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2018 SPORTSMAN CALENDAR INSIDE!

8TH ANNUAL

REAL WOMEN OF NW FISHING!

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G Gals, Moms, Daughters, FFriends & More Who LLove To Chase Fish!

2017

Gift Guide Inside

Steelhead Streams Ranked! OR’s Top 10 For Boats WA’s 12 Best Rivers & 7 Fallen Greats ALSO INSIDE

Rainbows, Waterfowl, Coho, Whitefish, Deer & Coyotes Ellensburg Elk Massacre


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Oregon Big Game 2018

RAFFLE HUNTS Winners get:

Extended season, including the Rut Hunt with any legal weapon Expanded hunt area

DEER • ELK • DEER/ELK COMBO • ROCKY MOUNTAIN GOAT PRONGHORN ANTELOPE • BIGHORN SHEEP

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

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Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

Volume 10 • Issue 3

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 Amy Bennett, Megan Billinger, Scott Brenneman, Jason Brooks, Gretchen Dearden, Shawna Dennis, Scott Haugen, Doug Huddle, Sara Ichtertz, MD Johnson, Michelle Johnson, Randy King, Christina Miller, Anna Mounsey, Buzz Ramsey, Kari-Lynn Smith, Terry Wiest, Amanda Wiles, Dave Workman, Mark Yuasa EDITORIAL FIELD SUPPORT Jason Brooks GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak

ALUMAWELD BLACKHAWK

SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES 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

HEWESCRAFT OCEAN PRO

COPY EDITOR/ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Katie Sauro INFORMATION SYSTEMS MANAGER Lois Sanborn WEBMASTER/DIGITAL STRATEGIST Jon Hines DISTRIBUTION Tony Sorrentino, Gary Bickford ADVERTISING INQUIRIES ads@nwsportsmanmag.com CORRESPONDENCE Email letters, articles/queries, photos, etc., to awalgamott@media-inc.com, or to the address below. ON THE COVER Janae Brock caught this beautiful wild winter steelhead while side-drifting eggs during a guided trip on a South Coast river with Jen and Randy Wells of Oregon Fishing Adventure. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

HEWESCRAFT SEARUNNER

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CONTENTS

VOLUME 10 • ISSUE 3 A wish come true for “The Wishermen” – Sabrina Rowat, Amy Bennett and Cynthia Davis hold a winter steelhead. (SABRINA ROWAT)

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8TH ANNUAL REAL WOMEN OF NORTHWEST FISHING 23 24-66 38 40 48 54

Our most popular feature of the year is back, and the 2017 edition of Real Women of Northwest Fishing is bigger and better than ever! Female anglers from across Oregon and Washington share their thoughts on chasing salmon, steelhead, bottomfish and more; personal stories of rebirth, bonding with family and friends, trial and error, and success and strength they’ve found through fishing; and dozens of pics of their great catches and experiences on Northwest waters!

Sara Ichtertz: Learning From The Ladies Photos: Real Women of Northwest Fishing Amy Bennett: Trial, Error And Perseverance Pay Off Gretchen Dearden: The Year My Heart Came Alive Again Megan Billinger: Fishing Through Generations Shawna Dennis: Can’t Wait For The Next Adventure

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Michelle Johnson: Make Way, Kayak Guys! Anna Mounsey: From Fishing With Gramps To Deckhanding To Seining In Alaska Christina Miller: Fishing Gives Me Strength To Live Kari-Lynn Smith: Mom And Me Amanda Wiles: All In

SUBSCRIBE TODAY! Go to nwsportsmanmag.com 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: rodgersfishinglodge@yahoo.com 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!


COLUMNS

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(JASON BROOKS)

SOUTH SOUND

With early winter steelhead all but a thing of the past in his neck of the woods, Jason says to look to coho waters for your December fishing fix, and he highlights this month’s opportunities to burn a little gunpowder too. 91

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THE KAYAK GUYS Beaver Lake is a – bad pun alert! – damn good fall trout bet that Washington fish biologists have made even better this year. Scott paddles us out on the Sammamish Plateau lake in search of rainbows. BUZZ RAMSEY With winter-run season upon us, Buzz names his top 10 Western Oregon steelhead rivers for fishing out of a boat. Did your stream make the list?

105 WESTSIDER Longtime Pugetropolis steelheaders have seen their runs and fishing wane over the decades, but there are still places where Westside anglers can catch winter-runs. Terry recalls seven fallen greats, as well as details his 12 top rivers to hit this season. 125 NORTH SOUND It’s the time of year that separates the grouse hunters from those who grouse about the hunting. Doug 12 Northwest Sportsman

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heads into the thick stuff in search of last-chance ruffies, as well as sets us up for success on Nooksack and Skagit Rivers whitefish. 151 GUN DOG 101 A key part in training a successful gun dog is getting it used to the sound of gunfire. Scott shares stepby-step tips for introducing your pup to the booms it’ll hear in the pheasant fields and beyond. 157 CHEF IN THE WILD Chef Randy and his pronghorn posse head out in search of fixin’s for a kicked-up McMuffin sammie: antelope and apple sausage with egg, avocado and hollandaise sauce on an English muffin! 163 ON TARGET Whether you’re thinking about doing a little rabbit hunting, maybe thinning coyote numbers or wondering what to get a fellow sportsman for Christmas, Dave has some ideas for you!


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(DON BULLIS)

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FALL INTO WINTER TROUT OPS

Rainbow warriors used to be out of luck this time of year if they didn’t have tip-ups. But not these days, what with Washington fish managers expanding opportunities – Mark Yuasa has the details!

FEATURES

131 SMALL WATERS, BIG REWARDS They don’t call mallards puddle ducks for nothing – small, off-the-beatenpath waters attract and hold birds. Resident ’fowler MD Johnson shares tips on finding and hunting these postage-stamp-sized spots. 141 FORECASTING FOWL West is best and east is least – except when they aren’t. Portland-area duck and goose hunter Andy Schneider sorts out when it’s best for fellow Rose City wingshooters to head for the coast or Mid-Columbia for birds.

DEPARTMENTS 17

THE EDITOR’S NOTE

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SOCIAL SCENE Reader reactions to recent news

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PHOTO CONTEST WINNERS Browning, Fishing monthly prizes

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THE DISHONOR ROLL Another Ellensburg elk massacre; More illegal gillnets; Jackass of the Month

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DERBY WATCH Everett Blackmouth Derby results; Northwest Salmon Derby Series grand prize winner; Upcoming events

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OUTDOOR CALENDAR 2018 Northwest sportsmen’s and boat show schedule

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BIG FISH Record Northwest game fish caught by female anglers

101 RIG OF THE MONTH Jarod’s two-lure steelhead set-up 14 Northwest Sportsman

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THEEDITOR’SNOTE

Wolves of the Walla Walla Pack in Northeast Oregon emerge from a snowy forest. (ODFW)

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he Northwest wolf news beat usually cools off through fall, then goes into hibernation till March, when Oregon and Washington announce their best guesses about the minimum number of furry fangers running around these parts. Not so this autumn. Livestock depredations continue. Southern Oregon wolves are being poached, with rewards posted and upped. North Cascades National Park reported they may have two or three packs – completely catching state managers off guard. Yet another study cast doubt on a Washington State University professor’s once much-lauded 2014 conclusions about cattle, sheep and wolves (and the research house was relabeled the Washington Fallacy Center). Idaho found cougars accounted for the lion’s share of elk calf deaths in the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe basins the past two winters. Maternity pens were erected as a last-ditch effort to save the Lower 48’s last caribou, which are being picked off by wolves and other predators. An Oregon hunter and a Washington rancher shot wolves threatening themselves and their cows. Everybody became an expert on wild wolf behavior and bullet wound channels. Fringe wolf groups demanded investigations and filed lawsuits. Facebook comments stretched into the hundreds. Grizzly bear restoration, anyone?

I GUESS IT’S just a sign of the times that wolves are such a polarizing subject. OK, it’s not like I don’t know that. I’ve been reporting on them since summer 2008, when the first pairs turned up in Washington and Oregon. That timing might have been a bit odd, but the wolves haven’t arrived here any other way than their own four feet, from reintroduced source populations in Yellowstone and Central Idaho, and the vast pack roaming Canada. Indeed, it’s amusing that wolves are considered endangered or threatened when tens of thousands exist on the other side of that 20-foot-wide slash through the woods. Of course every species is rare at its range edge; think humans on the moon. But that’s not how the game is being played. We’re locked into meeting numerical benchmarks on this side of the line, so, while it will be grating for some to hear it, to get there, we still need some more wolves. At the same time, know that the conversation has begun to turn. In Washington, clearly on its way to meeting those goals, the discussion is becoming, how do we manage wolves post-recovery? Wolf fans got away with a state management plan that requires higher breeding pair numbers than elsewhere. Hunters and others would be wise to engage in this next step early, and wisely. No wolves is not possible. But tons might be if we don’t speak up. –Andy Walgamott nwsportsmanmag.com | DECEMBER 2017

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SOCIAL

SCENE

Comment from the www

By Andy Walgamott

POOR WASHINGTON MULE DEER HUNTING It wasn’t just the editor who had a forgettable rifle deer season in Eastern Washington. Many fellow Evergreen State hunters reported similar results (though perhaps without the drama of an opening-weekend truck breakdown, overcrowded pumpkin patch, notprepared-for-snow hunting partner, collapsed tent, cut-short trip, etc., etc., etc.). “Worst season I have seen in the Methow,” Matt Wood commented on our Facebook post about second weekend results. “My family ate four whitetail doe tags in Alta.” Alyson Bowens Savage reported, “Didn’t see one single legal buck during season in the Republic area. Worst season yet. Used to see 20 to 30 deer a day, easy!” But the early winter and lack of general season success boded well for those lucky enough to have drawn a special permit to hunt migratory bucks in November: “Exactly the news I wanted to hear,” noted Kent Frye. “Late Chewuch hunt, here we come!”

OREGON ELK HUNTER SHOOTS WOLF IN SELF-DEFENSE Human-wolf encounters are increasing in the Northwest as more packs form, and in Northeast Oregon’s Starkey Wildlife Management Unit an elk hunter who felt threatened by one coming toward him shot and killed it. Posting the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division’s press release sparked the usual range of comments, which can be boiled down to the brief thoughts of Gary Berntsen – “Kill ’em all” – and Rich Youngers – “Total BS.” With more incidents likely, the release included advice from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to fire a warning shot into the ground to scare the wolves away. “I actually did fire two warning shots when I was prey tested in Washington in 2011,” recalled Kari Anne Hirschberger. “Did not do anything.”

BLACKMOUTH CLOSES FAST No sooner had fishing for resident Chinook opened in three Puget Sound marine areas last month than it abrubtly closed. The number of angry and sad emojis on our Facebook post nearly equaled the number of likes. “Nooooooooo!” wrote Larry Thompson, while Patrick Doyle, Matt Del Negro and Terry King all cursed the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. But agency sportfishing advisor Ryley Fee called it “the right move to make, right now. There are far too many encounters with juvenile fish,” impacting the guideline, a kind of squishy quota. Saving encounters now means more keepers later.

MOST LIKED READER PIC WE HUNG UP ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE DURING THIS ISSUE’S PRODUCTION CYCLE Jonathan Lafitte enjoyed a productive swing through Oregon’s South Coast in early October, picking up Rogue Bay and Chetco Bubble kings, as well as big likes for this big fall Chinook. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

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Destination Alaska


Destination Alaska


Learning From The Ladies Sharing the water with a dozen other female anglers in 2017 leads to new insights, friends and even more drive for Sara.

Cynthia Davis holds a pair of tidewater Chinook. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

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s I began to think about goals for this year I realized I desired something a little far from my norm. At that point, any goal I had set as far as my love for the rivers goes had always been about the angling itself: new methods, species, waters, targeting stocks earlier – things of that nature. But as 2016 came to an end I knew 2017 would be unlike any other year. Living and fishing in Southern Oregon I saw but glimpses of fellow lady fishers. Being inspired from afar, curious of them and their methods, what drives them, and desiring to possibly have a river mate or two who was in fact a lady, a mildly wild notion came over me: I would spend this year chasing women as they chased fish. (OK, in all honesty, it was not as easy as it sounds: Some days I think the fish were easier to handle than the women!) I had also made up my mind that 2017 was going to be the year I pursued my narrative writing. With ladies fishing growing by leaps and bounds right now, who better than me (yes, self-absorbed, I know!) to dive into a project about it? I am semiambitious, a true fisher and I can write about the creatures I love. So I thought to myself, “Let’s do this, Sara!” I wanted to share some time on the water with some fishy women, something I had never really been able to do. I wanted to see them in their happiest of places, in their element, and feel the energy and the love they have for those spots. I wanted to feel it so I would be able to write about it, and so I did. I’m not going to lie: Between one extremely blown-out winter and the facts of life (11 women’s lives, plus my own),

this wasn’t the easiest of my endeavors. I thought trying to coordinate and line out dates and rivers with women from the south coast of Oregon to ladies around Seattle and everywhere in between would be the hardest. But there were also the stars of our show: the majestic creatures that lie beneath the water, the fish! One does not always just simply show up and slay. Their angle had to be taken into consideration as well. These fish test us (all fishers) for a reason. I love the way there are no

guarantees in fishing for salmon and steelhead. It makes it that much easier to choose to chase them, as today might be that day, the one that lives in your heart forever. The chasing of the fish is a very romantic affair and that is one of the reasons I think ladies who truly decide to become fishers succeed, as time and love is what creates river masters more so than anything else. Skills develop once you give both of these things to the rivers. Being rewarded with fish that glisten brighter than diamonds, life lessons learned, all in Renee Johnson adjusts her line. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

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the beauty of nature, where the adrenaline of catching these fish takes over and leaves you shaking – what woman would not love that?

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EVERY ANGLE OF this year pulled me away from what I love, what I have been devoted to: the riverbanks that had become my comfort zone, my home, my heart. I worked hard to gain that comfort by fishing these rivers over nearly the past four years. It had come naturally to dive into those stunningly beautiful waters, with and without my babes in tow. It was in my neck of the woods, my own big backyard, where I could learn at my own slow, stubborn, silly and yet eventually fishy pace. This year, however, was the year I would intentionally interact with cities and the women who live in them. Driving in cities – I almost died multiple times! – is something I hate. And with the banks of my Southern Oregon rivers nowhere in sight, I experienced boats like never before. But what I found on those incredible sleds, drift boats and an old wooden dory (just beautiful) was beyond worth the country-girl anxiety I felt. These ladies’ hearts too are on the river, their smiles were more beautiful 24 Northwest Sportsman

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Tobey Anderson eyes up a tasty stretch of Idaho’s Lochsa River, home to westslope cutthroat. She also enjoys steelheading on Olympic Peninsula rivers. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST, ALL THIS PAGE)

Marian Caballero loves chasing salmon and steelhead, but “(b)eing out in the ocean is a whole different level of fishing – the ocean is mesmerizing. Washington has such a wide variety of species to fish for, which is why I love this state!”

From bass to Chinook to big, beautiful B-runs, Cassandra Charles catches all the Lewis Clark Valley offers.


Destination D estination A Alaska laska


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Tina Fountain fights a fall Chinook off Astoria’s waterfront. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

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than their fish (which is saying a lot!) and they take their angling very seriously. They do in fact know what they are doing, and are willing to be constantly learning at the same time. I am grateful that they said yes to my crazy idea when they could have said no. Even though there are so very many angles of these lady anglers’ hearts and stories, one thing that I did very much see as a constant is simply the joy of fishing. It’s universal for men, women and children alike. Once we were out on the water chasing the creatures that we all love no matter the weather (I do mean no matter the weather!), they were happy and gave it 110 percent. Their laughter truly called in the fish. Seeing and hearing it had me smiling and thinking, “You poor fish have no idea what you are 26 Northwest Sportsman

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Dottie and Kimber Roberts enjoy a mother-daughter moment on the bay. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

Gretchen Dearden hoists a very nice summer king. (SARA ICHTERTZ)


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Jen Prescott and Lori Claudon have fished and crabbed Washington waters with family for years, but a trip to Alaska this summer showed them how great fishing in the ocean can be. With nearly nonstop action for coho, pinks, halibut and even a few nice Chinook, it’s safe to say they’re hooked and ready to go back! (CHASE GUNNELL)

Kenya Dillon’s first-ever pink salmon fishing trip went well. She landed a limit drift fishing a sand shrimp and Corky.

Paula Corcoran had a great summer salmon season on southern Puget Sound, sending this pair of Chinook caught on Hyper-vis+-taped lures just 15 minutes apart to the smoker.

Eric Olsen and Scott Wilderson were schooled by Allison Harvey, who caught that day’s biggest Chinook, this 19.5-pounder at Possession Bar. “Allison continues to prove time after time that ‘You need to fish like a girl!’” Olsen says.

When Allison Huwaldt, 8, isn’t on the water reeling them in, she’s asking her dad Mike, “‘Can we go fishing today?’ She loves being on the water or around animals that live in the water,” he reports.

