The crash woke him from a deep slumber like a zombie rising from the grave. The only difference was the pounding heart in his chest that threatened to shatter his fragile ribcage.
Startled and confused he sat still in the twisted sheets of his own bed while staring into the darkest sky that prevails just before a sterling sunrise. Listening hard he heard nothing but his own bones rattling nervously.
As his eyes slowly grew heavy like saddles in the rain, he began to wonder if it had simply been a dream. Was it just some cannon fodder nightmare that had ripped him from his sleep? As he grasped for an explanation he couldn’t tell if he’d lost his mind or if the monsters under his bed had finally found a way to haunt him again after so many years in hiding.
That’s when the windows flashed and the sky lit up from mountain tops to the vast valleys below. Tendrils of spider web lightning instantly etched silent images in the sky and then vanished into hot air as quickly as they appeared. Their roots and chutes and stems and tails remained imprinted on his eyeballs as a dark void filled the space and time.
That was before the thunder rolled. A reverberating concussion wove through the emptiness and crashed off of the ethereal particles to magnificent effect. Like a lion’s roar the sound intensified with each successive electric snarl.
The warm rains that followed washed over the parched pasture and old orchards in a wave and the thirsty cracks in the soil could be heard heaving a sigh of relief. It was the same feeling that fell over the bachelor farmer as he realized he hadn’t yet gone completely mad. He was just lucky enough to find a front row seat to an elusive summer thunder and lightning show.
He imagined the salmon running the river by the glow of flashing lightning as fresh water pockmarked the surface and called them home. He thought of coyotes scrambling for cover in the thickets and the roosters that would live to call at least one more sun to rise. He wondered about the deer and elk in the woodlands and what stories they told their babes about the musket flashes and booms from the gods. Then he remembered the beavers in the pond and thought of their family riding out the storm in the safety of their hidden den and he was happy to be like them.
When the lightning ceased to flash and the booms receded into the distance he rolled over and pulled the blanket back up to his stubble chin. “Lightning storms are crazy,” he thought, “but at least I’m not.”
He hoped against hope that the old dependable rooster would get a slow start on the day as he drifted back to sleep to see what dreams may come.
With the Chehalis River still shuttered to all fishing and the Cowlitz River finding itself in between runs at the moment many anglers have been shifting their attention to the lower Columbia River. With both Chinook and coho starting to show up in the system it’s an understandable decision even if the drive is a bit longer.
Lance Fisher, a prolific area fishing guide, had this to say about prospects on the mighty river this time of year.
“The end of summer often means it’s time to take the family to the fairgrounds for food, games and livestock. But as far as I’m concerned, the best rodeo around doesn’t involve broncs or bulls. It’s all about fall salmon in Oregon and Washington,” Fisher noted on his blog this week. “The last week of August is typically when coho fishing in the Columbia River really begins to pick up. Instinct takes over and the salmon move from the salt water of the Pacific Ocean to the freshwater of the river on the way to their birthwaters.”
Fisher added that last week he had clients on the Columbia as well as in Marine Area 1 out beyond the breakers with keeper coho biting in both places. He expects an incoming wave of high tides to help bring even more silvers into the river soon. Additionally, anglers are allowed to keep Chinook salmon between Warrior Rock and Bonneville Dam until Sept. 8. Fisher said the mouth of the Lewis River has been as productive as anywhere.
“Always nice to fill the boat with 20+ lb chinook. When the lower Columbia closes and these fish move into the Lewis River, we’ll follow them,” noted Fisher.
Creel sampling by the WDFW last week backs up much of what Fisher reported. According to those statistics from the state the mouth of the Kalama River was actually the most active spot last week. In that area 392 bank anglers kept 40 Chinook and two jacks while releasing one jack. Another 240 boat anglers kept 33 Chinook and one jack while releasing two more kings. Around the Lewis River 171 bank anglers kept a dozen kings while 57 boat anglers kept two kings. Back down river nearest to the Cowlitz River, 153 boat anglers kept 43 Chinook and four jacks. Closer to Longview 136 boaters on 69 boats kept eight Chinook. Last Saturday alone the WDFW sampled 757 salmonid boats and 185 Washington bank rods between Cathlamet and Bonneville.
As of Aug. 27 a total of 32,136 fall Chinook had passed Bonneville Dam. That same day the total tally of early returning coho was reported at 4,004. Both species are currently returning on pace with preseason projections with about half of the run expected to clear Bonneville by the second week of September. The WDFW did announce one downer for Columbia River anglers this week, though, when they extended the steelhead closure through the end of September. Below Bonneville Dam the Columbia River is currently running at about 116.0 kcfs which is more than 18 thousand cubic feet per second less than the ten year average. The water temperature was reported at 71 degrees, which is equal to the ten-year average.
