allow those freeloaders to scavenge the fruits of his labor? Why build a wall that does not banish all but your own kin? Wouldn’t the soup taste better if it were rabbit stew?
The design of the wall always left the grandson flummoxed, however. He could never predict when or where the rabbits would enter, or emerge. He simply stalked a course around his grandfather’s hideaway until the grass refused to grow. All the while the bunnies grew fat and laughed as grandson grew old and frustrated.
He never did find his way inside the folds of his grandfather’s garden.
The tide is starting to turn on piscatorial prospects in are lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water. However, at the moment we’re still caught in a little bit of limbo between the best of of what winter had to offer and all that summer has in store.
“I know guys have been out fishing Swofford out in Mossyrock and a lot of the lakes have been stocked with trout,” said Bob Sansouci at the Sunbirds sporting goods desk in Chehalis. “Bass is still pretty early. It’s cold. You know, guys are trying. We’ve been selling a lot of bass gear but until the temperature comes up it’s going to be hit or miss.”
Some anglers have been beating those odds already though and plucking bass out of shallow waters that warm up early. Last week, Wes Kuzminsky and Cole Bowers, Rural Baseball Inc. pitchers both past and present, respectively, were taking selfies with big lip fish from quarry holes in the Toledo area.
Bowers noted that the fish are still hanging out on the bottom these days so you’ve got to bounce your bait down low if you want them to see it.
A prospect report from the WDFW noted that odds for picking up both smallmouth and largemouth bass will continue to improve as May progresses. That improved appetite is due to a combination of improving temperatures and fish preparing to spawn.
“Look for bass around grass lines, docks, pilings, and rock piles. On larger lakes, look for shallow shorelines with a southern exposure that will warm quicker than the main lake,” noted the state report.
Riffe Lake is another place where anglers typically have success with smallmouth bass. However, anglers should be aware that the water level at Riffe will remain low for the foreseeable future due to issues with the dam. In other dam related fishing news, anglers have already reportedly been hooking tiger muskie in both Mayfield Lake and Merwin Reservoir.
Then, of course, there’s always trout to fish for. The traditional trout season began last weekend with the lowland lake opener that included a youth fishing derby at Fort Borst Park. Now nearly all lakes are open for fishing in Washington with a months-long WDFW sponsored derby underway as well. That derby includes hundreds of tagged trout that, when caught, can be returned to the WDFW for an assortment of prizes. Tagged fish can be turned in for prizes until the end of October. A complete list of lakes and ponds with prize winning fish can be found online at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/Home/FishingDerby.
“If you’re looking for a place where I know you can catch a trout pretty quickly there’s two places. One, there’s Wallace Pond out in Toledo. It’s a very, very nice place. And then two, there’s Borst Pond which is full of trout. They just filled it,” pointed out Sansouci.
Speaking of Wallace Pond, next week that community fishing hole will be home to an annual youth fishing derby. Officially known as South Lewis County Park Pond, the old quarry along the Cowlitz River will close to the general public on May 9 until 2 p.m. on May 11 at the conclusion of the derby. Derby fishing will begin at 8 a.m. on May 11 for anglers age 14 and younger. Registration can be taken care of on site and young anglers will have their run of things until 1 p.m.
The temporary closure is being enforced by the WDFW in order to allow for thousands of rainbow trout to be stocked prior to the event. “This will give the fish time to acclimate to the pond and encourage them to bite during the event,” noted a WDFW press release. Additional information can be had by emailing Kelli Stover at email@example.com.
Creel sampling conducted by the WDFW during the lowland lake opener last weekend showed 55 anglers kept 34 rainbow trout at Carlisle Pond (aka Ol’ Mill Pond) out in Onalaska while releasing 224 more. Another 88 anglers at Mineral Lake kept 189 rainbow trout and released 23.
In recent weeks several area ponds have been the recipient of ongoing hatchery trout stocking operations by the WDFW. Old Mill Pond was planted with 10,000 half pound trout on April 16 and Mineral Lake received 2,875 fingerling trout on April 23. The day previous Horseshoe Lake in Cowlitz County received 3,000 fingerlings while Lake Sacajawea received 3,360 fingerlings on April 26.