Lexi Han outpaced her two older brothers to limits on the Tucannon chain lakes this spring. She is also a Columbia walleye slayer. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST, ALL THIS PAGE)

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Destination Alaska

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Billie Cragg and her North Coast ’Nook. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

FROM THE FIRST woman to the last and everyone in between, I believe this group was presented to me in exactly the way it was intended. My list of ladies did change throughout the course of the year due to life and timing. Funny thing is, even in my moments of panic or despair I began to realize I had to trust in this journey. From my sheltered little life I continuously met ladies I had never seen before and found them to be fish slayers, so I never gave up hope. I let all the angles that were out of my control go, and continued forward. Women literally came walking into my life unexpectedly. The amazing thing is they belonged in this project; I love how passion has a way of bringing people together. Even though I missed some ladies I very much wanted to be part of this first stab into the complicated, yet beautiful life of lady 30 Northwest Sportsman

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in for!� The joy was clear. What I feel in my heart I very much could see in their eyes. The fish that were landed throughout this year were all crystal-clear evidence that these ladies can fish.

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Amy Bennett and Cynthia Davis with a bright coho. (SARA ICHTERTZ)


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anglers, I just trust that my time with them is yet to come. The diversity in my group for this project was huge, not only in their ages, which range from 25 to 54, but in their personalities, perspectives, ambitions, and what drew them to the rivers and drives them to this day. Some of these amazing ladies fish for nothing more than their own hearts; it’s their passion, not their career. For others, fishing is their very life, both figuratively and literally. I found it interesting what they think other women should or should not do with this passion. Some feel very strongly that they should pay it forward, do so to where it’s seen through the public’s eye, and that the other women should as well. Others are content and happy to make a difference for themselves, their families or even one person they may have met along the way who no one knows about, except the people they single-handedly have helped. Then there are some who fish in their tight little fishing family and like it that way. No matter their angle, these women are known by many, and they inspire more people than they probably ever realize. I could see they are all willing to love something greater than themselves. They pour love into the rivers and in doing so, no matter the headache one most endure to get there, ladies too can straight-up slay. I know, I have seen it with my own eyes. In this past year I shared some truly incredible angling moments that showed me how talented these ladies are and how blessed we are to call the Northwest our home. The species and fisheries are each so unique and special. Wild winter diamonds of steelhead. An abundance of upriver springers. Breath-taking, tear-making June hogs. Unforgettable oversized sturgeon. Summer Chinook covered in sea lice. Upriver beauties, the steelhead my dreams are made of. Buoy 10 fish just a’blinging! Wild coho hungry off the Columbia. Stunningly beautiful fall 32 Northwest Sportsman

From spring through fall, you’ll find Lorelei Pennington prowling Oregon Coast waters for lingcod, rockfish and salmon – here she is with a lastday coho caught off Depoe Bay.

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Kris Rondeau’s first Umpqua River springer “gave her a terrific battle, made several good runs before we finally landed him,” says husband Jim. It was a “happy moment for both of us.” They were anchor fishing with a Rogue River special near Roseburg.

Morgan A. went from wrangling cattle to wrangling fish this summer, “crushing it,” says Hunter Shelton. She caught this Olympic Peninsula steelhead on shrimp under a bobber.

That’s Stacy Ostrom with a baby (Avery, 3 months) in one hand and an upriver bright in the other. They were fishing on the Hanford Reach.

Shari New got into some nice hatchery coho on Nehalem Bay during fall 2016’s season. She was trolling Mulkey spinners behind flashers out of the family drifter. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST, ALL THIS PAGE)


Destination Alaska


PICTURE Chinook in the jaws of North Coast rivers. Tidewater, where those beautiful giants begin to make their way upstream. And back again to home, to the river where my journey began this past winter, calling it a wrap on my 35th birthday, bobber fishing where we literally watched the fall Chinook take our bait and the fight was on. Each adventure is worthy of its own story (so watch for more to come in 2018), as the women behind these fish are equally as incredible.

NO MATTER WHERE they came from, they all started out somewhere. I found each woman’s unique story that got them on the water fascinating. Some have shared the water with their dads all their lives, to where being on it is second nature to them – and you can tell. The beautiful story of a mother sharing her passion for the rivers with her daughter, who is now a fishing mom herself, rang deep in my soul. I could feel their love and emotions as to how motherhood and the rivers can go hand in hand quite beautifully. I am thankful this woman inspired me from afar when she did. In her presence, the feeling I felt was exactly what inspired me over three years ago, and so this was one of the many treasures I found along the way. For others, their loves brought the fish and the rivers into their lives. They now bond through the fish and the adventures behind them. Seeing these lovers on the water made for some of the best teamwork and fishiest boats I have ever seen. I loved my first trolling experience, where teamwork straight up slayed springers! Just incredible! A few ladies discovered or even reconnected with the rivers later in life for themselves as a form of healing, strength, self-discovery and independence unlike any they had ever experienced. Through believing in themselves they have found this one-of-a-kind love, the realization of self-worth that they had been in search of, realizing only the rivers could help them see it. 34 Northwest Sportsman

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Some of these women have earned places in the fishing industry simply because the rivers have a funny way of making your life revolve around them. When you give something your very heart, opportunities have a way of being presented into your life. Even the ladies who don’t have a desire to work in the fishing industry still find their lives revolving around the rivers and the fish. This sport isn’t just a hobby; it’s putting your heart and soul into learning. In doing so, ladies are gaining ground in the world of fishing.

DEVOTION TO RIVERS most definitely is what has opened opportunities in the industry for many of these ladies. But not simply because they are a girl; rather, because they have worked hard learning, fishing and believing in themselves, no matter the odds stacked against them. Many times, people are quick to assume that because we are ladies we are treated better or unfairly compared to the men who live for this sport as well, or that we are seeking attention outside of simply sharing our joy of fishing. In a way, the ladies who wholeheartedly give it their all cause those who live to chase fish to shine bright, almost as bright as a firedup summer steelhead! But to assume that any recognition is given simply because we are ladies is false. I have seen it, I have felt it, so I can say these ladies’ beauty, their gifts and abilities are far more well rooted than just skin deep. Embracing the fact that we are women is the smartest thing to do. At the end of the day, I know each of these ladies does in fact want to be seen as a fisher. Yet to not embrace the fact that we are lady fishers would be silly, I think. I am proud to know these women, proud to know they do know what they are doing. They truly are amazing. They have paid attention to details, and without a doubt they are beautiful badasses who, believe it or not, can fish right alongside the best of them. Their game matters to each and every one of them. They all very much believe in the beauty of learning – constant learning. I feel blessed to have seen amazing growth in some of these ladies over the course of 2017. I feel my own has been incredible too. What I learned

You can’t get much more Northwesty than A) catching Chinook and B) wearing socks with sandals, and Kyla Hinds knocks them both out of the park. She hooked this king in the San Juan Islands last summer on a hoochie in purple haze.

Silvia Lara fishes as often as work allows, hitting Columbia Basin lakes such as Blue, Moses, Banks, Chelan and Roosevelt. Here she shows off her and friend Felix Ramarui’s limits of nice, big Potholes Reservoir rainbows. (LEROY LEDEBOER)

Rosanna Lehman shows off several Puget Sound coho caught aboard the family boat this past summer. A flasher in purple haze followed by a 3-inch glo-green hoochie and small herring did the trick. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST, ALL THIS PAGE)


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up north is something I could never have at home. Words cannot quite describe how thankful I am to have met the man in the shadows throughout this wild endeavor, guide David Johnson. I cannot lie. Without him, I doubt I would have been able to pull this off. He is this amazing, safe, very fishy outlet for all of us ladies. I learned an entirely new realm of fishing, and because of him I now love waiting on that killer trolling takedown. Being alongside him and one lady over the course of this year was especially good for my riverbank-driven soul. Our sledboat game gained so much. The neat thing about that style of fishing is what you choose to learn or not to is entirely up to you. I suppose that remains true no matter the style of fishing, but she and I both were almost more excited when salmon slammed the herring we had cut and rigged than baits we hadn’t. Small victories rock. This year was full of them and I will never forget how those made me feel, and I loved seeing how they made others feel too.

EIGHT RIVERS, THREE sections of the Columbia, and one lake. Two states. Thirteen fisheries. Four thousand three hundred and forty-eight miles driven. I gave this project my heart. I sacrificed some things in my own life to try to bring ladies angling into the light, to show what it means to be a fisher to these women. Throughout this discovery I saw stunning sunrises and sunsets. Waters that were so beautiful they literally made my heart skip a beat. Fish that were out of this world. Met people who take pride in their angling – and the fact that they were women gives me hope. To underestimate these ladies is, sadly, something I am sure will continue to happen despite the facts. But there is great beauty in allowing a few flames to fuel the fire of passion, and to think lady fishers are going anywhere but onward and upward would be a mistake. I feel thankful for all the inspiration I have absorbed throughout this year. I feel honored to know I too have inspired a few of these exceptional ladies myself, as things of this nature are what drive me as an individual. The waters were ever 36 Northwest Sportsman

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changing, just as the women were this year. The beautiful thing about 2017 is that even though I caught some great fish with these ladies and witnessed some of their catches of a lifetime, what I landed was some genuine ladies in my heart. I look forward to the days we find time to fish together, to share the water, the laughter, those heart-breaking moments when they get away, the victories, and all of the beauty that is fishing. I want to give a huge thank you to these incredible ladies who so kindly opened their hearts to this adventure, and to me. They include Jennifer Wells, Bryanna Zimmerman, Kimber Roberts, Sara Dodd, Gretchen Dearden, Tina Fountain, Cynthia Davis, Renee Johnson, Amy Bennett, Nicole Shipman and Billie Cragg. You all made me laugh, feel welcome, and even loved. You ladies truly all inspired me in your own unique ways. That’s the beautiful thing about us being individuals: we are all different. We do all have our own powers and gifts, weaknesses and flaws. I love how I got to see each one of you shine in your own way. I could see the true joy of fishing in each one of you. There is a place for each of their stories for a reason. Being secure in who we are will only help pave the way for us right here, right now, and for the lady fishers who will follow in the future.

KNOWING THAT I’VE touched but a drop in the bucket of ladies angling makes me smile. We all have so much good to do, so much to discover. You all make it easier for me to believe in the future. The growth that is happening in ladies angling right now is truly incredible. The fact that we are finding ways to get to the water like never before and learning all that is fishing gives me hope for the fish too. As deeply as I care for these creatures, so does each woman I fished with this year. I think the more confident we can become as lady anglers, the more active we will naturally become in paying it forward in our own individual ways. Pouring love and devotion into areas that need help and support is something women are good at. Rebuilding and preserving habitats for the future runs is something I believe women should pour some passion into. The future of fish – wild and hatchery

Author Sara Ichtertz with a nice stringer of surfperch. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

Jennifer Wells releases a wild steelhad. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

Nicole Shipman is all smiles with her big fall Chinook. (SARA ICHTERTZ)


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– fisheries, and the balance of it all will benefit by having proactive ladies 8 T H AN N UA L on board. As a mother, F these crucial things make NW I FISH me think of my babes, and of the children as a whole. We as women can share time and passion, instill what it is that matters, and help the children become more active in not only fishing but in working to conserve our precious watersheds and their runs. Each of us as anglers can support and devote our time wherever we see fit. More and more ladies are becoming confident fishers daily. Having amazing, and awe-inspiring ladies to look up to has me whole-heartedly believing that women are making a difference and will continue to make a difference in angling far deeper than the fact our smiles have never made fish look so good. I am thankful to be a part of this growth. The future that lies ahead for women on the rivers and in the fishing industry is bright. Fifty years from now I know women from all angles of angling will be making a true difference in their waters, their fisheries, the habitats, and in the overall sport of fishing. A woman’s heart is full of passion. The more women who are touched by the rivers and the phenomenal creatures that lie beneath them, the more who will care. A woman can do a whole lot of good with something when she does in fact care. There is beautiful inspiration all around us, both in the beauty of nature and in the fishers who choose to chase the fish of the Northwest. Thank you for helping me to see some good in a world that sometimes leaves me puzzled. As I have traveled many a mile, through many a storm this year, I was thankful for what I found on the other side of them. Some of the greatest things in life do not come easily. That is part of what makes them so great, part of what makes them beyond worth it. Fishing the rivers has proven this to be true, and in all honesty, so has this year – the one in which I chased fired-up ladies whose hearts are on the rivers, and who couldn’t change it, even if they tried. E

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Trial, Error And Perseverance Pay Off By Amy Bennett

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grew up in Florida, specifically the Tampa Bay area, on the Gulf Coast. Being underwater, swimming with the fish, was how it started out for me. My mother has been a diver since my earliest memories, and I’ve been scuba diving since I was 9. Before that, I would snorkel along the surface and free dive to hang out with her and her friends. I caught my first fish at age 5. It was a 7-pound catfish at Roland Martin Marina on Lake Okeechobee. In my younger years, I was more into being a fish than into fishing. But as long as I was on the water, there were no complaints.

Two years ago, I moved to the Northwest. I thought, “Well, I can pull just about any fish off a grass flat in Florida; how hard can it be to pull one out of a river?” That thought led to me catching nothing my first year here. Luckily, I quickly became friends with Cynthia Davis, who had been fishing here a few years already. We sucked. But we fished two days a week together for a year, never giving up. I started working at Fisherman’s Marine and Outdoor. The clouds parted, the sun shone through, and revelations began. I was gifted a world of knowledge through fishing with people I worked with, with customers whom I befriended, and by asking everybody questions while I rang them up at the register. Now I just had to sort through the crap. By taking this information, and through trial and error

Amy Bennett found Northwest fishing wasn’t as easy as angling in Florida, where she learned as a child, but she’s making good progress. (AMY BENNETT, ALL) with Cynthia, we finally stopped sucking (as much). Fishing is what we wanted to do, and we wanted to be good at it. Catching that first fish, whether it be salmon or steelhead, is a feeling like no other. Its beauty is not something easily put into words. Upon learning about the decline in run numbers for both species, I’ve been driven to do more research on what can be done to help. I’m now going to school for it. Steve Irwin, my hero, once said, “If we can touch people about wildlife, then they will want to save it ... because humans want to save things that they love.” For me it’s the broodstock program. Having two “wild” parents instead of breeding hatchery fish with hatchery fish, will, I feel, produce healthier offspring. Preservation meets conservation. Preserving a quality gene pool leads to conserving the species. Isn’t that what we, as anglers, as humans, want for the future?


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hat a difference a moment can make in one’s life, and what a difference a year can make in many. This year, I’ve had many life changes – new friendships, new opportunities, getting uncomfortable, challenging myself like never before, diving fully into my newfound passion. This may come so naturally to some who have always been on the rivers, lakes or anywhere outdoors, to people blessed with family members who could 40 Northwest Sportsman

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It was an exciting and fulfilling year for Gretchen Dearden on the water, one she needed. “I have been healing, learning, and finding peace with each new destination, bent rod and fish kiss,” she writes. (GRETCHEN DEARDEN, ALL) teach them, and have that quality time and knowledge I craved. I was constantly humbled this year, knew I had to pay my dues, so to speak. I wanted to grab all the chances I could to be on the water, learning and soaking up all that fishing experience. Middle-of-the-night drives are not uncommon for most devoted fishermen; they were new, scary and yet empowering for me. Doing so much on my own for the first time – amazing! It was a powerful draw for me to be anywhere before sunlight. Fishing, the anticipation of not knowing what that day would bring, what I might reel in, was just incredible! It had become my addiction, my drug!

WITH EACH MONTH, each new season, there was a different fish to chase. Rivers, lakes, the ocean – I wanted to learn to fish all of them, to blissfully hug and kiss each fish. I must say, it came so naturally

because of the way the fish made me feel. Since the first salmon I caught at Vernita Bridge with Mr. David Perez, I had this intense feeling of joy and gratitude, one I had never felt before; proud moments made with my children. I was compelled, I had to hug and kiss them. So, from kokanee in Chelan, bottomfish in Puget Sound, halibut out of Garibaldi, kings in Astoria, coho in Westport and sturgeon on the Columbia, I have been healing, learning, and finding peace with each new destination, bent rod and fish kiss. I found such a new appreciation for life and the beauty that truly surrounds us. I took the time to seek it, go after it and soak it all in. It’s something I will never take for granted again. Within this year of venturing out, finding myself and wanting to learn all I could, I found amazing people with the same passion. First and foremost, my


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THE ENTIRE YEAR was about me

Wraptor custom rod family has always been supportive and willing to teach me everything about fishing and rod building. So many wonderful experiences have come from joining this group of people, making quality rods and creating memories. They have allowed me to grow, help others within the fishing industry, and I am honored to now be one of the coowners of this fine company. I was also asked to be part of the Fish Like a Girl Adventures with David Johnson, Sara Ichtertz and Sara Dodd. What a dynamic, full-of-life bunch we are! Encouraging, silly, fun, passionate and driven to help other women experience what we love so much, in a safe, positive environment – what a success! We made it onto TV, but that was not the most successful part. That was how many women booked trips, and the memories we got to share and be part of. Priceless. I really feel we made such

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F learning, healing, taking care, and truly NW I FISH discovering who I was for the very first time. Mothers and women often never get to focus on themselves and their passions. If we do, there is guilt surrounding it. But with my boys’ support, this has been my year, and I have been running with it. I fought through every negative comment, every doubter, and even being made fun of. I kept pushing myself, sometimes even doubting myself. Countless times I would come back with nothing or with the smallest fish. I was called “the small fish whisperer.” Well, one day in June, it was finally my turn! Finally, all the lost hours of sleep, the lost fish were going to pay off! We were fishing the Columbia when I saw my rod bending towards the water. I grabbed my pole, heart pounding, trying not to get too excited! I wanted to remember all I Giving back is important to Gretchen, and she’s was taught, and was determined I was not helping out with organizations such as Get Hooked, which teaches outdoor skills to Northwest going to lose this fish. I have caught many youths, as well joined Youth Outdoors Unlimited. fish but I believe that one was my first real And she’s even deckhanded on a Puget Sound fish fight! With all its might it kept pulling charter. (GRETCHEN DEARDEN) O

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a positive impact and difference. I am proud of being part of that.


