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2017

FISHING • HUNTING • NEWS NWSPORTSMANMAG.COM

BIG GAME YEARBOOK

Monster Bucks, Readers’ Kills, First Harvests!

PRIME TIME STEELHEAD! Chetco, Ch t Hump, H Forks, F k Cowlitz, ’Nooch, & More! Why Too Low Doesn’t Blow

Record Wreckin’ Walleye Tips

4

Mid-Columbia Guides Talk Trophy Tactics

Spring Chinook FForecasts, t Ti Tips, Ri Rigs, Top Early Spots

ALSO INSIDE

Sekiu, Port Angeles Lower Columbia South Sound Blackmouth Last-chance Geese Trout

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Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

Volume 10 • Issue 5

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

70TH

SEE MORE AT VERLES.COM!

ANNIVERSARY

PUBLISHER James R. Baker ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Dick Openshaw EDITOR Andy Walgamott LEAD CONTRIBUT0R Andy Schneider THIS ISSUE’S CONTRIBUTORS Nick Berreth, Scott Brenneman, Jason Brooks, Jake Fife, Randy Harbolt, Scott Haugen, Wayne Heinz, Doug Huddle, Sara Ichtertz, MD Johnson, Randy King, Buzz Ramsey, Terry Wiest, Brandon Williams, Dave Workman, Mark Yuasa EDITORIAL FIELD SUPPORT Jason Brooks GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Rick D’Alessandro, Nancy Ekse, Mamie Griffin, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold PRODUCTION MANAGER Sonjia Kells DESIGNERS Kayla Mehring, Sam Rockwell, Jake Weipert

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PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Kelly Baker OFFICE MANAGER/ACCOUNTING Audra Higgins COPY EDITOR/ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Katie Sauro INFORMATION SYSTEMS MANAGER Lois Sanborn WEBMASTER/DIGITAL STRATEGIST Jon Hines DISTRIBUTION Tony Sorrentino, Gary Bickford ADVERTISING INQUIRIES ads@nwsportsmanmag.com CORRESPONDENCE Email letters, articles/queries, photos, etc., to awalgamott@media-inc.com, or to the address below.

HEWESCRAFT SEARUNNER

ON THE COVER Buzz Ramsey, an iconic Northwest salmon and steelhead angler and a columnist for this magazine, holds a wild winter-run he caught on an Oregon Coast river. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

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


CONTENTS

VOLUME 10 • ISSUE 5

69

RECORD WRECKER WALLEYE

With trophy season here on the Mid-Columbia, Wayne Heinz picks the brains of four guides – Hermiston’s Kimo Gabriel and Tyler Stahl and Tri-Cities’ Jeff Knotts and TJ Hester – for the best gear and advice for catching a whopper.

(STAHL’S GUIDE SERVICE)

FEATURES 93

LOW DOESN’T BLOW Perfect river levels don’t always align with family vacation schedules, but when Sara Ichtertz and her brood pitched their annual Fish Camp on an Oregon Coast stream, the conditions led to new understandings in how to fish for winter steelhead.

117 2018 SPRING CHINOOK PREVIEW With more than 230,000 of the year’s first salmon forecast to return to the mouth of the Columbia, it’s time to get ready for springers! The Portland area’s Andy Schneider breaks down the best tactics and top early spots to catch your first Chinook of 2018!

131 STRAIT SHINES IN EARLY SPRING As the March openers for blackmouth fishing out of Sekiu and Port Angeles near, Mark Yuasa gets us set up for success in the Strait of Juan de Fuca! 155 LAST-CHANCE HONKERS The extended goose season in counties along the Lower Columbia requires great blinds, carefully set decoys, judicious calling – and ninja-level improvisational skills. Local waterfowler MD Johnson talks tactics for February and March honkers.

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!

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February Coastal Steelhead February is the month to start matching the size of our gear with the size of our quarry. The biggest, brightest hard-fighting steelhead of the season are now entering our coastal rivers and you don’t want to come unprepared. Now is the time when a once-in-a-lifetime trophy could finally become a reality!

COLUMNS

169 GUN DOGGIN’101

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

The coastal rivers of the Pacific Northwest from British Columbia to Oregon feature the only opportunity in the world to target these early outsized spring steelhead, and some of these rivers can be accessed by jet boat – some, in fact, are so remote that they can only be accessed by boat. Danny Cook from Wooldridge Boats suggests increasing your chances by using slightly larger terminal gear for catching these inherently larger steelhead. Not only do you want to increase the size of your main and leader line but your offerings as well. This means larger drift bobbers, baits, flies, plugs, etc. You really want to come prepared as these fish have a tendency to break anglers’ hearts more often than not. Rule is, the larger the steelhead, the larger water you want to look for them in. You will find them in deeper and choppier water than you typically find earlier fish in, so increase your weights and slow your baits down. Larger, flashier offerings are suggested and will elicit more strikes than with the earlier run steelhead as well. Some rivers offer hatchery broodstock programs and some offer wild steelhead only. If a wild steelhead is caught, they should always be handled with extreme care and released immediately. Always check state and provincial regulations before heading out on the water. Be careful and have fun out there!

(SCOTT HAUGEN)

Dressing up a gun dog?!?! Über-hunter Scott initially balked at his wife’s penchant for dudding up Haugen family pooches, but quickly saw the protective value of vests – he shares how to get your four-legged hunting companion used to them. 83

BUZZ RAMSEY Buzz chats up guide Andy Martin on how to fish for steelhead on Southern Oregon’s Chetco River, home to healthy runs of hatchery and wild winter-runs.

103 NORTH SOUND The North Fork Nooksack hasn’t been worth fishing for steelhead in recent winters, but not so this season. Doug’s got the downlow on where to go, plus a fun annual smelt contest to attend and tips for blasting bunnies. 109 WESTSIDER This is the time of year that metalheaders live for – with the Cowlitz’s late hatchery run arriving and other Western Washington rivers’ natives returning, Terry directs traffic to top waters. 139 THE KAYAK GUYS There’s no reason kayak anglers can’t get in on Puget Sound’s blackmouth fishery – Scott puts

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together a get bit kit and heads for Wollochet Bay near Tacoma for resident Chinook. 143 SOUTH SOUND One day we may only be able to fish for stocker trout in these here parts, and Jason will be right there – he highlights three lakes to work right now for rainbows! 163 CHEF IN THE WILD There’s scope bite and then there’s shotgun bite. Chef Randy’s son learned an unfortunate lesson in the goose blind about the latter – but also secured fixin’s for his father’s honker chili recipe! 173 ON TARGET Dave’s reloading bench is always busy, and maybe more so this time of year. He shares news on recently released products that those who roll their own will be interested to learn about, as well as keeps a sharp eye on gun-related doin’s down in Olympia.


(BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

22

BIG GAME YEARBOOK: CLASS OF ’17 Ginormous bucks, first kills and more – readers share their stories and photos from the recently completed 2017 fall hunting seasons in our annual Big Game Yearbook!

DEPARTMENTS 17

THE EDITOR’S NOTE

19

SOCIAL SCENE Reader reactions to recent news

55

PHOTO CONTEST WINNERS Browning, Yo-Zuri monthly prizes

57

THE DISHONOR ROLL Alleged Pendleton poacher arrested; Trumpeter swan shooter sentenced; Jackass of the Month

59

DERBY WATCH Resurrection Derby results; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic preview; Upcoming derbies

63

OUTDOOR CALENDAR Upcoming openers, events

63

BIG FISH Record Northwest game fish caught this month

65

2018 NORTHWEST BOAT & SPORTSMEN’S SHOW SCHEDULE

129 RIG OF THE MONTH Prawn springer set-up 14 Northwest Sportsman

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Destination Alaska

THEEDITOR’SNOTE

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

I

t was hard to see any personal positives from last October’s Deer Camp. It was a bust, to say the least.

Truck troubles the day before the opener, an overcrowded mountainside, a slip on said mountainside resulting in a broken phone and bruised hip, some jackass winging off four shots directly upslope of me, taking down camp only to immediately put it back up because said truck wouldn’t start, abandoning Dad and his rig to a busy local repair shop. Heavy snow on the second weekend, one hunting partner’s tent crushed as bergs calving off tree limbs also pummeled the roof of Dad’s trailer all night, a quick exit the next morning. When I went to report my 2017 hunt results, I had to put down that I’d hunted three days, but that was speaking technically. It was more like two and a sliver. I haven’t spent so few days afield since tagging out two hours into season on the 2009 opener.

NEEDLESS TO SAY, you won’t see my smilin’ mug in our annual Big Game Yearbook: Class of ’17. (And it’s a much nicer layout without it too!). A hybrid of what I used to call the Studs of the Mountain and our former general manager Brian Lull’s pestering for an entire issue dedicated to reader pics, it’s one of my favorite magazines of the year to put together. It really gets to the heart of what we’re all about: helping you be more successful in the field. I want to thank everyone who shared their photos and stories, and in particular Brandon Williams. I didn’t know Brandon before this fall, but I really liked what he had to say about hunting. An Arkansan who recently moved to Washington, he found that filling a tag was not as easy here as it was back home. But rather than give up, he redoubled his efforts and this past fall bagged a heavy blacktail and freezer-filling cow elk. Kudos for keeping at it!

FISH THE LAND OF GIANTS. Guided and Self-Guided trips in Port Protection, AK

ABOUT THOSE POSITIVES I mentioned above. While Dad and I struck out, two members of our camp did get their bucks on Saturday and Sunday of the opener. I am leery of organ meat, but looking back, I would endure 2017 and all of its travails again just to have more of John’s Okanogan muley heart hors d’oeuvres, served two nights at our fire. They were That Good. As we look back at the season that was, I’m already looking forward to the next one! –Andy Walgamott

www.fishportprotection.com


Destination Alaska


SOCIAL

SCENE

Destination Alaska Comment from the www

By Andy Walgamott

PROPOSED PUGET SOUND CHINOOK PLAN PANNED SOME MORE The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Puget Sound tribes’ proposed 10-year plan for managing the harvest of Endangered Species Act-listed Chinook in the inland sea – and which could severely affect salmon fisheries in low return years due to increasing National Marine Fisheries Service restrictions – continued to stir negative reaction. After we reported on 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line host Tom Nelson’s blasting of the 338-page document as a “tremendously misguided and useless piece of public policy,” Facebookers David Montoya, Daniel Bravo, Tim Cronk, Jason Miller, Matt Eckstrom, Steve Ng, Roger Blackstone and John Hansen among others gave Nelson attaboys. Meanwhile, others pointed to the real problem. Said Brian Johnston, “Selective fishing isn’t destroying endangered salmon and steelhead stocks, development is. Clearing forested land to build houses and warehouses creates increased sewage treatment plant discharge and stormwater pollution, not to mention fireproofing chemicals are also being detected in rivers killing fish.” Mark Marcil proposed, “First they need to release fish to get fish back.” And Adam Neff pointed out “WDFW needs a larger nonlicense revenue stream and the state as a whole needs to get more serious on salmon recovery, including a healthy dose of research.”

WHAT TO MAKE OF RYAN ZINKE If you’re like the editor, you’ve been looking beyond the hyperbole to figure out Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke’s true stances on managing our public lands, so when Outdoor Life editor Andrew McKean posted a lengthy interview with and think piece on the man in charge of the BLM and other federal agencies, I shared it as a “good read.” That did not go over so well with some. “This is not a ‘good read,’” said Jim Swanson. “It’s a biased hit job that only casts a negative opinion of Ryan Zinke. Zinke allowed the monuments at Badger Two Medicine, which is full of energy that could have been tapped and now won’t.” Mike Whitman looked around his home state in his response: “In just the last two decades I’ve seen what Liberal-minded conservation has done. I live in Washington state, and all our resources are in decline. I for one agree with Zinke.” But Dan Wilson pointed out McKean was comparing the secretary to his self-proclaimed hero. “If he falls short of acting like [Teddy Roosevelt] (which he constantly does), then it’s only appropriate that he is judged to that standard – and he deserves to be called to the carpet for his actions as long as he invokes TR and acts counter to TR ideals.”

MOST LIKED READER PIC WE HUNG UP ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE DURING THIS ISSUE’S PRODUCTION CYCLE You might know him better as NODR’s Crappie Killa, but Keevin Collier’s also got a hankering to hunt as well. He bagged Christmas dinner near Cottage Grove, drawing lots of likes. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)


Destination Alaska


Class

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Of ’17 E

very February we take a look back at our region’s recently concluded big game seasons to highlight readers’ bucks, bulls, billies and more. Ya’ll took some impressive critters in 2017, maybe none larger than Jake Fife’s new record Washington nontypical mule deer buck and whose story graces these pages. But we also like to celebrate hunters’ first kills, girls and women who pursue deer and elk, and sportsmen who never ever give up. Please enjoy the 2017 edition of Northwest Sportsman’s annual Big Game Yearbook! – The Editor

MIXED BAG

PICTURE

‘A True Washington State Publicland Giant’ The story of Jake Fife’s hunt for the new state-record nontypical archery mule deer buck. By Jake Fife

I

It doesn’t always snow during Washington’s September High Buck Hunt, but when it does and when a hunter bags a deer, it makes for a great photo. Such is the case with Jon Jackman, who weathered a dayslong storm to hunt some high wilderness meadows on his last full day at a drop camp. When he took a final glance back at where some does had gone, he spotted his buck. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

t all started in late June, that time of the year when unwavering excitement comes over so many hunters across the state, myself included, as we anxiously await the draw results. As I started to see posts trickle in online, I sat there with my info typed in, waiting to press the login button in hopes of finally seeing “selected.” I held my breath like I do every year, expecting to see “not selected,” but after 16 years of applying and never drawing a deer tag I finally saw it: Selected! I knew I had my work cut out for me, as I had very little experience in the unit. But as a school teacher, I knew if I ever drew the tag, I would have a lot of time to scout over summer in hopes of making up for that. I made it out on my first scouting trip on July 21 and spent the better part of the next five days scouring different areas in search for a mature buck. But over the course of those days it began to sink in that this wasn’t going to be an easy hunt, as I really wasn’t seeing the amount of animals I had hoped to, though it was 100-

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Northwest Sportsman 23


MIXED BAG

With a final gross score of 233 inches Pope & Young and 229 inches net, Jake Fife’s nontypical Central Washington mule deer towers over the standing state record, a 203 3/8 buck from Chelan County taken in 2008. The Selah teacher took it on a special permit on public land in Washington. (JAKE FIFE)

plus degrees out every day by lunchtime. So after seeing a few scattered bucks, I decided it was time for a new game plan – not only to keep checking other areas but essentially I wanted to start gridding the whole unit. I figured, “Eventually I’ll run into some big deer somewhere – right?”

IT WASN’T UNTIL my ninth day of scouting that I finally found an area where I began seeing consistent numbers of deer, though not “the one.” I encountered a beautiful tall four-point that was probably a 170-inch deer and got me extremely excited, as it was the first “shooter” I had seen. I thought, “Well, that’s a buck I would be proud to take.” But it was getting later in the morning and I was eager to keep following some big deep draws and glassing into them in hopes of seeing some more deer before it got too hot. Within the next 10 minutes I had gone maybe another 500 yards and run into a bachelor group of six bucks – “Whoa, that’s a nice buck. There’s another nice buck, and another, and a couple smaller ones,” I said to myself. I was really starting to feel good about finally seeing some nice bucks, when out of nowhere a different deer stood up and immediately caught my attention. I 24 Northwest Sportsman

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thought, “Whoa! That’s a real big buck.” It wasn’t until I pulled up my binoculars for a good steady look that my jaw dropped: Oh my god … There he was! The biggest, most majestic, beautiful deer I had ever laid eyes on, in perfect velvet and 150 yards away, looking at me. All I could see was a massive body, massive frame, and points sticking out everywhere! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I instantly called my best friend and hunting partner Trevor Dallman and told him I had just found the buck I wanted to shoot. I tried to explain to him what the deer looked like but just couldn’t find the words. Giant? He was a giant. With my hunt starting in exactly two weeks I can’t even count how many hours I spent driving out to this area in hopes of seeing the deer again and possibly start figuring out his pattern. Over 10 or so trips and countless dollars worth of gas money, I was able to narrow in on the buck’s home but I also found he just wasn’t patternable. He was a wanderer; he rarely would get water from the same place or even work the same trails, and oftentimes he was with a couple other nice bucks that constantly watched each other’s back. I concluded that my best option would probably be to spot and

stalk him after he had bedded down in the morning when he was done feeding.