Out on the mighty Columbia River a sport fishery for spring Chinook will continue for several more days above Bonneville but nearly all is quiet on the lower river. The salmon fishery has closed several times now and state fish officials say they won’t be looking at reopening some waters between Buoy 10 and Bonneville until mid-May. Currently salmonid fishing is prohibited below Warrior Rock in order to protect springers returning to the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers.
"Anglers will still find some good fishing opportunities in the Columbia River Basin this spring, but conservation has to be our first concern with lower abundances," insisted Ryan Lothrop, WDFW Columbia River fishery coordinator, in a press release.
Last Saturday the WDFW tallied 48 boats targeting salmonids between Warrior Rock and Bonneville in addition to 89 bank anglers on the Washington side. “Despite the not so perfect conditions over the weekend, some fish were caught with most of the catch being on the Washington bank in the Gorge,” read the WDFW report.
Columbia River anglers will soon be able to add sturgeon to the short list of legal fishing fodder on the lower Columbia River. Currently sturgeon retention is closed in the three lower dam pools and the mainstem but a catch-and-keep fishery is set to open beginning May 13. That sport opening will cover waters from Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines. The fishery will also extend into Youngs Bay and all adjacent Washington tributaries. The fishery will be open until 2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays through June 5.
The Cowlitz River remains an option for anglers looking to hook steelhead. However, the river is currently closed for spring Chinook harvest.
“Here two weeks ago they were picking fish up. Here as of today, I”m not so sure. That run was very late since they don’t have the winter run anymore,” Sansouci said. “I’m sure there’s still a few fish but too many. There’s not too many boats on the river right now.”
Last week the WDFW counted 22 bank rods below the I-5 Bridge with just one steelhead to show, or even talk about. Another 11 bank rods between the freeway and the Barrier Dam had no catch while 34 rods on 13 boats released one Chinook.
Crews at the salmon hatchery separator last week retrieved 302 steelhead, 19 spring Chinook adults, one jack, and two cutthroat trout. Those crews then released 19 steelhead and two cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton. Another 14 steelhead and three springers were placed in Lake Scanewa near Randle while 26 steelhead were recycled back down river for another run to the hatchery from the I-5 boat launch. River flow this week has been hanging right around 3,000 cubic feet per second with 11 feet of visibility and a water temperature of 49.5 degrees.
There was barely any effort observed on the Lewis River last week as one bank angler showed no catch. However, anglers were slightly more active on the Kalama River where 32 bank rods had no catch but 26 rods on 13 boats released one steelhead. As of April 29 a grand total of 15 adult Chinook had returned to the Kalama hatchery.
Beginning Friday anglers on the Kalama River will again be able to retain steelhead on the lower Kalama River. That rule change will cover waters from the mouth up to within 1,000 feet of Kalama Falls Hatchery. Steelhead retention was closed in early April due to poor returns to the hatcheries and related broostock concerns. With those egg collection goals now met the state has determined that sport anglers can now join back in the fray. The daily limit is three hatchery steelhead. Chinook retention is open with a daily limit of six fish, of which no more than one may be an adult.
Elsewhere, South Puget Sound (Marine Area 13) remains open for salmon fishing. Anglers in that area are limited to two fish per day with a requirement that they release all wild coho and wild Chinook. Additionally, the Chehalis River is set to remain closed to salmon fishing through at least the end of the month due to a low projection for returning spring Chinook.
Hunters hoping to undertake more than the run of the mill hunting schedule next season have only a couple more weeks to submit their special hunt applications. Those applications are due by May 22 for anyone hoping to extend their opportunity for deer, ek, mountain got, moose, bighorn sheep, or turkeys.
Eligible applications will be entered into a random drawing conducted by the WDFW in June. Hunters who are selected will be notified in June. When awarded, the permits allow hunters to extend their prowl beyond the typical times and locations designated by the general hunting season regulations.