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finally believing in myself and trusting the journey I was on. More and more I was filling my catch cards and feeding my

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and running, and then suddenly it flew out of the water and my heart dropped! We all knew at that moment that this was the real deal! The beautiful chrome, its size, was breathtaking to me! After quite some time I finally won the battle, and when my huge summer Chinook made it into the net, and onto the boat, the whole river could hear me cheering. There were high-fives, hugs, tears and, of course, that shake; I love the shake! I got to experience that moment with my dear friends. They have given so much of themselves trying hard to help me live and learn this passion. They have helped my heart come alive again; it changed me forever.

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or disabilities out on hunting or fishing addiction; I couldn’t get enough. I went adventures. I have reached out to help with on another trip with the winner of the other wonderful organizations that I believe Fish Like a Girl Adventure contest, Renee in as well. Get Hooked, an organization that Parsons. She was bottomfishing for the teaches outdoor skills to our youth across first time ever, and she was nervous, Washington and Oregon, and a couple O not sure what to do. Boy, have I W M E AL E veterans programs like Got Your Six known that feeling all too well. and Salmon for Soldiers are on the Somehow it was so natural 8 T H AN N UA L list. helping her tend her pole, F I found myself and my calling watching her reel her fish, stay NW I FISH within the industry. For all the support calm and get it to the net. I saw and time selflessly given to me, I want in her eyes what I feel each time. I to give back. I want to be part of creating fully shared that moment with her; we all opportunities to encourage women to did. We were a team, creating a lifelong learn to fish, not to be intimidated by it. I memory. That’s what it’s about. Sara Dodd want to give back to our veterans because was netting, Sara Ichtertz was taking I am so grateful that, because of them, I pictures to capture the moment, and have the freedom to fish and help others. It David Johnson was keeping us safe with allows me to honor our favorite veteran, the the boat. boys’ father, Shane Dearden Sr., who passed My joy of catching a fish for myself had in 2015. I want to be a part of helping make now changed. I wanted to help others a difference in children’s lives. They truly experience it. So when a chance arose to be are our future. In today’s world they need a deckhand for my friend Capt. Nick Kester quality time, to see the beauty in humanity with All Star Charters, I dove in. Volunteering and the outdoors, not in electronics. had now become a huge part of who I am. I I learned the hard way that so much became a board member forYouth Outdoors can change in a moment, but with passion Unlimited, a nonprofit corporation that and dedication, so much can change in takes youth with life-threatening diseases


Vicki Tindall specializes in hooking big salmon and steelhead – this beautiful winter-run came from the Coquille last February. (FISHING PHOTO

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a year. I found my strength and healing. It was within, humbling myself to accept help from others, and in giving back. Now my addiction is creating memories and seeing others experience that shake that makes you feel alive! I want to show my boys, my heroes, that they need to find something they are passionate about, to never quit, to never say you can’t or listen to those who say you can’t, and to always give back! My friend once told me to keep one hand on the ladder and with the other, reach down to help someone else up. This rang true in my heart and those are the words I choose to live by. There are so many exciting opportunities coming in 2018. With so much growth for Wraptor, new opportunities to help the children, veterans and women within the industry, and so many more fish to chase, bring on the New Year!

CONTEST, ALL THIS PAGE)

Ashley Peterson’s a pro at running lines out to just the right spot to intercept fall Chinook! She caught this one on a wobbler.

“I like to fish,” says Toni Pollock-Bozarth, then corrects herself: “No, I like to catch fish.” Here she holds her biggest of the year, an 8-pound Cowlitz springer.


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Though she grew up a “fisherman’s daughter,” angling came back into Meg Billinger’s life in recent years when she was searching for a stress relief that offered an adrenaline punch but came at a slower pace.

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(MEG BILLINGER)

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started fishing at a young age but I didn’t really start on my own until about seven years ago. At the time my kids were only 3 years old and had had similar exposure to fishing as I had as a child: lots of bank fishing, trout ponds and sitting on beaches waiting for rods to go off while I entertained the local fishermen’s dog. I grew up very much a fisherman’s daughter. My dad, Robert, grew up in a fishing family as well, on the lakes of

Minnesota catching panfish and pike. I vividly remember many afternoons Dad would get off work around the time we got out of school and he would load up the rods in his 1976 Ford Ranger

and we would drive out to the Wilson River. While he was chasing steelhead we would be dipping coffee cans into shoreline pools to torture tadpoles. Dad also had a dear friend who raised

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Richelle Risdon says she’s been fishing her whole life for salmon in the ocean, but it wasn’t till this past year that caught her first Columbia king, this upper river summer Chinook, on a SuperBait.

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trout in ponds on his property outside North Plains. This is where my first real connection with a fishing pole began. As I got older, Dad started taking me on ocean salmon and bottomfishing trips. We would get up in the dark and drive in the old Ford down to the coast. Being 10, I would torture him with Cindy Lauper and Madonna mix tapes the entire way. Pacific City was also a place that holds fond memories, as another one of Dad’s friends had a dory boat. Launching off a beach into the surf at a young age was always better to me than any ride Dad could have taken me on at Disneyland. I know it gave him just as much joy doing that as it did me to get to go and experience it all. To be perfectly honest, I don’t specifically remember a single fish we ever caught. What I can remember is the smell of Dad’s truck in the morning with

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Crystal Rohler has “the touch,” says her uncle Dave. “She will catch fish no matter what type and will stay on the water until she does.” Here she has a Puyallup pink caught on a day she “landed more humpies than most.” Tuna fishing was tougher this year, but McKenna Risley made an 80-plus-mile run out to sink her hook into this beaut of an albie anyway. She was fishing with boyfriend Wyatt Lundquist. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST, ALL THIS PAGE)


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The memory of catching individual fish on trips with her dad has faded like photos yellow, but the sensory impressions remain – the thrill of running dories through the surf at Pacific City, smells, tastes, touch. (MEG BILLINGER) his coffee, the lunches he would get up extra early to pack, and the moments that he would put his huge arm around me as we came into the beach so that I didn’t fall out of my seat because my tiny feet didn’t reach the floor. My dad has some amazing pictures of monster salmon he caught in Tillamook Bay with his buddies that hang all around his desk. Fishing as an adult now, nothing makes me happier than to come into his living room surrounded by those pictures and share with him where I have been all weekend and show him pictures of what I have caught. There is something truly magical about a father and a daughter who can bond over the sport of fishing.

FAST FORWARD TO seven years ago when big changes in my life called for something that could serve as a release, a stress reducer. I had always been into the outdoors but much of my time up to that point had been spent doing very adrenaline-rich sports like rock climbing and snowboarding. I was in search of something that would feed 52 Northwest Sportsman

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that same adrenaline addiction but that would come at a slower pace. Cleaning out Dad’s garage one day and seeing all of his old Lamiglas rods, fishing just seemed like an obvious choice. I spent hours picking through his old tackle and reading his old books that night. It wasn’t long before I was looking for friends who would accompany me to rivers I knew nothing about, to throw outdated lures at fish I wasn’t even sure where there. To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing but I was determined because I knew how I had felt as a child fishing with Dad and I just wanted a little of that back. Over time I learned rivers, I met friends, I went to seminars, I googled videos on how to tie knots and how to set up for different kinds of fishing. I accumulated enough gear to open my own shop and I felt comfortable enough to go alone. Every once and a while Dad would print out an article on curing eggs or a specific river if he overheard me on the phone talking to someone about it, and quietly sneak it in with my mail. I loved it because I knew that fishing was the thing that kept my dad and I connected like nothing else, and if you ask him, I am sure that he will say that he is proud of the lady angler that he has raised.

NOW A MOTHER of 10-year-old twins, I get to experience all those things Dad

did when he took me as a child. Not only that, but I get to pass on my dad’s legacy and teach my kids to be good sportsmen and good stewards of the sport. As my passion for fishing grew and my need for time on the water increased, I knew that there were going to be days that the kids were going to have to come. I am sure this is how it all started with Dad, maybe slightly selfishly motivated. I wasn’t sure how far I could drive to fish because what if someone had a meltdown, got wet, got hungry, needed to go potty or any of the one million reasons that kids can make a day trip feel like a total disaster. So we started at that same little trout pond in North Plains, which was close to home and had facilities. We would watch the stocking schedules for other ponds in our area so that I could take the twins when we had a better chance of hitting fish. Let’s be honest, kids this age have the attention span of a gnat, but fish on the line helps to hold it immensely. Through trial and error we finally found the keys to making trips fun, and Dominic caught his first winter steelhead this year. It has always been important for me to help foster a passion in my children, to help them find something that they can really sink their souls into. Whether or not that will be fishing remains to be seen, but for now, we are enjoying the time that we get to spend on the water as a family.

For Meg, the inevitable, shall we say, challenges of taking her kids fishing has come with rewards like watching her son Dominic land his first steelhead. (MEG BILLINGER)


Can’t Wait For The Next Adventure

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Fishing’s learning process has made the catches all the sweeter for Shawna Dennis. (SHAWNA DENNIS)

54 Northwest Sportsman

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ishing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. All of the men in my family were amazing and avid fisherman. That’s just it, though – the men! Never as a girl was I invited to go, and I always resented it and thought of it as a complete waste of time. That is until about four years ago, when my dad finally asked my husband and I to go out on his boat, and we went nearly every day that summer. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked! I did countless hours of bank fishing and worked on my casting every chance I had. I also signed up with a friend two years ago for the Fish Like A Girl Tournament put on by VIP Outdoors. Until this last tournament, I had never caught a salmon. After four years of countless casts and heartache, I finally understood what fishing truly was. In a crazy way, I’m almost glad it took so long, because it made it that much sweeter! I had tears, in fact. I’ve never felt a feeling quite like it,

and since that day, I have caught several and had an outstanding summer. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some incredible guides and I’ve made some amazing friends. I’ve met so many like-minded women who love fishing as much as I do. These women encourage and uplift me at every opportunity, and it’s my hope that I’m sharing that love. Fishing is so much more than just catching fish. It’s about enjoying the outdoors and our beautiful fisheries, taking the time to stop and breathe and learn something that changes and challenges you at all times. It’s about making friends and sharing your love for the sport, while sharing what we’ve all learned along the way. I’ve truly found something that makes me happy and made me feel a way you can only feel when you truly love what you are doing. I’m so grateful for fishing and can’t wait to see what adventures I have next! –Shawna Dennis


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Northwest Sportsman 55


Kayak Guys,

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’ll never forget the day the dream began. Three years ago I was fishing fall Chinook out of Bouy 10 when a kayak fisherman started fighting a fish alongside our boat. I was blown away by his ability to steer his kayak, fight the fish and even net it all alone! Looking around I saw a few kayak fishermen scattered amongst the dozens of boats but no female kayak anglers. This was when I decided I wanted to break social stigmas in a predominantly male environment by becoming a female kayak angler. After years of dreaming, researching and discovering my passion for kayak angling, I can proudly say today I am a female kayak angler, as I finally caught my first fall Chinook from a kayak on the Columbia River! –Michelle Johnson

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started salmon fishing with my grandpa Anna Mounsey is among the in south Puget Sound when I was young most diverse of Northwest and have always loved the ocean! Then female anglers, having sport fished, deckhanded I’d go with my dad and realized that it might and netted. be something I could do for work. I worked (ANNA MOUNSEY) as a charter deckhand in Seattle and then in Seward, Alaska, for two summers and had so much fun with clients and catching huge halibut and salmon! I seined once when I was 17, but didn’t go out again until this past summer. I worked in Bristol Bay on the Janet Elaine for my boyfriend’s mom, who is one of the few lady skippers in the bay. I instantly knew that this type of work was well worth the labor. My first season up there was a wild one. The area we were fishing broke the historic record for the fish run, which made for an amazing and hectic season. I think I learned more in the first five-hour opener than I did all season. We made our first set of the season and it was instantly loaded down with fish. From then on, it was nonstop basically until we trailered out six weeks later. Then, I flew down to southeast and worked the second half of the summer cooking on the Jillimare, a seiner, and fell in love with the area and the work as well! Not only do I pay for college, but I make some amazing memories. For me, fishing is a way to get out on the ocean. Despite being covered in fish and sometimes not showering for weeks, I still feel so clean and not stressed. It’s the best being on the kind of schedule that revolves around waking up, making food and catching fish all day. I traveled to some of the most beautiful places in the world and called it a day’s work! Fishing has always been a part of my life and now I get to do it as an occupation, which is something I think my grandfather would be proud of! –Anna Mounsey

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Sabrina Rowat, the daughter of a commercial fisherman and born in the Florida Keys, is a relative newcomer to the Northwest, but judging from the passel of pics she sent in, she’s starting to get the hang of salmon and steelhead! (SABRINA ROWAT)


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Using bait as bright as her shoes, Mackenzie Watson plunked up this nice summer steelhead on the Columbia.

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The Schertenleib gals did well on the upper Columbia this year! From top left, youngest daughter Cadi caught not only this sockeye but a 17-pound Chinook on the Brewster Pool. Oldest daughter (and April 2017 cover girl) Kaley hooked her personal-best kokanee, this near-5-pounder at Lake Roosevelt, as well as landed several tackle sponsors. Meanwhile, having conquered kokes and salmon, mom Casey jumped at the chance to keep sturgeon on the Upper Columbia reservoir, retaining a 48-incher. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST, ALL THIS PAGE)

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started fishing the rivers of the Northwest to stay alive. I was diagnosed with crampfasciculation syndrome, myofascial pain syndrome, severe muscle wasting, fibromyalgia and a TMJ disorder, to name a few. The pain was overpowering. I was weak and fragile, and needed something to ease my depression. I weighed 92 pounds. I had no strength. My intestines were shutting down and I had no friends to support me. I needed physical therapy three times a week and had no insurance. There was no way I could pay. I could barely walk What was I going to do? I knew I had to do something or I would die. Being in the house just made matters worse. It was a constant reminder of all the things I was incapable of doing. My significant other was watching television one day and Free Fishing Weekend came across the news. He said, “Hey, why don’t we just go fishing?” So the next day, we did. It has been over 10 years now and I’ve been fishing the rivers of the Northwest on foot. I fish from the banks. I cast repeatedly until I feel that tug on my rod and the tip bends. Surrounding myself in nature helps ease my pain. The sights, the sounds and the smells of the rivers help keep my soul at peace. I have caught hundreds of trout and given them to people who are unable to fish. I have caught many catfish. This past September I won a four-

60 Northwest Sportsman

DECEMBER 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com

Help others and you will be rewarded in the end. Christina Miller’s three truckloads of donations to a fundraiser scored her a fishing trip on the Umpqua River with guide Guy Springman. “I fish regularly but this is so far the biggest fish I’ve caught,” she reports of this, one of two fall Chinook she landed that day. “I was just trying to do good things for the kids. The fishing trip was a nice surprise, to say the least.” (CHRISTINA MILLER) person fall Chinook fishing trip with Guy Springman of Valley Boy Guide Service for raffle tickets I bought at Anchored Ink in Springfield in support of Bags of Love. It was my first time being on a boat. I caught two king salmon. I struggled getting that second fish in, but I did it. Guy was kind, respectful and taught me a lot about salmon fishing. He never laughed at me or put me down. When the tip of my pole went down, he got up and said, “That’s your fish; grab that pole!” and “You can do it.” I have much respect for him as a person, not just a guide, especially since he never

knew that I am disabled. Today, I’m 124 pounds. My physical therapy has been the hunt for my next fish. All that tackle-carrying, hiking to fishing spots and casting is awfully physically taxing, but it’s all been well worth it! I’m currently suffering from severe whiplash, but when I’m fully recovered I plan on fishing for spring and fall Chinook, as well as steelhead. To many people I “just” caught a fish, but September’s fall Chinook are my courage to keep fighting. Those salmon I caught give me faith in believing I can maybe someday beat my disabilities. My love of fishing saved my life. –Christina Miller


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Zoe Spears is new to squid jigging, but did well during a derby early last month at Point Defiance Marina in Tacoma. She came in third in the youth division with five, as well as outsquidded her grandma, Toni Pollock-Bozarth, who noted, “It is always nice when the student outdoes the teacher.”

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Amanda Spiegel was fighting two battles at once on the Strait of Juan de Fuca this past spring: dishwasher seas and a 60-pound halibut. But she fought through nausea to yard in her biggest flattie yet!


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Mom And Me

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y mom Debbie Standish and I have been through a lot over the years, with many ups and downs. A few years ago she reached out and said she would love to join me on our fishing adventures. We spend every day together, we work side by side and even see each other on weekends. When she told me she wanted to fish with me also I was ecstatic! She is my best friend, my rock and my everything. I’m so excited to be able to share these adventures with her and can’t wait for many more to come! Our annual girls trip has become so much more than just another fishing trip. I couldn’t be happier sharing these adventures with my mom right by my side. –Kari-Lynn Smith

Author Kari-Lynn Smith and her mother Debbie Standish fish side by side off the Northwest coast. (KARI-LYNN SMITH)

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When Bob and Mary Kay Velikanje found themselves empty nesters, Bob also found a new ďŹ shing partner. “I should have known all along she was my lucky charm,â€? he says of Mary Kay, here with one of four fall kings she landed over a weekend trip in the Columbia Gorge that included Country Boy IPAs from a White Salmon brewery.

