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Bonus Dishono r Roll!

For The Love Of

·Where To Find 20-lbrs. ·Fishing High Water ·Bobber Doggin’ ng, Cooking Cooki Tips ·Filleting, plus

Is It The End Of An Era On The Ronde?


Inland NW Ice Fishing

Hood Canal Oysters

North Sound Blackmouth


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JANUARY JA JANU ANU A NU NUARY AR A RY 2018 RY 018 18 1 8 | nws nw nws wsport sp po por port ort orrttsman sma sm man ma m nmag. maag mag m ag. g com com m | JANUARY 2018

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Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

Volume 10 • Issue 4

Your Complete Hunting, Boating, Fishing and Since 1948. Fi hi d Repair R i Destination D i i Si

PUBLISHER James R. Baker ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Dick Openshaw EDITOR Andy Walgamott LEAD CONTRIBUT0R Andy Schneider THIS ISSUE’S CONTRIBUTORS Randall Bonner, Jason Brooks, Dennis Dauble, Hugh Harris, Scott Haugen, Doug Huddle, Sara Ichtertz, MD Johnson, Randy King, Buzz Ramsey, Terry Wiest, Dave Workman, Mark Yuasa EDITORIAL FIELD SUPPORT Jason Brooks GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins


ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Rick D’Alessandro, Nancy Ekse, Mamie Griffin, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold PRODUCTION MANAGER Sonjia Kells DESIGNERS Sam Rockwell, Jake Weipert PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Kelly Baker OFFICE MANAGER/ACCOUNTING Audra Higgins


COPY EDITOR/ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Katie Sauro INFORMATION SYSTEMS MANAGER Lois Sanborn WEBMASTER/DIGITAL STRATEGIST Jon Hines DISTRIBUTION Tony Sorrentino, Gary Bickford ADVERTISING INQUIRIES CORRESPONDENCE Email letters, articles/queries, photos, etc., to, or to the address below.


ON THE COVER KJ Ruffo celebrates catching a pair of hatchery winter steelhead on Oregon’s Clackamas River. He hooked them while side-drifting eggs two seasons back. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and get daily updates at





1-877-426-0933 8 Northwest Sportsman

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WASHINGTON OFFICE P.O. Box 24365 • Seattle, WA 98124-0365 14240 Interurban Ave. S., Suite 190 Tukwila, WA 98168 OREGON OFFICE 8116 SW Durham Rd • Tigard, OR 97224 (206) 382-9220 • (800) 332-1736 • Fax (206) 382-9437;

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TICKETS ON SALE DECEMBER 1, 2017 For information visit or any Oregon POS license agent. NEW THIS YEAR: Additional 30 days extended season | JANUARY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 9





“In love and in steelhead fishing,” writes Southern Oregon’s Sara Ichtertz, “what you are willing to put in ultimately produces what you get back.” She shares how much she’s gotten out of her short but booming career as a winter angler.



A ‘HOLE’ LOT OF FUN If you envision ice fishing as sitting and shivering on a bucket while peering through a hole in the lake in hopes a fish will bite, come in from the cold! Montana’s Mike Howe introduces us to the modern way angling through the hardwater is done in the Inland Northwest.

109 MYSTERY OF THE WHITE KING A trip to Vancouver Island’s Telegraph Cove solves a half-century-old question for Tri-Cities’ Dennis Dauble – as well as serves up an exciting catch and lots of salmon and bottomfish fillets for he and his wife Nancy!

121 CLOISTER YOURSELF FOR OYSTERS Hood Canal and nearby beaches are prime for these tasty bivalves during winter, but you’ll need lanterns – and don’t forget some lemon too! Mark Yuasa has your guide for shucking and slurping oysters this month! 143 DON’T DIE FOR A DUCK Quackers can be like crack for some of us this time of year as hunting seasons peak, but risk levels also rise. Veteran waterfowler MD Johnson shares wisdom gained over decades spent in the marshes and sloughs – and getting back safely from them.

SUBSCRIBE TODAY! Go to for details. NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN is published monthly by Media Index Publishing Group, 14240 Interurban Avenue South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168. Periodical Postage Paid at Seattle, WA and at additional mail offices. (USPS 025-251) POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Northwest Sportsman, 14240 Interurban Ave South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168. Annual subscriptions are $29.95 (12 issues), 2-year subscription are $39.95 (24 issues). Send check or money order to Media Index Publishing Group, or call (206) 382-9220 with VISA or M/C. Back issues may be ordered at Media Index Publishing Group offices at the cost of $5 plus shipping. Display Advertising. Call Media Index Publishing Group for a current rate card. Discounts for frequency advertising. All submitted materials become the property of Media Index Publishing Group and will not be returned. Copyright © 2017 Media Index Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be copied by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording by any information storage or retrieval system, without the express written permission of the publisher. Printed in U.S.A.

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Come and Join our 6th Annual Halibut Express!!

Our area offers some of the very finest Halibut and Ling Cod fishing on the whole BC Coast, including Alaska. We are offering a special early season COMBO Halibut and Ling Cod package for the 2018 season. The dates we have selected for our 2018 Halibut Express are from May 1st to May 5th, May 5th to May 9th, May 9th to May 13th, May 13th to May 17th, May 17th to May 21st, May 21st to May 25th, May 25th to May 29th, May 29th to June 2nd, June 2nd to June 6th, June 6th to June 10th, June 10th to June 14th, June 14th to June 18th and June 18th to June 22nd 2018. This will be a 4 night/5 day package and will include up to 30 hours of guided fishing, all meals and 4 nights accommodations. An added bonus will be that the VACUUM PACKING and FLASH FREEZING of your fish are included in this pricing. This is a heck of a good deal and this package would make a wonderful gift for the fisherman in your family. We will also have our fly-in service available from Seattle, Wash., or Vancouver, BC for these dates. You will also have the opportunity to target the early runs of CHINOOK and COHO that will be coming through our waters at the time of the season. The pricing for this exciting package is as follows: Party of 2 fishing, 2 per boat…$1975.00 PP + 5% tax. Party of 3 fishing, 3 per boat…$1675.00 PP + 5% tax. Party of 4 fishing, 4 per boat…$1475 PP + 5% tax. To make your reservations or for more information please give us a call at 1-800-429-5288 or send an email to: Best regards, Doug Rodgers PS: With Halibut selling for upwards of $25.00 per pound at your local fish market, you should easily be able to pay for your trip. You are allowed up to 6 Halibut, new for 2018, 4 Ling Cod and 8 Salmon in possession per angler. The biggest Ling Cod this past season was a 60 pounder. Come and fill your freezers!


67 BUZZ RAMSEY Even when river conditions are higher than ideal, steelheading can actually be pretty good. Buzz provides a tutorial on fishing when the water’s up and crowds are lighter but winter-runs are biting just as well. 57

THE KAYAK GUYS Tillamook County’s rivers have room for more than just drift boats in winter – Hugh Harris details how he bobber dogs them for steelhead from his kayak.


WESTSIDER Do 20-pound steelhead really exist these days? Terry takes us in search of trophies swimming in Western Washington rivers this time of year. Best waters, top gear!


CHEF IN THE WILD You’re not just going to throw that steelie you just bonked in the Yeti, are you? Not after what Randy has to impart on post-kill care and filleting – plus a delicious recipe for steelhead with jalapeño, cranberry and cream cheese!

127 NORTH SOUND Fishing and hunting options run on the thin side these days in Doug’s neighborhood, but there’s still blackmouth to catch and ducks and geese to down! 12 Northwest Sportsman

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133 SOUTH SOUND This past year was not the best for Tacoma-area sportsmen, what with the crab collapse and low humpy run, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Jason takes a look back and glances ahead to possible 2018 highlights as well! 151 GUN DOGGIN’ 101 The key to training a pup that becomes a great antler hunter is to keep it fun. In a follow-up to a beginners-level column last spring, step into Scott’s outdoor classroom for shed training 201. 157 ON TARGET Yes, Christmas was last month, but Dave’s as giddy as a kid poking presents under the tree – the big SHOT Show is this month, and he has details on some great new rifles, shotguns, handguns and more that will roll out in 2018! nws nwsp wsp s orts ortsmanm manmag.c manm ag.c ag o | JANUAR om JA JANUARY NUARY NUA NUAR UARY 20 2018 18 8

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The owners of Boggan’s Oasis hope to rebuild after last fall’s fire destroyed their famed restaurant above the fish-rich Grande Ronde.


THE EDITOR’S NOTE Shrinking outdoor writing world


SOCIAL SCENE Reader reactions to recent news


READER PHOTOS FROM THE FIELD Salmon, birds, “bullgills” and more!


PHOTO CONTEST WINNERS Browning, Fishing monthly prizes


THE DISHONOR ROLL Northeast Oregon, Southwest Washington poachers sentenced; Wardens investigate illegal wolf, moose, deer kills; Squid scoundrels; Chum dummies; Jackasses of the Month


DERBY WATCH Northwest Salmon Derby Series 2018 schedule; 14th Annual NW Ice Fishing Festival preview; Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club Fall K&K Thanksgiving, Snake Steelhead, Bend Whitefish Derbies results


OUTDOOR CALENDAR Upcoming openers, events


BIG FISH Record Northwest game fish caught in 2017




RIG OF THE MONTH Bobber doggin’, kayak style

166 BACK PAGE Sunday Afternoon Coming Down 14 Northwest Sportsman

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16 Northwest Sportsman

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Rich Landers (center) listens as WDFW’s Bob Dice talks about a new wildlife area along and above the Grande Ronde River in May 2015. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)


he Northwest hook-and-bullet world is losing another important voice in a key market, though one that fortunately won’t disappear into the Palouse behind his bird dogs either. Early last month, Rich Landers retired as outdoor editor of the Spokane Spokesman-Review, where he’s been writing since before I could scrawl my A-B-Cs, though he’ll still freelance for the paper. Across 41 years, thousands of deadlines and countless words, Landers has covered hunting and fishing, wildlife and water issues, along with a host of other outdoor subjects. And he went out on a high note as winner of the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s 2017 Jade of the Chief award, OWAA’s highest conservation honor. Over the years, Landers and I have traded emails on each other’s work, commiserated on WDFW’s proclivity for 4:55 p.m. wolf news releases, and the best way to prepare Bolivian llama. I’ve also ruthlessly competed with him for scoops, and paid particularly close attention to his level-headed reporting on wolves.

IN A SENSE, if Landers and fellow pens were as furry, they’d be candidates for Endangered Species Act protections themselves. In recent years we’ve seen Mark Yuasa, Jeff Mayor, Al Thomas, Henry Miller, Scott Sandsberry, Greg Johnston and Doug Huddle move on from their papers, while Bill Monroe, Wayne Kruse and Alan Liere are getting up there. Still, there’s Jordan Nailon, Mark Freeman, Eric Barker, Ralph Bartholdt and Terry Otto. I understand this isn’t 1957 any more, but the guard – it’s changing. When one newspaper in a very important location for us recently looked to replace their veteran outdoor reporter, they got fresh-out-of-college kids who couldn’t tell the difference between springers and summer-runs and who equated the job title to mean writing environmental stories. The latter in itself is not a bad thing. As Landers wrote in one of his last columns, “Regardless of the politics, a sportsman who isn’t an environmentalist is a fool, or at least uniformed.” But more and more, that particular style of reporting aims to tear down fish and wildlife agencies rather than thoughtfully challenge or detail the thinking and methods behind biologists’ and managers’ decisions, all while crossing the “species” boundary between outdoor recreationists of all stripes. That’s where Landers shines like few others. Enjoy your retirement, Rich, but don’t let those pups take you too far from the keyboard. –Andy Walgamott



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Northwest Sportsman 17



Comment from the www

By Andy Walgamott

BULL ELK POACHER SENTENCED There’s the court room and the court of public opinion. Elgin, Oregon’s Nathan Crouch faced judgment in both after pleading guilty to poaching two bull elk at night from a road and with the aid of a light in mid-November 2016, wasting both animals completely. For that, he must pay over $17,000 in fines and restitution, serve 60 days in jail and he can’t hunt for eight years, a not insignificant penalty. Still, some wanted more. “Should lose his hunting privileges forever! Way too lenient,” Derek Kendall posted in response to our story on Facebook. Steve Thayer was among those who got medieval; he wanted to pillory him – “and no toilet breaks.” Others pressed for harsher laws: “Crimes such as this should be a felony. This hurts us all for a long time,” said Mike Schedler. Ultimately, Crouch will have two months in jail to ponder Steve Crawford’s question: “Why would anyone do that?”

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PUGET SOUND CHINOOK Last month’s proposed 10-year state-tribal harvest plan for kings returning to Puget Sound rivers did not go over well with sport anglers, nor did its confidential negotiations play well with Fish and Wildlife Commission Vice Chair Larry Carpenter. He told Director Jim Unsworth it was “an unacceptable practice” not to inform the citizen panel of the talks and plan. Reacting to our reporting of that public rebuke, charter skipper Steven Kiesling wrote, “This must be stopped! They are going to sink the entire ship over nine fish. Fishing is not the problem. The wild run in the Stillaguamish is going extinct. It will happen even if all fishing is stopped.” And then he offered up one of his two permits for sale.

COLUMBIA SPRINGER FORECAST OUT This year’s salmon forecasts started to trickle out last month, at least for the Columbia River, where managers are predicting more spring Chinook this year than actually returned in 2017. Not everyone was biting, however. “They run this false flag out every few years, seems to boost license sales,” remarked David Montoya on our Facebook post. Brandon Clifford was sure of one thing: no matter what: “As usual I’m sure the below Bonneville fishery will enjoy the three or four extensions, while the Snake River fishery as usual will be limited to a few days a week, and then shut down before the main pulse of fish arrive.” Trever Nurmi saw it all as marketing: “When the runs will suck they have strong forecasts to drive sales.” But befitting of any positive forecast and looking at it as a true fisherman, Fred Bellamy said it best: “Let’s hope.”

MOST LIKED READER PIC WE HUNG UP ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE DURING THIS ISSUE’S PRODUCTION CYCLE Adam Perez helped fellow Western Washington steelheaders get into the spirit of the season with this pair of late fall winter-runs. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)


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A new guidebook, 25 Hikes on Oregon’s Tillamook Coast, details hikes in forests, along bays, headlands and the Pacific Ocean. Oregon’s Tillamook Coast is an outdoors wonderland located about 73 miles west of Portland. And the book, written by Adam Sawyer, is a pocket-sized, easy-to-read guide that provides hiking recommendations throughout the north Oregon coast’s Tillamook County. The book details hikes ranging from family-friendly and easy to difficult, and it describes fees and regulations, such as whether pets are allowed. Hikes from the northern part of the county, such as the Neahkahnie Mountain hike, to the southern Cape Lookout State Park hike are all included. Author Sawyer has written several hiking guidebooks published by Falcon Guides, including Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon and Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland. Sawyer also writes articles for regional and national magazines, and authors hiking and outdoor adventure blogs for the Visit Tillamook Coast website ( “Volunteers at the visitor centers said the most requested information is where to go hiking, yet there wasn’t a single guide that focused on hikes in Tillamook County,” said Nan Devlin, tourism director for Visit Tillamook Coast. “We decided to self-publish a guidebook to meet the need.” The Tillamook Coast is one of Oregon’s natural wonders. Picturesque bays, inland waterways, forests, farmlands, rivers and ocean beaches offer visitors a wide range of nature-based activities from kayaking, fishing and hunting to beachcombing and rockhounding. Fresh seafood is abundant, as is world-famous cheese and award-winning beer. The Tillamook Coast’s villages, from Manzanita to Neskowin, each have their own unique heritage, personality and charm.

For more information and to plan your getaway, visit The 90-page book is sold for $9.99 plus $2.00 shipping and handling at

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From The Ashes The owners of Boggan’s Oasis hope to rebuild after last fall’s fire destroyed their famed restaurant above the fish-rich Grande Ronde. By Andy Walgamott


rooted around my parent’s basement on Thanksgiving Day, searching for an old yellow notepad that’s gathered nearly 20 years of dust. The words scrawled across those 70 or 80 pages go with a few dozen slide photographs I’d dug out of the back corner of my cramped

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attic the previous afternoon and put on the light box. I hadn’t meant to resurrect them all till next winter, for a feature I’ve mulled for these pages. But when I learned that Boggan’s Oasis had burned down, I needed to remember right then. All that remained of the restaurant was twisted metal, fallen cinder blocks and

a hollow place in the hearts of everyone who knows this remote, fish- and gamerich corner of the Northwest.

LET ME TELL you about my connection to it. I spent two weeks in March 1999 in a cabin and Jon Hone’s travel trailer above Boggan’s, taking the aforementioned notes and images while fishing for


All that remained of Boggan’s Oasis the morning after the restaurant in Southeast Washington burned. Last month, co-owner Bill Vail said a cause hadn’t been determined. He said the blaze was so hot, it completely melted the large grill so many fishermen’s and others’ meals were cooked on over the decades. (JENNIFER BRISTOL) steelhead upstream and down- of the iconic restaurant at the intersection of Washington’s famed Grande Ronde River and its lonely Highway 129. I remember the kindness and wonderful meals served up by owners Bill and Farrel Vail, who are now in their 80s and on the morning after the fire weren’t sure about their plans. “It will work out. Everything’s in God’s hands,” Bill told the Spokane SpokesmanReview. “It will work out.” Farrel sounded less enthused. “Hell, I’m

84 years old, why do I want to start over?” she told the Wallowa County Chieftain. “We’re more worried about our customers than anyone else; we’re working on our third generation of customers.” The Vails had been up later than usual that Saturday night to watch Gonzaga beat Utah State when Farrel heard some noises and realized the restaurant was ablaze. With no fire stations able to respond because of distance or capabilities, and the fire’s heat having destroyed a water pump, there was nothing for them to do

but watch the business they’ve owned since 1983 burn to the ground. Some folks staying above the restaurant prevented stray firebrands from getting up to the trailers and cabins. If there’s solace, the cabins as well as shuttle service are still available as this winter’s steelhead return; check at the double wide or call (509) 256-3418. I remember back in ’99, after the day’s steelheading was done, eating dinner at the cozy restaurant and tracking the Zags as they made their first deep run into the | JANUARY 2018

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PICTURE Final Four basketball tournament. I know I took a ton of notes about the fishing and scenery as the plug rods bounced on all those floats down from Cougar Creek. But I’d hoped the pages of that yellow pad in my folks’ basement would help me recall more memories from the wonderful dinner sessions spent with fellow fishermen and others, guys like the Pollies and Donleys, Kevin and Greg. Instead, the downstairs served up old textbooks from my days at Washington State University. Boxes of baseball cards from even earlier. Wheat pennies my dad’s dad had given me before he passed away. And dust – lots of dust.