FAST-FORWARD TO OPENING morning. I was exhausted when my alarm went off because I literally don’t think I was able to get even five minutes of sleep the entire night. Restless, the scenarios had played

Though not as well known for monster muleys as other Western states, Washington nonetheless has the genes and habitat to produce a few. Recent years’ whoppers have included the Tripod Buck and others from Okanogan County, a nine-by-twelve from the southern Channeled Scablands and Fife’s record. (JAKE FIFE)


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MIXED BAG

Two for two! Grace Smith built on her 2016 harvest of a four-pointer with this Ritzville-area doe last October. She took both muleys on the opener. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Washington’s Teanaway’s still got it for big bucks, if Bart Olson’s bruiser is any indication. He bagged this muley during a rainy day near the end of the October hunt. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

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Destination Alaska


MIXED BAG

Jake Fife and hunting partner Trevor Dallman pose with Jake’s buck. (JAKE FIFE)

over and over in my head, as I couldn’t stop thinking about hopefully being able to harvest this buck. As the sun started to rise on the first day of my hunt I began to see a few deer popping up, and about 15 minutes later there he was. I watched him feed for a couple hours before he bedded down in a draw – by himself! “This is too perfect,” I thought. For once he was alone, but then again so was I, without a spotter. As I drew closer and closer to the top of the brushy draw he was bedded in, it began to sink in that I just might pull it off on the first stalk on opening day! At that point I figured I had to be within 100 yards of the deer, but he was bedded in some thick stuff and I couldn’t see him. Still, I had pinpointed the bush he was laying under, or so I thought. I ranged the patch of sage at 70 yards. “All right, this is good,” I told myself. I had the wind at my face and needed to cover another 20 or so yards, then stand him up at 50 yards. I took that first step and out of nowhere he stood up behind a different sage – at 30 yards! 28 Northwest Sportsman

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We locked eyes, then I tilted my head down as subtly as I could and got my release on the string. I pulled back to full draw, but as soon as I got to full draw he took off – gone, not stopping and not looking back. I sat down quickly to watch where he might go only to see him disappear two ridges over. I couldn’t believe what I’d just done. I’d blown it; I had ranged the wrong bush and had no idea I was within 30 yards of him at that time. “Wow,” I thought, “that might be the only chance I get.” I looked for him until nightfall to no avail. My stomach churned all day; I was sick: I couldn’t eat or even drink anything as I replayed my screw-up over and over. Driving home, I was having a little bit of a pity party when it dawned on me: “Hey, it’s only day one. I’ve got a lot of time and now is not the time to feel sorry for myself or give up. I am determined, I will find this deer again.” And I did.

FOR EIGHT DAYS I played cat and mouse

with this buck, oftentimes getting within 100 to 120 yards of him, but with no play from there. I often ended up sitting in a bush for hours, roasting in the sun only to see him get up and feed over a knob and out of sight. Some days I would glass for hours before he stood up and showed himself; some days I would find him in 10 minutes. Most days he was with three other bucks and I had no play. They would bed in the open or strategically bed so there was no way I could get close enough. It would have been easy to just go put a stalk on him every time I saw him, but I knew I needed to be smart, patient and wait for the perfect moment, especially after already bumping him pretty hard that first day. I prayed to God for one more chance to find him by himself again. Sept. 10, day 10 of the hunt, I got to my usual glassing spot and spotted something sticking out of the brush that just didn’t look right. As I looked closer I could see a bright, blood-orange-colored rack, freshly rubbed velvet towering out from behind the sagebrush – him!


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Northwest Sportsman 29


MIXED BAG He had rubbed most of his velvet off overnight, and it was as fresh as it gets. I watched him feed then rake his horns on and off every five minutes for two and a half hours. It was amazing to see him darken his horns up in that short amount of time! And I was hoping this just might also be the perfect time to get him – he was by himself! Just as I went to leave the truck for my stalk I spotted a doe and a fawn feeding right where I needed to walk in the bottom of the draw – not good – so I waited another 10 to 15 minutes to head out. Luckily, they fed up and to my side of the draw above the buck about 20 yards. I knew I had to slip below the does first and thought that if I could make it past them, I would be getting close to the sagebrush I had marked to shoot from. I discussed the game plan with my hunting partner Trevor: I had perfect wind coming up the mountain and I needed to stay right in the bottom of that draw. It was time!

MAKING MY WAY down the mountain and staying out of sight, I had a steady 5 to 7 mph wind coming up the draw I was working down – perfect. Once I figured I was about 150 yards from the buck I took my shoes off and continued inching my way through the bottom of the brushy draw, ignoring the cheatgrass and stickers burying themselves in my feet. I crawled on my hands and knees just low enough to slip by the other deer – I could literally see their ears as I belly crawled below them, moving about an inch a minute. After 10 agonizing minutes I made it past them and came into a deeper pocket of the draw, where I was able to stand and take a breath to try and calm my nerves. About then I glanced over and noticed the bush I had marked to shoot from; I was only 15 yards from it! The adrenaline kicked right back in and I could feel my heart pounding and beating through my ears. As I took my first step, a jackrabbit exploded out of a bush right next to my foot and took off down the draw and ran right by the buck! I stood still, praying the deer wasn’t going to blow out. Luckily, he 30 Northwest Sportsman

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was still there but he had his head up and was alert, so I waited another minute or two for him to relax. As I snuck up to the bush just uphill out of the draw I could see his antler tips but couldn’t get a range on him because 1) there was too much brush in the way, and 2) I’ll admit, I was shaking like a leaf. I decided that wasn’t going to work, so I spotted a little sagebrush on the opposite side of the draw that looked parallel and was able to range it at 43 yards. I figured the deer was right at 40. “OK, here we go; this is it,” I told myself, “don’t screw this up!” I pulled back my bow while crouched behind the bush and then stood up and took a half step out from behind it. Immediately the buck whipped his head towards me. We locked eyes but I was still pretty hidden by the bush, so we had what had to be a 10-second staredown. All I could see was his head and rack, with my 40-yard pin right between the eyes. There was no way I was taking that shot, and I was also starting to get shaky and wasn’t in the best posture or balance for a shot. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting for the buck to stand my bowstring tried to jump on me! In that moment I instantly realized that things weren’t going to work as is. I picked up my left foot to get a firmer stance, stood up tall and planted myself rock steady at full draw, knowing he might dart out of his bed and I’d have no shot. I stayed locked in on my 40-yard pin and he stood up and stomped his foot down. As soon as he did that I let fly with a perfect broadside/slight quartering-away shot. I watched my arrow fly true, hitting perfectly right behind his shoulder and disappearing! I smoked him! Perfect shot!

It’s funny the deer you sometimes come across on the way back to camp – just ask the editor’s hunting partner John about his 2017 buck, shot, oh, maybe 80 yards from our tents! So it goes with Jeremy Jones. He spent the opener spotting does and sublegal bucks and was on the way back to camp when he spotted this high-tined muley, which he shot after sneaking up to a stump to steady his aim. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

I WAS PRETTY sure it was a perfect lethal shot, but soon realized it wasn’t all said and done. The deer took off like a rocket, showing no signs of being hurt whatsoever. I called Trevor and told him I’d smoked him and thought it was for sure a lethal hit, though if anything it might have been a bit low. “Better a bit low than high,” I thought.

Leave it to an utter newby to Northeast Washington to bring the biggest muley through the state game check station in two-plus decades! Michael Zavala, a recent California transplant, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, bagged his eight-by-seven with his first ever shot, at his Nine Mile-area property. (WDFW)


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Northwest Sportsman 31


MIXED BAG For the next half an hour I searched all over the draw for my arrow and blood. Nothing. I really started to get in my own head and second-guess what I knew I had seen. Trevor asked if I was sure I’d hit him because the buck had run like no other, but said he did seem to slow down and look hurt right before he lost sight of him going into sagebrush over a little knoll. I got a bit paranoid, thinking I had somehow missed vitals. I knew what I had seen, though: It looked good. I told Trevor I was going to wait another 30 minutes, then I would have him lead me to where he last saw the deer. After the longest hour of my hunting career finally passed, it was time to go find this buck. I followed an almost nonexistent blood trail for about 250 yards. I was getting close now, tip-toeing in hopes the deer would be dead and I wouldn’t

bump him into the next county. I got to 20 yards from the sagebrush pocket and knew if he was alive, he should have gotten up or I should have seen him by then. I took a few more steps and then couldn’t believe my eyes: There he was, laying under a sage, even bigger than I had ever dreamed of him being. I looked back to Trevor and raised my arms. I had done it! I had finally harvested the buck I had been dreaming of and spent so much time focusing on. I was in shock; I was overjoyed; I felt so many emotions I didn’t even know what to say or think. He was a giant – an absolute Giant of a buck – and I was so thankful I had the opportunity to harvest this deer, let alone even see him and be able to hunt him. Trevor made his way down to the deer and I, and I gave him a giant hug and we just stood there in astonishment

After Kylie Rice and her dad Ryne spotted this Eastern Washington buck during the late muzzleloader hunt, they stalked to within 92 yards, then Ryne took the shot. But that wasn’t the end of the 9-year-old’s education – Kylie followed a 60yard blood trail to the deer. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Four hard days of hunting all over the Naneum near Ellensburg and “never giving up” put Alika Robinson in position to fill her youth antlerless cow tag with a 100-yard shot from her muzzleloader. It was her first elk and first kill, reports her dad Tyler. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

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looking at the deer. We couldn’t stop smiling and laughing and retelling our perspectives of the hunt. After taking what seemed like a hundred pictures it was time to get to work, as I am very particular about making sure to take care of the meat quickly and properly. We were able to get the buck packed to the truck within the next hour and a half and it was all done. This hunt will be forever etched into my memory as I got to share it with my hunting partner. We have been fortunate enough to share a lot of success over the years and I look forward to hopefully much more in the future, but I think this one will always stick out. A true Washington state public-land giant. I am so very humbled and thankful I was even given the opportunity to hunt and harvest this deer. The hunt of a lifetime, The Buck of a Lifetime. NS


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There have been increasing reports of elk in the fabled mule deer country of Northcentral Washington, as this big bull shot by Alex Folette goes to show. He was out with a .243 on the ranch of Greg James, whose son Jonathan (middle right) was among the posse of hunters that day. Others included Andrew Hanson (far left) and Parker Simpson (far right). (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Make it seven years in a row that Lane Leonard of Mansfield, Washington, has taken good bucks, four with a rifle and three with a muzzleloader, including this one. “Time for an archery buck, I think,” quips Stacy Leonard, who sent the pic. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

The master of mountain muleys, Stan Weeks was back at it again in 2017, tagging this deeply forked buck somewhere in Chelan County. Partners also took three deer during the September High Hunt. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Prineville’s Tim English harvested a good four-point sporting 18-inch-tall tines and a 20-inch spread. He was hunting the Maury Unit; daughter Shonda sent the pic. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

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Failure Leads To Success

I

was truly blessed last year, my third living in and hunting Washington. After missing an elk in 2016 and not even getting a shot at a deer, I was pretty discouraged. Coming from Arkansas and having hunted private property for my entire hunting life, having unfilled tags at the end of the season was a new experience for me, and not a pleasant one. So after the end of the 2016 season I spent hundreds of hours in the woods and literally logged thousands of miles on my odometer. Failure was not an option, and it all came together in Game Management Unit 520, Winston. I was lucky enough to secure a multiseason deer tag and, wow, did it pay off. On the opening day of late rifle season I was able to take my biggest deer. He was only a three-by-three – we call that a six-point where I come from – but weighed just shy of 220 pounds. He was huge. A couple short weeks later I was hunting the late archery elk season, again in GMU 520, and was fortunate enough to get a 33-yard shot on an elk, which left a hole in her heart and filled my freezer. Here now, with my season over, I have a deep appreciation for my failures in 2016. While it may have been a tough season, it pushed me to become a better hunter and gave me the endurance to hunt on. I’m thankful beyond words. –Brandon Williams

Rather than give up after a poor 2016 season, Brandon Williams worked harder than ever in his new home state of Washington, bagging not only a heavy blacktail but filling his freezer with a cow elk. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

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The family farm on Orcas Island not only provides hay but plenty of venison for the freezer for the Lundquist clan. Patriarch Gary reports nephew JD (left), son Wyatt (right), Wyatt’s girlfriend McKenna Risley and himself had harvested seven bucks and does on regular and extra deer tags. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Out during the rutty end of the general rifle season in the North Sound, Chad Smith stumbled into this blacktail in an old clearcut, dropping the buck at 20 yards. Then the work to get the deer out began, taking six hours and two four-mile walks. “I felt very blessed. This was my first blacktail deer,” Smith says. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST) 38 Northwest Sportsman

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Hunting near Marlin, Washington, with his muzzleloader, Michael Cook bagged this fine muley in early October. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)


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After 15 years of collecting enough points to draw into the Wagontire Unit pronghorn hunt, Joe Janego made good on his opportunity with a single 355-yard shot with his .300 Win. Mag. following a three-hour stalk. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Opening day was getting a little long in the tooth in Pend Oreille County when this whitetail popped out in front of Kylie Carey, who made good on her chance. It was Kylie’s first time hunting. “Awesome experience!” exclaims husband Levi.

Hunting the same North Cascades hills as his father grew up hunting with his grandfather, Diego Del Nagro made the family proud with this openingmorning blacktail, shot at 150 yards with the 10-year-old’s new .243.

(BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

(BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

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First Kills, Snowy Hunts Mark Dream Season

R

andy Harbolt had a dream season in 2017, bagging three big game animals, and his pregnant wife Haley got a nice bull elk as well, all in Northeast Washington. “My archery bull, taken in September, was my first elk ever after many years of chasing those elusive animals all over the mountain. I put a tree stand on a heavily used elk trail and sat for the long haul of 14 hours on opening day. Got it done in the last hour of daylight with a perfect 11-yard shot,” he says. The early portion of hunting season also saw him out for a bruin, when a different toothsome critter made itself known. “While bear hunting I heard a cougar scream below me in the draw for close to an hour. I imitated this noise the best I could for roughly an hour, figuring it was a mating call of some sort. Before I knew it, he was making a stalk straight towards me. I didn’t see him until he was 40 yards directly below me. I had seconds to take the shot before he figured out I wasn’t what I sounded like – the closest encounter I have ever had.” Next up for Harbolt, rifle buck season. “After spending the night under a tarp in a snowstorm at 6,000 feet by myself, cold, wet and tired I started making my way down the mountain. I spotted a buck 25 yards off the trail bedded in some thick subalpine fir. I had everything buckled down and strapped in for the long, 4-mile walk down the mountain, so I struggled to get my rifle off my pack quietly. I finally got it off just in time to take this beautiful high-country buck. It took two trips up the mountain to take every bit of meat I could. It was a very rewarding but exhausting hunt,” he says. And for the grand finale, his wife notched her elk tag with a nice one. “Haley took this bull that we had spotted earlier in the day filing through a clearcut in a herd of about 10. We had a few miles to hike to get to where the elk were. With her being 35 weeks pregnant,

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we went as slow as possible so she didn’t overdo it. We finally made it about 100 yards above the elk that were now bedded down. As soon as it started snowing, the elk started standing up one by one. The last one that stood up was this bull. Haley

Randy and Haley Harbolt had a helluva good 2017 hunting season, with Randy taking his first elk, sweet-talking a cougar into range and tagging a nice mountain muley, while a very pregnant Haley made a perfect shot to bag her first bull as well. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

got behind the rifle and made a perfect heart shot, dropping him in his tracks. This was also her first elk,” Harbolt says. He termed it his “most successful hunting season ever” and says he “can’t wait for what (2018) has to offer.” –NWS


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Heading out on his last morning at Deer Camp paid off well for Andy Noreen, who took this fat buck in Okanogan County. He reports it weighed 210 pounds gutted, and gross-scored between 180 and 190 points before deductions. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

No word on whether he was hunting on a fellow state legislator’s mountain ranch, but Rep. Brian Blake did get it done in the same county, Okanogan, with this nice muley. The Aberdeen Democrat is chair of the important House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, of which Rep. Joel Kretz, Republican of Wauconda, is also a member. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST) 44 Northwest Sportsman

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Washington’s Goat Rocks lived up to its name for Josh Benjamin. He drew one of five permits to hunt the mountainous South Cascades wilderness for goats. A federal proposal could replenish North Cascades herds with Olympic National Park goats, leading to increased hunting opportunities there. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Hunting the breaks of an Idaho river, Matt Bliss filled his whitetail tag with this good buck. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST) 46 Northwest Sportsman

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MIXED BAG

Shot, Buck Of A Lifetime W hat are the odds of not only drawing an archery permit to hunt some of Central Washington’s best trophy mule deer country but also ending up rewriting the record book with a buck? Maybe not all that remote, but what if two guys did it, and they were from the same town? That was the case last year when Selah bowhunters Jake Fife and Nick Berreth bagged the new first and fourthlargest nontypical muleys in the state, per Northwest Big Game’s record books. Berreth’s story is not unlike Fife’s – eager anticipation as draw results were posted, excitement and weeks of hardcore scouting and obsessive patterning. But where they diverge is that Berreth’s discovery of a monster buck he named “Freight Train” led to the finding of an even larger one, a “true swamp donkey” he came to call “Mickey.” Berreth was also hunting a very different habitat, one consisting of open green flats bordered by thick willows and topped by sage and very low rolling hills. After an initial but unshootable encounter with his buck early in the season, Berreth brought along his friend Jason to spot for him the second week. That led to two more close-range brushes with Mickey, one in a veritable buck nest, but again, no shot opportunities. During the third week of season and with just a few days left to hunt, Berreth headed out solo into stormy conditions, which may have changed Mickey’s routine. The buck bedded more than an hour earlier than usual, Berreth says, and was by himself. Well, mostly. There were other bucks and does in the area, and so he used a decoy to creep close enough to Mickey to be able to smell him, then waited for his chance. Berreth picks up the tale: “It was around 5 o’clock when I stood up to stretch and that’s when I saw him. Mickey was feeding 100 yards from me.

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Bowhunter Nick Berreth and his special permit mule deer buck, “Mickey,” which after the 60-day drying period scored 206 6/8 gross inches and 197 5/8 net, he reports, the fourth largest nontypical buck for the species killed in Washington by a bowhunter, according to Northwest Big Game’s records. (NICK BERRETH)

The wind was still constant and blowing in my face at 20 mph. I took my binoculars and pack off, and grabbed my range finder and bow. He was in a small depression, and between us there was a small hill, maybe just a foot taller than the rest of the ground, so I belly crawled to that. “The buck was now 60 yards broadside, feeding towards me. My heart rate was going good, but mainly from the stalk. Otherwise, I was pretty calm compared to my prior encounters.

“As I debated whether to let him get closer or not, he lifted his head and pinned his ears in the other direction. I worried a spike or some other deer was coming, so at that moment I decided I wasn’t going to let my nerves catch up. I took all the arrows off my quiver, nocked my favorite, drew my bow, and put my pin on his back rib, as I knew the wind was going to blow my arrow at least a foot. “With the 60-yard pin on him, I let it


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The Central Washington unit Berreth drew a tag for is known for its big bucks, and scouting it led to many encounters with Mickey (here) and “Freight Train” for the Selah hunter. (CORTNEY NALLEY PHOTOGRAPHY, @CORTNEYNALLEYPHOTOGRAPHY)

go. I watched my arrow get half way and start jumping right. Just as I planned it, I connected: I saw my arrow pass

through him. “He took three jumps, stopped and looked back at me, then fell over dead.

I was in disbelief! I had just made the best shot of my life, on the best buck of my life!” –NWS

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Getting out of the pumpkin patch paid off – and how! – for Dave Anderson. Heading for higher ground in the Okanogan, he and wife Kristina spotted this big fella at 500 yards, got closer for a clean miss, then as the buck began to move off, “Montana” Dave downed what he says is the “largest-bodied mule deer I have ever laid my hands on.” (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

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The country above the south shore of Lake Roosevelt yielded this fine opening-day buck for Presten Savage, 14. He was hunting with his grandfather and uncle. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST) Big Game Yearbook, continued on page 150


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PHOTO CONTEST

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Chuck Hartman is our Browning Photo Contest winner, thanks to this shot of his 2017 Okanogan County muley. It wins him a Browning hat.

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

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Pendleton Man Arrested For Multiple Alleged Poachings

L

ast month, Oregon wildlife troopers arrested an 18-year-old Pendletonarea man for allegedly poaching multiple big bucks and cow elk. Joseph Reide St. Pierre was booked into Umatilla County Jail on 21 misdemeanor charges following an investigation that began last September after troopers received a tip he’d allegedly been killing deer and elk on public and private lands. He poached three “large” whitetails, one “large” muley and two antlerless elk, according to state troopers. St. Pierre was arraigned on charges that included four counts of unlawfully killing a buck during a closed season, three counts of hunting on another’s cultivated lands, and two counts each of waste, shooting across a public road and unlawfully killing antlerless elk.

By Andy Walgamott

Man Sentenced For Shooting Trumpeters

Oregon isn’t known for having a whole lot of whitetails, but a Pendleton-area man is alleged to have shot three “large” bucks in recent years. (OSP) He was also charged with two counts of aiding in the poaching of bucks. Troopers were asking anyone with more information on the case to call the Turn-In-Poachers line (800-452-7888), or Trooper Tom Juzeler or Senior Trooper Ryan Sharp (541-278-4090).

It’s not often crab gear is hauled into court (right background), but that was the case in Grays Harbor County Superior Court when WDFW Fish and Wildlife Officer Ed Welter (left) introduced them as evidence during the trial of commercial skipper Larrin Breitsprecher in early December. According to WDFW, Breitsprecher was fined $5,000 after a jury found him guilty of possessing the stolen pots. In a rambling email, Breitsprecher claimed WDFW is trying to silence him and blamed a relative for his troubles. (WDFW)

A

lways identify your target before you shoot. That was the lesson a Cottage Grove, Oregon, hunter ultimately learned after being sentenced for shooting two trumpeter swans at Summer Lake Wildlife Area in 2016. Michael J. Abbott was ordered to pay $4,750 – which will go towards buying more swans from a Wyoming breeder – by a Lake County Circuit Court judge earlier this winter, and also lost his hunting privileges for three years, according to the Bend Bulletin. The paper reported Abbott, 35, claimed that he thought he was shooting at a snow goose at “close range” but he actually hit two swans. The birds “were considered important pieces of the state’s trumpeter swan reintroduction program.” According to the story, waterfowlers insisted Abbott turn himself in, so he took one swan to authorities. The other was later recovered by state troopers and put into rehabilitation for a broken wing but died a year ago this month. One trumpeter’s frozen carcass was introduced during Abbott’s one-day trial last September to “prove the shot was fired from farther way” than he claimed, the paper reported.

JACKASS OF THE MONTH

I

f you’re going to poach a deer, putting it on your SUV’s roof for the drive home in broad daylight might be a bad idea, but that’s what a Texas man did after recently killing an out-of-season muley. After Lone Star State game wardens got a text from an alert driver, they ran the man’s license plate, called him on his cell

and asked if he was in possession of a deer, according to radio station News Talk 1290’s report. He said yes and that it was a whitetail – the season for which was open – but couldn’t give an exact location for where he killed it, and when asked to text a pic of the buck to the officer for identification, he confessed to poaching the mule deer.

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SALTWATER SPORTSMEN’S SHOW - FEBRUARY 24-25

February 24-25 Oregon State Fairgrounds 2330 17th St. NE,Salem OR Presented by

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By Andy Walgamott

18.28-lbr. Wins Resurrection Derby Resurrection Derby winner Jason Squibb holds up an oversized check for $10,000 at the conclusion of the event held out of Anacortes Jan. 5-7. (NMTA)

Salmon Classic Coming Up

T

he 3rd Annual Friday Harbor Salmon Classic will be held out of the eponymous San Juan Island port Feb. 8-10. Benefiting salmon enhancement work and Salmon for Soldiers, it features a whopping first-place prize of $15,000 for That’s a lotta yarn! And it’s no yarn that the $3,000 raised by auctioning whoever brings back off this American flag blanket at the last Friday Harbor Salmon Classic the biggest Chinook. went to a good cause, Salmon for Soliders. The organization’s mission statement is “to offer a sense of normalcy and relaxation to our nation’s Derby tickets are veterans through fishing.” (JIMMIE LAWSON) $550 per team, which can be split among up to four anglers. Participants must auctioned off a hand-knitted American moor their boat at the Port of Friday Flag for $3,000 to raise money for the Harbor Marina. veterans-oriented Salmon For Soldiers. At the last classic, Ray Bone won with For more info on the derby, see a 14.68-pounder, and organizers also fridayharborsalmonclassic.com.

J

ason Squibb took top honors at the first of the big-money winter salmon derbies in the San Juan Islands. He won $10,000 for the 18.28-pound blackmouth he caught during early January’s Resurrection Derby, which kicked off the 2018 Northwest Salmon Derby Series. Second place and $2,500 went to Keith Hofkamp for his 17.72-pounder, while Darrin Small collected $1,500 for his thirdplace king, a 16.34. Organizers report that 337 fishermen participated in the event, with 50 salmon averaging 9.5 pounds caught. Proceeds from the derby are used for salmon enhancement projects in the San Juan Islands. For more, see resurrectionderby.com.

2018 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES  Feb. 8-10: Friday Harbor Salmon Classic  March 9-11: Olympic Peninsula Salmon

Derby  March 17-18: Everett Blackmouth Derby  July 13-15: Bellingham Salmon Derby  July 25-29: The Big One (Lake Couer d’Alene) Salmon Derby  Aug. 3-5: Brewster Salmon Derby  Aug. 4: South King County PSA Salmon Derby  Aug. 11: Gig Harbor PSA Salmon Derby  Aug. 18-19: Vancouver (BC) Chinook Classic  Sept. 8: Edmonds Coho Derby  Sept. 8: Columbia River Fall Salmon Derby  Sept. 22-23: Everett Coho Derby  Nov. 3-4: Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Salmon Derby For more info on this year’s events, see nwsalmonderbyseries.com.

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SALTWATER SPORTSMEN’S SHOW - FEBRUARY 24-25

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Sturgeon retention opener in portions of Washington’s Mid-Columbia, Snake Rivers 3 Late goose hunt opens in Northwest Oregon Permit Zone; Rifle Skills and Knowledge Workshop ($, register) Canby Rod and Gun Club – info: odfwcalendar.com 7 Ice Fishing Workshop ($, register), Lake of the Woods Resort – info: odfwcalendar.com 10 Late goose hunt opens in Washington Goose Management Area 2 (closed on national wildlife refuges, state wildlife areas); Oregon spring bear hunt aps due 15 Last day for steelheading in select Puget Sound terminal areas; Last day to apply for Idaho controlled spring black bear hunt; Washington brant, snow goose and sea duck harvest reports due 16 Blackmouth fishing in Washington’s Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 reopen; Bait restrictions take effect on several Olympic Peninsula steelhead rivers; Oregon South Coast Zone late goose season opener (private lands only) 17-18 Oregon Free Fishing Weekend – info: dfw.state.or.us 18 Last day of snipe hunting season in Oregon’s Zone 1 28 Last day of bobcat, fox season in Oregon; Last day to apply for Washington spring bear permit; Last day of Area 10 blackmouth fishery; Last day of trout, game fish season on many Western Washington streams

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Lake Billy Chinook’s Metolius Arm opens for fishing; Numerous Eastern Washington lakes open for fishing; Area 6 opens for blackmouth Bottomfish, lingcod, surfperch, rockfish and cabezon seasons open in Marine Areas 1-3, and in Area 4 west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line (except for lingcod, which opens April 16) Last day of bobcat, fox, raccoon, rabbit and hare season in Washington Area 5 opens for blackmouth Youth Turkey Hunting Clinic ($, register), White River Wildlife Area – info: odfwcalendar.com Last day 2017-18 Washington fishing, hunting licenses valid

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Northwest Sportsman 63


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FEBRUARY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com


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Northwest Sportsman 67


FISHING By the record book, late winter – and more specifically, February – is when to catch the year’s biggest walleye on the Columbia River system, and anglers are out there now trying to top Oregon’s and Washington’s high marks, as well as improve their skills. This teener was caught with guide Tyler Stahl. (FACEBOOK.COM/ STAHLSGUIDESERVICELLC)

Net A Record Walleye – Now! Trophy season’s here, and four guides share how to catch a whopper on the Mid-Columbia.

By Wayne Heinz

F

ebruary 20, 1990, Columbia River, John Day Pool: Arnold Berg caught Oregon’s record walleye – 19 pounds, 15.3 ounces. February 28, 2014, Columbia River, McNary Dam Pool: John Grubenhoff caught Washington’s record walleye – 20 pounds, 3 ounces. Want to break those records? This is the month. Snow, sleet, freezing fog, life jackets bulging over L.L. Bean coats – we’ll brave all February throws at us, for a chance at fame and … misfortune. “Careful with that net! Don’t lean over so far! If you fall in, grab an ice floe.”

Do you possess an irrational urge to forsake a warm fireplace for a cold boat? OK. Hopefully you’ll hook a hog, and live to tell about it. To help you become a legend, let’s ask four veteran walleye guides “How can I catch the next record walleye?” The guides are: Jeff Knotts, TJ Hester, Tyler Stahl and Kimo Gabriel. Four fishermen, 46 years’ experience guiding for walleye. Why fish this month? To catch the biggest walleye in the world. Grubenhoff’s 20-pounder is the largest walleye caught in the U.S. since 1982. His Columbia River giant is the fourth largest caught anytime, anywhere.

For over half a century, no one has threatened Tennessee’s 25-pound 1960 world-record walleye. Until now. You, here on the Columbia, can. This month we’ll cover baits, and how guides fish them. Next month – bottom types, hot spots, tactics, maps.

THE JIG IS UP February – the Columbia’s running at 36 to 38 degrees. The air? Well, you could dip your worms in the water to warm them up. When fingers numb, guides like to keep things simple. Nothing’s simpler than jigging.

Northwest Sportsman: Tyler, you’re nwsportsmanmag.com | FEBRUARY 2018

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FISHING known as a jigger. Tell us what you tell your clients. Tyler Stahl: Don’t jig your jig. Just drag it along the gravel. Keep contact with the bottom. You get antsy, lift it 6 inches. Lift slow. Drop slow. Jeff Knotts: Summer yo-yoing doesn’t work so well in winter. Better to just drag your jig. Or deadstick it. Slow.

NWS: Dead-stick – rod in the rod holder, hands off, right?

Jeff: Yes. Kimo Gabriel: I tell clients, “Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing to do.

Let the current supply the action.” If a client looks bored, I might say, “Twitch your jig. Then drag it awhile.”

NWS: And when a walleye bites? Tyler: Many winter bites aren’t really what you would call “bites.” You just sense pressure. If a client says, “I feel weight,” I say, “Set the hook.” TJ Hester: Cold-water walleye can feed like vacuum cleaners. They just open their mouth, flare their gills, and suck the jig in. Tyler: The pressure bite is often a jig stuck on a rock. But you can’t take any chances. So any pressure, we’re setting the hook. That either clears

All four of our guides encourage their clients to release trophy-sized walleye. Trevor Johnson caught this one while out with Kimo Gabriel. (GABRIELGUIDES.NET)

GUIDE TO THE GUIDES Jeff Knotts, J.B.’s Guide Service, Pasco, jbguides.com, jbguides@hotmail.com, (509) 366-4052 (cell). Fishes Hanford Reach to Crow Butte; walleye guide since 2002; biggest: 17.5 pounds. Boat fishes four anglers; keep 10 fish/rod; Jeff encourages clients to release big female walleye. TJ Hester, Hester’s Sport Fishing, Kennewick; HestersSportFishing.com, tjhester20@ gmail.com, (509) 388-7906. Fishes McNary and John Day Pools; walleye guide since 2010; biggest: 17 pounds. Boat fishes six anglers; keep 10 fish/rod, 25 fish/boat; TJ encourages clients to release fish over 24 inches. Tyler Stahl, Stahl’s Guide Service, Hermiston; facebook.com/stahlsguideservicellc; stahlsguideservice@hotmail.com, (541) 240-1927. Fishes from McNary Dam to John Day Dam; walleye guide since 2014; biggest: 16 pounds. Two boats, fishes four to six anglers; keep 10 fish/rod; Tyler encourages clients to release big spawners. Kimo Gabriel, Gabriel Guides, Hermiston; gabrielguides.net, bladebait@hotmail.com, (541) 567-9616 (home), (541) 571-4343 (cell). Mostly fishes John Day Pool; walleye guide since 2008; biggest: 18.9 pounds (former Washington state record). Boat fishes five anglers; keep 10 fish/rod, 25 fish/boat; Kimo encourages clients to release fish over 24 inches. Notes: Guide fees vary from $150 to $200/rod/day. A fully booked boat might lower the rate a bit. Some walleye/bass trips, half-day trips, and night trips available. Each guide provides tackle. Each fillets fish. –WH 70 Northwest Sportsman

FEBRUARY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com

the jig, or it’s “Fish on!” TJ: Many of my winter clients fly in from the Midwest. Each of these guys wants to take home a picture of the biggest walleye of their life. We might only get six strikes all day. These Minnesota guys are good. They’re intent. If anything remotely feels like a strike, their arm snaps up. Kimo: February, six bites would be a good day. Tyler: I agree. Every bite counts. My North Dakota anglers don’t fly a thousand miles to catch dinks. They want teeners. One missed bite could cost them their goal.

NWS: What’s the biggest mistake you see anglers make? Tyler: Winter fishing can test anyone’s patience. After an hour without a bump, it’s easy to let your mind wander. It’s cold. You’re bundled up. You’re standing for hours. No matter how numbed you are, you have to stay focused. You have to persist. Jeff: Patience and persistence. Easy on a balmy day in May. Not so easy on a freezing day in February. TJ: My clients know it’s “quality over quantity.” They tough it out.

NWS: Rods? Tyler: I keep a half-dozen spinning rods in the boat. Six to 7 feet. Light tip. Stiff backbone. Okuma Deadeye jigging rods are great. TJ: A 6-foot rod’s good. Hook-set’s quick. Soft tip shows light bites. Kimo: Sometimes walleye hit a jig hard. You never know.

NWS: Line? TJ: Cold-water, use 10-pound Berkley NanoFil. Tyler: I spool braid – 20-pound TUFLine. Don’t want to lose a toad.

NWS: Leader? Tyler: Maxima mono, 4 to 6 feet. NWS: Jigs? Tyler: I like Kit’s Walleye Series jigs, ½ ounce, to 5/8 ounce – marabou skirts.


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FISHING And Kit’s Glass Minnow jigs – Mylar skirts. Spectrum Whistle Pigs are great too. Kimo: Kit’s jigs are good. I also like Spectrum jigs – regulars and Whistle Pigs. You can hold a Whistle Pig still in current, and the prop will still spin. Jeff: Whistle Pigs catch fish. I tip them with a 4-inch fluke, or a nightcrawler, or a strip of squawfish belly. The stinger hook nabs the nibblers. I also like Northland Tackle’s Whistler Jig – no stinger. TJ: Zombie jigs, ½ ounce, are good winter baits. Kimo: Use the heaviest jig you can get away with. After rain and snow in British Columbia, the Columbia flows swift. You can’t let the current lift the jig out of the bite zone.

Chad Miller, fishing with guide TJ Hester, was drifting a Zombie Jig 40 feet deep near Tri-Cities when this 15-pounder bit. He released it. (HESTERSSPORTFISHING.COM)

NWS: TJ? TJ: We pretty much vertical jig. Less

Jeff: I fish 6-foot rods. Fast action.

NWS: Colors? Tyler: Chartreuse, white, green, black. Kimo: Watermelon, pearl, green glow.

line out. Easier to detect subtle bites. And you lose less tackle.

NWS: Line? Kimo: Braided line cuts the water

For Whistlers, krystal flash. TJ: I’ll shine glow jigs, then let them sit 10 minutes. Walleye prefer a muted glow.

NWS: Midwest anglers back-troll a lot.

NWS: Do you guys tip your jigs? Tyler: Most days, I nose-hook a

first. But that’s not back-trolling.

’crawler, then stick a No. 2 trailer hook half way down the worm. Let’s the worm stretch naturally. Kimo: I’ll tip a jig with a 6-inch Zoom fluke. Or a 4-inch Berkley Gulp! Live Minnow. For a bigger profile, I’ll stack two minnows on the hook. Tyler: Gulps! are good. The scent’s built in. TJ: I often tip jigs with a ’crawler. Maybe add some scent. But I seldom add a stinger in winter.

NSW: Tyler, are you vertically jigging? Tyler: No. I tell clients, “Keep an angle in your line.” We float with the current. If it’s too fast, I’ll work the electric motor to slow our drift. Kimo: I do the same. Line out at 30 to 40 degrees. Let the current liven up the bait. 72 Northwest Sportsman

FEBRUARY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com

How about on the Columbia?

TJ: I don’t. Tyler: I don’t. Jeff: I might slip downstream, transom

BLADEBAITING For patient folks willing to twitch their wrist 200 times an hour, without yawning, bladebaiting produces big winter walleye.

NWS: Some winters, Mike Hepper, our former record holder, catches 90 percent of his fish on bladebaits. TJ: Bladebaits work for others in winter. But I don’t start bladebaiting until May. Tyler: I’m not much of a bladebaiter. Jigs and worm harnesses work better for me. Kimo: I fish a lot of bladebaits in winter. Jeff: So do I.

NWS: Particulars? Kimo: I like a 6.5- to 7-foot mediumaction rod. Graphite.

better than mono. Plus it doesn’t stiffen up like mono in cold weather. I spool 14-pound Fireline. Tie on a barrel swivel. Then a 10-pound mono leader. Jeff: Braid is the way to go – 10-pound. I tie a 2-foot, 20-poundtest fluorocarbon leader on a swivel. You want a stiff leader to keep the blade from tangling the line.

NWS: OK. Brands? Kimo: Cicadas, Silver Buddies, Sonars. Mostly ½ ounce. We get more bites when we add Mylar prism tape. Jeff: I like 5/8- and ¾-ounce blades.

NWS: Colors? Jeff: Silver, gold, and green blades. Kimo: Bright. NWS: Let’s note: A genuine silver blade reflects white. A chrome blade reflects black. OK, tactics? Kimo: Pitch and twitch. Free-spool the blade to the bottom. Twitch the blade a foot or two. Follow it down. Most walleye hit on the fall. Often, the fish scoop the blade right off the bottom.


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FISHING

TOP COLUMBIA RIVER WALLEYE RIGS Here are the favorite baits and rigs of our four Columbia River walleye guides:

Spinners  Thread a nightcrawler onto a Mustad Slow Death Hook behind a Mack’s Smile Blade. The plastic Smile Blades spin at slower speeds than metal blades.  String four glow beads behind a Dutch Fork Custom Lures’ Turtle Shell (rainbow-colored, see-through plastic) blade to increase visibility.  Run Yakima Bait’s Walleye Delight – a snelled, two-hook metal blade above a floating Spin-N-Glo – 4 feet behind a bottom bouncer rig.  Lindy Tackle’s Lil’ Guy is a cross between a tiny plug and a spinner. Troll it on a 3-foot leader, with a nightcrawler, on a bottom bouncer, at ½ mph.  Cabela’s offers many walleye spinners, most with painted metal Colorado blades, some with Matsuo Death Roll Hooks.

Jigs  Northland Tackle’s Whistler Jig sinks slow. The propeller adds vibration. Tip with a ’crawler. Fish with or without a stinger hook.  Spectrum Lures’ Whistle Pig sinks fast. Tip with a white, 4-inch Zoom fluke or a chartreuse Berkley 4-inch Gulp! Live Minnow. Slow-lift and drop. Walleye hit on the drop.

Bladebaits  Reef Runner’s Cicada looks like a bug. Its curved blade flutters on the fall. Fishing over a rocky bottom, clip the lower hook off.  Luhr-Jensen’s RippleTail has a wide, curved blade with a lot of flash. It throbs on the lift. Clip a size 10 snap swivel in the front hole to vertical jig. Slow-sweep the blade up a foot or two. Follow it on the fall. Keep your line taut.  A Silver Buddy’s thin, flat blade darts on the fall. It stays deep in moderate current. Wrist-snap this blade, about 2 feet up. Follow it down with a taut line.  Bass Pro Shop’s XPS Lazer Blade mimics a Silver Buddy. The lighter the bladebait, the better the action.

Floating rigs  Screen marking walleye a few feet off the bottom? Run Yakima

DRAG A WORM “Drag a nightcrawler behind a spinner blade behind a bottom walker.” All walleye guides offer that advice. But each guide has his own tricks.

NWS: Let’s talk about worm harnesses. Jeff: Then we’re talking Smile Blades. Metal spinner blades still work. But on the river, I’d say most worm draggers use Mylar plastic spinners. A metal spinner needs constant 74 Northwest Sportsman

FEBRUARY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com

It’s branded as the Floating Minnow, but the Rapala stickbait works well run at depth behind a bottom walker – that’s how John Grubenhoff caught his 20-pounder four Februaries ago. (WAYNE HEINZ) Bait’s size 8 Lil’ Corky floating walleye rig behind a bottom walker. It has a bait-holder hook on a 3-foot leader.  Cabela’s snelled bait leaders come in various styles – one-, twoand three-hook models; VMC/ Gamakatsu/Owner hooks; bare and glow bead hooks; mono and fluorocarbon leaders. Match leader length to distance of fish off the bottom – the tighter to the bottom, the shorter the leader.  Rapala Floating Minnows attract big fish. John Grubenhoff caught his Washington and Western US record walleye on a J-13 silver/black-back Rapala trolled 1 mph behind a 2-ounce bottom walker, with a 5-foot leader.

Trolling Plugs  Berkley’s Flicker Minnows, sizes 9 and 11, dive to 18 and 24 feet, on 8-pound braid when flat-line trolled.  Rapala’s Deep Tail Dancer 43⁄8-inch model dives to 26 feet on 8-pound braid.  Cabela’s Walleye Runners dig to 28 feet flat-line trolled on 8-pound braid.  Strike King’s Walleye Elite Banana Shad dives to 22 feet on 8-pound braid.  Luhr Jensen’s Hot Lips Xpress in ½ and ¾-ounce sizes dives to 34 and 42 feet on 8-pound braid. –WH

pulling to spin. A Smile Blade spins if you blow on it. TJ: Minimum drag, maximum spin. Tyler: True. But I prefer metal spinners. Jeff: About 90 percent of the time, I encourage my clients to fish the small Smile Blades – sizes 0.8, 1.1, 1.5 – with single Slow Death Hooks.

NWS: For someone new to walleye fishing, Mack’s Lures sells a complete rig – 2-inch Cha Cha:

Smile Blade, six glow beads, a sharp hook, plus a stinger. Tyler: Fish a Smile Blade with a Mustad Slow Death Hook, about 5 feet behind the bottom walker. Two to 4 ounces of lead. Depends on current and depth. You need enough weight so you can watch your rod tip bounce with the bottom. Kimo: Slow Death Hooks do help. A 5- to 8-foot leader sounds right. Dragging ’crawlers, I tell my clients,


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WALLEYE SEMINAR COMING UP For a Midwest guide’s viewpoint on walleye, attend Johnnie Candle’s Walleye University seminar on Sat., Feb. 17, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the C.G. Public House (the former Country Gentleman Restaurant) in Kennewick. The $50 fee includes lunch. Johnnie runs Devil’s Lake Guide Service in North Dakota. He’s a former walleye tourney world champion. View Johnnie’s videos at facebook.com/pg/ JohnnieCandleProfessionalAngler > videos. Sign up for his seminar via Sportsman’s Warehouse, Griggs, and Ranch & Home. –WH

“Let the fish chew on it.” A walleye won’t spit out meat. Tyler: Fresh meat. Keep changing your ’crawlers. They’re the cheapest part of the trip. TJ: The stinger will do its job. Trail it 4 inches behind the main hook. Sweep-set the bite.

NWS: Anyone fish a naked worm? Jeff: Rarely. If I do, it’s on a single Slow Death Hook. Tyler: Seldom. When the Smile Blade doesn’t produce, switch to a size 8 Lil’ Corky. Run it on 10-pound Maxima leader, 4 feet behind the wire. Troll upriver. Slow. Keep your bait in the fish’s face. Make the fish strike. Kimo: I pull naked worms almost exclusively. Works best for me.

NWS: Mainline? Tyler: Braid.

theme here.

Jeff: Even walleye slow down when the water’s 38 degrees. Kimo: Another thing: If the bottom’s not too rocky, I run the worm behind a sliding egg sinker. Allows the fish to pick up the bait without feeling much resistance.

NWS: Is that it on worms? Kimo: Here’s just an opinion – jigs and bladebaits catch more fish in winter.

PULL PLUGS “Troll plugs on a flat line.” Works in warm weather. But February seems a bit cold for pulling plugs, wouldn’t you think? A few of our guides think otherwise.

NWS: Two schools of thought, right? Hit the fish right away. Or let the rod load up before you strike. T.J: Naked worm – pause, then strike.

NWS: How deep? Jeff: Most of our big walleye come

bite, you can read it on your rod tip. And a long rod delays the hookset. You don’t want to take the bait away from a fish.

NWS: Other rigging ideas? TJ: If you’re marking fish a few feet off the bottom, a Spin-N-Glo works.

NWS: A note: Monofilament leader floats. Fluorocarbon leader sinks. OK. Speeds? Tyler: When you think you’re going FEBRUARY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com

NWS: “Slow” has been a common

February water – sub-40 degrees. Isn’t that … Kimo: No. I troll crankbaits in winter. I like a size 11 Berkley Flicker Minnow. Cranks account for some real big fish. Jeff: February, I troll size 11 Flickers upstream – 1 to 1.5 mph. I motor along the edges of windswept, underwater flats.