Prospective hunters must purchase a license and submit an application with their preferred hunt choices for deer and elk opportunities. However, applications for mountain goat, moose, and bighorn sheep do not require a license prior to purchase and submission.
Applications can be handled online at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/, or by phone at 1-877-945-3492.
“Every year hundreds of special permits get returned because of invalid addresses, so make sure you update your phone number, email, and address in the WILD system,” said Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager, in a press release.
The majority of special hunt permit applications cost $7.10 for Washington residents and $110.50 for out of staters. The cost is just $3,80 for hunters under the age of 16. Applications for residents hoping to bag a mountain goat, bighorn ram, moose, or “quality” deer and elk will cost $13.70.
Currently, turkey hunters are still working the brush in search of roosting trees where wild gobblers make their home. That statewide spring turkey hunt will continue through the end of May. Odds of bagging a tom are particularly enticing in the northeastern portion of the state but some random gobblers can be found in these evergreen shrouded hills as well.
However, long running cougars finally came to an end with the close of April. That leaves coyotes as some of the only other legal hunting fodder at the moment.
Additionally, 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
There’s a chance that succulent bivalve enthusiasts will get another shot to dig up their favorite beach fodder in the coming weeks. This week the WDFW announced a tentative three day dig at Mocrocks that would run from May 18-20 if given final approval.
Those digs are currently awaiting final approval pending marine toxin testing.
The dig is proposed for the following dates, low tides and beaches:
• May 18, Saturday, 6:58 a.m.; -1.4 feet; Mocrocks
• May 19, Sunday, 7:41 a.m.; -1.6 feet; Mocrocks
• May 20, Monday, 8:23 a.m.; -1.6 feet; Mocrocks
“After careful evaluation of the season’s clam harvest, we are happy to announce that healthy clam populations on Mocrocks beach support another dig,” said WDFW coastal shellfish manager, Dan Ayres, in a press release.
All diggers age 15 and older are required to possess a license and state law limits each digger to 15 clams per day, regardless of size or condition. That means there’s no high-grading allowed. Additionally, each digger must procure their own clams and carry them in a personal container.
On May 4 sylvan stewards will converge on Seminary Hill in Centralia in order to undertake a round of annual spring cleaning.
The day’s events will be coordinated by the Friends of Seminary Hill Natural Area. That group is a non-profit organization that helps to maintain the Hub City’s 72-acre forest.
“It’s a hoot just to get together and do whatever you want on the hill,” said Brian Mittge, president of the Seminary Hill group. “We have projects laid out — it’s whatever sort of thing suits your fancy.”
Tools and other gear will be available for volunteers but anyone with their own implements of alteration are encouraged to bring them.
“The volunteers who created our group and successfully saved the hill 40 years ago are our inspiration,” Mittge wrote in a release. “We’re excited to honor them.”
Additional information about activities at Seminary Hill can be found online at facebook.com/seminaryhill.
May 11 is International Migratory Bird Day and avian allies will be taking note of their fine feathered friends who are on the move. A note by the WDFW stated that nearly 350 bird species are in the midst of their annual migration from wintering grounds south of the U.S./Mexico border to their nesting habitats in the upper reaches of North America.
First though, May 4 is Global Big Day. That avian-centric day is sponsored by eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and other bird friendly partners. The goal for Saturday is for birdwatchers of all stripes and experience levels to spend at least 10 minutes, or even a full 24-hours, counting as many bird species as they can see and hear.
Last year volunteer bird-noters reported more than 7,000 species in a single day. Results can be reported online at ebird.org/news/global-big-day-4-may-2019.
On Saturday, May 11, the power of glaciers and their lasting effects will be celebrated in the South Sound prairies.
The annual Prairie Appreciation day is hosted at Thurston County’s Glacial Heritage Preserve in between Gate and Littlerock, as well as the Mima Mounds Natural Area. The preserve area is typically closed to the public.
The events are family friendly with activities suitable for all ages. Endeavors will include wildflower walks, bird talks, butterfly chatter, and information about the creation of the prairies and ongoing efforts to preserve them.
Additional information can be found online at prairieappreciationday.org/.