A WAY STATION is one way to think of the importance of Boggan’s, a stopping point for those headed north or south by road, or east or west on the river. Whether ending your float at the takeout directly below the restaurant or starting there on the way downstream to Schumaker, whether coming from Enterprise headed for Asotin or vice versa, in a land where services are few and far between, Boggan’s is where you’d pull over for a meal, local information or just to let the brakes cool at the base of the Rattlesnake and Buford Grades while enjoying one of their acclaimed milkshakes. In one remembrance, a raft guide said the peach-lemonade shake they brought him after a disastrous day was the “finest ever made in all the world.” Chris Donley, a steelheader who I first met on the Grande Ronde, and who is the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s regional fishing manager in Spokane, called Boggan’s “truly … an oasis in an otherwise isolated part of the world” and said he’d miss its “worn-out quirks.” With the Vails initially unsure about rebuilding, he lamented, “Fishing the Ronde will never quite be the same.” I remember stopping here in the mid90s during a winter circumnavigation of the Blue Mountains with Greg. Several years later, during that 1999 trip, my mom called the restaurant and left a message 24 Northwest Sportsman

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Slide photos from my two-week stay at Boggan’s while steelheading in March 1999, a deeply formative experience. (ANDY WALGAMOTT) to tell me that Fishing & Hunting News wanted me to come in for a job interview at their Seattle office. I put the biweekly magazine off so I could fish some more. But I did eventually hire on there as a copy editor. Later, as editor of the Washington edition, me or Randall Peters would call Bill every other week for a report on the steelheading, which was typically all right if not good, even if the boys at the tackle shop in Clarkston thought otherwise than the savvy businessman on the Ronde.

THE HISTORY OF Boggan’s traces back to the post-World War II era, and is named for its original proprietor. Even as the nearby farming towns of Mountain View, Anatone, Paradise and Flora faded into the loess and basalt, Boggan’s was a coal that continued to glow in one of Washington’s most remote corners. After the fire, someone dug out old sepia-toned photographs and shared them on Facebook. One is of a pretty simple menu board – deluxe hamburgers for half a buck, coffee for a dime and a slice of pie for a quarter. Another shows three gents sipping Coors and Raindogs at the counter, and possibly the same trio outside when Boggan’s also had a pair of gas pumps and a Coke machine.

The Vails couldn’t have timed their purchase of the place any better. Since taking ownership, the Ronde’s steelhead and smallmouth runs have increased markedly (a certain local game warden would prefer it if I didn’t mention the spring fishery for its moss-colored bass that he likes to target). We’ve seen a spring Chinook fishery or two in recent years, and last March coho smolts were released into the system, a first in more than three decades. Indeed, along with hunting and rafting, the river is now almost a year-round destination. If you’d asked me after my 1999 trip, I would have told you it would’ve been impossible for the fishing to ever get any better than it was that March. A nine-fish day, a seven-fish day. Yes, I was in the hands of someone on their way to expert status, but I hit three on my own one day from the bank and felt pretty good about that, even if it was just below Cottonwood Creek and the acclimation ponds that Washington fish return to. But that winter-spring season was actually only so-so for summer-runs, at least when measured against subsequent years, one of which saw more than 325,000 fish over Lower Granite Dam and a Ronde harvest in excess of 13,000 – four | JANUARY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 25

MIXED BAG times as many as ’98-99. But things soured over the past year. The fishing wasn’t very good at all last winter, one of the harshest to hit this country in several decades. “Have closed Boggan’s more in December and January than in the 34 years we have owned the place,” the Vails told me about this time last year. “Been actually snowed in twice.” The river froze over in places, a desperate herd of elk up Cougar Creek ate an entire stack of hay that had been put up three decades before, early February saw an ice dam near Troy blow out, flows hit 30,000 cubic feet per second twice in mid-March. Participation in the annual steelhead derby was half of usual, and only 29 steelhead were weighed in – a third of 2016’s tally. “No fish turned in at all after March 7,” they said. “This year we are trying to forget.” Those words, written last April as the Ronde tried to green up for the final week

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of season, were hopeful, but would be followed by a poor steelhead run this past fall. And then the fire.

I HAVEN’T FOUND that old yellow notebook from ’99, but the first thing I think I noticed on that trip was how dirty the river looked to me. It must’ve been raining or had warmed up, because it was far cloudier than I ever remembered during winter forays with Wazzu roommates to Cottonwood and Schumaker. That evening, pulling a seat up to the fishermen’s fire above Boggan’s, I remarked on how poor the visibility was. Bad, someone said, correcting me, why it’s almost clear! Or something along those lines – I can’t remember exactly. Too much time has passed and my primary guidepost is missing in the fog. But in my folks’ basement I did come across a journal I kept in 2000, one I’d utterly forgotten about. Not too many pages downstream of a description of

floating the Skykomish from Cable to High Bridge with Crazy Joe on the sticks were notes from a trip to the Grande Ronde with my dad that March. We’d parked his pop-up trailer at the state site across from Bezona’s – who would later give us a four-round welcome while making extra sure his rifle was still shooting straight as we plugged the hole by the gravel piles. After all-you-can-eat at Boggan’s one night, in Troy the next, we gathered around the fire above the restaurant with Greg and other anglers for enjoyable if also profane bull sessions. Dad enjoyed the trip a lot – the fishing, the scenery, the wildlife – but what really struck him was that it was Fish Camp, a gathering he immediately recognized from all the deer and elk camps he’d been part of but didn’t know existed in the angling world. Those nightly fires will be rekindled this winter, though an important part of Fish Camp on the Ronde will be missing, the community mess hall, the glue. At least for this steelhead season. By summer, Boggan’s could be serving


The Grande Ronde snakes through the basalt below Boggan’s (right).Bill Vail hopes to have a brandnew restaurant “up and running by summer,” if the insurance money comes through. (ANDY WALGAMOTT) shakes and burgers again. “We’re still planning to rebuild,” said Bill last month as he awaited word from the insurance company, which he expected around New Year’s. “That’s still our plans.” He says the fire burned too hot to figure out what started it – “We had a large grill that totally melted” – but what has burned just as bright, and for far longer, has been the outpouring of support for the Vails and Boggan’s. At press time, a couple’s Go Fund Me drive had raised over $3,500 to help the Vails get back on their feet (

boggans-oasis-support-fund). “It’s left us so we could hardly talk on occasion,” said Bill of the support. “It’s come from all across the United States, and even Europe. That’s one of the reasons we want to rebuild.” In the meanwhile, the lights are on in the cabins, though you’ll want bring your own grub. “We can still put them up, but we can’t feed them at this time,” Bill said. Looking through old slides and reading notes from days gone by wasn’t going to bring back the Boggan’s I knew

once upon a time, or the one anyone else did either. But as I sat down with my family on that Thanksgiving Day, I was thankful for the time I had spent there. It was hugely important to whom I’ve become, and I thank the Vails for their hospitality to me and everyone else. And while you can never go back, you can rebuild. Here’s hoping the insurance money comes through and many more generations of anglers and others to come can find their way to the Ronde and its restaurant. NS

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Northwest Sportsman 31

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A nearby upland bird preserve provided the perfect opportunity for Spokane’s Chris Bell and son Fisher to sneak out on a sunny autumn afternoon in search of some pheasants. They were hunting the Double Barrel Ranch. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)



With the new year, lingcod season is not too far off, and you can bet Kristi Franks is looking forward to fishing for the toothsome beasts of the deep after catching this one out of Blaine, Washington. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

This is one you don’t see every day! Hunting for spike elk in Central Washington’s Colockum, Michael Cook happened across a bobcat instead, taking the secretive feline with a 40-yard shot from his .50-caliber CVA Optima. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Age isn’t slowing down longtime hunter Jim Hughes Sr. Proud daughter Jessica Hughes sent pics of him as a 15-year-old lad with mallards taken in the Yakima Valley and as a 68-year-old gentleman who, along with trusty hound Isabelle, bagged a fine ringneck at Scatter Creek Wildlife Area this past fall. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

For your shot at winning great fishing and hunting products from Northwest Sportsman and Browning, send your full-resolution, original images with all the pertinent details – who’s in the pic and their hometown; when and where they were; what they caught their fish on/weapon they used to bag the game; and any other details you’d like to reveal (the more, the merrier!) – to or Northwest Sportsman, PO Box 24365, Seattle, WA, 98124-0365. By sending us photos, you affirm you have the right to distribute them for use in our print and Internet publications. | JANUARY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 33




Austin Han didn’t catch a mere bluegill – he lassoed a “bullgill” during a Potholes panfish mission with his family in late October. They’d been hoping to catch jumbo perch and walleye, but according to dad Jerry, they “found some of the biggest bluegills I’ve seen in quite awhile” at the reservoir, prompting the name change. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Have a koke and a smile! Jake Murauskas, 2, caught his first landlocked sockeye on Lake Chelan after the family unexpectedly ran into a school while working the shoreline for cutthroat. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

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Eggs under a bobber were the ticket for Dennis Clearman during a fall float for coho and Chinook with his sons and guide/friend Ted Schuman. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Overall, 2017 wasn’t the best of steelhead years across the Northwest, but Anthony Clements still managed to put this nice big hatchery summer-run on the bank. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)



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Karleigh Beck heads home with her first king salmon caught while bank fishing. She was using cured eggs underneath a bobber on a south Olympic Peninsula river. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)


The Higginbotham boys put quite a few miles on their boots before the last push of the day turned up this black bear for young Hunter. He was out with his dad and grandpa. “Having three generations of Higginbothams together in the mountains for a moment like this is beyond awesome,” said pa Jarod, of Yakima Bait. “I see why my dad took the time to take me when I was a kid and teach me these same things that I am passing on to my son. Take your kids out in the field and strengthen those bonds and create those memories that will last a lifetime!” (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)



Former Illinois resident Richard Watford appears to have the nack for ’Nooks. He hooked this wild one on eggs below a float last fall. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Paul Ishii prepares to release a wild coho back into a West End river this past fall. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

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Fishing Adventures in the Pacific Northwest Clay Hull is this issue’s Fishing Photo Contest winner, thanks to this pic of son William and his Columbia River Chinook. It wins him a pile of loot from the overstuffed office of our editor!

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For the second issue in a row, a black bear pic is our Browning Photo Contest winner. This issue it’s Jarod Higginbotham shot of son Hunter and his bruin. It wins him a Browning hat.

Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

For your shot at winning Browning and fishing products, send your photos and pertinent (who, what, when, where) details to awalgamott@ or Northwest Sportsman, PO Box 24365, Seattle, WA 98124-0365. By sending us photos, you affirm you have the right to distribute them for our print or Internet publications. | JANUARY 2018

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Oregon Judge Hammers Man For Poaching, Wasting 2 Bull Elk By Andy Walgamott


Northeast Oregon man must serve two months in jail, has lost his hunting license for eight years and will have to pay $17,000 in fines and restitution after pleading guilty to poaching two bull elk at night with the aid of a light, wasting both animals completely. Nathan Crouch, 27, who was on the lam in Nevada until last October, was sentenced Nov. 27 by Union County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Powers for four misdemeanors. The November 2016 case outraged Elgin-area residents, who provided Oregon State Police fish and wildlife troopers with “overwhelming support” in identifying Crouch, his brother Dylan Crouch, then 22, and Briana Black, then 18, as suspects. According to a report on My Columbia Basin, Nathan Crouch admitted to shooting both elk, six- and five-point bulls. The La Grande Observer reported that as Dylan Crouch held a spotlight on the bulls, Nathan Crouch shot them. Black was in the vehicle. All three are from Elgin. Last winter Black and Dylan Crouch pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor wildlife violation and were sentenced to five days in jail, three months of probation and a loss of hunting privileges until mid-2020, the Observer reported. “The defendants in this case just left

Nathan William Crouch (inset), who poached and wasted these two bull elk in November 2016, was sentenced for the crimes in late 2017. (OSP)

these animals to rot,” Union County Senior Deputy District Attorney Christopher L. Storz said, according to My Columbia Basin. “They took nothing and, by the time they were found, no meat was salvageable. Cases like this one emphasize the need for felonies in the Oregon Game Code, something that currently just isn’t provided for under Oregon law.” According to state troopers, wildlife crimes of this nature are class A misdemeanors, which come with a maximum penalty of one year in jail and fines up to $6,250. Under Oregon law, poachers who kill a bull elk with six or more points on a side are on the hook for a $15,000 penalty,



e’re going way out of the Northwest for this issue’s JOTM, all the way to Florida, where three men were each charged with two counts of aggravated animal cruelty, a felony, last month for dragging a shark behind a boat. The “shocking disregard for Florida’s natural resources,” as state wildlife officials put it, first came to light through social media. And after a fourmonth investigation, Michael Wenzel, 25, Robert Lee Benac, 28, and Spencer Heintz, 23, were arrested and charged. WTF, guys?

payable to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. OSP Director Capt. Jeff Samuels thanked his trooper, as well as the public and the Union County District Attorney’s Office for assistance with the case. “Unfortunately, we see cases like this every year throughout the state, and many times there is little evidence available at the scene to identify the suspect(s),” added OSP Lt. Tim Schwartz in a press release. “In this specific case, the public’s involvement was paramount and is an excellent example of the community and law enforcement coming together to apprehend the individuals responsible,” he said.

Moose Illegally Killed Near Lake Wenatchee


ord that a moose was poached, had its head chopped off and was mostly wasted in Chelan County last fall enraged many on Facebook, and they shared the call for tips widely, helping game wardens searching for whomever illegally killed the locally rare big game animal. “We have had quite a bit of help from the public, which is what is going to get this case solved,” Washington fish and wildlife officer Blake Tucker said early last month. The animal was killed north of Lake Wenatchee. Its carcass was found about 50 yards off a logging road in the Meadow Creek area with only the head and a bit of meat taken. Anyone else with info on the case can contact WDFW’s regional office at (509) 662-0452 and ask for Officer Tucker. Whomever’s guilty faces as much as $9,000 in fines and penalties and up to a year in jail. | JANUARY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 41


By Andy Walgamott

One SW WA Poacher Punished, More Charged


he first punishments were handed down against the huge Southwest Washington poaching ring with November’s sentencing of a Morton man. Bryan C. Tretiak, 31, was fined $500 and required to do 14 days of community service by a Skamania County judge after pleading guilty to a charge of illegal hunting in the second degree related to shooting a bear over dogs in August 2015. It’s a relatively light price to pay but also a first offense for Tretiak, and others involved in the case are looking at very serious charges, including felonies. According to an article in the Centralia Chronicle, Tretiak had befriended the main

suspects in the case, members of Longview’s Dills family, eventually tagging along with them. Supposedly uncomfortable with the alleged poaching he saw, he claimed to have felt pressured into shooting the bear so he wouldn’t be shunned by the group. Meanwhile, three more suspects have been named. They are Woodland’s Aaron B. Hendricks, 35, and David. R McKleskey, 58, and Aaron Hansen, 38, of Kelso. According to the Chronicle, each were charged in Lewis County on a single count apiece of animal cruelty in the first degree, unlawful hunting with hounds, and illegal hunting in the second degree. All pleaded not guilty. Their involvement in the ring was

Jig’s Up For Squid Scoundrels


ust as with the large-scale Puget Sound sea cucumber stealing we reported here several months ago, squid probably aren’t considered to be in the top 20 Northwest fish and wildlife

species that are targets of poachers. But a case from Vashon Island shows they’re not immune either, stressing the resource. Alerted by law-abiding squid jiggers, undercover Washington game wardens

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discovered through the cellphones of Longview’s William J. Haynes, 23, and Kelso’s Erik C. Martin, 28, who were caught in Oregon allegedly spotlighting deer. A search warrant served on Hendricks’ house turned up a camcorder with “multiple videos” showing he, his son-in-law McLeskey and Hanson allegedly hunting bobcats with hounds in November 2015. Along with likely charges in Oregon, Haynes faces 64 counts in Skamania County, many of which could be felonies because of prior poaching history, while Martin faces 28 gross misdemeanors there. Joseph A. Dills and his father Eddy Dills, face 64 and 26 charges, respectively. descended on a dock at Tramp Harbor in late fall and found six people in possession of 200 pounds of squid on top of their daily limit of 10 pounds each. “Three of them also failed to submit their catch for inspection,” officers reported online. That trio had apparently stashed their excess calamari in pickup beds and ditches.

Grinches Get Coal, Jail


t wasn’t the best of falls for those enforcing Washington’s wildlife laws, what with public outcry over the euthanization of too-friendly fawns and an elk calf at an animal rescue in Chums and an illegal gillnet Rochester and the seizure of a West seized from poachers on a creek Seattle family’s longtime pet raccoon. between Olympia and Shelton. But as last month’s holidays (WDFW) approached, officers got in the spirit with a report on an illegal netting bust set to, roughly, The Night Before Christmas. To wit: “T’was a typical day for Officer Jewett on patrol, but his peek under the bridge wasn’t for trolls “Skookum Creek isn’t much of a creek, but it attracts its share of wrongdoing creeps “When he noticed a car parked alongside of the road, he sensed numerous violations of fishing codes “‘Not today!’ the officer thought, as he set out sneakily for the poachers to be caught “He watched the two robbers under Kamilche Lane; For unlawful netting, these two were to blame “After seeing plenty they were put into cuffs, t’was the least of their problems – they had other bad stuff “With felony warrants for their arrest, accommodations in jail seemed for the best.” Other cases of illegal netting last fall occurred on the Stillaguamish and Wishkah Rivers and in a salmon sanctuary in the eastern Columbia Gorge.