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There are a lot of chromers on these pages, and Mindy Webster catches her fair share too. But she also reminds us that there are other colors of ďŹ sh to be caught – green, for starters! She caught this smallie and largie in Okanogan County. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST, BOTH THIS PAGE)

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have fished ever since I was a little girl at my grandparents’ lake cabin, which is now my father’s lake cabin. Trout was the only fish I knew how to catch before I met my husband. My secret lure is the Triple Teaser! My husband is an avid outdoorsman and taught me everything I know. I started with RiverJunky about nine months ago. I was approached by one of the coordinators and asked if I would be interested in volunteering as a coordinator who helps with collecting sponsorships and donations. At that time RiverJunky was very new (it was started by Jarrod Kirkley in the beginning of 2017). We now

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have over 10 coordinators working daily to support the mission, which is to 8 T H AN N UA L help preserve the river. F We conduct community NW I FISH cleanups about every six to eight weeks on a different river each time. We have raffles and give prizes for cleanup efforts as well. The idea is to reward people for their efforts collecting trash. Members will post a picture of themselves with the trash they have collected and we send a prize. We have almost 9,000 followers on Facebook to date. It has been very successful in one year. We also received the volunteer of the year award this year from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Yay! My love for fishing mainly came from my love for the outdoors and just being in nature. I love to hike and be outdoors; with fishing I get the best of both worlds. I truly adore the fishing community and have made some lifelong friends within this community. My fishing skills are not where I want them to be, but this is a sport that takes time and practice. I recently have been E

When Amanda Wiles isn’t helping clean up the rivers, she’s cleaning up on the rivers – here’s a pair she caught at the Buoy 10 VIP Outdoors Fish Like A Girl Tournament this year. (AMANDA WILES) dabbling in fly fishing in the rivers and very much enjoy that type of fishing. I love to see a fish in that clear water and have the satisfaction of knowing I scouted that fish out and got it to go for the fly. Very rewarding. –Amanda Wiles


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MIXED BAG

Another Ellensburg Elk Massacre

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wo men are suspected of killing at least four cow elk east of Ellensburg after spraying gunfire “recklessly” into a herd of wapiti. The shooting occurred nearly a year to the day after the infamous – and unresolved – elk massacre here and was also reported by hunters. According to state fish and wildlife officers, on Nov. 2 Sgt. Carlo Pace and Officer Courtney Nasset were dispatched to a green dot area of the Quilomene Game Management Unit, with Nasset arriving first and detaining two men who had field-dressed two cows at that point. However, witnesses said that more elk had been shot, and with help, Pace was able to find another two down in the vicinity. As the sergeant interviewed the men, they allegedly “confessed to shooting into the herd recklessly with a semi-automatic rifle.” “Although believed to not have maliciously shot more animals than they should have, they knew there were more and planned on leaving them to waste if officers had not intervene (sic),” game wardens alleged. More than a dozen spent shells were recovered, and the semiauto and another firearm were seized. It happened on the second day of the antlerless elk season for rifle permit holders in that GMU, while true spike bull hunting was continuing. At press time, Capt. Bob Weaver said officers were still putting the case package together for Kittitas County prosecutors, but his agency

anticipated filing charges of exceeding the bag limit and party hunting. He credited elk hunters who witnessed the shooting for calling it in. “Without their help, we wouldn’t have made this case. That’s what we’re most thankful for,” he said, pointing to law-abiding Washington hunters. The venison went to a local mission. As for November 2016’s killing of at least five elk, including four calves shot

down “like somebody took a machine gun to the hillside,” it’s still an open case, Weaver said. That’s despite a reward of $9,000 and 10 bonus special permit points, and widespread news coverage. “Unfortunately, no, nothing’s ever developed on that case,” says Weaver.

More Illegal Netters Busted

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ast issue’s story here on the arrest of a couple for illegally gillnetting at night in a salmon sanctuary on the Oregon side of the Columbia isn’t the only case of bad actors using nylon to intercept migrating fish this fall. Two cases from Washington highlight smaller but no less impactful instances of poachers hanging nets in salmon streams. In September on the Stillaguamish, state and tribal game wardens teamed up for nighttime patrols and to search for gillnets. WDFW officers say that two nets were taken out of the river, while a “few others” were also found stashed along the banks of the Stilly. That time of year sees ESA-listed Chinook, as well as pink salmon returning. In October, attention turned to illegal Wishkah River netting, described as having “always been a problem” but one that Officer Loc Do wanted to finally get on top of. After a tip came in, Do found a net and waited without backup in the darkness for

JACKASS OF THE MONTH

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By Andy Walgamott

hen Washington game wardens launched an investigation into Thomas Gill and his son for allegedly killing two mule deer out of season in Ferry County, they discovered evidence the 47-year-old Everett man had poached in Idaho. According to a midfall article in the Couer d’Alene Press, Gill arrowed a bull moose near Rathdrum in September 2014, taking the head for a European mount, as well as some meat, but left the rest.

An illegal gillnet strung in the Wishkah River caught several coho before it was pulled by a Washington fish and wildlife officer and his two suspects. (WDFW) someone to come check it. After several hours, he heard a boat motor heading his way before two suspects cut the engine and got out their paddles. Using a little old-fashioned game warden subterfuge, Do went to his vehicle, flipped a spotlight on the pair and used his public address system to tell them they were surrounded by Washington’s finest and that they had better row on over. With seemingly no escape, the two did so, and after area police arrived, Do and the duo hauled in the net, which held several salmon. Charges were expected.

Gill had neither an Idaho hunting license nor a tag, reporter Ralph Bartholdt wrote. In late October, Gill was sentenced to pay $10,000 in restitution to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for killing a trophy moose (all bulls are considered trophies under state law), as well as nearly $1,000 in fines and fees, according to the story. Gill also can’t hunt, fish or trap in Idaho for four years, and presumably won’t be able to in Washington or nearly every other state in the country under the Interstate Wildlife Violator compact.

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nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

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78 Northwest Sportsman

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By Andy Walgamott

Idaho Angler Scores Salmon Series Boat

11.89-pounder Wins Everett Blackmouth Derby

A

near-12-pound Chinook won last month’s Everett NoCoho Blackmouth Derby, while 2016’s winning angler was among the crew that took first place in the team category. For his 11.89-pounder, Adam Burke of Everett scored a $4,000 check. Coming in second was Timothy Quinn of Camano Island with an 11.24-pounder, good for $2,500. Lilaine Leonardo of Bothell and Troy Moe of Lake Stevens finished third and fourth with fish just hundredths of an ounce apart, 10.93 and 10.90 pounds, but which translated into $1,000 and $500 paydays. Alex Davis caught the kids division’s largest resident Chinook, a 9.29-pounder. In the team category, the sharpies of the Big Kahuna crew – Lance Husby (overall winner of last year’s event) along with Moe, Derek Floyd and Scot Bumstead – came in first with an average weight of 8.52 pounds, far outpacing second-place finishers, Team Accurate Automotive and their 4.8-pound average. The catch and size of blackmouth was down somewhat from 2016, though about the same number of adult and youth anglers took part. Organizers say they weighed 109 Chinook for a total of 671 pounds and average weight of 6.22 pounds. Last year saw 146 brought in with an average of around 6.65 pounds or so. Still, everybody who put a fish on the scale went home with a prize, Adam Burke holds a $4,000 check at the organizers reported. Everett No-coho Blackmouth Derby for his The event is put on winning 11.89-pound resident Chinook. (EVERETT COHO DERBY) by the Everett Salmon Association. The no-coho in the derby’s name refers to the big Everett silver derby which has been cancelled the last two Septembers due to poor predicted returns and no fishing allowed in prime saltwater venues.

MORE UPCOMING AND ONGOING EVENTS  Sundays in November and December, Tengu Salmon

Derby, Elliott Bay; tickets: Outdoor Emporium, sportco.com  Jan. 13, NW Ice Fishing Festival, Sidley and Molson Lakes, Molson, Wash.; info: orovillewashington.com More events: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/contests/index.html. To have your derby or results listed, email awalgamott@media-inc.com.

The Northwest Salmon Derby Series’ 2017 grand prize 22-foot Hewescraft OceanPro was won by Gary March of North Idaho. (NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES)

T

he Northwest Salmon Derby Series has annually made just one stop east of the Cascades in recent years, and boy howdy did it pay off in 2017 for one lucky Inland Northwest angler. Stepping back into fishing contests after a few years away, Gary March entered late July’s The Big One Salmon Derby on Lake Coeur d’Alene and in early November, he got a call that his name had been drawn for the series’ grand prize boat, a 22-foot Hewescraft OceanPro powered by 250- and 9.9-horse Hondas, and which comes with an EZ-Loader trailer and more, an $85,000 package. March, who retired to Worley, Idaho, with his wife Claire after working for 45 years for White’s Boots in Spokane, got the unbelievable news while in Jordan, Montana, where he’d been delayed following a vehicular mishap after a mule deer hunting trip on nearby Fort Peck Reservoir. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said to derby officials. “My emotions were pretty low at the time, and then I was right back on top.” He’s the 14th grand prize winner of the series put on by the Northwest Marine Trade Association and sponsored by West Marine.

Ice Festival Coming Up

D

ust off those tip-ups, the 14th Annual NW Ice Fishing Festival is just around the corner. Held in the Okanogan Highlands town of Molson east of Oroville, this winter’s shindig is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 13, from 8 a.m. till 3 p.m. Anglers work Molson and Sidley Lakes in hopes of landing a lunker, but there is a host of other activities to enjoy and a nearby grange hall to warm up in through the day. The derby is put on by the Oroville Chamber of Commerce (orovillewashington.com).

2018 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES   

Jan. 5-7, 2018: Resurrection Salmon Derby Jan. 18-20, 2018: Roche Harbor Salmon Classic Feb. 8-10: Friday Harbor Salmon Classic

For more information, see nwsalmonderbyseries.com. nwsportsmanmag.com | DECEMBER 2017

Northwest Sportsman 79


OUTDOOR

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RECORD NW GAME FISH CAUGHT BY FEMALE ANGLERS Once again, along with this month’s annual Real Women of Northwest Fishing feature, we’re highlighting state record fish caught in Idaho, Oregon and Washington by lady anglers! Date ~1960-64 8-8-70 9-13-87 6-21-92 8-23-94

Species Largemouth bass Sockeye Chinook (lake) Grayling Channel catfish

Pds. (-Oz.) 10-15 5 42 2-7 58.5

7-10-96 9-19-99 5-15-08 7-29-09

Pumpkinseed Kelp greenling Pikeminnow Rainbow

.48 4.42 7.915 20-02

9-8-13

Yellow bullhead

2.06

Water Anderson L. (ID) Redfish L. (ID) Coeur d’Alene L. (ID) Nez Perce L. (ID) Brownlee Res.(ID)

Angler Mrs. M.W. Taylor* June McCray Jane Clifford Velma Mahaffey Jessy Newberry, Kim McCormick L. Oswego (OR) Linda Mar San Juan Islands (WA) Danita Rixen Snake R. (WA) Pamela Ramsden Snake R. (ID) Michelle LarsenWilliams Potholes Res. (WA) Monica Beckley

*Archived news stories narrow this catch to between March 1, 1960 and May 4, 1964. nwsportsmanmag.com | DECEMBER 2017

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82 Northwest Sportsman

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FISHING

Fall For Winter ’Bows

It’s a lonelier part of the trout calendar, but Washington fishery managers are increasing fall and winter angling opportunities for lake fishermen. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Trout fishing’s offseason ‘can really be an exceptional time’ to head to Washington lakes for recently released broodstockers, catchables. By Mark Yuasa

J

ust because we’ve hit the winter doldrums doesn’t mean it’s time to put away your rod and reel. Some of the best trout fishing comes when everyone is in holiday mode, thanks to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s revamped stocking program. “Winter time can really be an exceptional time of the year to go trout fishing,” says Steve Thiesfeld, the agency’s inland fish manager. The late trout planting period came after public input taken a couple years ago by WDFW showed that anglers wanted more fishing opportunities in the fall and winter. “Not everyone is off hunting or chasing salmon, and it’s an especially good time to introduce youngsters to fishing,” Thiesfeld says. “It is certainly a much more wholesome activity than

going to the mall. What better time to get out for some fresh air and exercise, and to communicate with nature.” WDFW has been busy since early autumn planting about 120,000 catchable-sized rainbows. Most measure 13 to 15 inches, along with some jumbo-sized trout averaging 1½ to 2 pounds. Meanwhile, large numbers of fry planted in spring are growing to keeper-sized fish. While this massive stocking effort across the state started back in October, some of the most hyped plants, dubbed the “Black Friday opener,” occurred just recently, with the majority going into Southwest Washington lakes. “Region 5 does the best job with the trout plants that occur around Thanksgiving,” Thiesfeld says. “But we’ve also got some lakes closer to the Puget Sound region which will benefit from plants of their own.”

THOSE INCLUDE SAMMAMISH’S Beaver Lake, which got a plant of 849 jumbo-sized trout on Oct. 16, and about 800 just before Thanksgiving. Another 800 are set to be planted right before Christmas. “We’re hoping that this new stocking schedule will even out the angling pressure and also prolong the fishery for these big trout,” says district fisheries biologist Aaron Bosworth. Another plant occurring this month is at Goodwin Lake in northwest Snohomish County, which will get 5,000 trout. In Pierce County, American Lake got a plant late last month of 2,500, and Tanwax received 1,000. These trout averaged 1 to 1.3 pounds. In Thurston County, Offutt Lake was planted late last month with 1,000, Black Lake got 3,000 and Long Lake received 1,000. In Jefferson County, Anderson nwsportsmanmag.com | DECEMBER 2017

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FISHING was planted with 1,200 on Nov. 21. The Southwest Washington lakes that got good doses of trout – 2,000 apiece – for Black Friday include Clark County’s Battleground and Klineline, Cowlitz County’s Kress, Klickitat County’s Rowland, and Lewis County’s Fort Borst and South Lewis County Park.

EASTERN WASHINGTON LAKES add to the winter trout fishing festival. Roses in Chelan County was planted last month with a whopping 18,000 rainbows, and North Elton Pond in Yakima County got 2,000. “Fourth of July and Hatch Lakes each got good fry plants in 2016, and those should be ready to go for winter fisheries,” Thiesfeld adds. While the Inland Empire can be a very chilly winter-time proposition, Fourth of July, which is near Sprague, is a top producer and has a decent carryover ratio of trout bigger than 20

Big broodstock rainbows, like this one caught by the author’s son Tegan (left), liven things up at some waters, while 13- to 15-inch catchables provide most of the action. Klickitat County’s Rowland Lake is one of the waters where now-retired state fisheries biologist John Weinheimer (left, at right) kicked off the Fish Friday campaign in November 2011, while fall releases at the Issaquah-area’s Beaver Lake stretch back to at least 2003. Weinheimer and Wade Ramsey caught these trout trolling 2.5 and 3.0 Mag Lip plugs and crawl-retrieving 3-inch PowerBait Trout Worms. (MARK YUASA, BUZZ RAMSEY)

inches. Fly fishing can be fun here, but it doesn’t take much for the lake to form a nice, thick layer of ice. Note that nearby Hog Canyon is closed this winter for a rehabilitation project to rid the lake

of unwanted species. At Hatch Lake, southeast of Colville, look for trout in the 10to 12-inch range, along with some carryovers pushing 20 inches. Highlighting the Eastside’s trout

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DECEMBER 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com


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Northwest Sportsman 87


FISHING fisheries, and virtually flying under the radar, is expansive Lake Roosevelt. “FDR has a really nice net-pen program that stocks three-quarter of a million fry annually,” Thiesfeld says. “This is one of our best winter fisheries that nobody knows about, and sits out in the middle of nowhere. The trout fry survival rate has been good, and what we know is they’ll be pushing 13 to 14 inches. By January look for them to be 15 to 16 inches.” Operators of the volunteer netpen program, assisted by WDFW, began in 1985 with humble plants of trout and now release 750,000. The fast-growing fish are a special strain that feed on abundant plankton known as daphnia, which gives the meat a nice red color. Since this is big-water territory, anglers who cover a lot of ground trolling with downriggers and a fishfinder will have best success at depths of 25 to 75 feet or deeper.

Eastern Washington ice fishermen have one fewer option this season with rehab work pulling Hog Canyon Lake offline, but other waters including Roses, where Tucker Flowers, then 10, pulled a rainbow through the hard stuff, and wide-open Lake Roosevelt are good bets. (JASON BROOKS)

Try a small spinner or spoon with a piece of nightcrawler, and add some “bling” with a dodger or gang trolls. The lake also hosts a fairly good number of nice-sized kokanee that might take your bait (see Northwest

Closest seaport to Portland, OR!