NWS: Rod? Jeff: Long, limber rod. If it’s a hesitant

76 Northwest Sportsman

slow, go slower.

NWS:

from less than 25 feet. Kimo: In February, to get a Flicker Minnow down that deep, we might let out 140 feet of line. It’s easier to add a snap-sinker up the line to get depth. Tyler: If the fish are deep, I’ll add a ½-ounce banana sinker, in-line. Or I’ll switch from the Flicker to


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FISHING a ¾-ounce Hot Lips Xpress. On 10-pound braid, the ¾ Hot Lips dives to 35 feet, against the current.

NWS: Good. Colors? Jeff: Natural colors – shad, pearl, perch-scale. I avoid chromes in winter. Purple is good. My biggest walleye, 17 pounds, 8 ounces, hit a black Hot Lips Xpress.

NWS: Where was that? Jeff: Below McNary Dam. NWS: What tackle do you guys use? Kimo: My clients use casting rods. Linecounter reels. Troll upstream. Once you get the plug ticking bottom, slow down. In 38-degree water, a walleye isn’t going to chase a bait far. Tyler: Linecounter reels help you get your gear to the bottom. Plus, you can spread your plugs at different distances so they don’t tangle. Our quartet of walleye guides are split about using bladebaits for trophy winter fish, but they do work. Tips Kimo Gabriel, “Most walleye hit on the fall. Often, the fish scoop the blade right off the bottom.” (WAYNE HEINZ)

78 Northwest Sportsman

FEBRUARY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com

NWS: Plugs in February. How about


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Northwest Sportsman 79


FISHING With its ability to spin at glacial speeds, Smile Blades by Mack’s Lure are a favorite amongst the Columbia’s walleye fraternity. They’re often paired with a Mustad Slow Death Hook. (MACK’S LURE)

you, TJ? TJ: I know plugs work in winter for some anglers. But I don’t pull plugs in February. Jigs pay off better for me.

NWS: Grubenhoff pulls plugs at dusk, and after dark. That’s how he caught his 20-pounder. It hit a silver J-13 Rapala, trolled behind a 2-ounce bottom walker. He motored upstream in the evening, less than 1 mph. The fish hit 22 feet deep, in 37-degree water. OK. Some veteran walleye-ers, like Del Bareither and Mike Hepper, troll black plugs by moonlight. That sounds odd. Jeff: Sharp silhouette. Walleye have amazing eyesight. TJ: I fish walleye after dark. But not many clients want to. Kimo: If weather permits, I’ll pull cranks at night. But night fishing isn’t for everyone. Jeff: A full moon helps.

NWS: We haven’t mentioned pulling a plug on a bottom walker. Jeff: Floating Rapala, size 13, 5 feet behind the wire. Deadly. Kimo: I like to pull Rapalas. Fluorocarbon leader, 5 feet. We also fish Rapalas on a three-way swivel. Drop the sinker 3 feet. TJ: Plugs vary from 3-inch shad to 6-inch stickbaits. Profile and size matter more than colors. Tyler: Another thing: Don’t troll in a trance. Change speed. Throw your

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motor in and out of gear. When you stop, your plug rises. That’s when walleye slam it. Kimo: Troll S’s. Changes direction and speed.

FINAL TROPHY TIPS NWS: Let’s finish with a flourish. What single piece of advice might you give us to put a hog in the boat? Jeff: Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you’re not catching fish, switch baits, switch methods, switch spots. Kimo: Your mind makes more difference than your tackle. Winter bite windows are narrow. The fish might only feed twice a day. One of those bites might be at sunset. You have to stick with it. TJ: Time on the water – there’s no substitute for putting in the hours. Tyler: Pay attention. Be persistent. You have to put in the time to catch one of these big Columbia River ’eyes. NWS: Thank you. February – armed with jigs, a wool mackinaw, and plenty of hot coffee, go catch your personal-best. March, we’ll ask our guides for more ideas. NS Editor’s note: To discover your depthfinder’s full fish-finding power, consider Wayne Heinz’s award-winning book, Depthfinders: A Guide To Finding And Catching More Fish, available at amazon.com. The Tri-Citiesbased author’s biggest walleye so far weighed 18.8 pounds.

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COLUMN

Emma Winter holds a 22-pound Chetco hatchery steelhead, caught while fishing with her father, Orie, and guide Andy Martin. (WILDRIVERSFISHING.COM)

Oregon’s Chetco River Steelhead

W

hile most fishing guides might be willing to share a story or two about the largest BUZZ they or RAMSEY steelhead a client landed, not many are willing to give up their favorites, whether it be river, fishing method or tip that can make all the difference in your success on the water.

But thankfully, professional fishing guide and longtime local angler Andy Martin (206-388-8988) out of Brookings did just that for this article. As Martin explains, the reasons why the Chetco is his favorite winter steelhead river are many, with high catch rates and easy access to the lower river (where fish often hold) topping the list.

IF YOU ONLY look at how many hatchery smolts are released into the Chetco, you

might get the idea that the South Coast stream isn’t a big fish producer. That’s not true, says Martin. Even though the state releases a relatively small number (50,000) annually, compared to some other rivers, these young fish are broodstock steelhead derived from native fish caught by anglers. This ensures that the hatchery portion of the run is made up of first-generation wild fish, as well as young that are known biters when they return as adults.

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COLUMN The other contributing factor to the high catch rate is the fact that fish are released into the lower river and, as such, they tend to hold in the lower reaches when they return as adults. The lower river is the best spot for anglers. In addition, the Chetco has a robust wild steelhead run that fully seeds the available spawning habitat each year. This is why the state allows harvest on wild fish here. To be clear, while the daily limit is two steelhead, only one can be wild. On top of that, you are allowed only five wild fish per year. Even though it’s legal, Martin and the vast majority of guides, encourage you to release wild steelhead back into the river, or to ask permission to transport them to the broodstock holding pens. In fact, most guides carry live boxes in their boats so the fish can be transported as carefully as possible. As you might guess, guides contribute the majority of sport-caught fish collected

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Bruce Beck nets a Chetco River steelhead for another customer in the front of guide Andy Martin’s drift boat. (WILDRIVERSFISHING.COM)


COLUMN for the broodstock program.

MARTIN PREFERS TWO primary methods for Chetco steelhead: side-drifting and back-trolling plugs. I was somewhat surprised when he mentioned that bobber doggin’ and fishing a jig under a float haven’t really caught on here. “We see anglers and guides from outside the area try those fishing methods ... but they soon switch to side-drifting or plugging,” Martin observes. The reason that side-drifting works so well on the Chetco, he says, is the character of the river. Much of the lower section is made up of long drifts with a mostly snag-free bottom, and the water moves at a slow to medium speed. “The fish hang in the lower river, making them vulnerable to a small egg cluster drifting along the bottom. Those fishing from boats just take turns side-drifting through the more productive drifts and soon have their limit,” Martin shares.

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Cured egg clusters and Puff Balls are the hot combo for side-drifting the Chetco. Mad River “spoosh balls” (inset), a round rubber weight, work well to keep bait bouncing per se along bottom. (WILDRIVERSFISHING.COM)


Anglers use Mad River Drifters, commonly called “sploosh balls” to get long drifts and avoid snags on the Southern Oregon river. (WILDRIVERSFISHING.COM)


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Unique to the Chetco, anglers employ 7½- to 8½-foot spinning rods rated for 8- to 15-pound test when side-drifting this Southern Oregon river. The reason short, magnum-taper rods are popular is twofold: Clients using longer rods tend to overcast many of the productive drifts, and there is a feeling you don’t get as hung up with the responsive pullback of a short rod. Line tests used for side-drifting are in the more typical 10- to 15-pound range, and usually of the hi-visibility variety, like Stren blue monofilament. Leader lengths average 36 inches. Also, and somewhat unique to the Chetco, ¾-ounce Mad River round-ball rubber sinkers work well here. As far as hooks go, Martin uses a size 2 or 4 side-drifting hook offered by Owner, with the size 4 being his favorite when the river is running lower than usual. Martin points out that most anglers use natural-color eggs when side-drifting the Chetco. He claims that brightly colored fish eggs just don’t seem to produce as well. Most anglers cure their eggs using a three-two-one cure, consisting of borax, sugar and salt.

MARTIN SPENDS ABOUT 40 percent of his time on the water back-trolling plugs in the many slots where doing so can offer quick catches, and he says the lures account for one or two fish per day, on average, for his clients. His favorite is the Mag Lip in size 3.5. He says the smaller 3.0 works, but overall it’s the 3.5 that brings home the bacon. His most productive colors are silver/ blue scale, blue pirate, copper and gold finishes. One of his best-producing colors when the water is low and clear is straight silver with a black stripe down the back. Since the factory doesn’t offer it, Martin fashions the black stripe with a felt-tip marking pen. I asked him what the largest steelhead he or a client have landed on the Chetco. He perked right up and described a beautiful 22-pound broodstock hatchery fish that an Oregon client caught. NS AUTHORIZED DEALER PARTS - SALES - SERVICE (800) 223-5284 90 Northwest Sportsman

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FISHING

Low Doesn’t Blow The Ichtertz family’s annual fish camp leads to confidence in new ways, waters to fish for Oregon Coast steelhead. By Sara Ichtertz

F

earing the trickle – low water – whatever will I do? The comfort levels I have obtained over the past four years angling for these majestic fish that stole my heart greatly have had to do with river levels. Winter storms. Raging rivers. Waiting. Timing. Learning to fish the drops. Figuring out ideal levels on each stream. It all felt like a lot at the time. But I now know that the storms and following high flows help steelhead make their way home. That makes fishing the drop natural to me and somewhat simple now. Through trial and error, I learned when to hit those coastal rivers and find those eager, pissed-off winter fish that light up your life in the coldest of days! Bouncing the bottom, they grab ahold of you in that high olive water, slamming your rigging with conviction, leaving very little room for questions – fish! Oh, how I love it. I gained some serious knowledge and confidence fishing the winter rivers this way.

BUT SOMETIMES RIVERS are far from high olive and dropping. They turn the most incredible shades of emerald green – you must see it firsthand to truly understand the beauty, as words just are not good enough.

“The happiness we share up those rivers, out of service, in a world that seems quite broken at times, is the success I desire as a mom,” says author Sara Ichtertz, here with husband Leroy and son Nate at their annual fish camp, where she conquered low waters and the lad caught his first steelie with a bead under a float. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

Fully addicted to steelheading, I too know that rivers will not always be constantly dropping, and so it left me to ponder, That low, beautiful water – whatever will I do? The amazing thing about discomfort in life and in fishing is it forces you to learn. To think. To challenge your comfort in search of success. Stepping outside my comfort zones in life hasn’t always been easy. I thrive on comfort, to some degree. That is one of the reasons I would drift fish every day until the day I die, if the rivers would allow it. I gave bouncing the bottom a whole lot of love, time and devotion. In doing that I found comfort. At the

same time I found this crazy amazing joy in hooking these fish regardless of water conditions. Feeling that first headshake of it all, I knew I wanted more, and I know the more ways I can approach a winter river, the more lethal I actually am.

FAMILY FISH CAMP is by far the very best time of the year for me. Honestly, the best thing about Christmas is knowing winter camp is just around the bend, and the anticipation of it all has been and probably always will be mildly insane. What will the river be doing? It’s a roll of the dice because we plan this trip around my husband Leroy’s vacation, which needs to be put in for nwsportsmanmag.com | FEBRUARY 2018

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FISHING weeks ahead of time, meaning there are no guarantees about river flows when we go, adding but another angle to our winter angling. But no matter the water, when we arrive, my family is together, we’re camping for a week completely out of service, and that is powerful! I always embrace fish camp with a joy in my soul that leaves me feeling thankful and ambitious, eager to test the waters – even the lowest of flows.

MY BOY NATE, bless his heart, has spent half his little life chasing the fish from the banks with me. Living this life, his understandings as a fisher have never ceased to amaze me. Seeing his own desires as a fisher makes me chuckle and warms my heart, because these are his own dreams. His own understanding and desire calls him towards all that is float fishing. That boy has a love for the

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As Sara’s daughter Ava looks on, a winter steelhead is filleted on the banks of the river. Harvesting fish is important on these trips, but it’s mostly being with family in nature. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

draining of floats! With my deep love of bouncing the bottom and feeling the bite, thank the Lord above Leroy is smart enough to help us both out. Together we executed the somewhat delicate bead rigging that runs under

the float (rocket science, I’m sure you know!). Taking a gander at the entire set-up, I thought why, yes, I can see it. Fishy? I think so! It left Nate feeling extra-excited about the fish camp that was upon us.


FISHING And just like that I was out of my comfort zone. Thanks to my family, I was embracing a whole new method. Once the rain dumps and those incredible pushes of steelhead occur, it’s just a matter of finding the fish and giving them what they want. The fact that the first fish of camp and our first-ever float fish on a bead went to my boy fits! This was Nate’s very first fully independent steelhead catch. Where he cast wasn’t where I would have, but this was his call. He was ready to do his own thing and I loved it. When that float went down, we watched him execute on his hook-set, and to see the flash of it all through that emerald-green water was so beautiful that it was almost as if time stood still. His skills shined brighter than she did as she electrically tried to elude him, and before we knew it, the first harvest of camp occurred

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High or low, rising or dropping, the strength of the river “will never waiver … but the amazing thing is, as a fisher you will grow stronger, allowing your passion to reach new depths,” writes Sara, here releasing a wild steelhead. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

right before our eyes. This hatchery hen was special. Not only was she a beauty, the true beauty was seeing my first-grader handle the entire situation like a true sportsman.

LIVING OUT SUCH moments is priceless

to my heart, confirming that the path we’ve chosen to live is the one for us. In the beauty of that moment the four of us embraced new waters and succeeded. The fish were incredible. We found cannibalistic, beadsucking hens in the tiniest of veins


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throughout the river. Fun! Bloop, there goes the float! Free of all slack, setting the hook like you mean it, the winter-run flashing before my eyes was almost summer steelhead-like, which honestly blew my mind. The teamwork and family bonding that takes place for us each winter in the beauty of nature is worth far more than the release of a wild fish or the meat any limit could ever yield. The happiness we share up those rivers, out of service, in a world that seems quite broken at times, is the success I desire as a mom. Finding the fish makes these adventures all the more beautiful, and having that true connection with my children in an environment that betters us all is crucial to my existence. The only way anyone will ever see what they are made of is by testing the waters. Whether it be finding the dropping river in all of her glory, or stepping quietly up to a stream flowing at not much more than a trickle, test it, fish it! Use your passion and belief that you will find the fish. Do so with the ones you love, and I promise you that no matter the river level – besides blown the heck out! – the adventure that awaits you is beautiful and so are the fish. These are the moments where I feel most alive and feel by far the happiest. This happiness allows such growth for a person. This sport isn’t what I would call easy, though it is worth it. Through each passing run, the river remains just as strong as she’s ever been. She will never waiver in her strength, but the amazing thing is, as a fisher you will grow stronger, allowing your passion to reach new depths. I will never give up, and neither should you. Chasing the fish brings out the very best in me. This I know, and so my heart is on the river and I couldn’t change it, even if I tried. NS Editor’s note: For more on Sara’s adventures, see For The Love Of The Tug on Facebook. 98 Northwest Sportsman

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COLUMN

Try North Nooksack For Late Winter-runs F

ebruary has, perhaps for the first time By Doug Huddle in several years, a glimmer of a north Puget Sound steelhead fishery available. Gleaning smaller finny fare in the form of surf smelt from one easily accessible local water is also a second-month option. And now that big game reports are in, those with un-notched tags pinned to the garage wall can still get, in hardy pioneer style, a meal or two from the bounty of one small game species inhabiting both forest and farmlands here.