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Northwest Sportsman 43


By Andy Walgamott

Wardens Investigate 3 Wolf Deaths


t least three wolves were illegally killed in November, angering state wildlife managers and wolf advocates. Two of the animals died in Northeast Washington, and both had worn tracking collars. When one device quit working early in the month, investigators went to the scene southwest of Republic and found a dead wolf. The female wolf had been part of the Profanity Peak Pack in 2016 but wasn’t associated with it in late 2017, according to state officials. The other wolf, a breeding female with the Dirty Shirt Pack, was found in midNovember by hunters southeast of Colville. A reward of up to $20,000 was being offered by Conservation Northwest and two out-of-state environmental groups for info on the cases. To the south in Oregon, state troopers reported another collared wolf, OR23, was

shot in Wallowa County’s Chesnimnus Wildlife Management Unit in midNovember. As it followed on several other cases in Southern Oregon, it drew a strong statement from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We are upset and frustrated by the unlawful wolf killings in Oregon,” said Doug Cottam, the agency’s Wildlife Division Administrator, in a press release. “Poaching of any wildlife is wrong and harmful to their conservation. Please, if you know something about any of these cases, step forward and provide information to OSP, which can be done anonymously.” Those with info on the Washington kills were being asked to call WDFW Enforcement at (877) 933-9847. On the Oregon case, contact Sgt. Chris Hawkins (541) 963-7175 ext. 4670, or use the Turn In Poachers hotline, (800) 452-7888, which can be done anonymously.

Tips Needed In Baker Co. Mule Deer Case


hat the hell kind of sick degenerate(s) would poach three deer just to drive over two of them and scalp the third of its antlers, leaving all three animals to waste? Who knows, but Oregon state police wildlife troopers would like to have a chat with them about the egregious late-November incident. The three mule deer – two does and a buck – were found on private ground along Hunt Mountain Lane west of Baker City, and it’s believed they were killed the night of Friday, Nov. 24. A reward is on offer from the Oregon Hunters Association via the Turn-InPoachers program. Call Sergeant Cyr at (541) 523-5867 ext. 4170, or use the TIP hotline (800-452-7888) to report the bastard(s).

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Friday Harbor Salmon Classic February 9th-10th, 2018 A NOT-FOR-PROFIT EVENT

More info and entry form available at: 44 Northwest Sportsman

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46 Northwest Sportsman

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By Andy Walgamott

Fish Declines Alter Idaho Derbies


he 2017 fall fishing derby season in the Inland Northwest was anything but usual due to target species’ declines. One event broke tradition by only allowing participants to weigh a single large rainbow over the course of its five days, while those competing in a weeklong steelhead derby were limited to fish less than 28 inches. Let’s take them one at a time. Reacting to apparent lower numbers of large rainbows in the Panhandle freshwater sea over recent decades, the Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club changed the rules for their Annual Fall K&K Thanksgiving Derby so that anglers could only weigh one 31-plus-incher. “It was a total success,” reported organizer Clint Nicholson. “There were less rainbows weighed in than past derbies, and we heard of many large teenage (12-

to 18-pound) rainbows being released. We as a club are determined to do whatever we can to help protect and enhance the rainbow and kokanee populations.” John Cosolito ended up bringing in the biggest ’bow, a 21.36-pounder that was 34 inches long, while Michael Baumann put an 18.64-pound, 33-incher on the scales, scoring them $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. The biggest overall fish was Jim Brewer’s 25.22-pound, 38.5-inch Mackinaw, good for $1,000. Justin Gaffaney and Donny Houk took first in the two youth divisions with 11.94 and 21.64-pound rainbows and lakers. Meanwhile, 160 miles to the south, organizers of the Rogers Dodge Steelhead Derby were able to pull off their event after state fishery managers in October reopened the Snake and Clearwater Rivers to retention, with the caveat that every

Jim Brewer’s 25.22-pound, 38.5-inch Mackinaw was the largest fish weighed at the Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club’s Annual Fall K&K Thanksgiving Derby. (LPOIC) steelie over 28 inches had to be returned to the water, even if it was a hatchery fish, to protect a very weak return of B-runs. So instead of big prizes for big fish, daily awards went to those who caught the smallest ones and those closest to randomly drawn weights less than 9 pounds. Overall winner for smallest steelie was Justin Erwin, who scored $500 off his 4.11-pounder, and John Williams won $700 for his 4.58-pound mystery fish.

2018 Northwest Salmon Series Schedule Out


orthwest Salmon Derby Series organizers have added one of Eastern Washington’s biggest events to the 2018 lineup. Early August’s Brewster Salmon Derby is among the 15 derbies scheduled this year, entry into any of which puts you in the running to win a fully loaded King Fisher 2025 Falcon, Honda 150- and 9.9-horse four-stroke motors, EZ-Loader galvanized trailer, Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics and a Dual Electronics Stereo, a package valued at $65,000. As Gary March of Worley, Idaho, will attest, all it takes is one ticket to win the grand prize. He fished July’s The Big One Salmon Derby on Lake Coeur d’Alene and scored 2017’s boat, a Hewescraft. This year’s boat winner is scheduled to be drawn at either September’s coho or November’s blackmouth derby, both out of Everett, depending on how 2018 salmon seasons shape up. Here’s this year’s Northwest Salmon Derby Series lineup:


Jan. 5-7: Resurrection (Anacortes) Salmon Derby Jan. 18-20: Roche Harbor Salmon Classic Feb. 8-10: Friday Harbor Salmon Classic March 9-11: Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 17-18: Everett Blackmouth Derby July 13-15: Bellingham Salmon Derby July 25-29: The Big One (Lake Couer d’Alene) Salmon Derby Aug. 3-5: Brewster Salmon Derby

Northwest Salmon Derby Series 2017 grand prize winner Gary March (left) receives the keys to his 22-foot OceanPro Hewescraft from Dave Hewes, president of the Colville, Washington-based aluminum boatbuilding company. (NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES)       

Aug. 4: South King County PSA Salmon Derby Aug. 11: Gig Harbor PSA Salmon Derby Aug. 18-19: Vancouver (BC) Chinook Classic Sept. 8: Edmonds Coho Derby Sept. 8: Columbia River Fall Salmon Derby Sept. 22-23: Everett Coho Derby Nov. 3-4: Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Salmon Derby For more info, see | JANUARY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 47

Ice Fishing Derby On Tap Bend Fly Shop Holds :KLWHÀVK&RQWHVW


ost Northwest fishing derbies focus on salmon, steelhead and trout, but another, often overlooked member of that family of fishes got some love too this past fall. The first annual Whitefish Fishing Derby was held on the Crooked, Deschutes and other Central Oregon rivers and lakes. Put on by Fly and Field Outfitters in Bend, participants used rulers and their phones to enter their five longest whitefish for awards and fame. The Bend Bulletin reported that more than three dozen anglers competed in three categories – guide, open and most fish. Jay Boucher won the pro division with his five lengthiest whitefish totaling 81¼ inches and Adrian Zamarippa took first in the open with 77 inches, while Dylan Brandt caught the most, 43. The derby, which was the idea of guide Kyle Schenk, provided a chance to highlight the importance of the species, sometimes poo-pooed by anglers because they’re not the region’s primary target, redside rainbows. “If you’re catching a lot of whitefish, that’s a really good sign for the fishery altogether,” Zamarippa told reporter Mark Morical, “and it’s a really good sign of a healthy river and healthy water.”


ardwater anglers will be heading for the Okanogan Highlands this month in hopes of winning the 14th Annual NW Ice Fishing Festival. A derby as much as a social gathering in the old mining town of Molson, this year’s event is Saturday, Jan. 13, from 8 a.m. till 3 p.m. Fishing occurs on Sidley Lake, with prizes for biggest fish and more, Pete Valentine of Oroville, Washington, while an arts and crafts shows off his winning 5½-pounder from show and meals are served last year’s NW Ice Fishing Festival. at the Molson Grange Hall. (ROBIN STICE, EDEN VALLEY GUEST RANCH) Tickets are $25 and the event is put on by the Oroville Chamber of Commerce, sponsored by the Molson Grange, and with assistance from the nearby Eden Valley Guest Ranch. For more, see, facebook .com/NWIceFishingFestival and

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New Oregon, Idaho fishing licenses required; opening day of Washington late cougar season and blackmouth fishing in Marine Area 7 First of three brant goose hunting days in Clallam and Whatcom Counties (others: 10, 13) and up to eight in Skagit County (others: 7, 10, 13, 14, 17, 20 if aerial count is more than 6,000 birds, but only 6, 10 and 13 if between 3,000 and 6,000, and none below 3,000) Deadline to file Washington big game report for incentive permit eligibility Last day for Washington partridge, quail, pheasant hunting Blackmouth fishing opener in Marine Area 9; Harney, Klamath, Lake and Malheur Zones late white and white-fronted goose opener Last day to hunt ducks in Oregon Zone 2 Last day to hunt ducks, geese in Idaho Area 1 Last day to hunt ducks in Oregon Zone 1, and ducks in all of Washington Deadline to file mandatory hunter reports in Washington, Oregon; Last day for upland bird hunting in Oregon, Idaho; Last day to fish for trout, salmon and/or steelhead on many Western Washington river systems



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While 2017 didn’t leave us with many new state record fish, and none once again in Oregon, Washington’s and Idaho’s books still bear the eraser smudges as fish and wildlife officials had to hastily update high marks for blue shark, Pacific sanddab and tiger trout after they changed hands in quick succession – three times on the same day for that last one! All said and done, here are last year’s four new state record fish: Date 6-10 7-1 9-23 9-24

Species Tiger trout Pacific sanddab Opah Blue shark

Pds.(-oz.) 2.65 1.22 37.98 49.5

Water Deer Cr. Res. (ID) Jeff Head (WA) Westport (WA) Westport (WA)

Angler Richard Miller Bob Everitt Mike Benoit Erik Holcomb

The Port of Garibaldi encompasses three coastal towns, including Bay City, Garibaldi and Rockaway Beach. Besides housing RV parks and lodging, restaurants, seafood processing, a lumber mill, and commercial and charter fishing, the Port’s harbor has moorage for 277 vessels. The Port’s property also features the Lion’s Club Lumbermen’s Park and an antique train display. A walking path is also a popular draw for locals as well as visitors to Garibaldi.

Follow us for updates! | 503-322-3292 | JANUARY 2018

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The Seattle Boat Show is among the many sportsmen’s and boat shows occurring around the Northwest in January and over the next three months. (SEATTLE BOAT SHOW) 2018 NORTHWEST BOAT & SPORTSMEN’S SHOWS Jan. 5-7

Great Rockies Sport Show, Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds, Helena, Mont.; Jan. 10-14 Portland Boat Show, Expo Center, Portland; Jan. 17-21 Vancouver International Boat Show, BC Place, Granville Island; Jan. 19-21 Great Rockies Sport Show, MetraPark ExpoCenter, Billings; Jan. 19-21 Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show, TRAC Center, Pasco; Jan. 24-28 Washington Sportsmen’s Show & Sport Fishing Boat Show, Puyallup Fair & Events Center; Jan. 26-Feb. 3 Seattle Boat Show, CenturyLink Field Event Center and South Lake Union, Bell Harbor, Seattle; Feb. 2-4 KEZI Eugene Boat & Sportsmen’s Show, Lane County Convention Center, Eugene; Feb. 7-11 Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show & Sport Fishing Boat Show, Expo Center, Portland; Feb. 16-18 Central Washington Sportsmen Show, SunDome, Yakima; Feb. 16-18 Servpro Douglas County Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show, Douglas County Fairgrounds, Roseburg, Ore.; Feb. 23-25 Great Rockies Sport Show, Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, Bozeman, Mont.; Feb. 23-25 KDRV Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show, Jackson County Expo, Medford; Feb. 23-25 The Wenatchee Valley Sportsmen Show, Town Toyota Center, Wenatchee; Feb. 24-25 Saltwater Sportsmen’s Show, Oregon State Fairgrounds, Salem; March 1-4 Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show, Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, Redmond, Ore.; March 1-4 Idaho Sportsman Show, Expo Idaho, Boise; March 2-4 BC Boat & Sportsmen’s Show, TRADEX, Abbotsford, British Columbia; March 9-10 Northwest Fly Tyer & Fly Fishing Expo, Linn County Expo Center, Albany, Ore.; March 15-18 Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show, Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds, Spokane; March 16-18 Great Rockies Sport Show, Adams Center, Missoula, Mont.; April 19-22 Mid-Columbia Boat Show, Columbia Point Park & Marina, Richland, Wash.; April 20-22 The Monroe Sportsman Show, Evergreen State Fairgrounds, Monroe, Wash.; | JANUARY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 55

COLUMN Author Hugh Harris uses his kayak to fish for steelhead on North Coast rivers, mainly by bobber dogging from his watercraft. (MARK VEARY)

Zeal For Steel, Kayak Fishing Style Editor’s note: The Kayak Guys are experimenting with the concept of giving a voice to all those as-yet-unpublished Northwest kayak fishing leaders. Our foray is meant to share a wider view of opportunities and venues than can be explored by just Mark Veary in Portland and Scott Brenneman in Seattle.


he rush of paddling through moving water, the quiet remoteness of a river, and the allure of a steelhead THE KAYAK GUYS phantom By Hugh By Hug ughh Harr H Harris arriis is bite are among the

most intimate experiences one can have with nature in the Northwest. Not a sport of instant gratification, to fish for winter steelhead from a kayak requires an incessant thirst for knowledge of a river and its run of this coveted anadromous species. Navigating a series of fast rapids, I quickly swing my Ocean Kayak across the current and settle into a soft patch of water just out of reach of a pebbled bank. Drift boaters fish the long, lonely stretch of river below. I gauge the current and depth by making a few initial casts and let the bobber catch a natural drift for as long as possible. After a minor adjustment, I cast across the river and push off into the current.

Drifting with the bow of the kayak angled slightly upriver facilitates the mending of line while allowing me to also monitor my approach to the next rapids. As I hold a fixed focus on my bobber entering the head of the rapids above me, it suddenly shoots upstream and disappears. Lifting hard, I feel a heavy, erratic pulse on the other end. The rod buckles and line begins stripping from the reel. There’s a visceral thrill of emotions. It’s difficult to predict the potential fight steelhead will dictate, so I take in my position on the river while assessing the size and temperament of the fish. Leveraging the paddle against my | JANUARY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 57

COLUMN Several Tillamook County streams are productive for kayak-born steelheaders, according to Harris, including the Nehalem, Wilson, Trask and Nestucca. (MARK VEARY)

body I deploy several one-arm strokes toward an eddy across the river. The rod is now exploding with violent action. There’s a brief moment to catch my breath and play her calm, but the line soon zips past me and we’re back in the current for a wild ride downriver. In the chaos of the fight, I’m alternating between reeling and paddling to position myself in slower water. Drifting with the fish and weathering her storm, I play her gently till a bright white belly shows and I can quickly slip the net under her. I paddle for respite while admiring the beautiful hatchery hen in my lap, and my personal-best steelhead from a kayak.

THE SPORT OF river kayaking assumes taking an occasional plunge. Prepare for it and be confident in your ability to reenter 58 Northwest Sportsman

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the kayak in fast water. Dress appropriately. A 4- to 5mm wetsuit may keep you alive, but a dry suit is more comfortable and less restrictive. As always, wear a PFD and have a sharp safety knife strapped to your life vest. Avoid tangles and loss by maintaining a clear deck, free of lines and gear, with everything strapped down. A lightweight paddle kayak with an upswept bow is nimble and optimal for improved maneuverability in rough water. Old Town, Wilderness Systems, Malibu, Native, Feel Free, Jackson and Ocean Kayak offer great sit-on-top models made for navigating steelhead rivers. Speaking of, Oregon’s North Coast has a number that are conducive to kayak fishing. These rivers include the Nehalem,

Wilson, Trask and Nestucca. The timing of their runs vary, and before adding one to your target list, familiarize yourself with the river, visiting it throughout the seasons and its varying water levels. Following several days of rain, monitor the stretch of river you plan to ride and time your trip accordingly. Local shuttle crews for these rivers are a reliable resource for transportation and may offer up-to-date reports on weather, river and fishing conditions.

STEELHEADING CAN REQUIRE a diverse arsenal of tactics and terminal gear, depending on water conditions and the bite for the day. My bobber dogging setup has been very effective from the kayak because the bobber acts as a buffer for error


The challenge of “angling’s greatest act of faith” – that a steelhead, or two, is just waiting to bite – is part of what keeps the author and all of us coming back to the water in winter. (HUGH HARRIS)

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while paddling to maintain boat control. Dialing in the weight and bobber stopper to match the current and depth ensures my gear will track within a foot of the river bottom. I prefer a 9-foot-6 or 10foot-6 rod to assist with mending line from a seated position. When the river is high and visibility is low, I focus on the pockets of slower water near the edges, and I may add weight to slow down the drift. On coastal rivers, I’ve done well bobber dogging bait, beads, worms, Corkies and yarnies. I usually start with 3 feet of 12-pound fluorocarbon terminating in a size 1 Gamakatsu octopus hook with a yarn ball, which I may tip with bait or run solo. Tied to the bend of this hook is a 2-foot dropper to a bead pegged several inches above a size 2 VMC Offset hook. To keep your gear fishing longer, tie all of your leaders and rigs ahead of time. Progress in any field depends on our ability to synthesize experiences. Fishing on the shoulders of the giants in this sport and industry, we are supported by a community of fishermen and biologists who promote the education and sustainability of our rivers’ fisheries. Endless river miles, thousands of casts and sometimes years without a bite beg a steadfast determination that keeps me returning to exercise angling’s greatest act of faith. A fish is a bonus, but to walk away safely after a day of fishing and kayaking a river at your best is simply an invaluable memory that remains with you for a lifetime. NS





Bobber Doggin’, Kayak Style NOTES Whether you’re rolling with the current down a winter steelhead river in a drift boat, jet sled, cataraft or, Hugh Harris’s favorite, a kayak, a great way to fish for your quarry is with a bobber doggin’ rig. Harris, who is this issue’s Kayak Guy, reports that he’s “done well” with this set-up. It is fished not unlike you would side-drift for steelies, except with a specialized float and with two hooks that are spaced much further apart. The trailer is baited, per se, with a pegged bead, while options for the top hook include a bead, plastic worm, Corky, yarnie, or eggs or other baits. Cast out at a 45-degree angle upstream, make sure the float hits the bobber stop and stays pointed downstream, and cover some water. –NWS

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Even when river conditions look higher than ideal, steelheading can actually be pretty good, according to Buzz Ramsey and his fishing diaries. Here he holds a high-water winter-run caught on the Wilson several seasons ago. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Finding High Water Steelhead


his is the time of year when steelhead anglers stampede to their favorite stream the instant BUZZ rivers drop and RAMSEY clear from heavy rainfall and the resulting rise in river levels each winter storm provides. The reason is simple: Anglers correctly understand that every increase in flows will draw fresh steelhead upstream, offering them their best chance at success. I’ve been keeping diaries of my fishing trips for years, and although these doc-

uments confirm chasing the right river conditions can pay big dividends, they also reveal some fantastic fishing when water conditions are less than good. Competition from other anglers, with whom you must share this public resource, is what can sometimes diminish your chance of success when river conditions are ideal. If you seek a less-crowded river that may be just as productive, try fishing when water levels are crummy. And while this can mean fishing when flows are too high or too low, what this article focuses on is how you might find success when your favorite river is running high and off color.

