When they’d first got together he couldn’t believe she’d never seen one and he was determined to change all that. They talked about it for what seemed like months on end, but was more likely only a matter of minutes spread out like finite matter across the ever expanding universe. 

She didn’t have anything against them, in fact she’d been around the little ones more than a few times and claimed quite convincingly that she’d enjoyed those experiences. It’s just that she’d never seen the big show all at once the way it was intended. During their discussions in those first few fleeting days of casting about to get to know one another he’d come to believe that they were on the sturdy ground with a promising vista for the future — She was serious about braving the traffic, the unwashed masses, and the pervasive scent of sulfur in order to lay eyes upon a 4th of July fireworks spectacle in person.

During the months leading up to the crescendo of summer he filled every empty moment with descriptions of his favorite explosions. There were the assorted rainbow colored shells that sent their flares zigzagging about like yellow jackets scattering from a picnic table. There were the white flashes that draped the sky in sparkling vines and there were the booming concussions of mighty mortars that lit up the vacuum of space only momentarily before evaporating and leaving only their resounding sound waves to crash across the moonlit heavens.

She said she liked sparklers and snakes and smoke bombs but admitted she knew nothing about those more advanced arsenals. Of course she’d heard all the hype over the years from assorted pyromaniacs and self-styled freedom lovers. Her friends had all been there in person by now but so far she’d had to settle for glimpses on the nightly news broadcast.

At first he was incredulous that a woman her age could have lived so long without knowing the unbridled joy of a rocket’s red glare or the magnificent illumination of a magnum Roman candle. Soon he just began to feel bad for her and made it his mission to make her see what all the fuss was about.

As July approached they laid began to formulate their plans. He’d come down her way to help keep her travel at a reasonable minimum. They strategized on the most optimal parking space and how long it would take to walk in flip-flops while elbowing for room in a sea of strangers. Or were they simply friends who hadn’t met yet? They gameplanned to determine which blanket would reserve the most space in the viewing area and which secondary blanket would provide maximum comfort beneath a nightfall of diamonds.

When the big day arrived he was overjoyed. They were finally going to do this. He had always been ready she seemed like she’d finally come around to see things his way. He packed snacks and dressed in his finest red, white and blue for the occasion before shuffling their supplies to the car and waiting for his date to give him the go-ahead.

As he waited though he could sense something strange in the air, and it wasn’t the remnants of perfunctory fireworks. When he arrived at her house she insisted on taking her car without explanation. It was only obvious that it wasn’t up for debate.

Not wanting to fight he unloaded his rig and filled hers up with all the supplies they’d brainstormed together. He didn’t care how they got there, only that they got there together. So when she fired up her car and pulled out into the roadway he felt like they were finally on their way.

As she drove toward the scene of the big launch she sat silent and cold to both talk and touch. He wondered what was wrong but was afraid to ask. As more and more cars piled onto the streets and pedestrians began to scurry across the roadway he could feel the air around his partner begin to freeze in place and he wondered aloud what was wrong.

She was silent at first until he mustered the courage to ask again. That’s when she snapped and let the truth fall out like an assault of fireworks lit all at once. She said it didn’t feel like the right time and she worried that it might never be. She said she didn’t really care and that she’d only pretended for so long because it had seemed so important to him.

He began to plead but she cut him off and turned the car around. They rode together on empty streets in silence while the fireworks exploded in the rearview. He knew they’d never make it back but never found the courage to say so.

FISHIN’

If you were looking for good news then you’ve come to the wrong spot. That’s because summer salmon and steelhead fishing has been about as frustrating, if not cancelled all-together, as any time in recent memory.

Fishing, of any kind and for anything, remains shuttered on the Chehalis River and its tributaries with no indication of when the emergency regulations will be lifted. The closure was implemented ostensibly in order to protect limited returning numbers of Chinook salmon but opinions along the riverbank and from atop barstools tend to vary.

As for the lower Columbia River and its tributaries, there are limited options for angling and even more rare stories of success.

“Fishing has been a struggle in recent weeks,” admitted a disappointed Andy Coleman of Andy’s Angling Adventures.

Still, the experienced fishing guide and boat captain left enough room in his assessment for an optimistic angler to find at least a glimmer of hope.

“Should see more fish moving in soon if they are going to do so. Columbia has had a few steelhead in it in the last few days. Hoping these fish are going to take a left turn up the Cowlitz in the next few days,” Coleman added in an email to the FishRap command center. “Hearing great reports off the coast for coho! Boat limits in just a couple hours... so looking to be a great fall.” 

Anglers on the Columbia River will be glad to know that they are no longer required to purchase a Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsement in order to fish. That regulation expired on July 1. Additionally, a requirement to use barbless hooks on the lower Columbia River expired on June 1. Sturgeon fishing is currently limited to catch-and-release between Bonneville and Buoy 10 but shad fishing is alive and well. On July 1 the shad count passing Bonneville was tallied at more than 60,000 fish which took the season total over 7.1 million shad. As for traditional big fish seekers, last week the WDFW counted 66 salmonid boats in the lower Columbia River with another 203 bank anglers on the Washington side between Cathlamet and Bonneville.

Until those fleeting steelhead that Coleman mentioned decide to head up the Cowlitz River in mass anglers there will also be many left holding limp lines. Last week the WDFW sampled 12 bank rods down river from the I-5 Bridge with only one steelhead on a stringer. Between the freeway and the Barrier Dam another dozen bank rods kept two steelhead. Another 108 rods on 32 boats kept 34 steelhead while releasing one steelhead, two Chinook and two jacks. Retention of salmon is currently off limits in the Cowlitz.

