There’s nothing about fishing that comes naturally to two year olds. They’ve got to sit still, be quiet, and refrain from rocking the boat. Most difficult of all, anglers must both possess and practice patience while waiting, waiting, waiting for that telltale tug on the pole to perk up their spirits and spike their experience.
But advanced anglers are nothing if not overly optimistic and painfully persistent. They know that it only takes one good fight with a flailing fish on the other end of the line in order to get a rookie rod-and-reeler hooked for good.
Of course, there are best laid plans and cherry picked piscatorial prospects, and then there’s the cold, hard reality of life on the water. Just like two year olds, fish get hungry on their own time and they get scared on a whim. And like toddlers their preferences are prone to shifting with the wind. Last time they were biting on nothing but green triple teasers but this week they’re turning up their noses at anything but garlic scented pink power bait. Last time out the action was all clustered at the shadowy end of the pond but now there’s nothing but weeds and disappointment lurking down there. So we paddle on.
As the initial thrill of being on the water fades like morning fog over the pond doubt begins to settle over the boat. To a two year old there is much inherent mystery as to the actual goal of the expedition. Are we simply out for a leisurely tour of the shoreline? Are there even any fish down there beneath the shimmering surface? Do Dad and Grandpa even know what they’re doing? And most importantly, when is lunch and who brought the snacks?
If there’s one thing that dads know, though, it’s that no angler worth their salt can ever give up easily. After all, quitting is the toughest thing to quit. So we troubleshoot all along the way. When hooks get tangled up in knee deep weeds we pull until the lure breaks free or we cut bait and cut our losses. When the sun rises high and bakes us in our banana boat we pull our hats down low and use our polarized glasses to peer into the depths below. And when a two year old begins to grow restless we pull snacks from hidden pockets and buy just a little more time to patrol the waters.
Truth be told, when the bite is slow (see: non-existent) even master anglers are not impervious to the slippery slow creep of self doubt. We wonder if we’re just being steelhead stubborn for our own sake and we worry that a sunburn will be the only thing we bring back home.
But when that first fish affixes itself to the end of a folded over flex rod all of those thoughts evaporate like yesterday’s stink brine on the bottom of the boat. In a flash the silence and stillness explodes into a flurry of movement and collaboration. Bring the other lines in and stash those rods. Throw those paddles in reverse and take the slack out of the line. Keep the rod tip and keep the boat away from those dastardly weeds and snag logs. Quick! Find the net, and for Neptune’s sake, someone help Bub crank that rickety old reel.
The fish are always biggest when they manage to get away but even when it’s just a bluegill that breaks the surface young minds begin to race and miscalculate like only a true fisherman can. As it flips and flops and reflects the colors of the trees and sky drops of water rain down on smiling faces in the boat and that’s when it happens — Another angler has caught the bug.
With rusty needle nose pliers and firm but friendly grip Grandpa backs the hook out of the fish’s maw and gently slides him back into the pond.
As the ripples roll away and disappear the excitement slowly fades and a two year old slides down to the bottom of the boat to rest his eyes a bit. With drool in the crook of his mouth and a familiar twitch behind shuttered eyelids he undoubtedly dreams of the next fish he will catch. It will be bigger, no doubt, and he will know just what to do.
In the meantime, Grandpa and Dad continue to pull their paddles through the murky water with a renewed energy. Once the bite is on it is hard to call it a day. After all, there is nowhere else they would rather be.
First things first — The Chehalis River remains closed near the Twin Cities, as it has been for the past several months. This is important to note because based on the number of anglers I’ve seen over the last couple of weeks that reality is having a hard time sinking in for some anglers.
The lower Chehalis River from the mouth up to the South Elma Bridge was reopened under regular regulation back on Aug. 1 but many tributaries and the longest stretch of the mainstem remain shuttered due to a combination of low water flow and depressing Chinook salmon returns. On Sept. 16, the mainstem will reopen between Elma and the Black River and the rest of the main channel, including the South Fork, will be open to fishing beginning Oct. 1. The Newaukum River and Skookumchuck River will both reopen on Oct. 16. Closures on the Chehalis and its tributaries are applicable to all species of fish, including catch-and-release angling.
The Nisqually River is one option to try while waiting for the upper Chehalis to open up and the Puyallup River opened for salmon fishing on Aug. 15. Those rivers have a daily limit of six salmon, two of which may be adults. On the Nisqually anglers are required to release all chum and wild Chinook. On the Puyallup anglers must release wild coho and wild Chinook. Both rivers are subject to night and Sunday closures.