I CAN’T COUNT the times I’ve enjoyed excellent success when the water was too high and off color for most anglers to consider fishing. And while most steelhead anglers are waiting for ideal conditions, a strategy that might work for you is to start fishing ahead of the masses. To be clear, we are not talking about targeting steelhead when rivers are flooding, chocolate brown in color, or flowing through city streets. Rather, trying our luck when rivers are on the drop but a day or two in advance of what many anglers are waiting for – perfect height and clarity. Finding success when rivers are 6 to 12 inches higher than normal and a bit on | JANUARY 2018

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COLUMN the brown side of clear may require you to think differently about what to use and where you are likely to find steelhead. This could mean adding a little more weight when casting into the places you normally fish, or looking for steelhead in the kind of water they frequent when water levels are higher than what’s considered ideal. First, realize that most (perhaps all, depending on water height) of your favorite spots may not produce. You see, when water levels are up, river velocities increase and drive steelhead to the current edges, back farther into tail-outs, or in wide drifts where the water is slower moving than places where the river channel is narrow. In addition, you may find steelhead holding where small creeks enter the main river. A nightcrawler, egg cluster or pink worm suspended under a float can sometimes produce surprising results at creek mouths when the main river is high and off color.

THERE ARE SEVERAL different angling techniques that produce when river levels

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With competition for steelhead shifting to fewer and fewer rivers, one way to avoid crowds is to fish when most won’t, in higher water, but you’ll also need to adjust where you target winter-runs in these flows. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

COLUMN are above normal. One is drift fishing, but with some notable differences in rigging. First, your offering should be big enough for the fish to easily see, since a small egg imitation may not get noticed. What I use when the water has a brown tinge is a large or two smaller (one stacked on top of the other) Lil’ Corky single-egg imitations or a size 6 Spin-N-Glo, sometimes in combination with an egg cluster. When rigging, you will want to step up a hook size or two from the size you might normally use, one that won’t let your larger-than-normal drift bobber – in this case, a Corky – shadow your hook. What might work for you is a size 3/0 Owner single hook (what I use) when fishing larger size Corky or Spin-N-Glo drift bobbers for high-water steelhead. High water flows will require you to use more weight than ever before. Some anglers use giant slinky sinkers to get down when tackling high water. However, I go directly to ¼-inch-diameter pencil weight, as there is just no other weight

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With dirty, fast water, up the size of your terminal gear and rod and reel so that A) steelhead see your offerings and B) when the battle’s on, you have a better chance of turning the fish in the current. The author’s brother John Ramsey prepares to land a wild steelhead on the Trask. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

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style that will get you down as quickly or transmit the bottom-tapping signal better than this. The right amount of weight will vary depending on where you’re fishing. Don’t be bashful; use enough to get down and cause your outfit to drift slower than the main current. Break off several steelhead that race downriver faster than a spooked bank robber fleeing law enforcement and you’ll understand why using a different outfit (rod, reel and line) than normal might be important. For example, my favorite high-water outfit for drift fishing includes a 9-foot heavy- or extra-heavy-action steelhead rod combined with a 5500- or 6500-size baitcaster filled with 15- to 20-pound-test monofilament line (a tough, abrasion-resistant monofilament like Big Game or equivalent is what you might consider) or 30- to 40-pound-test braid. Of course, I would not encourage you to invest in a dedicated high-water outfit until you find success – for now, what you should consider is spooling up with heavier line than you might otherwise use.

DURING TIMES OF high water, steelhead will move close to shore and often be found holding along current edges. And although you may be able to catch fish from these locations by drift fishing, a more effective approach might be to suspend your drift outfit under a float. There are two methods worth trying here. One is to suspend your bait near bottom, which works especially well where the water is slow moving. Or, in areas where there is decent flow, rig your bobber stop such that your weight will bounce bottom with your outfit positioned several feet deeper than the water depth. What this presentation does is slow down your drift and converts your float into more of a strike indicator – boat anglers call this method bobber dogging. What I and many avid anglers do is carry two rods, one rigged for drift fishing and a second rigged for float/bobber fishing. What works during high water is a bobber capable of floating/suspending 1 to 2 ounces of weight. NS Editor’s note: The author is a brand manager and part of the management team at Yakima Bait. Like Buzz on Facebook.

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In Search Of 20s H

ave the days of the 20-pound steelhead passed us by? Some may think so; others may think they never WIESTSIDER really existed. In By Terry Wiest reality, the legend as well as the existence of 20-pound winterruns are still alive and well. Although we may not see visual proof of these great fish like we used to, this is a good thing. The days of 20-pound slabs hoisted above an angler’s head with their eyes glazed over, well, hopefully those days are gone! But with the advent of digital photography, we still can get a glimpse of these incredible beasts right before an angler lets them go to produce another generation. This, of course, is assuming that anything over 20 pounds is going to be a “wild” fish (or at least have an intact adipose fin). It’s not always the case, as for some strange phenomena, at least in the Cowlitz, highteen and low-20-pound hatchery fish are being produced each year. I’m not sure what’s in that river system that’s making them grow like no others, but starting about five years ago, it’s put out some mammoth hatchery fish suitable for the brag boards. Indeed, there are still several rivers in Washington that produce 20-pound fish each year. Along with the Cowlitz, the Wynoochee and Satsop have been producing some large hatchery fish. Out along the coast the hatchery fish don’t seem to be expanding in size, but if you want a chance at a true brute of a wild fish, then Forks is where it’s at. The Hoh and Queets offer some monsters each year, as do rivers of the Quillayute system – the Sol Duc, Bogy and Calawah. While most anglers will head towards numbers of fish, those who are looking for primarily larger fish will also venture to the upper Quinault, Clearwater or the Humptulips later in the runs. Maybe the best chance at a large fish

Some anglers fish just for big steelhead, while others like the author see the occasional monster as a bonus. (FIRSTLIGHTGUIDESERVICE.COM) | JANUARY 2018

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COLUMN comes from the main Quinault, as the best hatchery in the state not only pumps out huge numbers but also huge fish. While you will need a tribal guide to fish this incredible stretch of water, for those seeking a 20-pounder, the odds of hooking such a fish in this river are higher than elsewhere and well worth the price of admission.

THERE ARE FEWER and fewer opportunities

to fish bait each year for steelhead, but if the regs allow you to, just do it! Drift fishing has been a staple of the sport since day one and still continues to produce fish each and every year. Sweeten the pot a little when curing those eggs by adding sugar or honey. This big fish love the sweet stuff. Even with ready-made cures, like Pautzke BorX O’ Fire, add some sugar to the mix. I’m also a fond believer in anise for big fish. Add a drop or two of pure anise oil to your mixture as well.

Eggs aren’t the only bait in town. Live sandshrimp are a tasty alternative, if you can get some active ones. Use those wiggly buggers whole! When a monster steelhead sees a whole live sandshrimp drop into a hole or come floating down through a slot, they find it hard to resist. With shrimp that aren’t as active, I’ll use just the tail, either in combination with eggs or even the tail on jig under a float. There’s a well-known saying that goes

SKAGIT-SAUK STEELHEAD UPDATE Steelheaders are a step closer to once again tossing spoons, jigs and more into a pair of famed North Sound rivers during prime time for their brawny wild winter-runs, but there’s still thick brambles and slick cobbles to wade past first. Last month, federal overseers put a proposed Skagit-Sauk winter-spring fishery out for comment. But even if OKed, the rub will be whether state funding is found to monitor fishing over Puget Sound’s strongest, yet still ESA-listed stock.

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The rivers are otherwise scheduled to again close at the end of January; they haven’t been open in March and April since 2009. If the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is issued a federal permit, it would be required to track angler effort and catches. The agency’s Wild Futures fee-increase bid would have paid for that, but it was scrapped due to pushback from sportsmen and legislators. So now, with other projects competing

for the same scarce dollars, WDFW managers are struggling to rationalize spending, let alone come up with the estimated $110,000 to do creel sampling. Best case scenario is that the National Marine Fisheries Service green-lights fishing, the state does locate money to sample anglers, and the tribes get their share of fish. Worst case scenario is that it’s approved, the state doesn’t find the money, the tribes get their share of fish, and anglers are stuck on the bank. –NWS | JANUARY 2018

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“big bait, big fish.” Now consider “small bait, all fish.” If you “only” want to target big fish, stay with those big baits. But if you’re like me – I just want to catch fish – a big fish is a bonus, so I use small or normalsized steelhead baits. I’ve heard over and over how jigs don’t produce big steelhead because they are too small. Hogwash. Ask any reputable guide – jigs will produce not only many steelhead, but large ones as well.

A LURE DESIGNED just for big fish is the pink worm – but not just in pink. Take a 6-incher and drift it through some nasty water and it has big fish written all over it. You’ll find that many anglers who target big fish swear by the worm. While I said it was “designed” for big fish, I’ve caught steelhead of all sizes using them. They are über-effective, again especially in rough water. Another lure that seems to be a favorite of anglers seeking big fish is the spoon. There’s just something about a piece of metal thrown into the river that seems to attract these overgrown metalheads – magnetism, perhaps. Well, maybe not, but spoons do take big fish, specifically those from BC Steel. Those of you who are plug fishermen, rejoice – plugs attract steelhead! But you already knew that. Big fish, little fish, one fish, two fish, a finely tuned plug will simply put fish in the boat, and if you happen to put that lure through a big fish’s territory, it will annihilate it. As for the type of water to seek out for big fish, it’s the gnarly looking stuff that you can see everyone who’s attempted fishing there gets snagged. The undercut that’s almost impossible to get to. The nice little shelf that’s on the opposite side of a fallen tree. Yep, those places that look oh so good but oh so impossible to fish – that’s where the 20-pounders swim. I don’t try and limit myself to fishing for only big ones. I just like to fish. I do, however, know that there are still opportunities for big fish out there, and I’m going to have fun no matter what. NS Editor’s note: Terry J. Wiest is the author of Steelhead University: Your Guide to Salmon & Steelhead Success and Float-Fishing for Salmon & Steelhead, and is the owner of Steelhead University,

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Romancing Steelhead Chasing winter-runs is more than a hobby for Sara. By Sara Ichtertz

“In love and in steelhead fishing, what you are willing to put in ultimately produces what you get back,” writes author Sara Ichtertz, here with a wild winter-run. (SARA ICHTERTZ)


he adventures that I embark upon this time of year resonate deeply within my soul, and most likely yours as well. I crave the crisp cold of the new and am willing to battle every element that comes my way without ever wavering in devotion. One might question one’s sanity in the beginning, though giving up is never an option. This adventure is oh so unknown; it consumes one’s mind in such a way that we are willing to throw away what appears to be almost everything just to see what might happen. You lose all ability to even attempt to think clearly. Things flash in and out of your mind all day, causing you to smile hugely in an unexplainable way. That intense feeling of butterflies in your stomach as you close your eyes … Reliving past heart-pounding, life-changing encounters of perfection … Eagerly dreaming of the next time you will feel their embrace, if only for a moment … Holding them with all of your heart … Knowing without a doubt the endeavors that led up to that briefest moment of happiness were worth it. What am I talking about? Love? Steelhead? Maybe both?

I FIND THERE are very few things in life that can compare to the acts that cause these wildest of emotions. We are not meant to feel this way about too many things in life simply to allow us to appreciate them more, to realize just how special these moments are, to let the joy of it all move through us, leaving us to wonder, Could this passion possibly be stronger than the river itself? The reality is, probably not! But at times it feels as if it could. Discovering where you belong,

knowing what it means to be truly happy – by giving your heart to something far greater than you, you are living! For me, there are only two things that make me feel so out of control, so crazy, and yet so very devoted and driven at the same time. Those two things are falling in love, and chasing steelhead. Both falling in love and chasing the most majestic fish of all stand alone. They’re the ones that shimmer like diamonds through that winter-green water. The ones that test your mental and physical abilities. Placing your being in what feels so very foreign in the beginning and yet before you know it, somehow it feels like the home we never want to leave – it’s deep! It can sometimes be brutal! It’s love! Pursuing the winter fish is a

very romantic act, and the similarities between what chasing them feels like and loving and being loved are pretty incredible to me. Dads warn their little girls, “That boy is trouble!” and yet even with their father’s wisdom, they chase him anyway. “The fish of a 1,000 casts!” they say. One would think that that sentence in itself should be mildly discouraging. But does that stop so very many of us from heading into winter elements that in most people’s eyes are semicrazy to be out in? No! These fish to us are those naïve young girls’ bad boys! No matter the heartache, no matter how often we walk away from the banks asking Why?, no steelheader will ever hesitate when someone asks, Well, are they are worth it? Yes, they | JANUARY 2018

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FISHING are! That heart-wrenching passion is worth it. Never will you ďŹ nd such ďŹ re in the cold of winter than in the beauty of nature where the river roars. Bouncing so perfectly along the bottom of a winter river on the drop, having that incredible moment where you feel the bite and set the hook – that ďŹ rst headshake of life, followed by that ash, that shimmer! It can mean only one thing: There she is! That’s real! She instantly erupts out of the river, allowing you to see her beauty and feel her power before she goes ripping downriver, seeing if you will even be able to attempt to chase her. That’s love! And that is winter ďŹ shing in the Northwest!

IN LOVE AND in steelhead ďŹ shing, what you are willing to put in ultimately produces what you get back. There are those who just never can get it quite right, despite trying. (Though as a ďŹ sher, I honestly believe they have

“The similarities between what chasing (steelhead) feels like and loving and being loved,� writes Sara, here with husband LeRoy, “are pretty incredible to me.� (SARA ICHTERTZ)

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FISHING not tried quite hard enough, if that’s the case. They may have themselves convinced of such things, but I’m not biting! The creature we are hunting this time of year is indeed fierce enough that if you put in some time and devotion, you will be rewarded by that magical winter fish and all that comes with them.) There are those who are mediocre, finding ways to stay afloat. They find comfort in what they know and are content, with no true desire to grow, and yet they do know happiness, and they do land fish. There are some who truly do well, believing passion has no limits. The pursuit of it all comes quite naturally to them. Inspiring others as they continue to learn and to grow. Realizing how incredible it feels stepping away from their comfort zone and embracing the new growth. Achieving great levels of success and happiness in unchartered waters.

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“Never will you find such fire in the cold of winter than in the beauty of nature where the river roars.” (SARA ICHTERTZ)

Staying completely devoted and thankful for what they have, though the desire to stop growing never crosses their mind. And then there are those whose time and devotion has created such a passion, one so strong and true, that it’s hard to describe in words. It’s not what they say to you, necessarily, that

can very well change your life, but rather the way they make you feel. They’re someone who chooses to truly embrace their life, to find a way to make it all look easy when it is not, because they are living and learning in their element – in the moment, in the adventure, with true love and respect for all the angles that allow


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them to love the life they live. They’re the kind of person who allows you to see so clearly that devotion and time do matter, that one should never give up. Their lives are like sacred artifacts that inspire only those who desire to be inspired, those who desire to grow see them for exactly the gift that they are. Moved by such inspiration, you are able to better yourself simply by knowing their actions.

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THERE ARE GREAT depths to the sport of chasing steelhead in the cold of winter, just as there is great depth in choosing to allow yourself to love and be loved. “The one that got away!” The one you had dreamed of. Somehow you even hooked her. Thinking you are in control for a brief moment, you feel amazing, thinking she’s mine, all mine. But her plans are somewhat different, and she shows you what she’s made truly made of! Leaping out of the river over and over, you try to hold on with everything that you have, and still she’s gone, and you’re left with a lifeless line and the heartache of it all. Even though she ended up not being “the one,” you know you will never forget her. And even though the outcome wasn’t what you hoped, you know it was all worth it. For the love of the tug will never let you let you down, even when it breaks your heart. The river never wavers; it is constant, it is strong, it is worth it! I’ve known no other love that allows me to love it so deeply and yet asks nothing of me. It’s a different kind of love. There are no complications of being human when it comes to the river. What it is you seek, what it is you desire, and ultimately what you get back are entirely up to you. Even though the river has never spoken a single word to me, she has taught me more about life than most. The romance of it all is never ending, and that is why my heart is on the river and I couldn’t change it, even if I tried. NS Editor’s note: For more on Sara’s adventures, see For The Love Of The Tug on Facebook. | JANUARY 2018

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The Care And Filleting Of Steelhead

The care you take between killing and cooking your steelhead influences how well it tastes on the plate. Author and chef Randy King suggests putting your catch in a bed of crushed ice instead of leaving it to get bruised by the 2-liter jug of frozen water bouncing around your cooler . (ANDY WALGAMOTT)


he big female darted and danced on my line, her rounded head poking above CHEF IN THE WILD the water into the By Randy King light North Idaho snowfall. She would roll at the sight of the boat and dive when the net came near. On the Clearwater you take what you can get in steelhead season, but soon she was rendered into possession, the guide happy, knowing his tip had just gone up. I was thrilled too. I had the winter fisherman’s dream in the boat. The roughly 8-pound steelhead would feed me several times over, providing a much-needed supplement to my red game meat-centric

diet. We quickly killed, gutted and bled the fish. I counted myself blessed and tossed my line back in the water. I needed another one for the freezer, and daylight was burning.