Angler checks by the WDFW on tributaries to the lower Columbia River last week revealed a range of returns on effort. Six bank anglers on the Elochoman River kept one steelhead, but four bank anglers on the Lewis River had no catch at all. Still, the Lewis River is likely to see an influx of effort beginning Sept. 1 when the river reopens to hatchery Chinook harvest. A press release from the WDFW noted that the opening has been approved since spring Chinook required for hatchery broodstock operations are no longer present in the river. The daily limit is six salmon, of which four may be adults, including two hatchery Chinook.
Back on the Cowlitz River last week the WDFW counted two rods on one boat below the I-5 Bridge with no catch to report. Between the freeway and the Barrier Dam the WDFW counted five bank rods with no catch but 33 rods on 13 boats were able to keep 20 steelhead while releasing five steelies and two Chinook.
Last week crews at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator retrieved 78 summer steelhead, 19 spring Chinook adults, six mini-jacks, five fall Chinook adults, and six cutthroat trout. Those crews also trucked four springers and one cutthroat trout to the Cispus River near Randle, and released one springer and one cuttie at the Franklin Bridge in Packwood. Three fall Chinook and one cutthroat trout were also deposited in the Tilton River in Morton. No steelhead were recycled downriver last week. On Monday river flow at Mayfield Dam was reported at around 2,480 cubic feet per second with water visibility of 15 feet and a temperature of 53.6 degrees.
Fall turkey hunting season is set to begin on Sunday but you wouldn’t have known that by looking at the WDFW online summary of hunting seasons last week. That’s because the turkey information was entirely missing from the state’s website. However, after a bit of prodding from the FishRap command center the issue appears to be fixed now.
“Fall turkey seasons have been added to the turkey season summary page. Thank you for letting us know about the missing content. We checked through the rest of the season summary pages and everything seems to be there, but please let us know if you notice anything else amiss,” wrote WDFW Wildlife Program Customer Service in an email.
A WDFW representative noted that hunters are required to carry the official rules pamphlet with them in the field. He said that pamphlet, which is also available online (https://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/02063), should always be used to determine the regulations for particular species and areas. According to the WDFW the general season for turkeys will run from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 in GMUs 101-154 and 162-186 with a limit of two beardless turkeys and two of either sex. Additionally, from Sept. 28 through Oct. 11 hunters will be able to take home one turkey of either sex from GMUs 382, 388, and 568-578.
Bobcats, foxes, raccoons, cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares will also find themselves in the crosshairs beginning Sept. 1 as well. And, of course, the sun never sets on coyote hunting in Washington. Additionally, hunts for blue, ruffed, and spruce forest grouse as well as crows and mourning doves will open across the state on the same day.
Cougar hunting is also set to open on Sept. 1 in Washington. Those hunts are also due to come under scrutiny from a group of biologists and enforcement officers assembled from the ranks of WDFW. The group was brought together in response to complaints from the public last spring about current regulations and practices.
“Our group has met five times over the last six months to discuss changes to the hunt structure,” said Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager, in a press release. “After completing our internal process, we will begin a public engagement process to receive feedback from our stakeholders.”
No information was provided by the WDFW regarding the specific complaints of considerations regarding cougar hunting. A link provided in a press release was out of date and led to a dead end. Cougar seasons typically run from Sept. 1 through at least the end of the year when harvest numbers are tallied. Where harvest quota still remains cougar hunting can remain open through Apr. 30.
“Public safety remains one of our highest concerns,” added Aoude. “This internal cougar working group continues to work at finding the balance between maintaining sustainable cougar populations while also addressing public safety.”
Additionally, anyone running the roads of Washington should 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 an effort 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. Permit applications, and additional roadkill salvage regulations, can now be found online at wdfw.wa.gov/licenses/roadkill-salvage.
If the heavens are agreeable Washingtonians may be able to catch a rare glimpse of the Aurora Borealis this weekend.
In the last few days skygazers as far south as Crater Lake in Oregon have even been able to see the ghostly spectacle better known as the Northern Lights. The natural magic light show is typically reserved for eyeballs in northern Canada and Alaska.
The sky storms are expected to be most active between Friday night and Sunday night. Unfortunately, cloud cover is expected to settle over the area both Friday and Saturday nights. However, it’s possible that the lights will be visible through the clouds.
The lights most often appear as shifting bands of green and red and can be viewed by scanning the northern horizon in spaces with minimal light pollution.