Sportsman, February 2017). For a comprehensive list of stocked lakes, go to wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/ fall-into-fishing/. Weekly stocking reports can be found at wdfw.wa.gov/ fishing/plants/weekly/. NS

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90 Northwest Sportsman

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COLUMN Among the best bets for trout fishing this time of year in the Puget Sound region is Beaver Lake, where this family netted a very nice rainbow in October. (SCOTT BRENNEMAN)

Become A Beaver Believer: Fall Stocking Sched Expanded

I

awake up to a wet, gray, blustery Seattle Sunday morning. Gazing through my window, I see the trees THE KAYAK GUYS shaking violently back By Scott By Sco cott tt Brenneman Bre renn nnem eman and forth, letting me know it is too windy to fish. It’s an easy decision to nix the plan for an early morning departure, and in the afternoon the wind finally starts to calm. There is still plenty of daylight left, so I gather some gear together. I search through the kitchen for some bait, but find the marshmallows are missing from the half-full box of Lucky Charms, thanks to the selective feeding habits of my three children. My search moves outside. In

the yard, a couple shovelfuls of dirt from the flowerbeds are turned over. Sifting through the earth I pick enough worms for the day. I pull up to the Beaver Lake boat launch east of Seattle. The entrance is outlined by the classic Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife chainlink fence with the brown wood slats that mark its boundaries from the street to the water’s edge. The access site is by no means crowded today, with maybe a dozen rigs parked alongside the fence. As I prep at the shoreline, four boats launch and a single fisherman beaches his small 12-foot aluminum skiff. On his stringer are two fish over 15 inches. While paddling out I decide to play

I-spy before fishing. Most people are still-fishing dough baits on the bottom around the perimeter of the lake. A drift boat is trolling in the middle. A lone fly fisherman casts a Woolly Bugger out and slowly trolls, his pontoon zigzagging across the lake. The next time I look towards him, he is battling a nice broodstock ’bow. The catch rate, though not as fast-paced as previous years, seems to be holding up well under the new stocking plan. I attach a worm to a black Rooster Tail and cast my line out. The ¼-ounce slip sinker attached above my leader helps to keep the spinner stay below the surface as I start a slow troll across the lake. I notice a pair of anglers in a raft. They

nwsportsmanmag.com | DECEMBER 2017

Northwest Sportsman 91


COLUMN have a fish on and are trying to wrangle it into their net. I continue on past a point and my attention is drawn to the sound of a thrashing fish as another fisherman in a Zodiac plays a trout. Trolling is not working out so well today for me. I decide to cross to the other side of the lake. Having no bright-colored Rooster Tails with me, I remove the slip sinker and grab a No. 3 cerise Blue Fox spinner and tie it to my mainline. There is a slight breeze on the northeast corner of the lake, which I cast into and let the wind push me along in 15 feet of water, dragging my lure along close to the bottom. After a couple drifts without a hit I change tactics. Still positioned in 15 feet of water, I work a section of water about 40 feet wide by casting toward the shore and slowly retrieving my lure. I do this for over an hour and it pays off. I hook, land and release three nice rainbows.

WDFW’S FALL/WINTER STOCKING schedule is a great resource when deciding where to

fish this time of year. Sammamish’s Beaver Lake annually stands out above the rest for a couple of reasons. Most noteworthy is the release of 2-pound rainbows from the Issaquah hatchery and which are planted in the lake every fall. When given the choice of waters open through the winter, who wouldn’t want to spend time pursuing these large trout? This year the lake will be stocked incrementally the last three months of the year, with 800 fish added monthly. As a result, the fishing in December is going to be noticeably better than in previous years. I prefer to fish lakes with personality. I am not interested in those waters that resemble toilet bowls with their predictable contour lines and depths. Lakes only interest me if they have unique character traits. The more the shoreline is varied by inlets, point and bays, the better. This is good indication of varied contour lines, ridges, shelves and drop-offs below the surface. This makes for interesting fishing, and Beaver Lake has these traits.

These fish are really easy to catch after they have been planted. Take a field trip to the hatchery just off Front Street in downtown Issaquah and you will see why. The trout spend their time swimming in a raceway that is about 5 feet deep. There is a red indicator that resembles a small bobber. It is connected via a rod to the feeding bin. This red indicator is positioned about a foot below the surface. Bumping into it releases food. Fish shallow and use hues of red and you will have success. Fishing dough baits right off the bottom is the most popular method and produces the best results, especially when the lake is first stocked. As the weeks pass, the fish will eventually begin to spread out to other areas of the lake. When this happens, lures can be more productive. I prefer to use either a 4/5 weight fly rod or to troll or cast lures with a light-action rod. For a more appetizing presentation, add a worm while trolling lures. Applying krill paste to a fly can also help. NS

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COLUMN

The rivers of Tillamook County fare well in Buzz Ramsey’s rundown of Oregon’s best boatable waters for winter-run steelhead, thanks to a combination of hatchery production, plentiful put-ins and good wild returns. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

10 Best Steelhead Boating Rivers In Oregon I

f you’re looking for steelhead action, you may find it on one of the following Oregon rivers. Why am I BUZZ only listing rivers in RAMSEY Oregon? Well, given the uncertainty of this season’s return, I’m betting Oregon will mostly offer the best opportunity for winter steelhead. I could be wrong, of course. The late steelhead stocks returning to the Cowlitz and rivers of the Olympic Peninsula could offer some excellent action over the coming months, but it’s a given that fishing opportunities in Eastern Washington, Northeast Oregon and Central Idaho won’t be as good as recent years, though

they will be better than midsummer dam counts led us to initially fear. If there were ever a year to hitch up your boat and head to Western Oregon, this is it. Most of the action will happen during the first three months of the new year, so now is the time to plan your trip. I selected these rivers from personal knowledge, angling experience, advice from guides and what I hear from fellow anglers and state biologists. If your favorite river doesn’t appear here, don’t fret. After all, everyone has “their” favorites.

ery year. The lower river, accessible via Highway 101, can provide hot fishing, especially early in the season and during low-water periods. This section is popular with both drift and power boaters, who back-troll plugs, side-drift or bobber dog. Sled boats launch at the Port of Gold Beach and farther upstream at Lobster Creek or Quosatana County Ramp. Most drift boaters make the float from Foster Bar to Agness, which will allow you to cover about 8 miles of prime water.

SANDY LOWER ROGUE The Rogue hosts the Oregon Coast’s largest winter steelhead run. Given its many tributaries, the number of fish entering it averages 30,000 adults each and ev-

The Sandy River’s close proximity to Portland makes it a popular choice. Both drift and jet boaters can access the lower river. However, given its size, power boat access is limited to the area downstream from the Stark Street

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COLUMN Bridge. Most drift boaters launch at either Oxbow County or Dabney State Parks and float to the Lewis and Clark State Park ramp, which is just upstream from I-84.

Longtime steelheaders and anglers just getting their lines wet can do well on the Wilson. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

WILSON Of all the rivers emptying into Tillamook Bay, the Wilson is the only one receiving plants of fin-clipped steelhead. It also offers the best drift boat access. Most choose the run from Mills Bridge (river mile 6) to the Sollie Smith take-out, located off Loop Road from Highway 6 just east of Tillamook. This is a fairly easy float and often recommended to new drift boaters.

NESTUCCA The state plants hatchery fin-clipped steelhead smolts into the mainstem and the Nestucca’s largest tributary, Three Rivers. Fish returning to the Three Rivers hatchery will often hold at or downstream of the trib as it enters the Nestucca, near Hebo. The drift from the Three Rivers access site downstream to the Cloverdale City ramp is popular with drift boaters when water levels are medium to low. There are numerous drift boat put-ins located upstream from Hebo, starting with the paved ramp at Farmers Creek, located on Highway 101 between Hebo and Beaver. Many anglers will make the drift from First Bridge (located a quarter mile upstream from Beaver) to Farmers Creek. There are several launch sites located upstream from First Bridge. Depending on the water height, some upstream stretches can be a bit tricky to navigate, so unless you are an experienced drift boater, you may want to first go with a guide. The upper river can hold a lot of fish, especially after high-water events and/or late in the season, as in February and March.

My favorite put-in on the Alsea is the Five Rivers county ramp, located at about river mile 20 off Highway 34. Most make the 3½mile drift from Five Rivers to the Blackberry Campground or the Mike Bauer takeout. Both are Forest Service access points and are located midway in the river.

steelhead and hosts robust wild and hatchery broodstock returns. And while it can offer decent success early in the season, this river is a reliable producer from mid-January onward. The success of its steelhead program is attributed to the wild broodstock program, one of the first in Oregon. The local steelhead replaced the Alsea stock once used in this midcoast river. The most popular drift is from Moonshine Park, the uppermost launch, downstream to Twin Bridges (it’s a 4- to 5-mile run). You can also drift from Twin Bridges downstream to the town of Siletz. There are two launches in town, and while they’re located only about a quarter mile apart, the drift between them is about 4 miles long because of the way the river meanders. You can also drift from the lower landing at Siletz downstream to either Green Bridges or Morgan Park.

SILETZ

SIUSLAW

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The Siletz has been a consistent producer of

When this river by Florence is on the high

My favorite drift here is from Loeb State

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side, try drifting its upper reaches, from Wildcat Creek to Richardson’s pole slide. When the water level drops, the most popular drift is from Swiss Home to Thompson Creek or Rain Rock county ramps.

UMPQUA The Umpqua is a large river and hosts the second biggest run of winter steelhead on the coast. The lower end is the most popular fishing area, at least during the early season and when water levels are from medium to low. If you’re a drift boater, try the float from Sawyer Rapids to the County Landing located below there – it’s about 5 miles. The lower river is also popular with jet boaters, who mostly fish downstream from Elkton. The Umpqua can really put out the fish when conditions are right, meaning the river is in fishable condition.


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Broodstock-fueled returns make for good opportunities on a number of Oregon rivers, including the Central Coast one where Vince Rosauer caught this dandy 18-plus-pounder a few seasons back. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST) Park downstream to Social Security Bar – it’s about a 5-mile float. You may need four-wheel drive to launch at Loeb, especially after high water, which can make the gravel bar too soft to support a vehicle, so be aware, as you may have to unload your boat up the bar a ways and slide it in. While the river can clear up fast, in just a few days after a big freshet, it may be a different story due to the Chetco Bar Fire, which destroyed much of the watershed.

SOUTH COQUILLE The South Fork Coquille is a picturesque little river that gets stocked heavily with hatchery fish. Try drifting from the state put-in at Beaver Creek to the take-out at the gravel pit, which takes a full day. If you are short on time or just want to make a half-day float, you can take out at Myrtle Grove State Park. 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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COLUMN Longtime Washington steelheaders have seen the runs and fishing wane over the decades, especially in Puget Sound, but there are still places where Westside anglers can catch winter-runs. Hunter Shelton hooked this one on a jig a couple years back on a Forks-area river while fishing with guide Mike Zavadlov. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Greats Have Fallen, But Winter-run Options Still Exist

G

r o w i n g up I can remember always looking to see where my favorite local rivers ranked in WIESTSIDER terms of steelhead By Terry Wiest production. I used to fish King County’s Green fiercely and had several double-digit days as a young man. I’d almost always go by the Green River Meat Market, grab some beef jerky or pepperoni and look at the leaderboard of the weekly steelhead contest. Anything under 15 pounds wouldn’t even hit the

board most weeks, as fish in the high teens and low 20s were pretty common back then. I could keep up with the big boys and the old-timers, though I never seemed to hook any of the larger fish. That was during the 1970s and early ’80s. For those who weren’t steelheading back then, the Green was a megaforce. Though I can’t find any evidence it was ever ranked No. 1 in Washington, it has been ranked as high as second and was almost always in the top five. When I didn’t feel like tromping through the woods to my “secret” holes, I would drop down the hill where I grew

up to fish the Cedar. Now, the Lake Washington tributary was never known for its numbers, but those of us who fished it back in the ’70s and ’80s know it produced big fish! I had this little river dialed in and was very successful, most days hooking at least one steelhead, which is great on any stream. But for one that most people passed up because it didn’t produce like the mighty Green, well, that there’s something special. A lot of walking was required to hit all of the Cedar’s good holes, while you could fish the Green from within sight of your vehicle and still have a good chance of hooking fish.

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COLUMN There was another local mega steelhead river, the Puyallup. Man, did it produce, even though you couldn’t see a bloody thing because of the silty glacier water on the top of the clear water underneath. It was something I could not fathom, so I never fished it, which I truly regret now. The opportunity was there, but my uneducated fishing mind would not allow me to try it. Buddies like Bill Herzog killed ’em.

RIVERS I DROVE to as a teen included the Cowlitz (still do), Stillaguamish, Skagit and Toutle. Each one produced for me, so it was nothing to go on a whim and fish all weekend. There was nothing like early December on the Cowlitz, with a side trip to the Toutle if it was too crowded. Boeing employees always had the week between Christmas and New Year’s off, so I’d fish the mighty Cow pretty much every weekend in December and most times would come home with a cooler full of fish. I liked fishing the Toutle over the Cowlitz, but more often than not, the Cowlitz would call me back because I knew I had a very good chance of getting my fish. I never had to guess back then where I would go in December: The Cowlitz was a given. Later in the winter, come January through March I would head the opposite direction, north, to hit the Stilly and the Skagit. The former was easier to fish and never seemed to disappoint. The Skagit, however, had a reputation for producing mammoth steelhead. I have caught some gorgeous winter-runs in the Skagit, along with the largest I’ve ever seen hooked. Fishing with my buddy Rob Endsley, who was guiding the Skagit back then, we hooked a fish that in Endsley’s opinion was over 25 pounds and probably closer to 30. That fish never came to hand, as it wrapped itself around a root wad and broke the line, but, man, what an incredible steelhead. SO WHY AM I rambling about my rivers and how well they fished some 40 years ago? It’s because they’re now pitiful! You might as well claim the steelhead in these rivers are indeed the fish of 10,000 casts because they simply don’t exist. But the Cowlitz, 106 Northwest Sportsman

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Along with the Cedar, King County’s Green was among author Terry Wiest’s early steelheading haunts, rivers he could count on fighting winter fish. But those days are long gone, leaving a hollow place in his heart. (STEELHEAD FISHING ALONG THE GREEN RIVER, CIRCA 1958, JOSEF SCALYEA, GENERAL SUBJECTS PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION, 1845-2005, WASHINGTON STATE ARCHIVES, DIGITAL ARCHIVES)

you say? Yes, in December it qualifies. My go-to destination this month may never again be the Cowlitz I once knew, now that Chambers Creek steelhead are no longer being released here. I’m just sick about the Cedar and Green. The Cedar was the type of river I would have built a house on and have been happy to retire and live out the rest of my life. But not now! Why live on a river if you can’t fish it? Driving over the Green every day on the

way to work and back I always look over the bridge to see what the water looks like. Most times it’s beautiful. I think of the time I landed a bright fish just below the bridge, but in the future there may never be that chance again. It’s not alone. There are many rivers that feel like has-beens these days – but in the same breath I’ll say that there’s still hope for those who want to catch Westside steelhead. After taking a look back, I’ll clue you in on my dirty dozen that still produce


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COLUMN decent numbers of winter fish.

THE FALLEN MIGHTY 1) The Puyallup: Hatchery winter-runs haven’t been released for sport fishing into what was 1984’s best-in-the-state river since January 2009’s flood emptied Voight Creek’s rearing ponds early. In a video put out by Wild Steelheaders United last spring, famed metalhead angler Bill Herzog tears up remembering days of yore he enjoyed at the McMillan Drift, what was once one of the best places in Pugetropolis to catch steelhead. A tribal broodstock program producing 30,000 smolts annually aims to restore the river’s run and help delist the region’s steelhead but isn’t currently fishable. 2) The Cowlitz: Note that is specific to the Cowlitz in December, now that Chambers steelhead are no longer released here. In this month alone during the 2010-11 winter season, anglers kept 4,850. In December 2015, 30 were. The caveat is that there’s a slight possibility

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that over time hatchery operators will be able to use early-returning basin-origin late-winter steelhead to create a holiday angling opportunity, though whether it would ever live up to seasons of old is an open quesiton. 3) The Stillaguamish: They call it the Blue Stilly, and unfortunately, it might describe the state of steelheading over the past few decades on this famed Snohomish County river. 4) The Green (King Co.): On what was once a perennial top-five steelhead river in the state, you’re lucky to catch one these days. Poor hatchery returns, the end of Chambers releases, tribal netting and Boeing pollution have sunk this thoroughbred into the ditches of the rendering plant. 5) The Skagit: Known for 30-pound brutes and the Skagit Spey casting system, fishing opportunities are a mere trace of what they once were on this classic steelhead system. Scads of awesome anglers called it their home water, but with the end of hatchery releases for

a dozen years through the Wild Fish Conservancy’s lawsuit and the suspension of the spring catch-and-release season, all have either retired, gone to the Olympic Peninsula or gotten out of the profession. Occupy Skagit efforts could yield an early 2018 fishery, but only if state funding for monitoring is found, and that’s doubtful. 6) The Toutle: Mother Nature killed this river with one blast of Mount St. Helens in 1980. 7) The Cedar: Maybe not as well-known as others on this list, but it was “my” river! I grew up on it and learned to love it. I still do, even though steelhead are a part of its past. I will more than likely never see another opportunity to fish the Cedar in my lifetime. What a shame.

BUT ENOUGH DWELLING on the past. Below are my 12 picks to be top steelheadproducing rivers in Western Washington this winter season. 12) Calawah: I can’t believe I’m even including this little river, but I guess it’s no secret any more. The Calawah is one of my favorites to fish bobber and jigs from the bank. Huge boulders and just the right water speed combine to produce fish for those working the rocks. Its consistency and the fact that this river sees some Bogachiel fish is just enough to land it at the bottom of my list. 11) Snoqualmie: Now here is a December river that might replace the Cowlitz as the place to be. Typically it’s on fire for the first two weeks of the month, though I should note I included the Tokul Creek catch in ranking the system where it is. I personally won’t fish Tokul since I can’t understand trying to catch these fish as they try to make it up to the hatchery in water that’s about a foot deep and you can pretty much jump across it at most points. But it does produce fish. The Cable Hole just below Tokul and the many rocks between there and the state put-in at Plum Landing are great spots to throw a bobber and jig. Around Carnation and where the Tolt River dumps in are good bets for those drift fishing or pulling plugs. There should be decent numbers this year. 10) Willapa: This South Coast river has come alive. The last few years it’s been an excellent choice, possibly because releases


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COLUMN were bumped following the Puget Sound steelhead lawsuit. Though there’s not much public access, where there is, there are fish to be found. The water near the hatchery probably produces the bulk of the fish, but you might try exploring. 9) Satsop: Damn, another river I swore I would never mention, one I’ve been hitting the last 10 years or so with dang good success. Every year, though, the word gets out more and now the river is flooded with anglers who are in the know. It seems as though these fish run bigger than average and fishing has been great the last few years, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue this winter. While it’s another river that’s hard to find a spot on the bank that doesn’t already have a dozen or more anglers, those with a boat will find some killer water. 8) Salmon: One of two tribal rivers that make my top 12, the Salmon is less fished than the more highly ranked Quinault, but will produce some incredible numbers when it is in. This river floods fast but

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when it comes back into shape, the fish are superaggressive. This would be one of Mr. Herzog’s favorite winter streams and, of course, he’ll be chucking spoons, which is a pretty strong hint for what you should also try, grasshopper. Yes, there is a small section of river that’s open to the general public, but to fish it correctly you’ll need to hire a tribal guide. Try giving Ashley, Richie, Letty or Clay a call; I’ve fished with and can recommend each of them. 7) Skookumchuck: Here’s a river best fished later in the winter or early spring, but it presents water for the way I like to fish, with a float and jig. Good numbers return here every year and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. This is a consistent top 10 river now in the state. 6) Skykomish: Reiter can’t be beat for Sky steel. The boulder garden at the rearing ponds is a fish-producing Mecca that’s custom made for a float and jig. Work those rocks tight and you’ll find the fish. For those not looking to fish with the crowd, or prefer not to fish a float and jig, there is plenty of water all the way down

to the mouth that will produce fish by drifting or pulling plugs. This river gets a high smolt release and will produce plenty of winter-runs. 5) Kalama: Now here’s a river that can be a phenomenal steelhead producer. With tons of water and plenty of access if you don’t mind walking, there are many killer holes for any method you choose. 4) Bogachiel: This is a hatcherysteelhead-producing machine. All around The Ponds you’ll see anglers lining the banks, and for good reason. Most fish will shoot up to the hatchery and stage. You will see tons of action as most anglers are pretty successful from there down to the mouth of the Calawah. For those with a boat, trying to intercept fish as they head upstream can be highly productive, as in double-digits days. Bobber doggin’ and plugs will produce incredible numbers of these highly aggressive winter-runs. 3) Wynoochee: It’s no secret, but if you don’t want to travel to the West End or down to the Cowlitz, this river is for you – and a ton of other anglers. Incredibly


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COLUMN

The face of steelheading is ever changing, and not even the Cowlitz is immune. Its December fishery is no more, but late winter and early spring are prime on Western Washington’s No. 1 rated river in rankings from Wiest (left). (TERRY WIEST)

popular amongst those seeking good numbers of good-sized steelhead, the ’Nooch will be full of fish from the upper reaches all the way down to the mouth. Side-drifting the long stretches, bobber doggin’ or pitching a float and jig into the undercuts will all produce. You’ll have lots of company on this river, but most anglers will be successful as well. 2) Quinault: With the best steelhead hatchery in the state, the Quinault is nothing short of spectacular. You must hire a tribal guide, same as with most of the Salmon, but the numbers of fish you can then access can be jaw dropping. I love fishing this river and am always amazed at the numbers we put up. Any method will work on the world-class river. If you didn’t know you were in Washington, you’d swear this river was in Alaska. Indeed, if you haven’t experienced the Quinault, put it on your bucket list. 1) Cowlitz: With no surprise, the Cowlitz is again the top choice on my list. For as many years as I can remember this has been the No. 1 steelhead-producing river

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in the state, and even though they cut out Chambers fish that would otherwise return in December, it’s still a great bet for those who focus later in winter. Below Barrier Dam or along the bank by Blue Creek, anglers will be fishing shoulder to shoulder, as when the fish are in, this is combat fishing central. Boat anglers tend to side-drift from the boat launch around Blue Creek down to the Clay Banks then back up again. You’ll see many doubles and boats will hook up on consecutive passes. Limits are the norm here and catches add up quick! Recently there have been hatchery fish around the 20-pound mark and many in the teens. If we could only get our December fishery back, the Cowlitz would be a runaway nobrainer, but as it is, it wasn’t hard to rank this as the top prospect for the 2017-18 winter season. NS

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COLUMN

Coho-ho-ho! Silvers Among Holiday Options D

ecember is a month when Northwest sportsmen often find themselves attending holiday parties, SOUTH SOUND where conversations By Jason Brooks sometimes turn to their fall fishing and hunting adventures. Heads will turn when someone speaks up about a late coho trip or catching their first winter steelhead of the season. Indeed, the month that ends the year is often overlooked when it comes to angling opportunities, especially since the end of releases of the early-returning Chambers Creek strain of steelhead in many Western Washington rivers. However, late-run coho are plentiful in many of the same rivers. And this isn’t to overlook powder pursuits either: Deer hunters, pheasant chasers and grouse getters also have lateseason opportunities this month.

COWLITZ RIVER COHO didn’t have a very good run this year, but some will still be showing through the month. Another river system in Southwest Washington that offers Christmas coho is the Chehalis, including tributaries such as the Satsop and Skookumchuck. From Decker Creek all the way down to the Highway 12 bridge the Satsop offers the drift boater and jet sledder some really good coho fishing in December. In the upper stretches most anglers float eggs or pull plugs, sometimes with great success. In the deep pockets of the lower river, twitching jigs or throwing spinners and spoons produce a lot of strikes and big, gnarly silvers. A few winters ago during a heavy

Feeding in the ocean deeper into fall, late coho tend to return to Southwest Washington rivers on the bigger side. (JASON BROOKS)

rainstorm I was fishing the Satsop just below the West Fork. We dropped anchor and cast into a small cut along the bank that offered some reprieve from the hardflowing and rising water. We fished that cut all day long, and most of the time we cast our jigs and twitched them all the way back without a bite. But instead of getting discouraged we continued to fish that one spot knowing the fish were on the move with the high water and it was just a matter of time until a school moved in and took advantage of the current break. We landed our limits that day but it did take a

few hours longer than we’d hoped for. December rain brings in fresh coho but you must also learn to fish higher water. If we had cast a few times, not hooked a fish and moved on, we probably wouldn’t have caught anything that day. By staying in one spot and letting the fish come to us our patience paid off.

THE SKOOKUMCHUCK RECEIVES a decent coho run, as well as sees a great steelhead fishery begin as New Year’s approaches. This tiny river fishes better as this month goes on, and towards the end you can nwsportsmanmag.com | DECEMBER 2017

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COLUMN really have some great days. With its ample bank access, most anglers either float jigs tipped with a piece of prawn or sand shrimp tails. The Maxi-Jig by Yakima Bait Company and the Glo-Getter by Mack’s Lure in peach, orange and reds are top producers. Drift fishing is also popular in the small runs and seams, and since the Skook is so small, it is one of the few places where bank anglers can pull plugs. Using a longer, 10½-foot rod, simply let the line out with the plug floating down the river until it gets to where you want it, then engage the reel. As the line comes tight, the plug dives down. Hold the rod out into the seam and slowly let more line out, backing the plug down the slot. In March this can be deadly for the river’s late-returning steelhead stock. Another Grays Harbor-area river that fishes well into the holidays is the Humptulips. Bank anglers hang around the intake of the Stevens Creek hatchery but there are a few other places to try. Reynvaan is a large gravel bar where

Wingshooting this time of year focuses primarily on waterfowl, but opportunities remain for grouse, as well as leftover pheasant at select release sites. (JASON BROOKS) most drift boaters take out at the end of the day, but it’s also a great place to drift fish, float fish, twitch jigs or even plunk baits from shore. Steelhead are caught here in December, but it’s coho that most anglers are targeting.

I fished this river one year just two days before Christmas and caught a few hooknoses. One thing that you will notice is that this month’s fish are much larger than those that came in in October, with the later runs averaging in the midteens and a few reaching near the 20-pound mark. I prefer to twitch Mack’s Lure Rock Dancer jigs in black and cerise, but have also done well with size 5 Vibrax spinners.

UPLAND BIRD HUNTERS have 15 days to clean up leftover pheasants at stocking sites. Only a few areas allow the bonus hunts, though, so make sure to check the regulations to ensure your favorite area is among them. Some of the release areas also hold waterfowl, and since all of the sites require nontoxic shot you don’t have to worry about having the right shells along. However, you still need to wear hunter orange while chasing ringnecks. Grouse hunters have until the end of the month to find these tasty birds. There are few things that get my heart pumping as much as a flushed ruffie, but that probably has more to do with the fact that they like to explode right at my feet. Alder bottoms are often grouse hangouts, but once the leaves fall off of the trees I tend to find more of the birds in spruce stands and near exposed gravel, either at the edge of gated roads or along creek bottoms. I also change from the light size 7½-shot load I carried 118 Northwest Sportsman

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during the early season to size 6 shot, as the birds are in their winter plumage. However, I still like to use an improved cylinder choke for the flush, which often occurs in between trees. South Sound archery and muzzleloader blacktail hunters have some really good late seasons, with a few that run the entire month and even offer an “any deer” option. If you drew the multiseason tag, you have the luxury of choosing between units open for one or the other weapon type. Look to the Stormking and South Rainier Units and the Tahoma State Forest. The season runs through the middle of the month and allows any deer. The Skookumchuck Unit offers the entire month for archers and half of the month for muzzleloaders. Blacktails can be easier to find this month, now that the leaves have fallen off of the trees, while snow can make tracking possible too. If you find well-worn trails in an area of reprod, setting up a stand, either on the ground or in a tree, can be very productive. Deer tend to move a little earlier in the afternoon, as they need more calories in the winter and feed earlier in the day. Look at the edges of cover for bedded deer and any fresh sign. Blacktails don’t venture too far, so if you find deer, they will more than likely be close by the next day. Glassing is very effective for Eastside mule deer and those chasing their cousins on the Westside should give this a try too. Set up on a vantage point with a good spotting scope and glass everything you can see. If you spot deer, make a note and then still-hunt in those areas, as you know the deer will be there.

DECEMBER’S A GREAT month to share your adventures from this past fall with family and friends, but don’t overlook making more memories during the holiday season. Coho will be in the rivers, and there will even be a few early steelhead to keep thing interesting. Keep your upland gun dog sharp with some last-minute pheasant and grouse hunts. And for archery and muzzleloader deer hunters with live tags, the late season’s a prime opportunity to fill the freezer. There are many options in the South Sound this month, so get out and enjoy them. NS 120 Northwest Sportsman

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Ops Scarce As Daylight, But Dec. Birds, Fish On Tap

O

ptions for hunting and fishing are a little thin this holiday By Doug Huddle season in the North Sound, yet if you’re willing to change pace a bit, there are opportunities that can tide you over to the new year. Afternoon lower foothills ruffed grouse hunts abound. Practically any forest road can serve as a jumping-off point. With the piscatorial pantry bereft of early-returning steelhead, if you still have a hankering for standing butt-deep in 40-degree flowing water, whitefish and bull trout can serve as motivation. And for at least the first half of December, it’s not necessary to brave a trip through the passes for a pheasant romp.

NORTH SOUND

LOOK LOW FOR GROUSE By the time December rolls around lowland ruffed grouse are the last practical upland gamebird standing for Westside hunters. Higher elevation-dwelling western Cascades blue grouse, aka duskies, though still perfectly legal, are pretty much out of reach, having settled into their old-growth roosts above 3,000 feet for the winter, protected by mantles of snow. And Western Washington pheasant hunts, except in highly select locations, are over, as are gunning options for scattered coveys of Westside quail where they can be found. By nature, being largely grounddwelling foragers and stump or cutbank nesters, ruffeds seem more bent toward sneaking or running off instead of jumping to wing. December is termed the “leaves-off” season, and though that implies greater sight distance, ruffed or drummers as they’re called, when well inside the bounds of their covert turfs, are only marginally easier to bag. I’m excluding from this discussion the

You may not realize it, but grouse are open through the end of December, and while it won’t be as easy as September, hunting ruffies this time of year can reward wingshooters with a real sense of accomplishment upon taking a bird. (PER, FLICKR) vast majority of ruffeds that are shot as they stand in plain sight on a backwoods road and am only referring to those taken in the spirit of fair chase by hunters who pursue them on foot in their brushshrouded thickets and along abandoned logging roads. Ruffies, under these latter terms, are a highly challenging quarry. When they’re not dodging human gunners and their canine hunting companions, grouse are evading ever-present winged predators: forest-dwelling hawks and owls. Openness in the case of woodland

habitat does not promote grouse survival, so you can rule out crossing them in closed-canopy stands of managed conifers that have just a smattering of sword ferns scattered across thick, bare duff. They don’t last long in mature conifer forests, where the first branches start 30 to 40 feet off the ground and serve as lofty stalking perches for the aforementioned raptors. Optimal areas for grouse are cluttered, mixed stands composed of alder and cottonwood with red cedar, western hemlock and Douglas fir. And there should be moderately thick shrub growth, the so-

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COLUMN called understory hierarchy of plants that give the birds even more cover. In covertquality woods, I also look for a selection of downed trees (2 to 3 feet in diameter) that can serve as spring display or drumming logs for breeding males. roads and Abandoned skid watercourses also have a key element for grouse in the form of grit that is essential for their gizzard’s processing of their diet of coarse vegetation, seeds and insects. Just as they are in Appalachian hardwood forests, a good pointing dog can be a tremendous asset for grouse hunters here. But sans such detection capability, it’s still possible to make a few opportunities on your own. I will shoot ruffies on the ground when I’m afoot, but the vast majority of my encounters are going to be flushes with only a tiny fraction of those being bonafide shooting chances. To stand any possibility at all in off-road grouse hunting without a dog you must be in a perpetual state of alertness. I’ll also pull the choke from my 12 or 20 gauge and

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switch to No. 7 or 7½ lead loads (if legal to do so), since I’m not likely to be able to effectively reach out more than 20 to 25 yards in the best habitat. For my December hunts I have a long list of ground grouse beats that I generally don’t disturb early in the season. I package them in groups that can be walked in a day or afternoon.

UPRIVER WHITEFISH With early winter Northwest Washington river fishing for steelhead now being all but in name only, anglers might want to turn to lighter tackle for fun and recreation, or perhaps for some more delicate white-meated fare. Upriver whitefish congregate in some holes along the run of the lower North Fork Nooksack in December. From its mouth to Maple Creek bait is legal, so using a whitefish favorite – a simple single hook/egg offering – is OK. A No. 12 or 14 rocket-red wing bobber or tiny Corky in the same livery also will work, if you don’t want to rebait after each cast.

These fish have tiny small mouths, so for maximum effect, the size of your hook/ lure combination must be as small as you can make them. With wild native chum salmon spawning in early December, whitefish school specifically in the hole under Mosquito Lake Road Bridge. This is a keeper opportunity, with a daily bag of 15. In the upper Skagit, the reach from Shovel Spur Rapids up to Goodell Creek (above Marblemount) also hosts the plentiful whitefish gathering below concentrations of spawning dogs. Unfortunately, this fishery is solely for enjoyment only. Release of all gamefish is currently mandated by the permanent regulation governing this section of the Skagit. Don’t forget that in the upper Skagit below Marblemount, bull trout longer than 20 inches are fair game as well. Darkplumed Rooster Tails are my lure of choice for these chunky native char.

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temperatures prefaced with a minus sign? A handful of perhaps more temperate Western Washington pheasant sites, not presenting conflicts with waterfowling, stay open past the general season shutdown at the end of November. Three of the nine late huntdesignated release sites are in Island County, on the north end of Whidbey Island. The first is Seaplane Base, two formerly farmed parcels with some shrub/tree and fence-row cover on U.S. Navy property on either side of a large housing complex east of Oak Harbor’s downtown. Go south on NE Regatta from Highway 20 then turn left and go eastbound on E. Crescent Harbor Road to the off-road parking lots. The second is Zylstra Road/Arnold Farm, on private lands on the Penn Cove slopes northwest of Juan de Fuca. Go west from Highway 20 on Arnold Road to the farm acreage entries. And the third is OLF Coupeville, an occasionally mowed hay field under the final approach to the Navy’s carrier landing touch-and-go runway southeast of the county seat. The entry is off State Route 20 north of the SR 525 junction. Lucrative gunning options of the regular season these are not, to be clear; they are simply mop-up endeavors going after residual or “escapee” birds. The season’s last release normally is the day after Thanksgiving. Parking also is confined to small offroad lots and is therefore limited. Parking elsewhere to partake of a hunt may get you a ticket. Hunters may go directly onto the Zylstra Road/Arnold Farm sites without hindrance, but to access the two federal properties, you must first check in with the NAS Whidbey Environmental Office at (360) 257-1009 before entering to hunt.

NEXT ISSUE Weather-dependent waterfowling digs, in-close blackmouth haunts, limited steelheading. NS 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 34 years. 128 Northwest Sportsman

DECEMBER 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com


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RANCH & HOME TO OPEN NEW LOCATION

For the past 35 years, Ranch & Home has served the needs of Mid-Columbia-area outdoorsmen and -women, stocking everything from fishing gear to livestock equipment and everything in between. The family-owned business originated in Pasco, Washington, selling supplies to local farmers, and soon expanded to two additional locations in Kennewick (now the chain’s 118,000-square-foot flagship store) and Milton-Freewater to better meet the demands of the area’s fishing and outdoor community. Now Ranch & Home is preparing to open its fourth location in Hermiston, Oregon, in late winter/early spring 2018. “The reason we decided to open in Hermiston is that the location is really good for us,” explains Ranch & Home’s Morgan Hunsaker. “We were looking for the right place to expand and still be able to stay within our community. We’ll be conveniently located right across the street from the fairgrounds and the rodeo arena.” Ranch & Home will nestle nicely into Hermiston, which is rife with hunting and fishing opportunities. Whether you prefer fishing for walleye, salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and bass in the

Columbia River, salmon and steelhead in the Umatilla River, or hunting for waterfowl and upland birds in nearby aglands, Hermiston has something for everyone. The new location will be fully stocked to serve the area’s hunting and fishing community, offering a large firearm selection, apparel, gear, and a variety of national and local fishing brands, including several Brad’s Super Baits that are specially made for Ranch & Home stores. In addition to gear and supplies, Ranch & Home employees are armed with the expertise to answer any hunting and fishing questions before you go afield or afloat. “We have several people that fish and hunt locally so they have a finger on the pulse of what’s going on,” says Hunsaker. “They are really knowledgeable and passionate about it. They’re even out there fishing before work! It’s a lot of fun to see and it’s amazing what you can learn from them.” Whatever your outdoor needs entail, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Ranch & Home. Visit ranch-home.com for more information, and stay tuned for the announcement of the official grand opening of the Hermiston location.

The aisles of Ranch & Home are well stocked with the tackle it takes to catch salmon, steelhead and other species swimming in the waters of the Mid-Columbia, as well as gear for hunting deer, waterfowl and other species in the region. (RANCH & HOME)

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Ranch & Home Locations Kennewick 845 N. Columbia Center Blvd. (509) 737-1996 Pasco 516 N. Oregon Ave. (509) 547-5513 Milton-Freewater 85342 Highway 11 (541) 938-4200 Coming Soon Hermiston


HUNTING Small, off-the-beaten-path waters can attract and hold mallards and other kinds of ducks this time of year, though finding these ponds, backwaters and forest lakes and figuring them out isn’t easy. (TOM KOERNER, USFWS)

Small Waters, Big Rewards They don’t call mallards puddle ducks for nothing – waterfowlers can enjoy good days on ponds and other modest waters. By M.D. Johnson

I

t’s a tiny place. Fifteen feet wide, and that’s with a good December tide, and maybe only 50 yards long. If I’m careful, I can wade across it, even at the height of the flood; at full ebb, there’s 6 inches, give or take, in the channel. Most days, I sit on a small island at the upstream end. Others, Sadie Mae the black dog and I will hunker in an Aquapod on the north edge, wind permitting. I like that off-set, for I seem to shoot better gunning

right to left as opposed to in my face. Personal preference, I reckon. The small skiff gets us there, the hound and me. Twelve decoys, a jerk cord, and a lot of attention to staying hidden usually does the job. This is an over/under sort of place; it’s no type of hunt for a brutish autoloader. Steel 4s are plenty, though 5s or even 6s work quite nicely. Sometimes I call a bit, just to let the passersby know we’re home; other times, I’m quiet. Seems anything that gets within 150 yards is usually interested. Mallards, mostly, though there’s

the occasional wigeon or sprig or greenwing teal. Last fall, we even had two drake canvasback drop into this uncanvasbacklike puddle; both escaped while we stood, slack-jawed. Not a shot was fired. Set up takes five minutes. Ten minutes for pick-up, and Sadie Mae and I are headed back to the truck. Few, truthfully, are the times when the birds disappoint.

SURVEY OF WATERS Over the years, I’ve hunted mallards – all types of dabblers and divers, nwsportsmanmag.com | DECEMBER 2017

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HUNTING really – over all kinds of water. Moving water. Tidal and swamp water. Big water. Huge water. Even frozen water. But what type of water, given my druthers, would I be content to hunt over for the rest of my ’fowling days? Little water. That’s right; mere puddles. Inches deep. Maybe a foot, and about the size of the living room you’re sitting in right now. Or give me a meandering creek – sorry, crick – with a firm sand/gravel bottom and a handful of short-grass pockets along the edges; one with high banks studded with brush-clogged floodwater deadfalls, where Sadie Mae and I can hide easily. Such a place is better than being Austin Rogers and winning all that loot on Jeopardy. Although, if I had $411,000, I could buy the above creek outright and not have to worry about competition. So there’s that. So what’s so great about gunning these little puddles? One, ducks, and

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When it comes to blinding up, use the KISS principle and hide using natural materials or try wearing a ghillie suit, though the latter may require some getting used to when it comes to taking a good shot. (JULIA JOHNSON)

mallards seemingly in particular, love them. Usually, these shallow little holes are chock-full of duck food – grasses, aquatic vegetation, invertebrates, and other creepycrawlers – and the birds know it. Two, and because these little waters are often secluded, the birds feel safe

and secure in committing to them. Not always, but often. Three, hunting pressure on such puddles is usually low, even on public lands. Why? I remember my brother-in-law Gordie looking at me quizzically during the 2016 season as I started to toss six decoys onto a


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HUNTING 10-by-12 patch of shallow water, and him saying, “Hell! There’s no way a duck’s going to land on this little thing.” A mixed bag of 10 mallards, wigeon and greenwings later, he was rethinking his earlier comment. The equation is actually quite simple. Americans, including many American hunters, are followers of the Bigger Is Better mantra. This credo holds true for duck hunting. Little puddles are easy to overlook and ignore; that’s exactly why ducks like them. If there’s room for a dozen ducks and a place for me to hide within effective shotgunning range, I’ll hunt there. At least once. And four, puddles are logistically simple to hunt. For the most part, that is. Eight to 12 decoys, a jerk cord, blind bag, and a shotgun; that’s the equipment list. There are exceptions, e.g. getting there in the first place; however, by and large, a small pothole is usually as easy as

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duck hunting gets. What’s possibly not to like about gunning these small waters? As I hinted, accessing such places can be a challenge, in that the newfound honeyhole might require a big boat and/or a long boat ride, a mile-long trek through thigh-deep mud, or any of 1,000 other logistical difficulties. The puddles may be temporary, as in the case of seasonal sheetwater. Here today, gone tomorrow. Literally. Or, and having found the ultimate small waterhole, concealment turns out to be almost an impossibility for any of 100 reasons, including, but not limited to, no cover. Conquer these less-than-stellar variables and you’ve achieved Nirvana.

FINDING SMALL WATER There are three ways to find these small out-of-the-way places – Google Earth; in-depth traditional scouting; and by accident, also known as dumb luck. I’m OK with luck, and am a firm

believer in the cliché that places luck over skill. Sometimes, these hidden hotspots give themselves up. Often, however, it takes time and effort. No technophile – note: I’m often happy to find my way home – here, but I do like Google Earth when it comes to locating waterfowling potential. From miles above Earth, I can investigate backwaters, sloughs, ditches, ponds, potholes, swamps, marshes, all the while looking for that little spot – that off-the-beatenpath corner that 1) the ducks love, and 2) no one else is interested in. But Google can only reveal so much. Eventually, it’s wader boots on the ground. Walk in. Boat in. Rent a fixed-wing airplane for an hour. Or two, sharing the cost with a buddy. Ask questions. Knock on doors. “My plan,” you tell the landowner, “is to get here, but I’d like to access ‘here’ from your place. Can I do that?” Scouting, at least in my mind, is a summertime/preseason project;


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HUNTING however, there’s nothing that says onthe-job training can’t be productive. While you’re deer hunting, you’re duck scouting. Elk hunting; duck scouting. Fishing? Duck scouting. Any puddle, no matter the size, has potential and promise. In fact, some of the best wood duck hunts I’ve had were on timber ponds I’d found while hunting either deer or turkeys or mushrooms, or all three.

GEAR AND TACTICS Keep it simple is my best advice. First and foremost, hide. And hide well. Often, I’ll try to use a natural blind, something the birds are already accustomed to seeing. Something that’s already there. Lacking that, I may use a ghillie poncho, a tactic I’ve taken to employing often for several seasons now. Ghillies look good, offer complete concealment, and are both light and extremely portable. Ghillies can, however, prove challenging when

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Puddles call for puddle-sized spreads – meaning a dozen decoys max – but always a jerk string to add motion to those faux ducks set in the water. (JULIA JOHNSON)

it comes to shooting accuracy, making preseason practice while so garbed a most excellent idea. A temporary puddle in a pasture field? An Avery Power Hunter layout blind grassed with green Kill’R Weed raffia gets the call. Twelve inches of water, and the birds tell me I have to be out away from the edges? I put a Power Hunter cockpit and home-spun camouflage swing-out doors on my 10-foot Aquapod. It keeps

me hidden and dry. Little puddles. Little decoy spreads. This year, I’ll run two Greenhead Gear Puddler Packs consisting of a total of 12 mixed pintails, wigeon and gadwall, with a couple mallards thrown in for good measure. These are anchored with Rig ’Em Right’s Extreme Texas Rigs, which hold well in calm waters, wind, waves and tides. Sometimes, and if the birds want to be there anyway,


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HUNTING which they often do, and decoys are somewhat a moot point, which they often are, I’ll cut this spread in half. Always – always and always – I’ll have an RMR jerk cord set with a pair of GHG greenwing teal ready to go. And I do use it religiously. Truth is, I’d rather forget the single-string decoys and my call than leave the jerk cord at home. Yes, it’s that good. Shots over such puddles are often close, with 25 yards being the outside edge. Here, I tote a Mossberg Silver Reserve 12-bore O/U set with improved and modified choke tubes. Steel 4s or 5s are plenty, and I’m partial to the higher pellet counts with the smaller shot sizes, as long as the distances don’t get too long. As for calling over these little pools, I let the birds dictate what they want to hear – or don’t want to hear – on any given day. Typically, however, I’m fairly judicious with my calling in these situations. I’ll hail a distant

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group, simply to get their attention, if they’re going to pay attention, but then back off dramatically as they start to work. Quiet quacks. Short runs. A chuckle or two. Nothing radical, and all low- to moderate volume. Remember, these puddles are often enclosed – surrounded by timber, down in a hole, or bordered by trees or higher vegetation. The acoustics of such places can play havoc with volume, making moderate too loud, and a whisper just loud enough. Better yet, use a whistle or the reedy rising dweek! made by a drake mallard. Find ’em. Hide. And hunt ’em like they are – small. Tiny puddles and little waters can be magical places under the right conditions: mallard magnets that have absolutely no equal. But they’re not gimme hunts, despite all the birds paddling around that space no bigger than most living rooms. Hunt them with all the intensity of big water, and you’ll be surprised just how huge these small waters can be. NS

Author MD Johnson says an over-andunder shotgun will do the trick nicely in these kinds of close quarters. (JULIA JOHNSON)


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Forecasting For Fowl

HUNTING

A lot of variables go into choosing whether to head for coastal waters to hunt waterfowl or go upstream on the Columbia, but it should be based on where hunting’s likely to be best, not drive time. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

Sometimes heading west from Portland for ducks and geese is best, and sometimes it’s to take I-84 east to Boardman. By Andy Schneider

T

he outboard motor jumped once and then made a low growl as the propeller found the rough, sandy bottom. Shining the flashlight into the water, the shallowness quickly became evident: broken clamshells littered the bottom of the salty water just centimeters below the surface. Since the outboard wasn’t going to take us any further, it was time to walk the boat the last hundred yards. With the engine’s noise extinguished, the marsh came alive with sounds. Wigeons whistled on roost, Geese noisily gabbed somewhere and even a lone horn from a passing ship far out in the

river channel could be heard. It all seemed to complete the feeling that this is what waterfowl hunting really sounds and feels like. The decision to head west instead of east had actually been an easy one. Good tides, a favorable wind and drier conditions were sure to keep birds moving on the estuary with each high tide. And with the strong west wind predicted, the little cove on the backside of our favorite tidal island would lure birds into its sheltered waters like a box of donuts brings coworkers to the break room. is finicky. While we all have hunting buddies who seem to always set their spread on the “X” and limit every trip,

NORTHWEST WATERFOWL HUNTING

this is not the case for the majority of us duck and goose hunters. Constantly fluctuating weather, a vast amount of water and just a moderate number of birds utilizing our flyway make it a challenge, no matter what your friends’ Facebook feeds say. Being versatile, mobile and willing to make decisions based on your own scouting and research instead of relying upon internet or buddy reports is the best way to ensure you have a successful hunt. Checking local and northern weather forecasts, Sauvie Island harvest statistics, tidal predictions and even road conditions should all be part of the “couch scouting” that can be done easily at home on your smart device to help nwsportsmanmag.com | DECEMBER 2017

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HUNTING you make an educated decision on where to hunt. If you are located in the Portland Metro area, then a trip to the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge is just about as long of a drive as one to the Boardman area and the public hunting there. But deciding whether to head east or west should come down to where hunting is likely to be better, not drive time. Once you’ve found some promising hunting grounds on opposing sides of the Metro area, more options come available to you and decisions become easy once you’ve completed your scouting.

WHEN HEADING WEST is on the table, there are a few factors that will help ensure you have a successful hunt in the tidewater country of the Columbia. Tides: It’s no secret ducks move with the tide. But what tide will bring the birds to you? It’s almost always going to be the incoming. As millet and grasses are flooded, waterfowl will move in looking for fresh groceries. While there may be some good action at the first part of the ebb, things can quickly become tricky as retreating and shallowing waters make navigating back to the ramp a challenge. Being stranded on the marsh during the short days of December isn’t something that the average hunter needs to experience. Sheet water: If we have been bombarded with abundant rainfall and there is sheet water spread from Tillamook to Troutdale, hunting west of the Cascades may be a challenge. When there is a lot of surface water on the ground, there are just too many options for birds. Hunting the mainstem Columbia will be a challenge when targeting any sort of puddling duck. Windy weather: Even if you line up the perfect incoming tide, dry conditions and lots of birds moving into the area, hunting can still be a challenge if there is no weather to move ducks and geese around. A strong and gusty south wind 142 Northwest Sportsman

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5 FOWL TIPS 1) No matter where you hunt, spend some time at the end of your day looking for alternative places to try sometime. Paying attention to where the birds are consistently working and scouting out those locations just may make your next hunt even more successful. Mark those promising areas on your GPS; the next time you pull up to your favorite cove and find someone has beaten you there, you’ll have another viable option. 2) Avoid premade blinds that are hunted season after season. While they may offer convenience, they also may have educated plenty of birds too. Setting out your spread and just utilizing natural cover is sometimes one of the most effective ways to ambush birds. 3) When hunting tidewater, make sure you tie your boat in a location where you can get to it at different tide heights. If you find you can’t safely get to your boat, simply wait the tide out. No need risking hypothermia when just waiting another half an hour for the water to drop will ensure safe passage. 4) And when hunting above any dam, pay attention to the water level as well. While there aren’t tidal exchanges, there very well could be a large demand for electricity and water levels may drop just as quickly as an ebbing tide. 5) No matter where you decide to venture out for your next waterfowling adventure, remember to include friends, family and friendly retrievers. Not only does it make for a safer hunt but there is not a better place to build relationships, friendships and memories than in a duck blind. –AS

is one of the best for Oregonside waterfowlers set up on the Columbia. Anything over 15 to 20 mph will keep birds from rafting on the main river and should keep them moving low and in constant search of sheltered waters. Just be cautious when wind predictions push into the gale category, which can create some hazardous conditions on the big water of the river. Spread: Waterfowl working down the west side of the Cascades are going to be wary of decoy spreads. Oftentimes, a dozen or two higher quality and well-placed dekes are all that’s needed to lure in suspicious birds. As the tide starts flooding and the grass around you starts floating, move your spread into the floating weeds or just on the edge of them.

EASTERN OREGON HAS an appeal of its own. Dry and dusty sage in the crisp morning air as long strings of birds move high overhead are true treats for us Westsiders to experience. Birds from the north: It is the ultimate lure of waterfowl hunting: the arrival of a bunch of new,

uneducated birds pushed into your hunt area because of severe weather to the north. Oftentimes, when cold weather moves out of Canada and into Eastern Washington, it also moves right in with us and those birds keep on moving south. But every now and then, the pattern plays to our advantage and we see a big push of fresh birds in our area. For whatever reason, these fresh birds almost always push into the eastern side of the state first. While we all hope that these birds have never seen a decoy spread before, it’s more than likely they have been educated to the dangers of their plastic cousins. Sometimes the only way to combat wary birds is with big spreads. Setting out and retrieving 10 dozen decoys, or more, is a lot of work. One of the easiest ways to deal with this logistical nightmare is with more hands. Recruiting hunting buddies to bring their own decoys not only spares some of the financial strain of buying a large spread but also makes setting up and picking up a lot easier. Pineapple Express: When you’re sitting at home scouting with the


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HUNTING

When winter locks the Columbia Basin into a deep freeze, the best bet is often the big river itself. Even if it’s largely dammed, there’s enough moving water to attract mallards. Young guns Max and Dom Rippo enjoyed a bang-up day on the Columbia during a trip a few seasons back now with their dad, Tobin. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

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local news on in the background and you hear the terms “Pineapple Express” and “atmospheric river,” your ears should definitely perk up. As these long weather systems roll out of the Pacific, they warm up our region, making it a more desirable rest stop for birds trying to escape colder northern climes. But one of the best things about the Pineapple Express is the south wind it brings with it. A southwest wind is the most desirable for Oregon waterfowlers’ because it pushes birds out of the main channel of the Columbia to its southern shores in search of sheltered waters. Brrrrrrrr: Long stretches of subfreezing temperatures can make for cold hunting, but it can also produce good action as well. When all standing water is frozen solid, the only choice for open water is the Columbia. While you may need to take some caution on your drive east, the rewards of finding more birds may be worth it. NS


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COLUMN Introducing gunshots to pups should happen in a progressive manner, one that’s dictated by the pup’s behavior. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

Gunshot Training A

s soon as you bring a puppy home, it’s time to start preparing it for gunshot training. I like doing this by first introducing it GUN DOGGIN’ 101 to sounds it’s going By Scott Haugen to commonly hear around the house for the rest of its life. Doing this at eight weeks of age is not too soon. Sounds such as people walking on wooden floors in the house, garage doors opening, vacuum cleaners, doors closing, lawn mowers running and more should be introduced to a dog soon after they are home. If your puppy is shy of such sounds, hold them while someone makes the noises or runs the machines,

so you can assure them that the noises are safe. The more comfortable your pup becomes to these random sounds, the closer they’re getting to gunshot training. In order to comfort them in their first days and weeks at home, speak in a soothing, consistent voice, rub their ears and give them treats; make life fun and predictable for them.

THE FIRST GUNSHOT sounds I like introducing to a puppy are from a BB gun or air rifle. These guns simply move air, so there’s no powerful “boom” you get from instantaneous shell powder combustion. These mellow-sounding gunshots can be introduced at a distance of 10 yards or more, with someone else shooting while you have the puppy on lead. I don’t like holding a puppy when introducing

gunshots, as I don’t want to baby them through the process and make them think I’ll always be holding them when guns are fired. After all, they are gun dogs. The pup may instantly show interest in the shooting, as early as nine weeks of age, desiring to be closer to the gun. When this happens, progress to a .22. The crack of a .22 still isn’t overly loud, and is a great stepping stone to the next gun. Introduce the .22 sounds from a distance of 10 or 20 yards, and fire it directly away from the pup. This will ensure the sharp sound isn’t too intense. Having someone fire the .22 while you have the dog on a leash is wise, as it allows you to closely monitor the pup’s reaction. Next comes the shotgun. Use lowpower field loads for this training, as they’re not as costly nor as loud as hunting loads.

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COLUMN Building a hunting dog that’s not gun shy starts early with some very basic steps. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

With the pup, stand 20 to 30 yards behind the shooter. With the shooter in position, have them load the shotgun, making noise when activating the action. This should catch the attention of the pup, alerting it

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that something is about to happen. This will also condition them so that when they are older, they’ll know it’s game time once that action closes. If the pup is interested and shows no

fear of the shotgun being fired, move 10 yards closer. This is a good time to integrate the sit and stay commands we talked about in the May issue’s Gun Dog column. Keep moving closer, right


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up to the shooter if the pup allows. But if the pup does show any sign of fear, stop and come back in a day or two with airgun and .22 shots, then progress to the shotgun. The last thing you want to do is force a pup into “liking” gunshots. Some pups will have no concerns and will show intense interest at an early age; others may take a while.

WHEN SHOULD YOU start introducing gunshots to your pup? That depends how your bonding goes with them, and how they’re reacting to the other sounds we talked about. I’ve introduced airgun fire to pups anywhere from eight and a half to 14 weeks of age, depending on their readiness and behavior. Usually, by 14 weeks they’re ready to at least start the introduction, but again, how quickly they progress comes down to individual pup behavior. Just because your pup may not be crazy about gunfire at, say, 14 weeks of age, don’t dismiss it as being a “bad” pup. It may simply mature a bit later than other pups. If this happens, be sure you’re getting it used to as many loud sounds as possible and spending important bonding time together. Once a pup takes to gunfire, the process can happen fast, so stay positive. If your pup is independent, take advantage of it. Let them run free, behind you, as you prepare to shoot the gun. They might be playing with a bone or toy while you’re shooting, which helps distract their attention and gives them comfort. After the shot, see how the pup reacts. If they show no anxiety, take another shot or two, then call it good. If they run to you after the first shot, praise them. If they run away, call them back, reassure them all is OK and resume training another day. The better you get to know your pup, the more you’ll be able to gauge your gun training sessions to fit its development. In the end, if properly trained, a gun-shy dog will be the least of your worries. NS Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is host of The Hunt, on Netflix. To watch his series of puppy training videos, visit scotthaugen. com. Follow Scott on Instragram, Facebook and Twitter. 154 Northwest Sportsman

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COLUMN

The Problems With Pronghorns

T

he small rolling ridge was our only cover. We ducked as low as we could, hoping CHEF IN THE WILD the near crawl was By Randy King enough to keep us shielded from the 8x42 power of pronghorn eyes. The herd that we were on was slowly feeding up a gully, and I was trying to get Noah in a location to shoot one. I had picked out a small rock that jutted out of the sage and cheatgrass of the Bennett Mountain foothills, providing additional and much-needed cover. If all went well, the pronghorn would walk by us at about 100 yards. We had the wind in our favor and our fingers were crossed. However, when we got to the rock, we saw that the antelope had made an unfortunate turn. Instead of being 100 yards away, they had fed up the “wrong” gully and were now roughly 300 yards out. Without a ghillie suit and Special Forces training, it would have been impossible for Noah and I to put the sneak on these critters. But as we sat and watched the animals

With how tough antelope hunting can be in the wide-open lands of Southwest Idaho, it’s no wonder author Randy King and his pronghorn posse take a moment now and then to pose for selfies. (RANDY KING) feed, my son turned and looked at me. “I can make that shot, Dad.” I shifted my view and looked at Noah. His pack was on top of a rock. He was lying in a prone position and had my .270 dialed in on the lead doe. “You think?” I muttered back, slightly taken aback by the kid’s boldness. He nodded affirmatively, confidence in his eyes. This would not be his longest shot, but it would be close. We practice at the range

and he can shoot well, but on a live animal the stakes are much higher. This is not a hunk of cardboard or a groundhog silhouette.

UP TILL NOW in his hunting life Noah has been a young follower. He has taken instruction, he has shot when told to shoot, followed my lead on stalks. Yet here he was taking the lead and asking to shoot. It is at these points that a father must learn to let go, I assume. nwsportsmanmag.com | DECEMBER 2017

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COLUMN Antelope and apple sausage with eggs, avocado, English muffin and hollandaise sauce. (RANDY KING)

MOTHER SAUCES, PART DEUX It is often unwittingly that I have a good idea. Last month I did a small dissertation on French “mother sauces” here, using one of them, espanola, to create a demi-glace. This month, and most likely for the next few, we will be cooking with the other mother sauces from the Hexagon. To recap, the French wrote down a set of sauces that are basically the “mothers” to most all other sauces. Mother sauces include things like hollandaise (emulsions), volute (thickened chicken stock), sauce tomato (that one is easy enough), béchamel (white sauce) and espanola (beef stock, base for demi-glace, a half-glaze). These sauces are then used for basically everything in the French cooking canon, from eggs benedict to spaghetti bolognese. This month we will be looking into hollandaise sauce for our recipe, antelope and apple pronghorn sausage with eggs, avocado, English muffin and hollandaise sauce. In the past chefs would take a steel bowl, place it over the top of a boiling pot of water, and let the steam rising off the pot help them make the sauce. As I’ve never been into doing things “classically” or “because that is the way it has always been done,” this recipe is foregoing the traditional double-boiler preparation. Why? Because now we all have blenders. Hollandaise sauce can be made in under a minute with a normal, aka, cheap home blender.

Hollandaise Sauce 2 egg yolks ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon lemon juice Dash of tabasco Pinch of salt ½ cup melted butter Add everything but the butter to the blender and puree for five seconds. Next microwave the butter until it is clear and hot, about one minute. Turn the blender to its lowest setting and slowly pour the butter onto the egg mixture. The sauce will almost immediately start to thicken. When all the butter is added – it should 158 Northwest Sportsman

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take about 10 seconds to get it all in – turn off the blender. Taste the sauce and adjust with salt and pepper as needed.

Breakfast Sausage Some sausages, namely breakfast, need no casing. This is a great way to start down the sausage-making road. The equipment needs are fewer and the pressure is off. I use this recipe, or a version of it, at home all the time. 1 cup diced apples 1 tablespoon butter 2 pounds pronghorn antelope or other wild game meat, diced 1 pound fatback, diced 1 heavy teaspoon kosher salt 1½ tablespoons freshly ground black pepper 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage leaves 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves ½ tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves ½ tablespoon fresh grated nutmeg ½ tablespoon red pepper flakes ¼ cup ice water Add apples and butter to a nonstick pan and cook on medium for roughly five minutes. Remove apples from heat and chill them. The goal with the apples is to use a crispy variety to provide not only texture but sweetness as well. I like to use Fuji apples out of Washington when I can. Combine diced venison with salt and chill for one hour. Using the smallest grate on the grinder grind the fatback and venison into a chilled steel bowl. Add

the remaining ingredients, including the apples, and with your hands or a mixer incorporate the seasonings. Place the mix back into the refrigerator. Let chill again for 10 minutes or so. Then split the meat into three bags and freeze them. When you want to eat them, thaw the meat and form them into 2-ounce balls (about 1⁄8 cup). Smash the balls into patties over medium-low heat in a nonstick pan. Sauté until brown, flip and cook through. Next, you will need to cook some eggs. I could use this space to chat about the relative merits of poaching versus sautéing eggs, but I will spare you. This recipe, being eggy and buttery at the same time, will work great for poached as well as scrambled eggs. So like they say at the breakfast place down the road from my house, “How do you want your eggs, honey?” Cook them however you answered that question. 4 English muffins 8 sausage patties, cooked (see above) 8 eggs 1 batch hollandaise sauce (see above) 2 avocados, split, seed removed and sliced To plate the dish, toast the English muffins. Use a broiler on the oven. They will all be done at the same time that way. Top each muffin half with an apple sausage patty. Top those with an egg and a dollop of hollandaise. Garnish them all with a slice or two of avocado. Grind some fresh cracked pepper onto them all and enjoy! For more wild game recipes, see chefrandyking.com. –RK


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I can remember being 14. The urges, the self-confidence, the desire to prove myself as a man. It is hard wired. Seeing that urge as a father, all I wanted to do was support it. While he might always be a child in my eyes, he needs to learn self-reliance. “If you can make the shot, do it,” I said. Pulling my binoculars to my face I watched the lead, and closest, doe. “I will let you know where you hit, Noah,” I muttered. “OK,” he replied. My focus was on the doe, but I could hear Noah calm himself. He adjusted his breathing, he slightly shifted the pack for a better rest and settled in. Then he mumbled “Fire in the hole.” A few seconds later the crack of the .270 shattered the stillness of the desert. I wish I could say the doe dropped in her tracks. I wish I could say that we high-fived and began to make meat. But, unfortunately, that was not the case. Instead the bullet landed about a foot below the doe’s belly. It was a clean miss, the second best kind of shot next to a clean kill. Noah quickly jacked in another shell and settled in for a follow-up shot. “No!” I said. He looked at me with scorn. “They are running; we are not shooting at running animals at 300 yards. That is not going to happen.” Frustrated, he nonetheless nodded in agreement. We watched as the puff of dirt that the bullet had raised slowly disappeared, swirling away in the wind, while a herd of the second-fastest land animals in the world ran up and over a mountain range and out of our lives.

NOAH WAS UNUSUALLY silent for the remainder of the day. I could sense his frustration. I have felt that exact thing after a blown shot: lost opportunity, letting others down, the disappointment in not being successful and wondering, “Was that my chance this year?” But in retrospect, the missed shot was still a success. He now knows disappointment, a common feeling for hunters. Fortunately, a week later we snuck up on a group of bedded pronghorn. They stood and looked at us, broadside, at about 150 yards. Noah made meat. NS 160 Northwest Sportsman

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COLUMN Hassenpfeffer on the, er, hoof – author Dave Workman says he just may head out with his Ruger 10/22 semiauto in hopes of harvesting enough rabbits for a nice winter stew. (TOM KOERNER, USFWS)

December Hunting, Gift Ideas

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hile most people are focusing on the holidays this month, there are still plenty of options for ON TARGET Northwest waterfowl, By Dave Workman small game and predator hunters to pull a trigger. Duck and goose hunting continues well into winter, grouse season runs through Dec. 31 in Washington and Jan. 31 in Oregon, and rabbit hunters can continue conking cottontails and

snowshoe hares through March 15 in the Evergreen State while the Beaver State is open year-round. I’ve got a hankering to load up my .22-caliber pistol and rifle and just spend time strolling through the lowlands looking for bunnies this winter.

LET’S TALK ABOUT that for a moment. There is lots of .22 Long Rifle and .22 WMR ammunition available these days, and for plugging away at rabbits I’ve found that a 37- or 38-grain hollowpoint bullet puts the instant hurt on them. Shooting lateseason grouse is best done, in my opinion,

with a 40-grain roundnose lead pill. For what it’s worth, I found long ago that topping a .22-caliber rifle with a scope makes the best sense for potting small game. When I was much younger, I hunted raccoons with an old fellow who lived in Tacoma and hunted with hounds. I shot several bandits with an old .22-caliber nine-shot Harrington & Richardson double-action revolver, which definitely led to my interest in handgun hunting later on. My .22-caliber rifle of choice is a Ruger 10/22 semiauto, which is topped by a

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1.5-4X Bushnell scope and is so accurate that I’ve been able to shoot the heads off wood kitchen matches at 25 yards, using a sandbag rest. Washington has a pretty generous bag limit on bunnies. You can take five a day and have 15 in possession. Places I’ve hunted this fall have shown some decent promise, and there’s nothing wrong with having a freezer full of rabbit meat. Coyote hunting might almost be considered a community service. I know guys who hunt them with AR-type rifles, and others who like to use bolt-action or single-shot models. Popular calibers are .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington and .222 Remington. There is an abundance of bullets out there that put songdogs down for the count, and devoted hunters can thin the population, which can help reduce predation on small game and upland populations, not to mention domestic pets. There’s no bag limit on coyotes, and

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A brick of .22-caliber rimfire ammunition makes a great Christmas gift for the small game hunter, who can stay busy through March 15 on rabbits and hares in Washington state and year-round in Oregon. (DAVE WORKMAN) you can shoot them year-round. Believe it or not, a recent opinion poll revealed that a lot of Washington voters think semiauto firearms ought to be more heavily regulated. That’s pretty nebulous, and this thinking needs to be challenged. You can bet the antigunners are going to march on Olympia in January and push lawmakers to ratchet down on your gun rights. That in mind, December might be a good opportunity to gift somebody with a membership in the National

Rifle Association, or the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, which I’m associated with. Another group worth joining is the Washington Arms Collectors, which holds gun shows in Puyallup and Monroe.

WITH HOLIDAY SEASON here, every year I remind readers to remember their hunting buddies, at the very least with a card or maybe have them over for a social evening, complete with wild game table fare. Now’s


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the time to be taking care of that. Same goes for a landowner who may have allowed you to hunt his/her private land. Send them a card or maybe give them a call around the holidays and wish them well. Got somebody special on your gift list? A couple of boxes of shotgun shells or rifle cartridges, or a brick of .22-caliber rimfire ammunition always makes a good gift. And with seasons for small game or birds continuing into the New Year, that’s going to come in handy. Believe it or not, good wool socks make a great holiday gift, and don’t overlook a box full of propane gas canisters for somebody’s camp stove. Or, maybe just buy that hunter on your list a new camp stove! Got somebody with a beat-up hunting vest that holds shotgun shells? Get ’em a new one, and shop now because you can bet there will be a rush on stuff like this as Christmas draws closer. Last year I bought a new Ruger Mark IV

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®

A great holiday gift for the active outdoorsman is a new cook stove, such as the rugged Wind River range from Brunton (right). Of course, if you’re Workman, you’ll spend plenty of time at the loading bench this winter too! (DAVE WORKMAN) .22-caliber pistol and this year, Pachmayr has introduced G-10 replacement grips for that model. They are superb. I’ve already got a pair on my pistol, and you can find them online or maybe at your favorite sporting goods store or gun shop. You might also buy that person a spare magazine for his/her pistol or rifle (I’ve got a couple of magazines for my 10/22 rifle

and four for that Ruger pistol). For you dads and moms with young hunters, write them a promissory note for a day or two of your time. Spend a day at the range, take them on a camping or scouting trip and never ever let them down. Those days will become treasured memories. Last and not least, get somebody a subscription to Northwest Sportsman. NS


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