“Some fish are starting to move up the rivers but they’ve got so many rivers closed off and so many restrictions on them that it’s hard to keep up,” lamented Mike in the Sunbirds sporting goods department in Chehalis earlier this week. “Buoy 10 is starting to come on. Most of the stuff that people have been catching is really offshore. The silvers are hitting really big up and down the coast of the ocean.”
Marine Areas 1 (Ilwaco), 2 (Westport), 3 (La Push) all have a daily limit of two salmon, of which one may be a Chinook. In Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) anglers can also keep two salmon per day but they must release all Chinook. Ocean anglers must release all wild coho. All four marine areas are set to close on Sept. 30, if not earlier depending on catch quota. Additionally, both Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor are open for salmon fishing. In Willapa Bay (2-1) anglers can keep two adult fish per day as part of their six salmon limit but wild Chinook must be tossed back. In Grays Harbor (2-2) anglers can fish west of Buoy 13 until Aug. 13 when that area is set to close. That area has a two salmon daily limit with a limit of one Chinook per day. All wild coho must be released. In the Humptulips North Bay section east of the Buoy 13, line anglers are allowed one salmon per day but all wild coho and wild Chinook must be released.
Out at Buoy 10 anglers are held to a limit of two adult salmon per day, one of which may be a Chinook. Thankfully, the fall salmon season opened on the mainstem earlier this week. Most of the Chinook bite has been happening near the mouths of the Kalama and Lewis rivers but there’s been intermittent action up and down the lower Columbia. Additionally, last week the WDFW sampled one anglers near the mouth of the Cowlitz River who had caught and kept a coho. It was the first officially noted silver salmon in that section of the river system this season.
On the Cowlitz River, which has been closed from the Lexington Bridge down to the mouth, the bite has slowed somewhat over the last week. WDFW creel samplers talked with six bank anglers below the I-5 Bridge with no catch at all while three rods on two boats released one Chinook. Another 14 bank rods closer to the Barrier Dam kept one steelhead and released one Chinook jack while 39 rods on 19 boats kept 42 steelhead.
Last week at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator crews recovered 120 summer steelhead, 84 spring Chinook adults, five jacks, 51 mini-jacks, one fall Chinook adult, and 13 cutthroat trout. Three of those adult springers were released in the Cispus River near Randle. Another king along with one cutthroat trout were deposited near the Franklin Bridge near Packwood and three cutties were put in the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton. Additionally, 30 steelhead were trucked back down river to the I-5 boat launch for another run up to the Barrier Dam. That effort brought the total of recycled steelhead up to 636 for the summer. On Monday river flow was reported at about 2,440 cubic feet per second just below Mayfield Dam. Water visibility was 15 feet with a temperature of 54.1.
Three anglers on the Kalama River had no catch to show or tell to the WDFW while three bank anglers on the Lewis River kept one steelhead and two rods on one boat released two Chinook.
Until the fall salmon runs hit full stride some anglers will likely opt to put their time in chasing smaller fish on area ponds and lakes. Back at Sunbirds, Mike recommends that anyone trying to land a trout should stick with a pink or green lure this time of year.
“If I was going to do small lake stuff I’d give you a Number One. The old triple teaser. You can’t beat ‘em. Just run a split shot up a couple two or three feet,” he explained.
Mayfield Lake is another prime destination for trout anglers. Last week that dammed reservoir received a shipment of 2,340 rainbow trout weighing nearly one pound each. That deposit brought the recent tally up to more than 10,000 trout since the last week of July.
Sunbird Mike says that black and white lures are more likely to hook a bass this late in the summer.
“Most of the smaller lakes around here are going to have some bass in them anyway,” he said. “Swofford is getting a lot. That’s where I’d be going. And Carlisle out in Onalaska. There’s all sorts of stuff in there.”
Firsthand experience says that Hayes Lake in Centralia is currently choked with thick weeds with nothing but bluegill ready to bite.
With a variety of popular hunting season set to begin next month the WDFW is reminding prospective hunters that they have education requirements to fulfill before heading out into the forest.
All hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972 are required to complete a hunter education course before they can purchase a hunting license. With hunting season already upon us the WDFW notes that about one third of those class spots have already been reserved.
"Summer is a great time to enroll in hunter education class because as fall hunting seasons draw near, seats in these courses fill quickly," said David Whipple, WDFW hunter education division manager, in a press release. “Beat the fall rush and sign up today, especially before school and related activities begin.”
Classes are offered online as well as in a traditional classroom setting. Anyone who opts to take the online course will still be required to complete an in-person firearm safety evaluation. Additional information on hunter education courses can be found online at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/requirements/education/basic.