NORTH SOUND

CURTAIN CALL FOR STEELHEAD Winter-run steelhead angling in the Nooksack Basin’s lower North Fork remains open for 15 days in February. It’s a “mop-up” fishery for adiposeclipped stragglers that shied away from crossing the threshold into Kendall Creek to enter the fish hatchery facility’s trap. If this were 2017 or the season before that, I’d say don’t bother, given the-then assured lack of returning fish in those runs, unless you just wanted to chill your toes and keep your rotator-cuff limber. But with the greater-than-expected return of 200-plus hatchery-origin steelhead to Kendall by last month, there’s a real chance a few holdouts are still in the river. The most recent published personaluse catch data (for years 2012 to 2015) shows that February North Fork fishers reported landing seven, 19, 45 and six marked winter-runs, respectively, in the half-month opening, all coming back from fairly small smolt releases. The northern Nooksack is a “tweener” stream nowhere near as small as the Samish, but not as dauntingly large for boot anglers as the upper Skagit. From its confluence with the South Fork (river mile

The North Fork Nooksack hasn’t been worth fishing for hatchery steelhead in recent winters, due to fallout from the Wild Fish Conservancy lawsuit, but it’s actually seeing a decent run this season, and fishing continues to midmonth. (RORY O’CONNER) 36.6) upstream to Maple Creek (49.9), the North Fork is braided and fast flowing with an irregular riffle/step-pool configuration. Lacking lengthy reaches of their normal high-terrace cut-bank holding water with dangling alder and cottonwood deadfalls, these fish typically take refuge in the very tops of the longer pools or at the base of rip-rapped banks. But if you’re the first one on a hole at dawn, don’t pass up the soft, shallow water along its bar or the tailout drift of a long pool just above the drop down into the next pool. For the most part, the lower half of the North Fork is wadeable for boot

fishers and also is navigable by small watercraft (drift boats, pontoons), though launch access points are few and not conveniently spaced. From bottom to top, publicly accessible walk-in points on the right, or west, side of the river are at the U.S. Bridge on Valley Highway (State Route 9) near the South Fork confluence, a county park (Deming Homestead) on Truck Road, at Mosquito Lake Road Bridge, another county-owned property, at an old undeveloped Mount Baker Highway rest area at about MP 18.5 (shallow pullout with ecology blocks) and at the state’s Kendall Creek Hatchery.

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COLUMN On the left (east) side, North Fork access is limited to points along the North Fork Road upstream of the Mosquito Lake Road crossing at Kinney Creek and again up on Whatcom Land Trust property at the mouth of Racehorse Creek. If you drive farther up the North Fork Road, you may cross state timberlands near Maple Creek. Anywhere else, even where you can see flowing waters, it’s likely the hard ground and possibly the river channel itself is privately owned, for which permission is required to trespass. A good put-in for hand-carried and trailerable small watercraft can be found at Mosquito Lake Road Bridge and the haul-out is fair at the U.S. Bridge bar between the railroad tracks and highway. Portageable personal flotation can be toted to water’s edge at Racehorse Creek and Kendall Creek Hatchery. Typical drift baits like sand shrimp or egg clusters with Corkies or Spin-N-Glos tinged with yarn work well here. Some drift fishers present pink plastic worms or

black to deep purple marabou flies. It’s more difficult to effectively work float/jig combos, though, because of the almost constant depth changes in and between riffles and pools, but it’s still possible to do so in the throats of tailouts. Two to 3 feet of visibility is ideal in the North Fork. Any better in its relatively shallow confines and the fish dig holes into the deepest cover and are very hard to get out.

FAMILY OUTING FOR SMELT Need a good reason to break the surly bonds of your winter cabin? The 54th installment of the venerable La Conner Smelt Derby is set for Saturday, Feb. 24, at the historic Skagit County port on old Swinomish Slough. The actual fishing contest, though still its namesake, now is just part of what’s morphed into a greater latewinter community social and mercantile celebration, but it remains a great way for the family to “blow the stink off” after a prolonged winter night. Payoffs are for the kids only now,

including a $100 prize for the biggest of the tiny forage fish. Jigging, with a stringed gang of three treble or nine single-point hooks, is the principle mode of gathering. Sabiki six-hook bait rigs (with Nos. 10, 12 or 14 hooks), all decked out with tiny redheaded streamers, also work well and save elbow grease and later potential reconstructive Tommy John surgery. Most businesses on the west side of La Conner’s First Street that have them allow fee-free access to their piers on the day of the derby, and a dock or two in the Port’s public moorage basin on the north side of town also are open too. There’s a boat ramp on Sherman Street under the Rainbow Bridge if you want to put to sea for these little finners. Be sure to arrive in the morning around 8 o’clock to register and find a seat on a dock deck. A side note on these fish. They may not have the best reputation, culinarily speaking, tending to be lumped in with the canned, heavily salted anchovies and

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COLUMN sardine products on supermarket shelves. But prepared the same day they’re caught, à la Mediterranean acciughe or boquerones (anchovy), they can be quite good. For delicious recipes, look up Italian Tegame alla Vernazzana, a Cinque Terre antipasto casserole dish, (onceinalifetimetravel.com/tegame-allavernazzana) or Madrid’s boquerones, either marinated or deep-fried à la tapas bar fare, (thespruce.com/boquerones-marinatedwhite-anchovies-instructions-1300788).

FINAL CHANCE AT HASENPFEFFER Along with a February bucket of smelt, there are opportunities to fill spring stew pots with a rabbit or two. A rabbit-nosy terrier, beagle or similarly conditioned low-to-the-ground dog, a full-choke brush gun and a big, fringed pasture or stretch of forest road are the essential components for such a late-winter foraging effort. Cottontail rabbits inhabit lowland farmlands here, while larger, plumper snowshoes hare are

found higher up in the Cascade foothills. Although they can sometimes be seen in the open during the day, native lagos here are most active at dawn and dusk. Daytime more often finds them hidden in their home warrens or tucked away in some well-concealed nook, hence the need for a good nose to ferret them out. If you’re sans pup, a walk right at legal morning hunting hour or a half hour before evening legal shooting hour is the best time to drum up a shot. For quick and easy access in Whatcom County, the spacious Lake Terrell, AlcoaIntalco and BP Cherry Point units of the Whatcom Wildlife Area complex provide ample amounts of the complex cover/ forage habitat for cottontails. Walking any of a long list of logging roads on state and private timberlands with suitable cover in lower elevation forest areas is a good bet for both species. Stretches of logging road most likely to hold rabbits are not “brushed” aggressively and have shoulder vegetation, including combinations of thick grass, thimbleberry,

wild rose or evergreen blackberries. For field hunts, whether it has iron sights or a small scope, a nail-driving .22 rifle can be your best rabbit getter. In hunt locales where homes, businesses or casual pedestrians (dog walkers and runners) are or may be present, consider using a 20-, 28- or 410-gauge shotgun rather than a pistol or rifle. Lighter, shorter barreled smooth bores are preferable to heavier fowling pieces. To avoid lead toxification risk, use steel No. 6 or 7½ pellet loads. They’ll humanely kill rabbits without destroying edible parts. Also, be aware of your ever-changing field of fire (downrange backdrop) along forest roads and in farm fields.

NEXT ISSUE Early cutthroat options, last snowshoe hare hunts, beach steelhead. 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 35 years.

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COLUMN

Prime-time Steelies F

or steelheaders, this can be a magical time of year. There are still a few hatchery fish around, but the rivers WIESTSIDER will soon begin to By Terry Wiest host the bigger, more aggressive wild fish, a development we all welcome in anticipation of hooking up with them. An exception to this would be the Cowlitz, which not only will have naturalorigin fish returning but the famed “B” run of hatchery brutes will also be cruising the shorelines as well. I’ve always felt early natives are more aggressive than those bigger fish that tend to come in at the end of the runs, in March and April. But that’s not saying that there aren’t big fish mixed in with the early ones as well. There will be upper teen and 20-pound fish caught from January through April; you just never know. The numbers may not be as high as when the hatchery fish arrive, but the beauty and fight of these magnificent steelhead well make up for it. Those of us who have been around for a while seem to admire even more the beauty of these fish, while the younger generation may only see them as another steelhead. They too will catch on, especially as we unfortunately don’t have as many opportunities to fish for these wondrous creatures.

Right now marks the beginning of peak steelheading for the Cowlitz River’s latearriving winter stock, and jet sledders and bank anglers can both take advantage of the run as it moves towards Blue Creek. (JASON BROOKS)

COWLITZ’S PROWESS As mentioned above, the Cowlitz has a later run of hatchery steelhead. Over the last several years we have seen this run explode, always shooting this river to the top of the catch charts. And these fish are huge compared to the 6- to 8-pound-average hatchery steelhead in most systems. Most will top 10 pounds, with many teeners coming aboard. In the last few years a few legit 20s have been taken.

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COLUMN

The Cowlitz is a side-drifting river for those who have a sled. You’ll be with lots of company, as guides and sporties motor their crafts above the boat launch at the trout hatchery, then side-drift along the far bank down to where the rapids start. Then pick up their gear and do it again … and again … and again. Lower down the river – just past the rapids – is another nice little stretch that you can side-drift on the near side against the cliff. Not many other techniques are used from the sleds. With the number of boats on the water, if you’re not doing what everyone else is, you’re probably going to piss off a few people and get forced from your spot. This is no place to try and act different. Just get in line and follow the crowd. Success 110 Northwest Sportsman

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This is also when Olympic Peninsula rivers really begin to shine, especially those around Forks, where angler Tobey Anderson landed her first flycaught wild winter while fishing with guide Mike Zavadlov and her bro, Paul Ishii. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

rates soar here, with the fish stacking up before their final surge to the hatchery.

THE BANK’S OPEN For those who don’t have a boat, well, this is still a wonderful area to fish, and depending on the water you’re fishing, a float and jig, spoons or drift gear will all catch fish. Tight into shore is where these fish travel, so no need to try and cast to the other bank. About 30 feet out is going to be max, with the majority of the fish hooked within 10 to 15 feet of the shoreline. This is where a float and jig work wonders. Just work your lanes and keep at it. There are fish there; sometimes you just have to wait a bit before getting

some action. Down toward the cliffs and the faster water, spoons and drift gear are preferred. A good spoon tumbling along the rocky bottom looks killer to those bigger steelies, as does a good ol’ Okie Drifter. The Cowlitz made the old Sammy Special famous for a while, as nothing seemed to outfish it. While Okies and Sammies are hard to find these days, the Lil’ Corky, that longtime staple of steelheading, is still alive and well. Make sure to have a small piece of yarn on too, so it hopefully gets caught up in the mouth of the fish should you be a little slow on your hookset.

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as its horde of fishermen will tell you. This is a crowded river, as evidenced by the last few years of being a favorite target of many anglers. Why? It produces fish! I personally like fishing high up on the ’Nooch. I like the smaller water and pockets, where a float and jig work killer, but a worm thrown behind a rock also works. This is also great water for those with a pontoon or even without a boat. There is some very good bank access and good bank fishing. As you go lower, drift boats and sleds seem to rule the runs. Side-drifting is very popular, as is bobber doggin’. There are plenty of long flats that are conducive to this style of fishing, and it usually doesn’t disappoint. This river offers great fishing from mid-February to the end of March.

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Going to my favorite part of the state, the coast, there are several rivers that shine in February. The Bogachiel and the Hoh are where I want to be if conditions are good after Feb. 16, when their bait bans begin. It may be a great time to swing a fly, but once the fish become more wary, I’d switch back to traditional gear methods. Spoons are killer on these wild fish, plus the bigger ones won’t hesitate to rip into one. Indeed, if you’re targeting big steelhead, Forks is where it’s at. If on the Bogey or the Calawah, I’d be fishing a float and jig. With some of the best bobber water in the state in this system, a jig coming down through a slot or around a boulder can be hard for these territorial beasts to resist. And finally, the Humptulips has been a great late winter-run river for big fish. Although it doesn’t put up the numbers some of the others do, a plug pulled in the right slot on the Hump just might produce that trophy you’ve been after. February should be fun. Let’s hope for a little rain to keep those steelhead moving in – but just not so much that we have to cancel our plans. NS

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Editor’s note: Terry J. Wiest is the author of Steelhead University: Your Guide to Salmon & Steelhead Success and Float-Fishing for Salmon & Steelhead, and is the owner of Steelhead University, SteelheadU.com.


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FISHING Smell that? Springer season’s here on the Lower Columbia system, and while the fishing’s better towards late March and early April, it’s never too early to get prepared or try to catch the year’s first fish. Author Andy Schneider’s fishhound Oliver sniffs out the bite last season. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

2018 Springer Preview With more than 230,000 of the year’s first Chinook forecast to return to the mouth of the Columbia, get ready to catch your share starting now! By Andy Schneider

I

s it really that time of year again? Yes, the irises are beginning to push past the mulch and there are green starts on the trees, though nothing that even resembles a leaf yet and the weekly hailstorms keep a chill to the air that makes it feel like spring is a long ways off. But now, just as your winter steelhead season hits its peak and you’re tying up some fresh leaders to

hit a coastal river the next day, you get a text from a buddy that knocks you a little off guard. There your buddy is, bundled up as if he was ice fishing somewhere in the Upper Midwest, but despite the obvious bitter cold, he’s holding a perfect specimen of spring Chinook, and he’s got the big, goofy grin of someone who just won the Powerball jackpot. While your buddy’s salmon may not be an ounce over 12 pounds

– smaller than the steelies you’ve been consistently landing – it sparks something in you. You look at the spool of 8-pound-test fluorocarbon leader in your other hand and set it back down on your workbench, almost as if a revolting smell was suddenly coming from it. What just happened here? You look over at your sled, with its light covering of dust on the diamond plate gunwale, and then glance outside at the rain blowing sideways into the nwsportsmanmag.com | FEBRUARY 2018

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FISHING garage door windows and you have a new thought. There is no other place you would rather be than standing at the helm of your sled, twisting the throttle and racing upriver into a bitter-cold rain that numbs your cheeks as you look for a good place to drop in and start your downhill troll. Your steelhead gear completely forgotten now, you tap out “Congrats” to your spring Chinook-rich buddy, then reach for the herring brine and grab a fresh pack of green labels out of the freezer. Because suddenly, springer season has officially started. in the Northwest has a cultlike following. There is no doubt that anglers compare all other salmon they catch and pursue throughout the year to these. Yet it isn’t easy angling. The Columbia and Willamette Rivers haven’t had bountiful runs, long seasons or perfect water conditions in

SPRING CHINOOK FISHING

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With a more average snowpack this winter, we probably won’t see water conditions like this, but regardless, it’s likely trolling will once again be the best way to catch spring Chinook. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)


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FISHING recent years. Convincing a springer to bite has been downright difficult. But even with all these challenges, it’s not going to stop any anglers from taking their shot at catching one of the tastiest fish of the sea. The 2018 springer forecasts may not get anyone excited, and despite managers’ caveat that recent years’ ocean conditions could impact how many actually return, it should not disappoint either. While 166,700 isn’t as many upriver ColumbiaSnake Chinook as we hoped for, it’s still plenty of fish to provide good to excellent fishing well before the peak of the run shows up. The Willamette’s predicted return of 53,820 should give anglers a productive transition from the big river to its Oregon tributary for when the season closes. And when you consider returns to the Lewis, Cowlitz and Kalama Rivers, over 230,000 springers are expected to

push past the Columbia’s mouth, giving downriver anglers a betterthan-average run, which may make the drive west a productive option.

TOP TECHNIQUE Trolling, trolling and more trolling is going to be your best bet to pick off a spring Chinook on the Columbia. While last year’s higher water and cooler weather should have made anchoring with plugs more effective, Kwikfish and Mag Lip came in a distant second. Indeed, 2017 flows made for some challenging conditions, but anglers quickly adapted to that winter’s heavy snows and rains, and most ended up with a productive season. While the traditional downhill troll still worked in protected waters, slowly trolling uphill seemed to be the most productive tactic in the faster currents. What sort of water conditions are we going to see during this year’s

fishery? At press time in January, the upper Columbia watershed was generally at or above average snowpack, while the Snake and all of Oregon were below to well below. Ultimately, only time will tell, but no matter whether we have high, low or optimal water conditions, spring Chinook are going to be caught; it just might take a little adjustment to our standard operating procedures.

FLASHER FACE-OFF Three-hundred-sixty-degree flashers have proven their worth for the Columbia’s summer and fall Chinook, but they still are not as productive as triangular flashers for the river’s early springers. And it’s likely that plug-cutting a green-label herring and letting it spin close to the bottom behind a chartreuse triangle flasher is going to be the most productive method this season. Either a herring plucked straight from the package or

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FISHING one that has been brined overnight are a good choice. Rigging starts with two 4/0 barbless hooks, fix-tied 3 inches apart on 48 to 60 inches of 25-pound fluorocarbon or monofilament leader tied to a triangle flasher. Above your flasher, tie 16 inches of 40- or 50-pound-test mono to a bead-chain swivel. Above the swivel, slide two 8mm beads down your mainline to help protect your knot from your plastic weight slider. For a weight dropper, use 15- to 20-pound mono with a duolock snap for quick lead changes. Fifty- or 65-pound braid is the most popular mainline, followed by 25-pound mono. While some anglers may not be able to leave their newfound love of the 360 flasher for “cooler waters,” as it were, it will undoubtedly catch fish, mostly by persistence. A 3.5 spinner was the hot ticket last fall, with Super Baits still a close

second, but this spring a herring may be a better option for faster and colder waters. Rigging a 360 flasher starts with 50- to 65-pound braided mainline tied off to a plastic spreader. From the lower hole of the spreader clip on a large duolock snap to attach an 8- to 20-ounce lead line. You should run 24 inches of 40- to 50-pound monofilament between your spreader and flasher to allow the proper rotation of the flasher. Behind the flasher, any Super Bait product should be slid down a 36-inch leader of 40-pound fluorocarbon or mono. Utilizing 5mm beads, position your 4/0 single barbless hooks or 2/0 barbless trebles so that when a fish bites, the Super Bait doesn’t interfere with the hooks. When fishing a 3.5 spinner, tie the spinner 28 to 30 inches behind the 360 flasher with 40-pound fluorocarbon leader. You may need to adjust the length of the spinner’s

leader to get a good “surge” of action as the flasher rotates. When using a plug-cut herring, tie a fixed mooching rig with two 4/0 barbless hooks on 30 to 36 inches of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader behind the flasher.

BAIT DEBATE Last season, this lowly writer caught more springers on the Columbia with a prawn spinner than with herring – almost a two-to-one ratio, in fact. And while I have not been very secret about the success I’ve found with prawn spinners over the last decade, I have yet to see many anglers heed my advice. That’s fine by me: It simply means more salmon for me and my boat! But if you find yourself getting bored with trolling herring, rigging a wet- or dry-cured prawn may prove you can cut your herring order in half for the 2019 season. Troll your prawn spinner no different

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FISHING Ocean conditions will impact how many fish actually return versus the forecast, but one thing’s certain: The best way to put the Columbia’s tastiest salmon on the barbecue is to catch one! Tony Bryant landed this springer last year in the gorge. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

than how you would your cut-plug herring – close to the bottom and at the same speed, all behind your favorite triangle flasher. Springers will bite your prawn the exact same way they do a herring. But since prawns tend to be a little more durable, if the fish misses the hooks on the first strike, there will always be something there to entice them back for a second bite. Behind your standard rotating flasher, tie a 4-foot leader of 20-pound test to two fix-tied 2/0 barbless hooks, with seven 4mm beads between your top hook and a plastic spinner clevis. Clip on a No. 4 or 5 Bear Valley Blade in red and white, fire tiger, rainbow or half brass/half rainbow. Run your prawn spinner above a 15- to 20-inch lead line and the same size weights that you would run with herring.

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lower in the river you are fishing for spring Chinook, the more success you will find. And while there will definitely be larger numbers closer to the mouth, muddy waters and heavy debris dumping out of the Willamette and Cowlitz Rivers may create poor fishing conditions. Many times the most effective place to fish the Columbia is above the confluence of the Willamette. While salmon may not be as thick as in the lower river, there will be fish present from early February through the entire season. If you’re willing to gamble for a February springer, there are always a couple consistent producers for early-season fish. The Sellwood Shelf under the Sellwood Bridge has been responsible for producing more barbecue flare-ups this time of year than any other location. The head of the Multnomah Channel and the Santosh area down near its mouth are two other locations that have consistently produced early fish. On the Columbia, the Caterpillar Island area always has multiple anglers fishing during the shortest month of the year, and for good reason. Before the March slump strikes, usually the second and third week of the month, there will be fish caught well above I-5 too. While only one or two springers may have been counted at Bonneville, there will still be fish staging from Rooster Rock all the way to the deadline.

THIS SPRINGER SEASON can either be a fantastically fun time with friends and family, or just another ho-hum fishery. It’s really up to you and what you make of it. Sitting on the sidelines and complaining online about another cruddy forecast and short season will only deprive you of delicious omega-3s. But putting in your time, even early and in less-than-optimal conditions, will ensure that you get the most out of the opportunity and undoubtedly make the 2018 Columbia River spring Chinook season a success. NS 126 Northwest Sportsman

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Columbia Prawn Set-up NOTES Sometimes you just have to go against the flow, and that was exactly the case last year when higher water had Columbia River spring Chinook anglers trolling slowly against the current. This year’s water conditions will surely be different, but 2018 may be time to add a technique that pretty much goes completely unnoticed in the land of green-label herring. Prawn spinners have more than proven themselves at Drano Lake and

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the Wind River, and it’s time to put this highly effective technique to use below Bonneville. No, you shouldn’t completely ditch your tried-and-true cut-plug herring – just devote

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nwsportsmanmag.com | FEBRUARY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 129


BAIT & TACKLE


You don’t have to run too far out of Sekiu in winter to fish for blackmouth. They can be found prowling nearshore kelp from the jetty over to Kydaka Point, with the Caves a perennial producer. (MARK YUASA)

FISHING

Strait Shines In Early Spring Blackmouth fishing can be good out of Sekiu, Port Angeles. By Mark Yuasa

W

hile the thought of sitting on a sofa by a warm fireplace sounds comforting, many anglers are opting to “chill out” by getting on the water to pursue winter blackmouth. One of the most overlooked places to pursue these salmon with the black-colored jawline is the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and you should put this area on your radar during late winter and early spring. The western Strait at Sekiu (Marine Area 5) is open from March 16 through April 30, and is traditionally teeming with largersized blackmouth.

“It will be nice to have this ‘backend’ hatchery-Chinook fishery at Sekiu when other areas are closing down,” says Ryan Lothrop, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Puget Sound recreational salmon fishing manager. “With all the constraints we had on fisheries at Sekiu this past season, we need to make sure to support local small-town businesses, and hope anglers get a chance to take advantage of the good fishing there,” Lothrop says. “The fish during this time period also tend to be larger in size.” They average 8 to 12 pounds, and some hit the upper teens.

ANOTHER ENTICING FACT about Sekiu is that the major fishing ground – known as the Caves – is just a short boat ride around from the Mason’s Resort jetty, and doable for even small, kicker-type boats. For the most part, the weather

in early spring can lull you with its gentle swells, but there are other days of unpredictable conditions and strong westerly winds that will keep most anglers on the shore. The waters just off Sekiu scream “Fish on!” They’re lined with kelp beds from the jetty to Kydaka Point, and host abundant schools of 4-inch-long sandlance, or candlefish as they’re known, and large-sized 7-inch herring. The best fishing is right down on the deck of the sandy bottom at depths of 115 to 150 feet. The other strongpoint is that, unlike other marine areas, where possible early-season closures are dictated by in-season management guidelines, those aren’t applied to Sekiu. It is also a place where the daily limit is a generous two adiposefin-clipped Chinook per person. The bite at Sekiu occurs on both sides of tidal exchanges. Work the ebb tide near the Caves at depths of 100 nwsportsmanmag.com | FEBRUARY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 131


FISHING Anglers were initially skeptical about a state bid to buy the only boat ramps for 70 miles in the Strait of Juan de Fuca that are usable regardless of the tide, mostly blowback from the proposed Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan that could sharply impact fishing here in the future. (MARK YUASA)

SHOULD WDFW BUY MASON’S RESORT? Purchasing the only saltwater boat ramp not dependent on tides on a 70mile stretch of the Strait of Juan de Fuca is one of nine potential land buys the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was looking for public comment on this winter. The agency put out the package last month, and reported that the new

to 150 feet, and keep the downrigger balls bouncing off the bottom in a westerly direction toward Eagle Bay or Hoko Point. The strategy, as with any salmon fishery during the winter, is locating the baitfish and staying on top of the schools – hungry blackmouth are likely to be right on their coattails. During a flood tide, head to the Slip Point Buoy – located just east of Clallam Bay – and troll in an easterly 132 Northwest Sportsman

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owners of Mason’s (formerly Olson’s) Resort at Sekiu are interested in selling their 6.5-acre facility, including its fourlane ramp and two parking areas. “This project will ensure continued public access to the Strait of Juan De Fuca from a highly popular boat launch that has been in continuous operation since 1939,” a project description reads.

direction past Mussolini Rock, the Coal Mine and Slide Area toward Cod Fish Bay. You can utilize just about anything, but whole or plug-cut herring, Silver Horde or Coyote spoons, Ace HiFlies or even a chartreuse or glowwhite hoochie (plastic squid) will get their attention. Sekiu is a long way from Seattle, and the drive includes a ferry boat ride (another option is to drive south

Sekiu is a popular jump-off point for salmon, halibut, lingcod and rockfish anglers. But this and the other eight projects scattered across Washington are far from done deals. Following comment, WDFW land managers first need to get approval from Director Jim Unsworth to seek funding through the state’s competitive land-buy review process, and then the Fish and Wildlife Commission must sign the check for the properties. –NWS

to Olympia and up the eastern side of Hood Canal) and then a three-hour haul to Port Angeles and west along Highway 112 to Sekiu. There are two resorts at Sekiu that offer amenities, moorage and fuel. They are Mason’s (olsons-resort .com), located on the very west end of town and formerly known as Olson’s, and Van Riper’s (vanripersresort .com) on the left-hand side just off the main road into town.


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Northwest Sportsman 133


Best of British Columbia

The typical Strait of Juan de Fuca resident, or blackmouth, Chinook runs 8 to 12 pounds, with some into the teens. (MARK YUASA)

WINTER CHINOOK ANGLERS can also get a jump start in the eastern Strait off the Port Angeles-Freshwater Bay areas, which are open from March 1 through April 15. Good underwater plateaus to fish include McArthur, Hein and Middle Banks. Other decent locations are Winter Hole and Ediz Hook off Port Angeles; Protection Island; the humps (a series of underwater troughs in the eastern Strait); and Freshwater Bay. Closer to the Emerald City is northern Puget Sound (Area 9), open through April 15, but remember, the length of season could hinge on catch guidelines or encounter limits for both sublegal (fish under the 22-inch-minimum-size limit) and legal-size Chinook. This unfortunate type of premature closure happened back in midNovember, when the sublegal catch skyrocketed in Area 9, closing it less than two weeks into the fishing season. On that note, a word to the wise angler is, going sooner than later will likely pay off in more time on the water and fish in the cooler. Noteworthy spots in northern Puget Sound include Possession Bar, Point No Point, Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend, Double Bluff off southwest Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Winter Hole due northwest off the PNP lighthouse; and Foulweather Bluff. NS


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COLUMN

Blackmouth Git Bit Kit

Blackmouth fishing isn’t just for powerboaters – kayakers can take advantage of the winter Chinook fishery in the South Sound’s Wollochet Bay and elsewhere with modified trolling rigs, jigs and mooching gear. (SCOTT BRENNEMAN)

I

like to get up early and watch the sunrise on my birthday. With that goal in mind, I pull out of my driveway on THE KAYAK GUYS this brisk, dark morning. By Scott By Sco cott tt Brenneman Bre renn nnem eman I plan to view the sunrise from the this birthday. Prior f h kayak k to crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, a digital sign warns motorists of a severe side wind. Crossing the bridge I view the water to the north. It’s agitated as the wind blowing through the narrows stirs up whitecaps. I pull up to the boat ramp, which is identified by the residential street ending at the waterline of Wollochet Bay. On this winter day under clear skies, it has been the lighter side of twilight for some time now. I make a mental note to start an hour earlier the next time it is sunny this winter. High tide is about an hour away, so I hurry to offload my gear.

BOTTOM FEEDERS My plan is to fish the tide change. An incoming accompanied by a north wind

should mean lots of herring. Wollochet Bay is one of their winter spawning areas, and Hale Passage is one big waiting room for them. The wind and the current will both contribute to concentrating herring on the lee side of Point Fosdick. My fishfinder will not turn on due to a loose wire connection. Rather than waste time troubleshooting and fixing the wire, I decide to get moving. A 10-knot wind from the upper bay aids me as I paddle out around the corner. With Point Fosdick in my sights, I quickly realize that I will not need electronics to find fish today. There is plenty of bird activity and I note a couple of seals surrounding the concentration of birds feasting on their morning meals. I clip on an 80-gram jig and free-spool it to find bottom. The line counter on my Tekota reel reads 80 feet. I quickly reel up and move to the inside of the bird activity and drop down again. This time the line counter stops at 60 feet. With no bait to mooch and lacking electronics, I decide to troll, so I assemble a trolling train. For the engine I attach a small EZ Diver. To get

down to 80 feet the EZ Diver is going to need more horsepower, so I add a 5-ounce cannonball to it. An 8-inch Pro-Troll flasher is attached to the diver via a snubber. For the caboose, a Brad’s Cut Plug in black jack and filled with scent is attached to a 42inch leader. I let out 120 feet of line, engage the clicker and put my rod in the holder behind me. I start trolling in 80 feet of water towards Point Fosdick. The wind wraps around the Narrows, mixing with the winds blowing from Wollochet Bay. They form a clear, crescent-shaped demarcation line, with wind waves in Hale Passage and dead-calm water protected by Point Fosdick. As I troll in the still water, I soon hear the familiar sound of my clicker. The first fish to the kayak is a shaker; so is the second; also the third. Action is consistent through the tide change: a mix of mostly shakers and some come-back-in-amonth-or-two types. The current, now ebbing, signals the end of the blackmouth’s morning breakfast. I make my way to shore.

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Northwest Sportsman 139


COLUMN A KAYAKER’S GETAWAY SPOT Wollochet Bay has a lot to offer the kayak angler. If you are looking for solitude from the more crowded areas like Point Defiance to the north, this bay is frequently void of anyone else fishing. The productive water is close to the ramp. Wollochet was historically known for mooching. Salmon-holding depths of 60 to 120 are perfect for this technique. Jigging and trolling from a kayak also work well at these depths. Fox Point, on the northeast corner of Fox Island, is close enough to be easily reached from the Wollochet Bay ramp. Those not-quite-big-enough fish that I was fishing for earlier this winter should be of legal size in February and March. Since Wollochet Bay is in Area 13, salmon fishing is open year-round.