At the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery last week crews retrieved 22 returning spring Chinook adults, three spring jacks, 71 spring mini jacks, and 62 summer steelhead. Those workers then released five spring Chinook into the Cispus River near Randle. No steelhead were recycled back downriver. On Monday river flow below Mayfield Dam was reported at 2,970 cubic feet per second with water visibility of 10 feet and a temperature of 50.8 degrees.

Anglers on the Kalama River are limited to six fish per day between the mouth and the deadline below the upper salmon hatchery. Of those half dozen fish only one may be an adult. In any case, last week 11 bank anglers had no catch to show or tell to the WDFW. 

Anglers on the Lewis River are currently prohibited from keeping any salmon caught between the mouth and Merwin Dam. Last week 16 bank anglers who were sampled by the WDFW turned out to be skunked while nine rods on four boats kept one steelhead and released five jacks.

The newest fishing regulation pamphlet went into effect on July 1. A full copy can be read online at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations and hard copies can be picked up anywhere you can buy a license. Aside from the Columbia River salmonid endorsement expiration and the end of the barbless hook era, there is at least one other regulation change that will impact area fishers. Going forward a saltwater or combination license is required when fishing for smelt in saltwater. Previously a license was not required. 

Other regulations are intended to protect endangered southern resident orca whale populations. Boaters are now required to stay at least 400 yards away when in front or behind orcas and at least 300 yards away at all other times. Additionally, any boat within a half-mile of orcas is required to reduce speed to seven knots or less.

HUNTIN’

During a conference call on June 28 the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission moved to approve changes to fall black bear hunting rules. 

During a meeting held earlier in June in Port Angeles staffers presented two recommendations intended to simplify bear regulations and make them consistent statewide. The first change will make Aug. 1 the first day to hunt black bears in all areas of Washington. Previously the opening dates rolled out in a staggered manner depending on area. The change will result in an increase of between six and eleven 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.

“Our field biologists are currently conducting new hair snare monitoring in two districts to learn more about our current black bear populations,” said Eric Gardner, WDFW wildlife program director, in a press release. “We chose to bring these two changes forward because they will simplify the regulations and have little impact on our goal.”

The rule changes were approved in a 6-1 vote and will take effect on Aug. 1. Monitoring will be conducted for several years by the WDFW in order to understand what effect the changes may have on bear populations.

“We’d like to remind hunters that they are required to report on their black bear season through the WILD System by Jan. 31, 2020,” added Gardner. “Also, we’d like to remind hunters to submit the bear tooth samples on or before the January date as well. Submitting these reports and samples improves our harvest data quality, which informs our black bear management decisions.”

Until those bear seasons open on Aug. 1, hunters will have to bide their time trying to bag coyotes. With the end of hay season looming on the horizon odds for spotting one of the moon chasing devil dogs are on the rise. And, of course, the sun never sets on coyote season in Washington. 

Additionally, it’s always wise to remember that state law allows for the harvest of most road kill deer and elk with the use of an emergency permit provided by the WDFW. One caveat is that 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.

ADVISIN’

The WDFW is currently seeking applicants for its Game Management Advisory Council. The council is charged with advising decision makers on issues related to hunter-access, sporting opportunity, resource allocation, funding options, research projects, and other matters such as the Game Management Plan. WDFW Director Kelly Suseweind has stated an intention to appoint up to 20 new members to the council during the next go round.

Members of the council are expected to serve terms between one and three years in duration. The first meeting of the next session will be held in December and at least three of the meetings are held each year. Special meetings may be called upon request in response to any issues that may arise during the year. While the positions are unpaid, the WDFW is sometimes able to reimburse members for travel expenses related to attending the meetings. 

According to a press release, “WDFW values diverse opinions, and applicants do not have to be a hunter or affiliated with an organized group to apply. However, WDFW is looking for members who value game species and hunting as a tool to fund and manage game populations.”

Applications must be filled out and returned by 5 p.m. on Aug. 15. Forms can be found online at wdfw.wa.gov/about/advisory/gmac and completed submissions can be turned din by email to heather.bonagofski@dfw.wa.gov or by mail to; Anis Aoude, game division manager, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, PO Box 43141, Olympia, WA 98504.

The press release also noted that, “WDFW is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation opportunities.”

BURNIN’

Out of door recreators who hop back and forth over the Cascade Mountain range to find their preferred fun will need to note increased fire restrictions in eastern Washington that went into effect on July 1.

"Observing fire restrictions and exercising common sense will go a long way toward preserving public recreation lands, wildlife habitat, and safety for local communities and the recreating public," noted Cynthia Wilkerson, WDFW land division manager, in a press release.

The emergency order that imposes restrictions east of the Cascades prohibits:

  • Fires or campfires, including those in fire rings. Personal camp stoves and lanterns fueled by propane, liquid petroleum, or liquid petroleum gas are allowed.

  • Smoking, except in an enclosed vehicle.

  • The discharge of firearms for target-shooting or other purposes by anyone not engaged in lawful hunting.

  • Welding and operating chainsaws, including the use of an acetylene torch or other open flame.

  • Operating a motor vehicle away from developed roads. Parking is permitted within designated parking areas, including developed campgrounds and trailheads; and in areas without vegetation that are within 10 feet of roadways.

Those temporary restrictions are set to remain in place until the risk of wildfire recedes, likely in the fall. It’s important to remember that fireworks and other explosives are prohibited at all times at any of the WDFW’s 33 wildlife areas as well as their 600-plus water access areas. Tossing lit debris or cigarettes from a motor vehicle is also illegal all year round on any state roadway.

The WDFW oversees more than 700,000 acres of public land in easter Washington alone. Additional information about fires and fire prevention on public lands can be found on the Washington Department of Natural Resources' website at www.dnr.wa.gov, or on the U.S. Forest Service website at www.fs.usda.gov.

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