Black bears are still the only legal game in the Evergreen State for one more week. Those hunts opened up on Aug. 1 and are set to remain open through Nov. 15. This year, hunters are allowed to keep two bears during the general season. However, only one bear may be harvested from Eastern Washington. Additionally, hunters are encouraged to refrain from shooting sows and cubs.
A wave of popular hunting seasons are set to unveil beginning in September. Cougar hunts will open up in all applicable areas when the calendar flips and hunts for blue, ruffed, and spruce forest grouse as well as crows and mourning doves will open across the state on the same day.
Bobcats, foxes, raccoons, cottontail rabbits, and snowshoe hares will all find themselves in the crosshairs beginning Sept. 1 as well. And, of course, the sun never sets on coyote hunting in Washington.
Additionally, anyone trucking through 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.
The WDFW is seeking citizens who want to join a new committee charged with advising the state on matters related to the commercial fishing guide industry.
As many as a dozen people will be selected to serve two-year terms that will begin in September. Applicants who are selected will be able to provide feedback on a new regulation that requires commercial guides to provide monthly logbook reports, as well as other issues.
Next year, commercial fishing guides will be required to provide the state with up to date information regarding the date and location of their trips. The log entries will also include the number of anglers onboard, as well as the number and species of fish caught on each outing.
“We’re looking for advisors who will help us review logbook data and provide the guiding industry’s perspective on fisheries,” Cunningham added. “We’d like to establish a group that includes both part-time and full-time guides and industry representatives from the various fisheries around the state.”
Letters of interest must include the following information:
Candidate’s name, address, telephone number, and email address.
Relevant experience and reasons for wanting to serve as a member of the advisory group.
Effectiveness in communication, including methods the candidate would use to relay information to regional constituents.
Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Aug. 27. Electronic applications can be emailed to Raquel Crosier at Raquel.Crosier@dfw.wa.gov. Written applications can be sent to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Attn: Raquel Crosier, 600 Capitol Way N, Olympia, WA 98501-1091.
A third round of mountain goat relocating efforts have resumed in the Olympic Mountains in Washington's northwest panhandle. Efforts to remove the non-native ruminants began on Aug. 16 near Mount Ellinor and is expected to continue for two weeks. The mountain goats are slated to be relocated to the North Cascade mountain range where they are native but have experienced population decline.
The relocation effort began in Sept. 2018 and the last official count tallied 174 mountain goats that had been moved. Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympic Peninsula in the 1920s and eventually experienced a population boom that turned them into a nuisance species on the peninsula. Before the relocation effort began there were roughly 725 mountain goats living in the upper elevations of the Olympic Peninsula.
“A project of this magnitude would be impossible without our partner agencies and the expertise and cooperation of hundreds of people,” said Olympic National Park Wildlife Branch Chief Dr. Patti Happe, in a press release. “The interagency collaboration and the support from everyone involved is extraordinary.”
Due to the ongoing efforts to catch and helicopter the mountain goats, several roads and trails are shuttered to public access. Those closures include the Mount Ellinor trails system and Forest Road 2419 to Mount Ellinor, as well as Forest Road 2464 leading to Forest Road 2419. Those closures are expected to last until Aug. 30. Additionally, two staging areas near Hurricane Ridge and the Hamma Hamma section of the Olympic National Forest are closed off to public access. Those closures include the Hurricane Hill Trail, Little River Trail, and Wolf Creek Trail.
It’s all over for the OPT wolf pack of eastern Washington. That pack, which has been blamed for numerous attacks on ranging livestock, was killed off by the WDFW last week after the wolves were blamed for at least 29 acts of depredation on cattle grazing near the Kettle River in Ferry County.
At least 14 of those attacks on livestock were recorded over the last 10 months, with nine incidents occurring within 30 days. The owner of the free ranging livestock reportedly took numerous non-lethal actions in an effort to deter the attacks but ultimately proved unsuccessful. This is the fourth time since Sept. 2018 that the WDFW has taken lethal action against the OPT pack. This time around authorities believe they were able to remove all seven of the known remaining members of the pack.
“I know this is an extremely difficult time for many of our communities around the state and having to carry out lethal removals of wolves is something we take very seriously,” said Director Susewind, in a press release. “Hopefully we can pull from a diversity of perspectives, ideas, and approaches to find better solutions for coexistence.
In April the WDFW reported that there was a total of 27 wolf packs in eastern and central Washington. Additional information on the distribution of wolves in Washington can be found online at wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf.