It seemed like he’d just put the lawnmower away, but the grass has already reached a point of no return. The fresh cut he’d put on the blades back in early spring left no evidence behind now. The zig-zagging pattern had evaporated into thin air. The level field of grass and clover had turned to an unruly tangle of chutes and vines that threatened to tangle and trip little feet as they rush by to chase dogs and butterflies.
He didn't remember the greenery out back getting out of hand, yet again. He never did. It just always seems to happen that way.
The nest was nearly imperceptible in its overgrown hideaway, but the chirping came fast and furious from behind the wall of grass. Only a small void in the roughage provided any hint at the true location of the thatch nest, but that didn’t really matter anyhow since the baby birds were best left undisturbed. Still, he was always tempted to try to peer through the layers with X-ray eyes in order to sneak a peek at the brand new hatchlings.
The day before, and all the days preceding that, the spot had been silent and forgotten, secret nursery tucked away in the unkempt greenage of late spring. For weeks, a mama bird snuck in and out of her hideaway rookery at neurotic intervals so she could eat and drink a bit before returning to sit with her clutch of tiny eggs. Nowadays, she uses the same escape route at more frequent intervals in order to bring grubs and worms and other sustenance back to her baby birds. Her heart is full of fear while she is away. She wishes that her babies would sit quiet and still until her return home so that they might be more safe. But she she knows full well from experience that they will squawk incessantly under blue skies that obscure untold dangers until she returns.
In a big black pot in front of the old farm house a rush of magenta finally revealed itself. Months ago it seemed the vessel was destined to sprout only weeds, and frustrated eyes had long ago stopped checking in on its progress. Then, seemingly overnight, a stock had erupted from the seemingly stagnant soil and shot skyward with serrated leaves sticking out at alternating angles. The morning dew collected in its folds and cascaded toward the center of the stem before crashing into the soil and nourishing the young roots.
This week, the first flower on top finally popped and unveiled a magic rush of magenta. Pollen covered pistols remain hidden away inside the tight folds of the petals, but soon enough a parade of pollinators will be checking in to sip on its sweet nectar. For now though, a tiny green spider is the only one to know what’s inside the flower’s folds while the poppy simply allows its fierce shade of pink and purple to sing out loud. A garden flower has never had any qualms about calling attention to itself. After all, they’ve got a bold reputation to uphold.
Out on the river the salmon have finally begun to arrive on their return journey from the great wide open of the ocean. Spring melt in the mountains and coastal hills has filled the channels with cool clear water and the fish are following their magnetic noses back toward the headwaters where they sprung forth just a few years ago.
The locals used to cherish the summer days when they could head to the river and try their luck. It was a splendid way to pass the time, and the catch of the day was always a welcome site come supper time around the table. Now the state forbids such pursuits in order to protect the plummeting numbers of fish remaining in the watershed. Today though, right now, youngsters are missing out on the opportunity to learn to love those fish they’ve never known and that river that keeps on passing them by.
While the water may look the same as it ever has, the truth is that no river is ever the same as it ever was. Raindrops fall. Groundwater swells. Streams babble and course into creeks that crash into tributaries in the headwaters. In time they all unite as one on the mainstem and pass by each spot along the bank in just one fleeting instant as they rush toward the ocean. Water is unphased by nostalgia. It never yearns to run uphill.
The old trees that lined the far flank of the farmer’s field had been there since before everyone he’d ever known had even been babies. He remembered watching the baby deer dart in and out of the cover of the woods as they followed their mamma to secluded green fields that offered something to snack on and the promise of safety. He could recall the way eagles would land on high branches while the weighted down limbs would bob and weave in the breeze. He could still smell the pungent scent of damp earth when mushrooms would force through the bare floor of that tiny forest to spread their caps and release the spores hidden within their squiggle spiral gills.
Those visions turned into a pile of smokey memories last week when the neighbor brought in a team of dozers and chainsaws to push all of the old trees over on their sides. The metal machines piled up the natural carnage in several funeral pires and foul mouthed men soaked them in diesel before striking a match and watching them burn. As disoriented birds circled in a panic the soot stained sky the ashes of their charred bodies rained down on the garden next door that was just beginning to reveal its sprouts for the season.
The one constant thing about changes is that they never seem to stop.
Reporter Note: Due to changes in the print schedule here at The Chronicle our Outdoors content will be moving from its regular spot in Thursday’s paper to the Saturday edition. We believe this adjustment will allow us to continue to provide the most up to date information possible in your newspaper regarding hunting, fishing and other outdoors news in time for weekend adventuring. Thank you for your dedicated readership. Hopefully we’ll see you outside!
Boat anglers on the lower Columbia River had a modicum of success for steelhead last week, but the real draw for reelmen is the on-again off-again sturgeon fishery.
That opening for harvest of the river monsters is limited to the waters between Buoy 10 and the Wauna Power Lines. The catch-and-keep fishery is also limited to Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays only through June 5. Additionally, anglers are limited to a harvest of just one white sturgeon per day, measuring between 44-50 inches in fork length. The fishery closes at 2 p.m. each day, even on catch-and-release days. Like a fleet of Goldilocks on the water, anglers of all stripes have confirmed that the bite has improved with a rise in temperature this week. However, they they still complain that the fish are all too long or too short.
For the anglers who can’t shake the temptation to target salmon or steelhead this time of year, there are several options to try out. Last week two bank anglers on the Elochoman had no catch to show WDFW creel checkers, but the river remains open for piscatorial pressure.
Closer to home it's the Cowlitz River that’s drawing anglers out of the back yard and into its fold. Last week, the WDFW checked 10 bank rods on the lower river with two steelhead to show. From the Interstate 5 bridge up to the Barrier Dam, another 11 bank rods kept three steelhead while 64 boat rods kept 22 steelhead.
Last week, hatchery crews also recovered 81 spring Chinook, eight jacks, 20 summer steelhead, six winter steelhead and one cutthroat trout at the salmon hatchery separator. Those crews also released eight Chinook, one jack and one cutthroat into Lake Scanewa in Randle. Another 22 summer steelhead were trucked back town river to the I-5 boat launch for another run up toward the hatchery. River flow was reported around 2,940 cubic feet per second on Tuesday with nine feet of water visibility and a water temperature of 48.4 degrees.
On June 8, young anglers will get a special shot at hooking a fish at Lake Scanewa during the annual Kids Fishing Derby sponsored by Lewis County PUD. The derby will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 11 a.m.. In-person registration will begin at 8 a.m.
“Throughout the day hundreds of fish are caught with the biggest trout weighing in at about 8 pounds. There are various activities throughout the day for kids to participate in. They can have their faces painted, learn how to clean fish, and participate in a number of mini-games around the area,” read a press release from the power company responsible for Cowlitz Falls Dam.
There is a three fish limit, including fish released, during the derby. However, the daily limit for trout this year is typically five fish per day. All trout except hatchery rainbows must be released. Registration may be taken care of in advance online at www.lcpud.org/recreation/fishing-derby/
On Wednesday Tacoma Power reported the level of Riffe Lake at 733.45 feet. The Mossyrock Park boat launch was listed as open along with the Taidnapam North boat launch. However, the Kosmos and Taidnapam Park boat launches were closed.
Mayfield Lake typically fluctuates between 421 and 425 feet this time of year, and the Mayfield Lake Park boat launch is open for the season. Anglers at Mayfield will be glad to know that more than 10,000 rainbow trout fingerlings have been planted in recent weeks.
On May 22, state hatchery crews also stocked South Lewis County Park Pond with 1,040 rainbow fingerlings. That same day 5,200 rainbow fingerlings were put into Swofford Pond while 364 fingerling rainbows were trucked to Knuppenburg Lake. The bass bite has also been picking up at Swofford recently with fat fish chasing senkos and top water bullfrog decoys. On May 21, Duck Lake in Cowlitz County was planted with 25 rainbows trout weighing an average of 3.85 pounds. The lake received another 500 fingerling rainbows that same day.
Anglers who like a little more bang for their line have lucked out now that new dates are confirmed for the sport halibut season. The changes mean that Marine Area 2 will be open beginning on Thursday, June 6. Sport halibut fishing will also be open for six extra days in Marine Areas 5-10. Those extra dates are Thursday, May 30; Saturday June 1; Thursday, June 13; Saturday, June 15; Thursday, June 27; and, Saturday, June 29. The nearshore area will be open Mondays through Wednesdays until the catch quota has been reached. Anglers should note that it is legal to keep lingcod when halibut are on the boat north of the Washington-Oregon border on open days.
Additionally, Marine Area 1 has had its nearshore halibut fishery open Mondays, Tuesday, and Wednesday each week since May 6. In Marine Area 2 the nearshore fishery will be open one more time on June 6.
The Chehalis River and its tributaries remains closed to all fishing until further notice.
There are just two days remaining in the statewide general spring turkey hunt that began back in April. That hunt is set to close at dusk on Friday. Odds are always best for wild turkeys in the northeastern section of the state but some gobblers can also be found west of the Cascades.
For hunters who feel like they don’t have anything left to pursue it’s important to remember that the sun never sets on coyote season in Washington.
What’s more, 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.
It’s nearly go time again alongside Highway 6 with the Ride the Willapa bicycle extravaganza merely three weeks away.
This year the family friendly scenic trail ride will take place on June 21-22. Participants will begin their trek in Chehalis and then follow the old railroad grade along the Chehalis and Willapa rivers on what is now the Willapa Hills Trail.
The 65 mile course stops in Pe Ell before turning folks around for a return leg back to the Mint City. Camping will be offered over night at Rainbow Falls State Park via early registration and a less formal campout will be held at Willapa Hills Farm. There are less than 50 camping spots remaining from a total allotment of 250 spaces at Rainbow Falls State Park but there’s room for about 140 more pedalers to crash for the night out at Willapa Hills Farm right along the banks of the river.
According to event organizers there are at least 410 participants registered already this year. The deadline to register early and online is noon on June 21. In-person registration will be allowed after that time for $10 extra dollars.
Entertainment will include a Tour de Farms with music, food and drink along the route as well as a bluegrass concert in the evening. Those offerings will be open to the non-riding public as well for a fee of $10. Registered riders will be allowed in for free.
For more information or to register in advance go online to http://ridethewillapa.com/.
Fish officials have added a public meeting to their slate of discussions regarding sturgeon management in the state. Changes under consideration include a night closure on the Chehalis River.
A full list of changes up for consideration include:
• Removing night fishing for sturgeon on the Chehalis River. Under current rules, catch-and-release fishing for sturgeon is permitted 24 hours per day on a large stretch of the river, the only such 24-hour sturgeon fishery in the state.
• Extending the dates of all sturgeon spawning sanctuaries in the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam to Priest Rapids Dam, and in the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam, through Aug. 31. Most of these spawning sanctuaries are currently in effect from May 1 through July 31.
• Extending the area of the spawning sanctuaries on the Columbia River below McNary and Priest Rapids dams.
• Closing sturgeon retention fishing within McNary Reservoir, inclusive of the lower Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam and the Hanford Reach below Priest Rapids Dam, due to a lack of population monitoring information.
Upcoming meetings scheduled by WDFW and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will be held at the following locations and times:
• Kennewick: 6 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, June 11, at the Benton PUD building, 2721 W. 10th Ave., Kennewick.
• Hermiston, Oregon: 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, June 12, at the Hermiston Community Center, 415 S. Hwy 395, Hermiston.
• Montesano: 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, June 13, at the WDFW Region 6 office, 48 Devonshire Rd., Montesano.
Public comment can also be entered online on the WDFW website at,
wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/season-setting/sturgeon. Comments provided to state fishery managers will, ostensibly, be used to guide management decisions.