AS WITH ALL game meat, the kill is super important to the finished dish. Poor handling can literally ruin an eating experience. Below are some tips and tricks for handling steelhead (as well as salmon, trout, walleye, etc.) for the best flavor. Clean kill: As with all animals, a clean kill is the best method. Putting the fish on a stringer and letting it hang out in the water for hours, suffering all the while, is not ideal. Nor is tossing the fish onto shore and letting exposure kill it. I find

that a quick whack with a “forget me stick” (a nightstick-sized hunk of wood with a handle and specifically used to kill fish) on the noggin kills them. I then cut the gills to bleed them out. Like other animals, stress will affect flavor. Lactic acid buildup causes the fish’s flavor to turn sour. The quicker the kill, the better the flavor. Others I know will cut the tail at the base and shove a wire up the spinal cord. This is called ikejime. It will immediately cause the fish to turn slack and avoid rigor mortis. This can help a lot if you are freezing the fish. Fish that is frozen before rigor lose less moisture when thawed. If/ when the fish does enter rigor, do not “bend it back into shape.” You are basically just ripping apart the fish’s muscles – the | JANUARY 2018

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Steelhead with jalapeño, cranberry and cream cheese. (RANDY KING)



ot quite a salmon and not quite a trout, steelhead are the middle ground in the culinary salmonid world. Typically, they have less fat than a salmon, making them a little harder to cook. But almost universally they are bigger than a normal rainbow trout. When cooking these fish, I make sure I add fat back into the dish, often in the form of olive oil, butter or some type of soft dairy. The Fat 4 ounces cream cheese ½ cup rough chopped fresh cranberries 1 diced fresh jalapeño 1 sprig rosemary, stem removed and diced fine 1 clove of garlic, minced Salt and pepper In a small microwavable bowl add the cream cheese and heat 10 seconds at a time until the cream cheese is soft.

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When soft, add the cranberries, jalapeno, rosemary and garlic. Taste, then season with salt and pepper. The Fish 1 side of steelhead, cut into 5-ounce portions 1 tablespoon canola oil 1 tablespoon butter 1 sprig of rosemary Salt and fresh cracked pepper In a medium-sized sauté pan, add the canola oil and heat on medium for three to four minutes, or until the oil is just about to start smoking. Add the fish, skin side down, to the pan. (It is always a good idea to make sure your fish is very dry to the touch when doing this – otherwise, it is more likely to spatter oil everywhere. That oil can/will burn you.) Cook the fish on medium for about four minutes, or until it is dark brown on the skin

side. Flip the fish. At this point add the butter and the rosemary to the pan. Cook the fish for an additional three minutes. Remove the fish to a paper towel-lined plate. Let rest for one minute. Slice the fish in half, skin side up. Present the fish with a small scoop of the cream cheese mixture. Garnish with the fried rosemary and the butter/oil mix from the pan. The cream cheese mix will hold for up to a week in the fridge. A tasty alternative to the above recipe is to preheat an oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with nonstick spray. Place the whole fillet on the foil, skin side down, then spread the cream cheese mix on top of the fish. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish (you want a brown and bubbling top and meat that is about 145 degrees in the center). Serve whole. For more wild game and fish recipes, see –RK | JANUARY 2018

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COLUMN meat. The fish will naturally release itself back into its normal shape. Gut it quick: Do not dally with the gutting of fish. They have an active gut, and the longer the intestines are inside the fish, the more likely they are to sour. That said, steelhead do not eat when they are on the way upriver, so often the gut on these fish is nothing more than a slender white tube. Either way, gut them quick to avoid problems. Handle with care: When the fish is dead, gutted and you are back at the truck, the temptation arises to just toss the fish in the cooler and head home. At this point a little more care should be used. Ice is a must – and soft or crushed ice is better than block ice. You can avoid a lot of bruising (the flesh next to the skin turning gray/black when cooked) if you keep the fish from banging around into things. Some chefs even arrange the fish, in iced containers, to look like they are swimming for transport, all to avoid bruising. In reality the fish will eat better if it is

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not sledding around in a giant Yeti with a single 2-liter frozen soda bottle to keep it cold. Care for the fish and it will eat better. Bone in, bone out: Sometimes, soul searching is needed with food preparation. Case in point – filleting a steelhead. Ask yourself, can I do this without damaging the fish more than I should? Bone removal off the fillets is also a delicate task. Keeping the meat on the bone is not a bad idea, as the bones will give it a little more flavor. You will have to pick them out after cooking, but that’s not a bad trade if you want to avoid the catastrophe of bad knife skills. Don’t forget the scrape: After you fillet the fish, you will be left with a thin strip of meat along the spine, and most people stop at this point. But please don’t! After you fillet, about 10 percent of the usable meat is still attached to the fish. This meat is located on the spine, rib bones and behind the collar of the fish. A simple spoon and some scraping detaches the meat. Hold the fish by the tail and scrape forward with a spoon along the spine.

Quickly you will see a lot of meat pilling up. When you reach the head, scrape free the meat behind the gill plates. (Or remove the collar meat entirely for the grill – your call.) This meat, while not the most beautiful, is perfectly edible. Cook the “scrape” and add it to fish tacos, soups and salads. Stock up: And for extra points, take the bones off your fish and bake them in a 400-degree oven with one diced onion, one diced carrot, one sliced lemon, and one rib of celery. Cook them for about 30 minutes. Then remove them from the oven, add them to a stock pot, cover in water and simmer for an hour. When done, you’ll have the start of an awesome fish stock. Let the stock cool and then pour it into a separate container, leaving the last inch or so in the bottom. Otherwise your fumet (a fancy French term for fish stock) will be cloudy. (Toss the bones and veggies – you’ve gotten as much as you can from the fish at this point!) The stock will be great for clam chowder or any other fish-based soups. It will freeze very well too. NS

Winter Steelhead Season Preparedness The Pacific Northwest hatchery winter steelhead run is well under way and opportunity abounds! Rivers like the Skykomish, Bogachiel, Wynoochee, as well as the less-pressured smaller rivers are getting their fair share of fin-clipped harvestable fish back. If you are a hearty Gore-Tex- and wool-wearing steelheader who appreciates the punishment of braving a near-frozen river under the most adverse weather conditions of the year with the intent of getting that rare tug of a steelhead, then life is good.

Braving the elements paid off for Danny Cook of Wooldridge Boats with this slab steelhead!

However, a checklist of reminders for a successful day on the water this winter should be in order, of course, and it’s these items that will not only keep you comfortable but safe as well. First off, all boaters should have in possession all the required USCG-listed items like PFDs, horn, distress signals, throw device, first aid kit, etc. Even when fishing from the bank, it’s not a bad idea to carry a backpack with at least some of these items. In terms of a comfortable experience while in the boat, the following should be considered essentials: Good breathable full raingear with hood, rubber or neoprene waterproof boots, wool socks, ball cap (to keep rain out of the eyes), and wool or fleece gloves, and its always wise to keep a few Hot Hands hand-warming packs around. A really great idea is to keep a dry bag with a complete extra change of clothing for that added insurance in foul weather. You can never be too prepared when it comes to mixing fun with the winter elements, especially from a boat. Next time you plan a winter steelhead trip, take a few moments to ensure you’re not only comfortable but safe as well. If you can, take a fishing buddy with you. Two heads are always better than one when it comes to safety. This message brought to you by the anglers at Wooldridge Boats. Tight lines! | JANUARY 2018

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FISHING Not only is there big money to be had in the ice fishing world, but there are big fish too. Idaho’s Lake Cascade offers some of the largest perch to be caught in the entire United States each winter. (MIKE HOWE)

A ‘Hole’ Lotta Fun If ice fishing means shivering on a bucket to you, come in from the cold and meet the modern way it’s done in the Inland Northwest.

By Mike Howe


t’s 16 degrees below zero on this January Sunday on Montana’s Hebgen Lake, just outside of West Yellowstone, as the thick red line on my sonar comes charging up toward the thin green line that signifies my jig on the display. I instinctively begin to slow my jigging cadence at the same time as I begin to raise the bait, playing a game of keep away with this trout, one that I have repeated about 10 times so far this morning. The aggressive rainbow needs no such gamesmanship this time, and as red and green suddenly become one on the Vexilar FLX-28’s screen, the trout smashes the tungsten jig,

bending my rod nearly in half, while line begins to scream from my reel. I call to my partner Jason, “Fish! Fish!” and he drops his rod and runs over to my hole, arriving just in time to scoop the rainbow up onto the ice. We both grin, knowing this trout has filled out my limit of five, and it’s now time to head in. The difference this day, compared to other hardwater outings, was that the fish could well be the one that earns us the big check from the West Yellowstone Ice Fishing Tournament, sanctioned by the North American Ice Fishing Circuit. The NAIFC originated in the Midwest, deep in the heart of what the ice fishing industry calls “the ice belt,” and this

MAKING THE ICE NICER Western Tournaments Montana, Idaho: Idaho: Wyoming: Colorado: Southwest Montana: WYicefishing Derbies and other events Idaho: Washington: NWIceFishingFestival Guides and outfitters Montana: Idaho: Ice fishing forums | JANUARY 2018

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Author Mike Howe (right) says that with his Fish Trap shelter, his Vexilar sonar, modern-day electric auger and his snowmobile, he’s as mobile on an iced-over lake as he is when guiding Flathead Lake from a boat for Mackinaw. (MIKE HOWE)

is one of eight qualifying events for the national championship, and is the furthest west the circuit travels. This is my third time fishing in the sixyear history of the West Yellowstone event, with a second-place finish in 2013 and a DNF in 2016. I came here to win it this time, and the rainbow had made me very confident. When the smoke cleared at the awards ceremony later that afternoon, that confidence was

justified as my partner and I were handed first-place trophies, an invite to the national championship in Minnesota in December and a $10,000 check! You read that right – $10,000 for winning an ice fishing tournament. In Montana. Think ice fishing is just something people who don’t ski do to pass the time of winter? Think again.

MODERN ICE FISHING is mostly attributed

to an unassuming gentleman from St. Cloud, Minnesota, who by way of inventing a portable, one-person canvas shelter back in the early 1980s, made it possible for my win that day. Dave Genz, widely known as the “Godfather,” has been responsible for most of the ice fishing revolution that is still going full speed ahead almost 30 years later, and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. And honestly, neither is Genz, as he continues to


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FISHING design and improve everything from rods and reels to ice fishing-specific clothing to shelters and back to lures. He was responsible for taking a boat sonar, putting it in a homemade wooden box and powering it with a motorcycle battery, and figuring out how to level the transducer in a hole in the ice so he could watch his jig in real time. Probably the one piece of equipment that no modern-day ice fisherman, and certainly no tourney angler, will go without, the “flasher” style of fish finder makes all the difference when you are fishing a lake, one 8-inch hole at a time. While Genz didn’t invent flasherstyle sonar units, he made it viable to use one on the ice; his “Genz Box” made it possible to have a selfcontained, portable sonar system anywhere you go. Montana, Idaho and Colorado are the three westernmost states in the ice belt, although Wyoming, Utah, Eastern

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Ninety-nine-point-nine-nine percent of Northwest anglers associate Chinook fishing with saltwater or rivers, but they can also be caught through the ice – at least at reservoirs on the northern plains such as Fort Peck. (MIKE HOWE)

Oregon and Eastern Washington get some action. In my home state of Montana, every single lake in the state freezes each winter, with the exception of Flathead, where I make my living outfitting lake trout charters, when not guiding anglers on the ice, so it was easy to see why the modern

style of fishing trickled west. Although we were maybe 12 to 15 years behind the times, the days of just sitting on a bucket, hoping a fish swims by and sees your bait (wherever it is in the water column) are coming to a close.

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FISHING in Western Montana was a fishing tournament, the Perch Assault, which Chancy Jeschke and I started back in 2006. Only one or two teams (out of over 60) utilized sonars in those first few events, pretty much dominating them. Within two to three years, almost every team was using them – that’s how big a game changer on-ice sonar is. With over $5,000 up for grabs in most Perch Assaults, anglers began to step up their game and the “revolution” was off and running. Meanwhile, in Colorado, a couple of my fellow Clam Outdoors/Ice Team pro staffers named Bernie Keefe and Nate Zelinski were also discovering how modern-day gear was making their job easier in the higher elevation lakes they guided intrepid ice anglers on. Warm outerwear, power augers, portable shelters and sonar made the “run and gun” style easier and more productive. They have been preaching it ever since.

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In Idaho and Wyoming, as well as in Utah, Mack’s Lure pro staffer Mike Hall has been involved in the revolution as well, catching jumbo perch on Idaho’s Lake Cascade, and huge Mackinaw through the ice on Wyoming and Utah’s shared Flaming Gorge Reservoir. There are many other pioneers out there as well, and each year more and more Western anglers are being introduced or converting to the ideas flowing from the heart of the Midwest. In addition to the aforementioned companies, Marcum, Eskimo, H-T and many more continue to innovate and improve things. For example, lithium-powered augers that will drill through a total of 1,000 inches of ice in a single charge. Several now provide waterproof and windproof outerwear that will float you if you go through the ice. And Genz’s original shelter, The Fish Trap, has morphed into over 50 models sold by a dozen different companies.

Ice fishing isn’t for everyone, but when it’s the only game in town and the ice is safe, there’s no reason not to head out on the hard stuff. Max, then 2, tried his hand at Bonaparte Lake in North-central Washington’s Okanogan a couple winters ago. “He … loved the fact that this ice-fishing pole was just his size,” reported his aunt, Jamie Valenta. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

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Comfort, mobility and an easy move to find and stay on fish are the hallmarks of a modern-day ice angler. As Genz has said a thousand times, “If it’s easy, you’ll do it.” Also available, short graphite ice rods that fish like their 7-foot open-water counterparts, with as many models, lengths and actions as you’ll find in any popular Northwest rod builder’s catalog. There are jigs and spoons, plastic baits, and specifically formulated monofilament, fluorocarbon and braided lines. Tungsten lures are all the rage now; where at one time the smallest ice jig, maybe 1/64 ounce, would take forever to reach fish in 25 feet of water, a tungsten jig makes the trip in a blink or two. Modern, smaller series reels, perfectly balanced to the shorter rods and with silky-smooth drags, make it possible to tame and land a fish through a 6- to 10-inch hole – fish that would otherwise give you a tussle with a long rod, from a boat, and a buddy with a landing net! Ice fishing took me by storm over 20 years ago, even though I had dabbled as a youngster growing up in upstate New York. I count myself lucky to have seen firsthand the beginnings of the revolution. And today, I am blessed to count myself among ice fishing’s ambassadors, as I promote the sport through guiding, writing and participating in tournaments, and also as a pro staffer for some of the finest companies in the industry. What are you waiting for? That next red line that rushes your jig just may be worth a whole lot more than a big check; it could be worth a lifetime of memories, and that, my friend, is priceless. NS Editor’s note: Mike Howe is the owner and outfitter of Howe’s Fishing, A Able and Mo Fisch Charters, and guides year-round across Montana. Living near Flathead Lake, he chases the ice bite from Idaho to Minnesota every winter and is on the pro staff for Cabela’s, Clam Outdoors, Ice Team, Vexilar as well as several open-water companies and can be reached at

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FISHING Couples who fish together stay together, especially if the wife lets her husband reel in her big salmon (though he better not lose it!). Nancy and author Dennis Dauble hold the 35-pound white-meated “ivory king” that highlighted a trip to British Columbia’s Telegraph Cove, and resolved a long-standing mystery for the author. (DENNIS DAUBLE)

Mystery Of The White King A trip to Vancouver Island’s Telegraph Cove solves a half-century-old question, serves up lots of fish fillets. By Dennis Dauble


t had been a busy morning of ignoring one solicitor call after another. Whether a request for a charitable or political donation, it seemed like everybody wanted money. “Ring, ring, ring!” I was ready to jerk the phone out of the wall, but the caller ID number looked familiar, so I took a chance and picked up. “Robin and I got a deal on a condo next to the one we own in Telegraph

Cove,” BT said. “You and Nancy are welcome to use it when we head up there in June.” Unlike a random call from a cruise ship outfit, this vacation package had no strings attached! I’d been dreaming of a return trip to Vancouver Island since fishing the calm waters of Barkley Sound nearly a decade ago. As evidence of my longing, a pile of faded brochures gleaned from sportsmen’s shows had taken over a corner of my desk, while

Affixed to every fishing vest the author’s owned since he was 14 is this button he received on an Ilwaco charter boat in the mid-1960s after catching a 35-pound Chinook, the meat of which was also white – and suspected of being halibut after a local butcher cut and wrapped it. (DENNIS DAUBLE) | JANUARY 2018

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FISHING “early bird specials” popped up on weekly email updates from Canadian fishing lodges. However, one issue hampered my planning. “You’re not going on another trip with your buddies until you take me,” Nancy often reminded me. With that edict, my challenge was finding a perfect locale. Nancy and I had reached the age where bunking with a pack of booze-loving rowdies or sharing a bathroom down the hall was not worth the trouble. I imagined a setting where I could jerk halibut, salmon and rockfish to my heart’s content, and afterwards retire to a lodge with all the comforts of home – all of which didn’t cost an arm and a leg. The morning phone call from BT answered my every wish.

HISTORIC TELEGRAPH COVE Telagraph Cove, a tiny seaside village (population 20) on the northeast side of northern Vancouver Island, bustles with tourist activities each summer, including whale watching, sea kayaking, hiking, fishing, diving and grizzly bear tours. It got its name in 1912 as the northern terminus for a telegraph line from Campbell River, and was once the site of a lumber mill and salmon saltery, in addition to serving as a relay station in World War II. The area of upper Johnstone Strait is homeland to the Kwakwaka’waka First Nation, who migrated here 9,000 years ago, and is where the Broughton Achipelago, British Columbia’s largest marine park and accessible only by boat, is located. Also nearby are the famous orca rubbing beaches of Robson Bight. Each year millions of salmon funnel through the inside of Vancouver Island on their way to spawning grounds that include the Fraser and Columbia. Halibut, lingcod and rockfish are also found here for the catching, with ample guide services available in the larger ports. Telegraph Cove Resort showcases two boat launches and a sheltered 110 Northwest Sportsman

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Sunsets last forever when you visit northern Vancouver Island during the last week in June. Telegraph Cove serves as a base for salmon and bottomfishing adventures in upper Johnstone Strait, on the east side of the island, as well as wildlife watching trips. (DENNIS DAUBLE)

marina accommodating 140 boats up to 25 feet long (telegraphcoveresort .com). The nearby RV park has 48 fully serviced sites with marina and ocean views. A short stroll leads to The Forest Campground and its 100 serviced sites, as well as laundromat, showers and sani-dump. You can also unwind along Telegraph Cove’s historic boardwalk, visit one of three dockside eateries and watch extended sunsets from a rented historic home, cozy cabin or modern condominium suite. On our brief visit, we saw humpback whales, orcas, whitesided dolphins, nesting bald eagles, a sea lion rookery, and tidal shear vortices. We also heard the twisted tale of Double Bay, where a man cut up his wife and disposed of her body parts in his wood stove.

A FISHING STORY It is the last day of an idyllic trip, one largely spent trolling for salmon from the comfort of BT’s 24-foot cabin-over, fully enclosed Weldcraft, and accompanied by his wife Robin

and their three dogs: Crystal, Rio and Lobo. With two halibut flopping in the box, I hope to top off Nancy and my take-home cooler with tasty rockfish and lingcod. I pull out my favorite surfperch outfit, an 8-foot “Whuppin’ Stick,” but unfortunately, I have neglected to refill the spinning reel after leaving several yards of monofilament line dangling on a rock outcrop. This shortcoming becomes evident when I drop a 3-ounce Crippled Herring down to 100 feet and detect empty space on the spool. The good news is that 2-pound black rockfish do not take out drag. After catching my fill, I hand the rod to Nancy. “There’s not much line on the reel” are my only words of advice. Five minutes later she is fast into a large fish. “It feels like a big one,” she remarks, when her rod doubles over. “Be careful. You don’t have much line left on the reel,” I remind her. “I think it’s a halibut by the way the rod tip is bouncing around,” BT chimes in. “Either that or she’s | JANUARY 2018

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Brett Tiller – who hosted and floated the Daubles out of he and his wife Robin’s Telegraph Cove condo – holds up two nice halibut taken from a day of jigging. (DENNIS DAUBLE)

bouncing around.” “I’m more worried about how much line is on the reel,” I reply, standing by nervously. “It’s too big. I can’t reel,” Nancy says. “Here, you take the rod.” I am more than happy to help; however, the taking of a rod does not come without liability, as I quickly find out. “You better not lose it,” Nancy declares when she sits down, as if threatening me will improve my angling prowess. “Nice head shakes,” BT says. “It must be a big ling.” Meanwhile, the mystery fish dives straight to the bottom, taking me down to six wraps of line. Do the math. Six wraps on a 3-inch diameter spool equal 5 feet of line. Still, I dare not tighten the drag after a quick test finds the mono strung tighter than Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitar. I crank up with purpose and retrieve a spare yard or two. Sensing

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pressure, the fish dives to the bottom again, this time to a nervous three wraps on the spool. “We need to chase this fish,” I plead to BT. Nancy quickly chimes in: “Can we go over by him?” “No way. We don’t chase bottomfish,” BT replies. Luckily the mystery fish pauses long enough for me to retrieve enough line to feel comfortable. The suspense on what is attached to the end of the line builds, along with more advice from the peanut gallery. “Don’t bust the line.” “Are you sure you have the drag set right?” “You’re milking it.” I finally work the fish close. BT hangs over the gunnel with gaff in hand. “I see color,” he yells. But like most big fish hooked at depth, this one does not want to “come into the light.” The drag on my spinning reel screams when the fish makes yet another downward run. “It’s a frickin’ salmon!” BT yells when I finally bring the fish close enough for a look. Dropping the gaff, he goes for the net. “No way,” Robin yells when a fat, chrome-bright 35-pound Chinook is safely netted and brought on board. Upon returning to the dock to process our catch we find that Nancy’s “Tyee” is a rare and highly valued “ivory king,” what some anglers call a “white Chinook.” I’d heard rumors of their existence, but passed the idea off as anglers ignorant that salmon with pale-colored flesh were too close to spawning to warrant keeping. But how is it that chrome-sided, ocean-fresh, sea-lice-hanging Chinook salmon have white flesh? According to fisheries scientists, orange flesh color results from the metabolizing of natural-occurring pigments found in a crustacean diet of shrimp, krill and crabs. Ivory kings have white flesh because they lack the genetic ability to store carotenoids – fat-soluble pigments – in their muscle cells. Because this

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FISHING characteristic is a dominant genetic trait, the vast majority of Chinook salmon have orange-colored esh. The remaining 5 to 30 percent, depending on the river, have an ivory or marbled esh color. Many gastronomes consider ivory kings to be oilier and tastier, even though their esh is identical to red kings in composition of lipids, moisture content, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. In past years, ivory kings could be purchased at a bargain price. Customers are now willing to pay more for this coveted ďŹ sh. Interestingly, ivory kings are also purported to ďŹ ght differently than their orange-meated counterparts. Some anglers say they tend to sound or swim straight down rather than take off on long searing runs. Nancy’s Tyee reinforced that belief. It repeatedly dove to 100 feet, as measured by the amount of the line left on my reel.

No, not a halibut ďŹ llet, but the esh color and avor of an ivory king is unlike that of other freshcaught ocean Chinook salmon. (DENNIS DAUBLE)

THE REST OF THE STORY The following day, looking out the window of the Queen of Alberni as we steamed back to mainland BC, I reected back to late summer 1965, when Dad booked a charter boat trip for he and I out of Ilwaco. I was 14 years old at the time. We ate greasy ďŹ sh and chips in a dockside restaurant, spent a restless night in a cheap hotel and arrived dockside before dawn. Eager anglers milled about our 12-

pack party boat. There was the raucous squawk of circling gulls, while the scent of diesel fumes and rotting ďŹ sh mixed with cool salt air. I had no idea what to expect, having had no previous experience ďŹ shing out of a boat. Our craft exited the crowded harbor accompanied by a otilla of recreational anglers, crossed the Columbia River bar, where waves and current mix, and then we mooched whole herring


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The northern tip of Vancouver Island is 600 miles from the sagebrush country of Southeast Washington, where Nancy and I live. Getting there involves a border crossing and a ferry ride. Expect to wait up to an hour in both lineups when traveling back and forth by vehicle into Canada. Having a valid passport and knowledge of items that must be declared will smooth the process. (My son and I once got pulled over for having roasted pumpkin seeds.) It’s 134 miles from Seattle to the Tsawassen, BC, ferry terminal and another 360 kilometers from Nanaimo on the island to Telegraph Cove. (A kilometer is six-tenths of a mile.) Make online reservations for ferry crossings during the busy summer season (see or Island

Highway 19 north from Nanaimo has a 120/km hour speed limit in the freeway from Parksville to Campbell River. Posted speeds are 100 km/hr for the undivided two lanes to Port Hardy. Consider taking the scenic Oceanside Route (Highway 19A) from Nanaimo to Parksville. Join in the Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition there, visit the Cathedral Grove, or hike up Mount Arrowsmith. The next spur in Highway 19 takes you to the west side of Vancouver Island and Port Alberni, where hordes of eager anglers descend upon Barkley Sound and its abundant runs of sockeye, coho and Chinook. Continue on Highway 4 to the ports of Ucluelet and Bamfield and pristine coastal waters teeming with barndoor halibut, salmon and marine wildlife. Traffic slows an hour and 40 minutes down the road from Nanaimo at Campbell River. The Seymour Narrows, just north

of here, is known as a “virtual salmon highway,” where all five Pacific species pass through from April through October. Visit the First Nations gallery to learn about the history, art and mythology of the region’s first inhabitants. Relax in the bustling setting where author Roderick Haig Brown penned two dozen books about fly fishing and conservation. On a modern note, the local Walmart provides a convenient opportunity to load up on provisions. Traffic north of the Campbell River is generally light, although logging trucks, poky RVs and blacktail deer can slow the pace. The narrow highway corridor is lined with cedar, fir and alder so thick you can take two steps and disappear, so be careful on potty breaks. Lupine, fireweed and daisies pepper the road edge. Snow-shrouded peaks show in the distance. Hand-written signs point to off-the-main adventures. –DD

off the side of the boat. Giant swells soon turned my stomach into knots. I recall a morning spent below the

deck puking into a plastic bucket. “Big king! Big king!” the skipper yelled when I returned to my station

and hooked up with a salmon. There’s the scream of my Penn levelwind, the image of a huge fish showing at


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the surface and the dull thud of a wooden club on its toothy head after it was netted. I staggered off the boat holding a 35-pound Chinook. Dry land never felt so good. With only a pocketknife to our name, Dad and I turned the salmon over to the town butcher for processing. His carving prowess resulted in a pile of fish steaks wrapped in slick Kraft paper. Imagine my surprise when I thawed out a package from our rented freezer a few weeks later to find a white-meated king! The only plausible explanation was someone had swapped out my precious 35-pounder with a halibut. When confronted, the butcher denied culpability. A half century later, I had forgotten about that giant salmon of mine until the moment I laid the flat blade of my 16-inch filet knife across the backbone of Nancy’s ivory king. How strange that some insights come to you like a swift rap on the side of your noggin, while other revelations require an unspecified gestation period. Still, 52 years is a long time for me to hold a grudge against a smalltown butcher who really did not substitute halibut for salmon. It took a second 35-pound Chinook, albeit one caught several decades later and more than 300 miles to the north-northwest, for me to make the connection. But it only proves that the more you fish, the more you learn. A visit to Vancouver Island is about more than catching trophy salmon and halibut. It’s experiencing a family vacation destination with abundant history, beautiful scenery and wonderful people. Don’t be like me and wait for a random phone call to spur action. NS Editor’s note: Dennis Dauble is author of the natural history guidebook Fishes of the Columbia Basin and two shortstory collections: The Barbless Hook and One More Last Cast. Contact him at 118 Northwest Sportsman

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Cloister Yourself For Oysters Hood Canal, area beaches are prime for the tasty bivalves during winter, but you’ll need lanterns – and some lemon too! By Mark Yuasa


any associate shellfish gathering as a spring or summer activity, but don’t be fooled, as wintertime can be as productive if not better, especially for oysters. Now through April is prime oyster season, as these bivalves are fattening up before spawning. “This is the best time of the year for harvesting oysters, but people need to remember all low tides occur at night during the winter,” says Camille Speck, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound shellfish manager. That means the most important take-along gear to the beach is a powerful headlamp – bring extra batteries – and/or lantern to get you from the car to the beach, and back, in pitch-black darkness. Rainy and windy weather are also not uncommon, so pack rain gear, heavy-duty waterproof boots, an extra pair of socks and warm clothes, and – most importantly – an oystershucking knife. Slurping down a briny, shucked oyster in the middle of winter darkness right off the tidal flats is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced or tasted. Some will even bring a bottle of Tabasco sauce

and lemon wedges for added flavor! Many will stake their claim for shellfish in the winter since summertime often increases your chances of getting sick from oysters laden with bacteria due to warm water conditions that can lead to marine-toxin-related beach closures. Furthermore, if you’ve ever downed an oyster in summer, it can be a slimy concoction, since they’re spawning and losing weight. Here is a rundown Speck provided as her top winter-time choices for shellfish gathering:

EAGLE CREEK BEACH, located on Hood Canal in Mason County north of Lilliwaup, is open year-round. “Eagle Creek is a wonderful oystergathering beach, and has easy access even in the dark, as long as you pack

Winter and early spring find oysters at their best on Northwest beaches, and those with a tidebook and good lanterns can gather a limit during the lowest nightly minus tides over the next few months. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s shellfish webpages provide a wealth of information on the location of public beaches, their relative quality for the bivalves, as well as clams, and any health advisories in the area. (WAFERBOARD, FLICKR; WDFW) | JANUARY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 121

FISHING There’s nothing like slurping down a freshly shucked oyster, says author Mark Yuasa. Just remember the shells have to be left on the beach where you found them, as they provide a “setting surface” for juvenile oysters as well as home for others. (ANDREW LORIEN, FLICKR)

along a headlamp,” Speck says of the beach that has a 15-foot-wide trail access across from the Eagle Creek Saloon. “Folks just need to remember to stay south of the creek channel, which is private property.” More info: shellfish/beaches/270300 Mystery Bay State Park on Marrowstone Island in Jefferson County is a nice place to harvest shellfish and is open now through April 30. This beach has been enhanced with oysters just south of the boat ramp, and also has a good variety of clams. More info: shellfish/beaches/250300 The Port Gamble Heritage Park Tidelands is open year-round for clam, oyster and mussel gathering. 122 Northwest Sportsman

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It parallels Port Gamble Bay, and is south of State Route 104 on the northwest side of Kitsap Peninsula on Hood Canal. “Port Gamble is a gorgeous beach, and has a good access point with developed trails to the clam beach,” Speck says. Port Gamble has a good clam population for diggers, and surprisingly the best spots are located higher up on the beachline. Watch out for broken glass while digging on the northern end – gloves are highly recommended. (The amount of historical glass may be of interest to beachcombers.) The southern portion is the place to go for oysters. A note of caution from Speck is to not park your vehicle on the shoulder of narrow two lanes of SR

104 between the access points, which is heavily used by ferry travelers headed to and from Kingston. The north and middle accesses are very limited, while the southern access has room for several vehicles. Walking along the shoulder in the dark can be dangerous. More info: shellfish/beaches/250900 The Triton Cove Tidelands on the western shore of Hood Canal 5 miles north of Eldon has a trove of oyster beds that are open year-round. It is undeveloped and the closest restroom is a quarter of a mile north at the state park. Triton Cove used to be an oyster farm, and the dirt parking area can hold plenty of vehicles. A plus here is that those with limited mobility



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FISHING have good access to the beach. More info: shellfish/beaches/270293 One of the prime locations for oyster gathering is Twanoh State Park, south of Belfair along State Route 106. “Twanoh is a fantastic beach for oysters, and they are beefing it up for oysters with the beds located very close to the parking lot,” Speck says. “One of the best oyster spots is the west end near the boat ramp in the park’s day-use area.” More info: shellfish/beaches/270460 West Dewatto is an excellent oyster beach on the eastern shore of Hood Canal, and is a secluded spit that juts out on Northeast Dewatto Beach Drive. Parking is very limited on the shoulder of the dead-end road that leads to this very rural beach in Mason County. According to WDFW the word

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BEFORE YOU SHUCK OR PLUCK 1) Note that all eastern mainland beaches from Everett south into southern Puget Sound are closed for shellfish due to unsafe pollution levels. 2) Good rules to know are: Be aware of shellfish daily and size limits, fill in all holes, and shuck all oysters and leave the shells on the beach where you found them. 3) A good table to review is the WDFW public beach listing at fishing/shellfish/beaches/WDFWBeachSeasonsBarChart.pdf. WDFW also has a great interactive shellfish map at 4) Prior to heading to a beach check for any emergency closures by calling the marine biotoxin hotline at (800) 562-5632 or visiting Also check the state fisheries hotline at (866) 880-5431 and website at 5) For day-by-day tides, go to 6) Be sure to have a valid state-issued shellfish/seaweed harvesting license ($17.40 annually for Washington residents ages 16-69). A Discover Pass ($11.50 single-day, $35 annually) is required for parking in Washington state parks and at undeveloped state park lands. Go to –MY

Dewatto comes from the Indian place name du-a-to, which means “home of evil spirits who make men crazy.” In legend, spirits emerged from the bowels of the earth in Dewatto Bay area and attempted to enter the bodies of warriors. More info:

shellfish/beaches/270380 There are many other yearround shellfish options, including Belfair, Birch Bay and Dosewallips State Parks, Drayton West and Point Whitney Lagoon. More info: shellfish/beaches NS



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Blackmouth Top North End Ops J

anuary options for North Sound fishers and hunters distill down By Doug Huddle to river steelheading, the resumption of blackmouth fishing in Marine Area 7 and the final weeks of gunning for ducks and geese. We’ll take them one by one.


BLACKMOUTH CAUGHT THIS time of year don’t necessarily fill as much of the grill as their July counterparts do. And given the wicked turns the weather can take in the dead of winter here, many anglers prospecting for these 6- to 12-pound Chinook will stick fairly close to port. Off Whatcom and Skagit Counties, that means long-time frequented Area 7 haunts of greater Bellingham Bay (Vendovi Island, Point Williams and Eliza Rocks), around Lummi Island (Carter Point, Skunk Bay and Lummi Rocks), and near Anacortes (West Beach, south Sinclair Island, Cypress Head and Sares Bluff). Among the intermittent attributes these waters have are the tendency for eddying backwaters to form during major tide changes, and it’s in these locales out of the sweep of tidal currents that baitfish schools temporarily seek refuge. They’re following the tendency of their own prey in seeking less strenuous places in the water column in which to hold up. Blackmouth are the ravenous teenagers of the salmon world, perpetually famished and highly focused on few things other than finding a next meal. Schools of herring or candlefish are therefore magnets for these feeding Chinook. Another critical characteristic these close-in holes share is that during any wind event, regardless of direction or tide,

Suitably dressed for winter Chinook fishing in the San Juan Islands, Mike Campion of Bellingham shows off a nice one caught last January off his boat, the Badger. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST) one or more are leeward of a windbreak, allowing anglers their own form of refuge. Increasing numbers of winter marine salmon fishers are switching to larger, hard baits (tri-color Luhr-Jensen Coyote and Silver Horde Kingfisher spoons, or

plugs) to reduce interaction with smaller shaker and sub-22-inch feeders. The largest of the Apex wobbler spoons, as well as dodger/hoochie combos also should be in your arsenal. Rig these offerings with the largest barbless single | JANUARY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 127

COLUMN siwash hook an individual lure’s action will tolerate and not be stilled.

STIFLED BY WILD-VERSUS-HATCHERY legal battles, interrupted smolt releases from Puget Sound fish production facilities in recent past years are now begetting scant to nonexistent returns of keeper cultured-origin winter-runs. Despite court and due process efforts to throttle to death state hatchery steelhead programs, the Nooksack will host a modest return of adipose finclipped fish this early winter. Because of the break in Kendall Creek Hatchery smolt releases several years back, this winter’s run is going to consist of a single age-class, so-called two-salt fish. These steelhead stayed an extra summer in the North Pacific and normally come back bulked up by several pounds on average over their one-salt brethren. The other interesting fact related to this 2017-18 return – and one that’s causing managers a bout of bated breath

– is that about two-thirds of the smolt release from whence these fish spring were from parents that never went to sea. The juveniles were produced from mature steelhead raised their whole lives in captivity. Hatchery staff who performed this minor miracle say the pond-produced adults yielded good egg numbers, those ova hatched normally, and the offspring fed and grew as vigorously as their mates from ocean migrants. And in their hatchery phase, they “smolted” unequivocally on time in the spring and departed for the ocean as an entire group. There was no apparent residualization or staying behind in the river, as program critics feared. The final revelation in this fish saga – the last shoe to drop, so to speak – is how many of these unusually bred fish will successfully revert to the sea-run life history and come back as adults to the Nooksack and Kendall Creek Hatchery. One hundred percent of the progeny or offspring of the parents raised in

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captivity were secondarily differentially marked – their otoliths were “striped” during egg incubation by several coldwater exposures. A critical step in evaluating the relative success of this program is the recovery of ear bones from each fish’s head. The postmortem surgical removal is simple and does not even require fully lopping off a catch’s head. State managers do say they anticipate the need to close a portion of the Nooksack system to help recruitment of ocean-running adult fish to serve as broodstock. That’s likely to occur sometime this month and will be the North Fork, perhaps from the confluence 9 or 13 miles upstream to the hatchery tributary or Maple Creek, or maybe an even shorter 5-mile reach from Mosquito Lake Road bridge up to the hatchery. Until that closure, personal-use anglers will essentially have the run of the system. That includes 35.3 miles of the mainstem from the Lummi Nation to the forks, 14.3 miles of the South Fork upstream to Skookum Creek, 7 miles of the Middle Fork to the City of Bellingham’s diversion dam and 28.4 miles of the North Fork upstream to Nooksack Falls. If you do catch a fin-clipped steelhead and keep it but would like to know from whence it sprang, drop me a quick line at and I will facilitate the sampling.


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hit north Puget Sound, especially Whatcom County, the results for duck hunters is a little like a major league line-up facing Clayton Kershaw or Nolan Ryan. You’re out before you even step to the plate. Given the ruination that that weather type brings, there’s little point in discussing strategy. Your resources are more profitably spent scraping together enough time and money for a road trip south to Columbia River latitudes, either east or west of the Cascades. Another extreme weather condition that is almost equally off-putting here are major flood events. Dabbling ducks in particular seem to shun mud-laden deluges, what with all their oily scents and barnyard odors that accumulate and

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flow across normally high ground. But if Goldilocks norm prevails, look to publicly accessible inland sites such as Lake Terrell, the Samish Flats’ West 90 unit, the salt marshes near Craft Island in the Skagit Delta or other inland micro-hunts available through the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s suite of private lands options The Feel Free to Hunt plots are simplest to secure and use. As their name implies, just go to one of the sites and if the parking space(s) is vacant, pull in and enter to hunt. On Register to Hunt sites gunners must park in the designated area, then sign in and out at the on-site registry station. The Hunt by Reservation sites may only be used by hunters who go to private_lands/type/56/ ahead of their visit and secure their use on specific available dates. Light, dark and sea goose hunters have options here, with snows flocking to southwest Skagit County (Fir Island) and northwest Snohomish County (Florence Island by Stanwood). Honker seekers will find them most prevalent in northwest Whatcom County between Birch Bay and Lynden. And if population targets are met, brant aficionados will be homing on Samish and Padilla Bays in northwest Skagit County and now embayments in northern Clallam and western Whatcom Counties. Take note of page 8 of the waterfowl regulations for contingent details for this season’s brant opportunity and watch for a late December-first week in January press release from state fish and wildlife managers on the status of the 2018 brant hunt here. For those who like the delectable sea goose, a hunt also is underway now in Pacific County centering on Willapa Bay.

NEXT ISSUE More in-close blackmouth haunts, winter lake cutthroat. NS

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Editor’s note: Doug Huddle lives in Bellingham, is retired from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and has written about hunting and fishing in the Northwest for more than 35 years.

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COLUMN Looking back, one of 2017’s South Sound highlights might help provide a good kickoff to 2018’s fisheries. A solid chum salmon spawning run should yield a lot of outgoing smolts in a month or two, spurring strong fishing for sea-run cutthroat along the beaches. (JASON BROOKS)


ooking back over this past year and thinking how fishing and hunting has changed so much in recent times, it is SOUTH SOUND hard to look forward By Jason Brooks into 2018. But with a new year comes new hopes. In the past decade or more, the South

Hits, Misses And Hopes

Sound has seen a dramatic decline in steelhead numbers, and Chinook don’t seem to be too far behind them. A few weeks ago I was emailing editor Andy Walgamott about this month’s column and we both began to dwell on what appears to be the demise of our natural resources. After all, misery loves company. But there are few bright spots to think about and put our efforts into this coming year.

COHO RUNS CONTINUE to see better numbers than just two years ago when Marine Areas 11 and 13 saw a shift in management. This past fall, the Puyallup proved that the coho are back and the runs are strong. Dylan Chlipala, the son of my fishing and hunting partner Brian Chlipala, fished the glacial silt waters just upstream from where the river dumps into Commencement Bay just about every | JANUARY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 133

COLUMN Crabbing was awful in 2017 from Seattle south, with very low catches of Dungeness and it was even tough to scrounge up red rockies. Recent years’ warm waters may have affected young crab survival, and it could take a few years for stocks to rebuild. (JASON BROOKS)

day it was open. He punched a coho daily, and on most he limited out with two. With a dismal odd-year salmon return, Dylan hardly had to sort through pinks before he caught a silver; some days he even limited on hooknoses before catching a humpy. Dylan even managed to catch a few Chinook as well. Fish from the South Sound net pens near Hartstine Island and run by the Squaxin Island Tribe provided a great fishery near the Narrows Bridges for resident coho last spring all the way through the fall migration. Though Chinook seem to be struggling in most of our Puget Sound rivers, the run back to the Deschutes, which flows through downtown Olympia, was strong. The Nisqually was hit and miss, but if you fished the tidally influenced waters on the right day, it seemed the river was full of fish. Both of these runs will hopefully continue this fall as well. Winter blackmouth fishing near Tacoma was steady but not hot, though areas in northern Puget Sound had to be shut down early due to incidental 134 Northwest Sportsman

JANUARY 2018 |

catches of juvenile fish. Looking at that in a positive note, hopefully that means that the Sound is starting to hold juvenile salmon until adulthood and our summer fisheries benefit from it. Another fishery that was extremely productive this past year was sea-run cutthroat angling, especially in the South Sound. Put this on your calendar: Starting in mid-March, these predators of the trout world begin to make their way to the mouths of small streams, inlets, bays and estuaries as chum fry make their way out to the salt. Just about every beach from the Tacoma Narrows to Olympia and Shelton offers a fishery; just make sure you are on public tidelands or have permission to be on the beach. For small boat and kayak anglers, it’s hard to beat paddling or rowing along the kelp lines while trolling a Dick Nite spoon or a size 6 Clouser Minnow on a 4-weight fly rod. SRCs are often overlooked, but when you can catch and release over 20 fish in just a couple of hours, a quick Saturday morning outing is very appealing.

Fishing for hatchery, wild and netpen coho was good in the South Sound, and Dylan Chlipala found himself able to put a coho or two on the bank daily during the Puyallup run, even a Chinook on occasion as well. (JASON BROOKS)


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Buoy 10 and the Lower Columbia served up good catches of fall Chinook – 28,400, fourth most since 1982 – and coho. Brooks says he wouldn’t miss his August week of fishing at the mouth of the mighty river. (JASON BROOKS)

CRABBING LAST SUMMER was dismal at best for those south of Dash Point. It seemed that red rocks were just about the only game in town, and even then it was hard to scratch out enough for a maincourse dinner. But the spot shrimp season fared better, though saw a much shorter season. Those who prefer to drop pots should look forward to another shrimp season, as well as think about going for the smaller but just as tasty coonstripes, which offer a much longer season. When next summer rolls around, 136 Northwest Sportsman

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hopefully we have a bit more water in the rivers from the winter storms that fill our mountains with snow. Last year we had a great snowpack until June, when the temperatures cranked up and it all rushed off too soon. August saw some extremely low water conditions, making it very tough for summer steelhead fishing. Tacoma Power managers will hopefully reserve enough water in the Cowlitz watershed to keep us fishing the famed Blue Creek area. To beat the heat, give midnight fishing a try; it’s very popular here.

Buoy 10 last year was interesting, to say the least. It seemed that Chinook fishing was good to great, depending on the day and tides. Coho kept us guessing, as the run would either push in with the tide or hang out in the ocean. I fished this run for four days in one week, and punched fish three of the four, averaging better than most anglers but a few did better than our boat. Bait was key last year, and fresh anchovies brined in Pro-Cure’s Brine-N-Bite outfished herring. Yakima Bait’s Hildebrandt spinners also accounted for several fish. I always look

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COLUMN They’re swaddled in deep snow now, but come summer, the high basins of the Olympics and Cascades will be worth poking around in search of alpine trout and the hidey holes of bucks and bulls. (JASON BROOKS)

forward to my week down at Ilwaco and Astoria, and in 2018 this will again be on the top of my fishing to-do list.

HUNTERS CAN ALSO look forward to the upcoming fall. Blacktail numbers aren’t affected by our winters, and unlike the mule deer herds to the east, there’s a longer season for the species, providing a great opportunity to put some venison on the table. Elk continue to struggle in the South Sound, especially with more hoof rot reports making their way ever closer to the herds that roam around Mt. Rainier. Now that Washington State University has begun their studies on the disease, we can look to the future with hopes it will be stopped, but for now, all we can do is stay positive. 138 Northwest Sportsman

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The recent surge in backcountry hunting hasn’t fully bled over to the Olympic Mountains yet, but more and more, these peaks are seeing hunters. This summer, I plan on making a few trips over to the youngest alps of our state and explore places for a fall bear hunt, as well as a possible location for the high hunt. All five wilderness areas on the eastern and southern sides of Olympic National Park are open for the Sept. 15-25 rifle season. Hiking and backpacking is one of the highlights of living in the Northwest, but I feel that for some reason they are often overlooked by anglers and hunters. Many alpine lakes hold trout and, of course, hidden basins might be just where you find that trophy buck. Either way, exploring the mountains from mid-July

until seasons open up a month or so later is one of the most productive ways we Northwest sportsmen can spend our time.

OUTDOOR NEWS THE past few years seems like it’s all been depressing. But instead of dwelling on the negative, we should find the positives. 2018 will come and go and so will the fish if we just focus on the bad news. We just might have to reprioritize our passions and break out the fly rods for some sea-run cutties, or learn to twitch jigs for coho until steelhead and Chinook numbers grow. Now that the warm water blob is gone and our rivers are running cold, our anadromous fish should rebound. And when it comes to finding company, just know that misery is around, but if you leave it behind on the riverbank, you’ll have a much better time. NS | JANUARY 2018

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HUNTING Overall, waterfowling is a relatively safe sport, but it does come with dangers. A little common sense will go a long way towards a successful, safe and long duck and goose hunting career. (JULIA JOHNSON)

Don’t Die For A Duck Risks rise as the Northwest waterfowl season heads into its final weeks. By M.D. Johnson


’m assuming that since you’re reading this month’s issue of Northwest Sportsman, you’ve somehow managed to survive all of those less-than-perfect waterfowl hunting incidents, accidents – whatever you wanna call ’em – that have occurred over the past 20 years. The overloaded boats. The sudden radical change in the weather. Water over your chest waders. Cold beyond rational belief. And my personal favorite, hunters who shouldn’t be trusted with a Popsicle stick, let alone a loaded firearm. Or an unloaded firearm, for that matter. Waterfowl hunting, as a sporting activity, is not inherently dangerous. Curious, I googled the “Top Ten Most Dangerous Sports.” Hunting came in an astonishing 120th behind such

explainable pursuits as football, bull riding – note: There’s absolutely nothing good nor sane about strapping oneself to 2,000 pounds of pissed-off beef. Nothing – and boxing. Also on the list, many notso-explainable sports, and I use the term loosely in many cases, such as cheerleading, dodgeball, underwater rugby, where, I’m assuming you only get to play in one game – your first, and last – badminton and – ready? – goat tying. Now I’ve been on a goat rope or two while on a duck hunt, but goat tying? But I digress. Again, hunting is not inherently dangerous; however, add water, lots of clothing, fatigue, cold, firearms, people lacking common sense, dogs, adrenaline, more water, boats, heavy things, rope, mud, terrible soul-sucking mud, current, and the tides, any one by itself or in combination with one

or more of the others, and you’re working up a recipe for disaster. Not always, but bad only has to happen one time in order for the situation to get downright nasty. Or worse, tragic. What sort of situations do we speak of here? Some of the more common experienced by the waterfowling community each season include the following.

BASIC GUN SAFETY A hunter grows complacent. A shotgun, propped in a blind, falls over. A retriever jumps and hits a trigger. Someone falls. A safety – remember, it’s a mechanical device that isn’t infallible – fails. Or worse, isn’t used or is taken off prematurely. “I didn’t know it was still loaded.” Improper fields of fire. Basic firearm safety is just that; basic. Treat every firearm as if it | JANUARY 2018

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HUNTING were loaded. Muzzle control. Fire discipline. Think. Think. Think. One time; that’s all it takes. Confined places housing multiple hunters – pit blinds, rows of layout blinds, boats, and traditional box blinds – are perhaps some of the worst contributors. But firearm-related accidents can happen anytime and anywhere. Even alone. If you hunt alone, something we’ll discuss momentarily, it’s important to keep your head in the game regarding firearm safety. Muzzle in a safe direction. Always. Safety off only when it’s time to shoot. Out of the blind? Action open. What? I get back and miss an opportunity at a big drake pintail because the gun’s empty? Settle down, Boss. There will be more ducks. And dogs and guns don’t mix. Unattended shotguns, that is. Rummaging through Al Gore’s Internet, I found that between 2008 and 2015, at least five hunters were “shot” by their dogs. In two cases, dogs jumped into boats containing loaded shotguns. The firearms discharged, striking the owners of

said boats. In another case, a dog leapt into the bed of a pickup in which was a loaded shotgun. Again, boom. Again, the headline read “Dog Shoots Man.” I guess here the moral of the proverbial story is don’t put your loaded shotgun, or any shotgun for that matter, where your dog can A) jump on it, and B) cause it to discharge unintentionally.

OUT-OF-THE-ORDINARY FIREARM ISSUES The first year Julie and I were in Washington, I introduced her brother Gordie, aka GW, to waterfowl hunting. An Evergreen State native and lifelong hunter and angler, GW had very little duck hunting experience, and no background whatsoever in what I’ll call formal waterfowling, i.e., with decoys, blinds, and armpit-deep wading. He had been around firearms, notably centerfire rifles, for the whole of his then 58 years, thus my concern wasn’t basic gun safety. Standing thigh-deep in a tidal marsh, GW cuts into a small flock of mallards. Ordinarily an exceptional shotgunner, he misses. No big deal, but what is a big deal is the sound

made by his Model 870 at the shot – pop instead of the traditional boom. For GW, it’s business as usual. Work the action. Feed a new round into the chamber. Reacquire the target. He hadn’t noticed the pop. An excitable boy by nature, I start yelling – “Stop! Stop! Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” GW’s confused, but complies. I splash over, and unload the pumpgun. Fortunately, Model 870s are incredibly easy to field-strip, which I immediately do, and show him the wad still lodged midway in the barrel. GW’s a smart man; I don’t have to explain what would have happened had he pulled the trigger again. It took a sturdy cattail stalk to dislodge the hunk of plastic, and within a couple minutes, he was rolling greenheads like a pro. My point? My point is, things happen. This wasn’t the first time in 40 years I’ve witnessed a squib round in a repeating shotgun; the first was a Remington Model 1100 operated by my stepson, Casey. Luckily, I was right there and knew what the sound was, and what to do. Again, my point? Whenever firearms are involved, your head’s

Thanks to hunter safety courses, the incidence of firearms accidents has greatly decreased over the years, but in the heat of the moment or from a hunting dog’s ill-timed move, bad things can still happen, requiring eternal vigilance with shotguns. (JULIA JOHNSON) 144 Northwest Sportsman

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Water is a ’fowler’s friend and potential enemy, and when out on it in a boat, there’s no excuse to not wear some form of personal floatation device. But even when hunting from solid ground, water should be treated warily. Tides rise, rivers flood, murky waters hide holes and drainage ditches, chest waders fill, duck hunters die. (JULIA JOHNSON)

got to be in the game. One hundred percent. For you and the other guy(s). Pay attention. Pay attention. Pay attention.

DROWNING I So I Google “duck hunter drowns,” and in .49 seconds receive 1.1 million responses. That’s right; over one million responses. Once again, duck hunting isn’t inherently dangerous; however, anything involving water can make even the ordinary extraordinarily hazardous. Weather comes up. Boats are overloaded. There’s heavy clothing. Cold. Ice. Current. Chest waders. And the best one, using the personal flotation device as a seat cushion instead of its intended use. How do duck hunters/boaters prevent these accidents? Experience. Common sense. And using – actually wearing – a PFD. Good captains make the right decisions, and get people home safely. Poor captains get people hurt, or worse. 146 Northwest Sportsman

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As for common sense, I realize it’s often a rare commodity nowadays, but if the conditions say leave the boat on the trailer, then leave the boat on the trailer. Or pull the spread early ahead of the weather. And do I really have to remind anyone to wear that PFD? Did

I always wear mine? No. Do I wear it now that I’m firmly convinced of my mortality? Absolutely.

DROWNING II Every year, duck hunters drown, with no boat involved. It’s the one-more-

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HUNTING step theory; one more step, and he’s over his chest waders. He’s in soulsucking mud and can’t get out. Mud, you say? The Canadians call it loon s**t for a reason. And the La Brea Tar Pits don’t have anything on tidal mud. This guy slips down the bank. That guy walks into an unseen beaver run. Guy number three decides the slough ice looks plenty strong enough; search and rescue personnel find him in the spring, but his family won’t ever be the same. It all goes back to the use of common sense. You’re not invincible. Even you young bucks, with your Greenhead Mafia tattoos, face paint, and big dog named after one of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons from Game of Thrones. It can happen to you too. Water doesn’t choose sides; she just wins. Simply put, a duck isn’t worth risking your life. Or worse. No, not even a Brewer’s duck wearing a Jack Miner band. It’s not worth it. So when you’re packing your blind bag, be sure to throw a little extra common sense in there too, eh?

Best of advice of all? Author MD Johnson loves hunting solo but having a buddy along not only guarantees company but also help should an emergency arise. Beyond that, use common sense. No quacker’s worth croaking over. (MD JOHNSON)

ON GOING SOLO I, like many of you, love hunting waterfowl by myself. Just me and the dog. Screw-ups are my screw-ups. Sadie Mae really doesn’t care if I’m having a bad day behind the gun. Or that my calling sucks. It’s just me, her and the oft-vengeful waterfowl gods. Anymore, though, I kinda like having someone else around. Just in case, I reckon. All the common sense in the world isn’t going to prevent the unavoidable accident. I get stuck in that tidal mud. I, heaven forbid, flip an Aquapod, putting me and the dog in the drink. I slip, go in overtop my waders, and now I’m struggling. I break something that shouldn’t be broken, like an appendage. Sure, a cell phone’s nice in a pinch, but my old Apple 4S isn’t going to magically teleport me from the middle of the slough onto the bank after the boat overturns. Truthfully, will I stop hunting 148 Northwest Sportsman

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alone, even now as I’m on the backside of the half-century mark and moving on up the historical ladder? Nah, not likely. But I do welcome the company of a fellow ’fowler more now than I used to back in The Day, especially in those situations where mayhem might very well be waiting

in the wings. The bottom line when it comes to waterfowl hunting and safety? In all honesty, this month’s random thoughts could have easily been summarized in but two words. And I know; you’ve heard ’em before. Common. Sense. NS


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Shed Training 201

Bleached-out sheds are usually located by sight, not smell. Here, author Scott Haugen’s pudelpointer Echo brings in a mule deer antler she found while scouring thick willows on a recent quail hunt. (SCOTT HAUGEN)


n last April’s column we focused on introducing shed antlers to your puppy. With shed hunting season nearly upon us, teaching your pup how GUN DOGGIN’ 101 to find old, bleached By Scott Haugen sheds will increase the number they’ll locate in the woods.

Dogs are color blind, so they naturally pick up on white due to the stark contrast with the surroundings. This is why white bumpers are widely used in retriever training. With so many white objects in the woods, teaching a pup to recognize the shape of white antlers is the initial goal in training with one. This can be achieved by introducing them to an old, white shed, should you have it, or a synthetic

one. Fabricated white sheds designed for training can be purchased at many sporting goods and pet stores. These fake antlers are smooth and feel like a soft plastic, almost rubber. The soft texture of these white dummy antlers serves two purposes. First, there are no sharp points, edges or burrs, so young pups can mouth them and pick them up without getting hurt, which can turn | JANUARY 2018

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COLUMN some dogs off of sheds. Second, the white color is easy for dogs to see, and the more times they see the white shed placed in different settings, the more likely they are to recognize the real thing in the wild. Introduce the synthetic, white shed to the pup by hand in a fun, familiar setting. Play with the pup and get it excited about the new object. You want the pup to be as interested as possible in this experience. Let the pup mouth the fake shed, exploring every part of it. This may take some guidance on your part, making sure they nibble on the tines, main beams and pedicles. After a minute or so, take the fake shed away. You want to remove the shed while the puppy’s interest is peaked, not once it starts losing interest.

White antler training dummies are great for getting a puppy used to mouthing them and picking them up, as they are soft and have no sharp points or burrs. They are also perfect for teaching pups to recognize bleached antlers in the woods, by shape. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

IN A DAY or two, reintroduce the fake shed in a different setting, like outside. Again, play with the pup and make the experience fun. If the pup will pick up the dummy, or drag it, encourage this behavior. If the pup’s interest is high, toss the shed a short distance, encouraging

the pup to go after it. A couple days later, take the fake shed outside and place it on the ground so the pup can easily see it; remember, a small pup is nearly at ground level. Then take the puppy outside on a leash, and eventually guide it toward the shed. The pup may recognize it from a distance, or it may need to get close in order to see and remember the shed. As your pup progresses in recognizing the shed, continue hiding it in different places. In order to keep the pup from picking up on your scent on the fake shed, wash it with soap and water and handle it with rubber gloves. You want the pup to visually pick up on the shed, not discover it by smell. Introducing a white shed antler dummy to your pup can be done anywhere from 10 weeks to 18 months of age, but the sooner the better. Of course, the older and stronger the pup gets, the greater its ability to pick it up, carry it and bring it to you.

AS PUP MATURES and easily handles the fake shed in its mouth, it’s time to introduce real sheds. Let them mouth and lightly chew on real sheds, be they bleached or brown, so they get used to the hard feel. But don’t treat sheds as chew toys. Sheds are not toys, rather something a dog will hunt for and retrieve to hand. You don’t give pups whole birds to chew on, and sheds should be treated the same way. The dog’s reward in shed hunting is finding them, retrieving to hand, and receiving praise from you. Because white sheds are easier for humans to see than fresh, brown sheds, and hard for dogs to smell, teaching your pup how to follow hand signals is a good idea. Oftentimes you’ll spot a shed from a distance, and you can guide your dog to it by hand signals. When introducing sheds to your pup, make it fun. The more fun a dog has, the more likely they’ll be to work and find sheds. Teaching your dog to find fresh as well as old, bleached sheds will result in more retrieved – and you learning more about the bucks in the area you hunt. NS Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is the host of The Hunt, on Netflix. To watch his series of puppy training videos, visit Follow Scott on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.

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Plenty New Under The Sun For SHOT 2018 J

anuary is getting to be more of a “favorite” month as I get older because it brings an annual trek to Las Vegas and the four-day Shooting, ON TARGET By Dave Workman Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show, arguably the biggest gun industry gathering on the planet. Although the news of late has talked about slumping sales and less interest in gun and gear buying, I already know that there are some good things coming in 2018, based on announcements from several companies over the past few weeks.

IN THE RIFLE DEPARTMENT, Browning is unveiling the X-Bolt Pro and X-Bolt Pro Long Range models, which feature an exclusive Generation 2 carbon-fiber stock with palm swell. Receivers and barrels are stainless steel with Cerakote Burnt Bronze finish. They have spiral fluting on the bolt body and bolt handle, target crowns and a threaded muzzle brake protector. They are offered in the following chamberings: 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win., .300 WSM, 26 Nosler, .270 Win., .30-06 Sprg., 7mm Rem. Mag., 28 Nosler and .300 Win. Mag. calibers. Browning’s X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Speed Long Range McMillan rifle has a McMillan Game Scout stock with integrated aluminum pillars. The free-floating barrel is 26 inches long and is fluted. Winchester will introduce the XPC precision chassis long-range bolt-action rifle with a 60-degree bolt throw and large locking lugs. The bolt has a Nickel Teflon finish and the steel receiver has a PermaCote black finish. Also from Winchester is the Model 1873

carbine with blued barrel band and blue steel buttplate and saddle ring, walnut stock and forearm. It will be chambered in .357 Magnum, .44-40 Winchester and .45 Colt with a 20-inch barrel. There’s a Model 1892 Winchester chambered in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .44-40 Winchester and .45 Colt. And Mossberg is adding lightweight bolt-action rifles in the MVP LC series with a lightweight aluminum chassis, and three barrel lengths matched to three different caliber options: 6.5 Creedmoor, 7.62mm NATO and 5.56mm NATO.

IN THE SHOTGUN ARENA, Remington recently announced the Model 870 DM, a magazine-fed pump shotgun that is the newest incarnation of the famous smoothbore model. I haven’t had the chance to try one yet, but plan to get my hands on one promptly. It can be fitted with threeor six-shot magazines and is a 12-gauge chambering. It comes with a cylinder bore barrel and will be offered in several finishes. Mossberg will offer the Model 835 UltiMag with new Mossy Oak Bottomland camo finish or in basic blue with a synthetic stock and forearm. Chambered for 3½-inch 12-gauge shells, the new camo model comes with Accu-Mag chokes and the Ulti-Full turkey choke, and a fiber optic front sight. The blued model has a bead front sight and Accu-Mag chokes. They have 26-inch barrels. Now in its sixth year, Browning’s High Grade Program offers a limited run of Citori 725 Grade VI Field models in 12 and 20 gauge. This year’s entry features gold enhanced engraving on the silver nitridefinished receiver and a grade V/VI walnut stock. It is available with either 26- or 28inch barrels.

Browning is offering a number of new models in the X-Bolt and X-Bolt Pro Long Range lines. (BROWNING) | JANUARY 2018

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Browning’s Silver Field 12-gauge semiauto shotgun is chambered for 3½-inch shells and has an aluminum-alloy receiver. (BROWNING)

The new Ci Th Citorii 725 G Golden ld Cl Clays TTrap gun in 12 gauge features gold-accented engraving on the silver nitride-finished receiver. The stock and forearm are grade V/VI walnut with a gloss oil finish and Pachmayr Decelerator XLT recoil pad. The Browning Silver Field, Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades 12-gauge semiauto model has an aluminum alloy receiver

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and d bl black/charcoal k/ h l bi bi-tone fi finish. i h IIt iis chambered for the 3½-inch 12-gauge shell and is available with a 26- or 28-inch barrel. Winchester will offer a Super-X 4 semiauto dubbed the SX4 NWTF Cantilever Turkey model. This one has a 24-inch barrel with a Weaver-style cantilever rail for mounting an electronic sight or scope. It is chambered for 3½-inch 12-gauge shells.

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Taurus will be spotlighting the new 1911 Commander and Officer model pistols, the Raging Hunter revolver and two other wheelguns, the Model 692 in .357 Magnum and the Model 856, a .38 Special snubby. The Raging Hunter is chambered for the .44 Magnum with a rail on top of the heavy ported barrel for a scope, soft rubber grip, adjustable rear sight and blade front sight. The Model 692’s cylinder has seven chambers, a stainless or blue finish, Ribber grip, ported barrel available in either 3- or 6½-inch lengths, adjustable rear sight and ramp front sight and, most important of all, it comes with a second cylinder for 9mm ammunition. For concealed carry, the Model 856 in .38 Special has an exposed hammer, sixround capacity, blue or stainless finish, soft rubber grips, and is +P capable. And Taurus will also offer a new .380 ACP called the Spectrum in a variety

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The Taurus Raging Hunter in .44 Magnum features a rail for mounting a scope. (TAURUS)

Hodgdon’s new IMR Enduron 8133 is designed for the .264 Winchester Magnum, 28 Nosler and .300 Remington Ultra Magnum. (HODGDON)

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We hunt Shiras Moose, Rocky Mountain Elk, Mule and Whitetail Deer, Mountain Lion and Black Bear in Northern Idaho.


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of color colo choices. It’s a lightweight with polymer frame and holds six rounds in polyme the stan standard magazine, or seven rounds in an extended ex magazine. Brow Browning is introducing the Black Label 1911-380 1 Pro Stainless model in both Co Compact and Full Size models. There will be an a accessory rail option. The Black Label has h a matte black composite frame and machined ma 7075 aluminum sub frame and slide slid rails.


The Swarovski Optix BTX features the eye cups of a binocular and the single objective of a spotting scope. (SWAROVSKI)

year, Ho Hodgdon has announced a new IMR magnum propellant called Enduron 8133, scheduled to start shipping in February. schedu Available in 1- and 8-pound canisters, IMR Availab Enduron 8133 is specifically designed for Enduro cartridges such as the .264 Winchester cartridg Magnum, 28 Nosler and .300 Remington Magnum Magnum. Ultra M Hodgdon is also continuing its Annual Hod Manual, a magazine-style reloading guide Manual thousands of load recommendations with tho hundreds of cartridges. The new for hu edition includes data for the 22 Nosler, 6 Cree Creedmoor, 6x47mm Lapua, 6.5x47 Lapua, 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum and .450 Bushmaster, along with updates for more than 30 cartridges. Redding offers the fourth in a series of weight range specific powder measures called the Competition PR50. Made in America, this new powder measure offers efficient metering, a precision ground drum, honed metering chamber and hemispherical micrometer-adjustable plunger. And there’s a new 6.5mm MatchKing hollowpoint boattail bullet from Sierra. It has a .27-caliber elongated ogive and is designed for use in rifles with a twist rate of 1:7.5-inch or faster for stable flight.

FINALLY, SWAROVSKI OPTIK is unveiling the new BTX model, combining the features and benefits of a spotting scope and binocular. It’s got dual eyepieces, like a binocular, but a single objective, like a spotting scope. The BTX is available with either a 65mm, 85mm or 95mm objective module. NS 162 Northwest Sportsman

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It would be a while before we found another. Meanwhile, Kevin and I were in the same boat, paying for the excesses of the night before. Luckily, the ranch has a few strategically placed lean-tos with gun racks and a cooler filled with bottled water. We rehydrated, swapped some stories from the weekend, then resumed hunting. Unfortunately for Kevin, either the water didn’t agree with him or his body repurposed it as a vehicle to remove the remainder of his morning McGriddle. Fortunately, my experience working on a charter boat conditioned me to seeing other people vomiting, so it wasn’t contagious. Porter put us in a scenario where we thought we had a bird cornered, but it flew up behind us by surprise, leaving us without a shot. The misdirection was fascinating. Just when you think you have pheasant figured out, that’s when they trick you. We walked along a creek, where Porter picked up a lot of scent. Pacing back and fourth, a bird flew the opposite direction from which we’d set up to take a shot. Porter seemed as frustrated by the missed opportunity as we did. A young dog with lots of energy and enthusiasm, he probably put in 20 times the mileage running circles full steam ahead until he picked up a scent for us. But he never showed any signs of letting up. Perhaps dogs are onto something staying away from booze the night before hunting. We stopped to snack on apples from a tree in the field. “These

are delicious; the deer around here are spoiled!” said Kevin, who minutes later leaned over and dry heaved applesauce. He couldn’t keep anything down, but hung in there anyway. Troy spotted another bird running in the open near some of the ponds in the distance. We approached the ponds and spread out, pushing the bird towards the water. Porter went on point right near the edge, and Kevin put just enough shot in the bird to let it cross the pond, where Porter finished the deed. With that well-executed shot from a hunter who was struggling to feel 100 percent, we decided it was picture time. While snapping away, Troy heard a rooster not far away. Porter posed for a few photos and went right back to work, pointing less than 50 feet away. When the bird flew, Kevin and I shot, and a cloud of feathers rained from the sky like confetti from a pheasant piñata. The moment was sobering and energizing, like a cup of coffee. Troy heard another rooster in the distance, and we gave chase in its direction. Porter went on point at a ditch crossing and we set up on both sides, not leaving any escape. The bird flew perfectly into my lane. The beauty of its colors in flight left me awestruck, and I missed the first shot. I gathered myself for a second and knocked it down. Grateful for such a well-intact bird, I started daydreaming of using its hackle to tie flies and catch redband trout as we trekked back to the truck to give Porter his bacon rewards for putting us on birds all afternoon. Flushing pheasants – and our bodies, in more ways than one – had turned out to be a good hangover cure, after all. NS


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Northwest Sportsman 165

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Sunday Afternoon Coming Down

A late night left author Randall Bonner and a fellow Western Oregon hunter the worse for wear, but teaming up with Troy Rodakowski and his pup Porter, the fellas shook off their hangovers and bagged a few ringnecks. (RANDALL BONNER)

By Randall Bonner


t didn’t take long to figure out killing my first pheasant wasn’t going to be easy. After a few unsuccessful hunts, fellow outdoor writer Troy Rodakowski offered to take me out to DK Wildlife Ranch just outside of Brownsville, Oregon, with Porter, his German short-haired pointer. While I was familiar with Troy, it would be my first time meeting his friend Kevin, a manager at a local sporting goods store. Before I went out the night before, I told myself I wasn’t going to party too hard because I wanted to make a good first impression. But it was Halloween weekend, and local country artist Junior Raimey was playing at the Meet’n Place Tavern in Philomath that night, and our hunt wasn’t until Sunday afternoon. Perhaps an extensive amount of walking would be a good way to burn off the empty calories from the beer I drank at the show, and sweat out the white lightning I’d shared with some fishing buddies on the Alsea. I woke up early the next day after being out pretty late, grabbed some coffee and hoped the fog from my hangover would fade away. After meeting Troy and Kevin in Brownsville, we ventured along the upper Calapooia, an area I’d only visited in summer while fishing for trout. Fall colors were in full effect and the river

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was alive with whitewater, a stark contrast to the low, clear trickle more familiar to me. The Crawfordsville covered bridge stood in the foreground of the natural landscape as we ventured along backroads to the oasis of shooting ranges, ponds and upland bird habitat at the ranch. Porter was eager to start putting in work as we geared up and headed in. A 2-year-old hound, his infinite energy was worthy of admiration. But it didn’t take long before I started to feel like I was sweating whiskey. And my concerns about being hungover in mixed company subsided when Kevin leaned over 20 minutes into the hunt and upchucked the McGriddle he’d had on the way there that morning. Eating fast food as a hangover cure is a roll of the dice. In spite of the adversity, we continued hunting, and it wasn’t long before Porter got birdy and went on point. The first pheasant that flew did so in close proximity to a residence, so we withheld a shot. Soon we had another chance, and this time all three of us shot, downing the bird with a team effort. I spotted another ringneck on the move in some shorter grass, but it just didn’t feel sporty to take a shot at it while it was on the ground. Troy, confident in his dog’s abilities, let Porter do his job finding it. Again, b-b-bang, flop. continued on page 164 | JANUARY 2018

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