A MOOCHING MAN My favorite technique for Puget Sound blackmouth is mooching, followed by trolling and jigging. Mooching is appealing because of its simplicity, yet it can be a challenge to master. The best salmon moochers in Puget Sound don’t have downriggers on their boats. All they do is year-round mooching. In the summer, when dogfish become a nuisance, there are no metal jigs or spoons in the tackle box for relief. The moral of the story is this: To be really successful at mooching, you have to commit to this art. Kayaks are an excellent platform for mooching because your area of focus is concentrated. It is not necessary to cover a lot of water, and terminal gear is minimal. Two- to 5-ounce sinkers, some swivels, hooks and leaders, along with herring, is all that is needed. Spend some time to find out what works best for you. I have tried to use braided line for mooching and do not care for it at all. Mono works much better, in my opinion. I also prefer the classic fixed sinkers, sliding sinkers or cannonball weights attached to a slider. Customize your sinkers with paint; it makes a difference. I tie up a bunch of two-hook leaders – about 8 inches long – with a ballbearing swivel on the end. I then prerig these with cut-plug herring and store 140 Northwest Sportsman

FEBRUARY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com

them in the cooler. When needed, I can quickly swap out by clipping it to my main 6-foot leader.

NO BAIT, NO PROBLEM Jigging works well in the same areas as mooching if you have no bait. Attach a 2to 4-ounce jig to a fast-action fishing rod loaded with braid. Drop down using your electronics to target suspended fish. Trolling from a kayak on Puget Sound can be a challenge, especially since, for the most part, blackmouth stay close to the bottom. I have never been interested in fishing a downrigger off a kayak. Instead, I’ll use a combination of divers and cannonball weights to troll deep. There are many different divers on the market. I prefer the Delta or EZ Divers that you cannot trip. Deep Six divers work great at shallower depths, but I don’t want it tripping after I let 175 feet of line out. It is easy to add weight to these divers with a duolock snap. The downward pull along with the extra weight will allow you to reach depths of 120 feet. Downsize to an 8-inch flasher and use anything but bait while trolling deep. NS

Sunny winter days and wind-shielded waters make for good blackmouth fishing conditions in Puget Sound. (SCOTT BRENNEMAN)

Though not caught off a kayak, the Tacoma area has been productive for resident Chinook this winter. This pair was caught by Sven and Taylor Lovstrom. (GRANT LEWIS)


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142 Northwest Sportsman

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COLUMN

Steelies Not Only Cold-water Offering On Tap – Trout Too!

No fishery management dramas nor bad ocean conditions to fester about, river gauges to watch or shuttles to hire, plus the fish bite well this time of year! Indeed, the South Sound’s plentiful trout lakes offer a good opportunity to get out and just fish. (JASON BROOKS)

W

ith the preseason forecast for spring Chinook headed back to three major Southwest Washington tribs SOUTH SOUND By Jason Brooks lower than last year’s actual return, it is hard to get too excited about this year’s fishery. Toss in the news about the proposed Puget Sound Chinook plan and recent years’ roller coaster of coho fisheries, and

anglers need to take a hard look at the tackle box to figure out where fishing opportunities occur. Anadromous fish are hard to manage, especially with several other states, tribal nations and another country all having a say in it – let alone a giant ocean and Mother Nature. However, there are a few options for those who prefer to fish for “cold water” species that Northwest sportsmen tend to overlook.

FAMILY FUN Trout often represent a weekend festivity

in late April, bringing families out to local lakes for the opener. Parking lots fill up quickly, boat ramps get congested and stringers of trout create a fish fry. I have never understood why anglers only go after the tasty fish for just a few select weekends each spring. When I was growing up, a nearby lake was only open during the winter as a special fishery. It closed the first day of March and many times this month was the best time to catch trout during the entire winter season. As weather warms

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Northwest Sportsman 143


COLUMN

In the Northwest Trout-slaying Lure Hall of Fame, you’d surely find Yakima Bait’s FlatFish and Rooster Tails, the Woolly Bugger – this one modified by Mack’s Lure with a Smile Blade – and Luhr Jensen’s Super Duper, among other fine offerings that will catch rainbows this time of year. (JASON BROOKS) and bugs emerge from the mud, last year’s planter trout put on the weight and become the beloved “holdovers” we hope to catch in April. Several years ago, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife decided to change many of the lakes from a spring opener and move closer to a year-round fishery. Yet, we tend to forget this after summer when we switch over to fall salmon fishing and continue our selective amnesia past the new year as steelhead show up. Heck with floating a river where you might hook just one sea-going rainbow trout when we can go to a local lake and catch dozens on lures and wet flies! Of course, that one larger steelhead will fight hard and be a real challenge to land, but a way to rethink this whole debacle of anadromous fishing is to adjust our gear for our targeted fish. A lightweight fly rod or a kokanee noodle rod and an 18-inch rainbow provide a battle that can be fought over and over again on many of the lakes, even if the fish will never see saltwater.

OFFUT IS ON South Sound anglers should check out Offut Lake in February and especially early March. Last year, this 191-acre Thurston 144 Northwest Sportsman

FEBRUARY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com

County favorite received nearly 17,000 fish, with over 5,000 planted since the end of August. There is a WDFW public boat launch, as well as a small dock at Offut Lake Resort (offutlakeresort.com), where you can pay a small fee to fish from. The resort also rents small boats powered with electric motors (the lake has a 5 mph speed limit). Offut is kidney-shaped and has a maximum depth of about 25 feet. The deepest part of the lake is just in front of the state ramp. Heading to the right from the launch to the far end of the lake, a trench runs along the shoreline and ends in a large flat around 15 feet deep. This flat is where a lot of the bug hatch will occur once the weather starts to warm up. Try trolling size 12 Carey Specials in brown or olive. Continuing further towards the lower end of the lake, the shelf rises up to around 10 feet deep. If you like to tote a fly rod around, then this is where you should try chironomids in midafternoon. Use a size 12 up to size 8 in red or green off a dropper from a Hare’s Ear nymph suspended by a strike indicator and slowly stripped in. Chironomids are also effectively fished stationarily, as the emergers mostly float along in currents or windswept areas.

A BANK ANGLER’S OPTION Bank-bound anglers should look to the City of Longview’s Lake Sacajawea Park. This public park is home to a 45-acre oxbow that was once part of the Cowlitz River. It’s long and narrow, with an average depth of 8 feet. Since the lake is so shallow, algae became problematic in the 1950s when rainbow trout were planted. But to correct this the city pumps water from the Cowlitz into the lake, with an outfall at the other end. Sacajawea receives hefty fish plants throughout the year, including in December, so you will find ready-tobite planters, as well as some large broodstockers. Throwing spinners such as Rooster Tails or Promise Keepers with the hooks switched out to a siwash will produce fish here. It’s a great way to locate where the fish are holding. You can walk along the shoreline and toss out the lures with a quick retrieve until you find a rainbow that is willing to bite. The city park is popular and has picnic tables, play areas for the kids and Japanese gardens. You can hand-launch small self-powered watercraft for use in the lake. And if you ever wanted to try kayak fishing, this would be a great place to start. It also makes for a great family


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Northwest Sportsman 145


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Among the South Sound’s trout anglers, Nahwatzel Lake in Mason County is well known. But if you haven’t fished this 270acre lake, then this is a place you really should head to if catching larger trout is on your to-do list for late winter. It has been highlighted in a few books and several articles, including ones here at Northwest Sportsman. It is said that a top-producing technique here is to slowly troll a brown Woolly Bugger. Another variation of the standard Woolly Bugger is the Smile Blade fly, which can help get cold-blooded trout to bite in the not-so-tepid waters of late winter. Other techniques to try here include trolling small spoons such as a silver Cripplure by Mack’s Lure or a Luhr-Jensen Super Duper in silver, gold or frog pattern, or mini-plugs like the FlatFish or Brad’s Wee Wiggler. The lake receives plants throughout the year, but it specifically gets a good dose of big rainbows. Since last October, the lake has had over 3,000 near-pound and heavier trout dumped into its waters. Nahwatzel is 11 miles from Shelton and lies just off the southeast corner of the Olympics. Watch the weather forecast, since it can get a bit windy at this lake with storms coming in from the Pacific and being pushed around the mountains.

TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AT TROUT Looking at the future of our anadromous fisheries can make an angler think twice about grabbing the big tackle box full of salmon or steelhead gear. Instead, look for that trout box that may have been collecting dust since last May, and break out the lightweight rods. No need to worry about the river graphs or hiring a shuttle for a float on a coastal river, as the boat launches at many of the open lakes will have hardly another person around. A nice day on a lake catching rainbow trout is a pleasant way to finish February and stretch into March. This just might become one of the few stable options we have into the future. NS 146 Northwest Sportsman

FEBRUARY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com


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MIXED BAG Big Game Yearbook, continued from page 52 With somewhere around 400 inches of antler between them, you could say that Jake Fife (our lead story) and his girlfriend Jennifer Wane had a pretty darn good 2017 – especially considering Jennifer’s 30-inch-wide muley, also taken on public lands, was her first ever. “I don’t think were gonna be able to top this season!” says Jake. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Like father, like son! Jack Benson, age 11, followed up on his dad Jeff’s wide Walla Walla County muzzleloader buck with a great first buck during the rifle season. “He set the bar high for his future hunts,” Jeff notes. We’ll say! (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Great muley for Nic Belisle! He was hunting Okanogan County with Chuck Hartman (above right), who also tagged out with a meat buck. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST) 150 Northwest Sportsman

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MIXED BAG

A 320-yard shot led to a notched tag for Craig Westlin. He was hunting near Pomeroy, in Southeast Washington, with guide Jack Peasley of Deadman Creek Outfitters. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

“It’s never too late to start hunting,” says Scott Allen about wife Toney Griffith, who shot her first deer, this North Idaho whitetail, in late November. “She is a crack shot at 50 years old and 150 yards. Very proud of her,” Scott says. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST) 152 Northwest Sportsman

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The Ramsey family not only fish but hunt as well. Jeff, nephew of our columnist Buzz, took this buck in the Fossil Unit with a .300. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)


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HUNTING

Last-chance Honkers The extended goose season in counties along the Lower Columbia calls for great blinds, careful decoying, judicious hailing – and improvisation.

Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington host an extended goose season in February and March, though it is limited largely to private lands. Author MD Johnson looks to the skies in search of more birds. (JULIA JOHNSON)

By MD Johnson

F

or those of you who might remember, I wrote last season about the extended goose opportunities available during February and March in Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon. In that message, I devoted 75 percent of my space to the regulatory considerations – things like where one can hunt, when one can hunt, what species can be hunted, what licensing paperwork is needed, and

how to properly identify a dusky Canada goose that hasn’t been a pure-strain dusky for the past four generations, and now resembles any other lesser muddling around the flyway. Wait, did I say that last sentence out loud? But, and personal sarcasm aside, I did spend an inordinate amount of time discussing regulations, and just a bit of time talking about how to actually hunt these late-season Canadas. This year, I’ll take a different approach. My suggestion is to find

a copy of the current waterfowl regulations, and read them. Carefully. Everything concerning extended goose opportunities, or the EGO as I call it, is contained among the pages. And if you finish and find yourself still confused, a call to either Washington’s or Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife law enforcement or waterfowl sections might be well advised. Extreme? Not hardly; I’ve had to do that very thing on several occasions, both as a writer tasked with disseminating accurate nwsportsmanmag.com | FEBRUARY 2018

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HUNTING information, and as a waterfowler wishing to stay within the regulatory parameters. Bottom line? Read, or call, or both. So, enough said on that subject. Now to the (hopefully) interesting portion of our show – the stuff, and what to do with the stuff once it’s in the field.

The late season represents waterfowlers’ last blasts of the 2017-18 fall-winter waterfowl campaign and is meant in part to control damage from overgrazing geese. (JULIA JOHNSON)

HIDING DURING THE E.G.O. Typically when the talk turns ’round to geese, the first thought in most minds is decoys. Well, it’s not; it’s blinds. February (and March) Canadas in Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon have been hunted, and some pockets hunted almost relentlessly, since early to mid-September. Come February, then, there are two types of Canadas – dead geese, which reside in freezers across the western portions of the sister states, and wise geese. Very wise geese. Not necessarily smart geese, but Canadas whose survival skills have been honed by repeated exposure to decoys, blinds and gunfire. Why bring up the subject of goose IQ in a conversation about blinds? Simple. If you’re not hiding, you’re not shooting. During these EGO hunts, as I do during the fall and winter regular season, I’ll use one of three methods of concealment. In order of the frequency in which I use them, these are layout blinds, ghillie suits and natural blinds, e.g. hunkering in the pokey bushes. Though definitely not a new invention, layout blinds are my goto choice. They’re lightweight, low profile and tremendously mobile. Currently, I use two – a full-frame Avery Ground Force (18 pounds) and a frameless Avery Power Hunter (11 pounds). Both wear a foundation of mixed tan and green raffia grass, covered with an intermittent layer of natural vegetation, which more often not is spike grass, aka bunch grass. My objective, elementally enough, when grassing a layout blind is to 156 Northwest Sportsman

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match exactly the surroundings. Too often, I see ’fowlers overstubble their layouts; that is, add so much natural cover that they become unnaturally – for lack of a better term – bushy. That, and the natural cover added is too uniform; that is, it’s not the haphazard and random here ’n there look like that created by Mother Nature. Or – and I’m almost finished browbeating y’all here – the natural vegetation is old. It’s brown when it should be green, and the reason it’s still on the blind is easy to decipher, and that’s laziness. Is it really that important to be so Type A with the layout blind? I believe so. Remember, these geese have been hunted for almost five months now. Those that have survived are masters at recognizing and avoiding potentially life-threatening piles of stuff. So make it look über-natural. And layouts can be taken a step further by positioning them in a somewhat untraditional position in relationship to the wind and the decoy spread. True, it’s wonderful when the birds work right out in

front; however, these geese are also looking directly at the blinds and the hunters (hopefully) concealed inside. Instead, I prefer, particularly during the EGO, to quarter my blind(s) to the spread and the wind; that is, so my guns are shooting left to right or right to left. Set so, the birds, at least theoretically, are looking at the spread and where they’re going to land versus staring at the guy next to me who can’t keep his white moon-pie face hidden. It’s the little things like this that can make or break a hunt. A couple quick words about the remaining two methods of concealment – ghillie suits and natural blinds. Ghillies, like the Ultralight Ghillie Poncho from Miles Tactical (theghilliesuits.com; 800908-9128), can work incredibly well under the right conditions. The right conditions? Some natural cover, albeit slight, to blend with. Certainly, ghillies can and have provided excellent concealment in the great wide open, e.g. a shortcropped pasture or winter wheat


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HUNTING Calling this time of year can be challenging, as the birds have heard it all. Concealment may be more important. (JULIA JOHNSON)

field, but we’ve had our best luck using them in conjunction with some adjacent or at least nearby naturally occurring cover. And while I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, it’s worth mentioning again. Shooting while wearing a ghillie can be quite challenging, to say the least. Often, I’ll simply drape the poncho or jacket over my shoulders, shrugging it off as I mount the gun and hit the safety. It does take practice. As for natural blinds, when they’re available within effective range of your spread and offer complete concealment, including overhead concealment, they’re excellent options. However, finding the perfect natural blind possessing this trio of qualifiers is often difficult, if not impossible. My advice? If you have it, by all means use it; if not, consider a portable layout blind or ghillie suit.

DECOY SET-UPS Now let’s talk about decoys. Myself, I have a couple schools of thought 158 Northwest Sportsman

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here. First, if you’re targeting cacklers or hunt where cacklers are the predominant subspecies, then 1) buy 500, minimum, cackler decoys and learn to set them yourself, or better 2) buy 500 cackler decoys, find two friends, each with 500 cackler decoys, and set them all up in a space about the same size as a traditional living room. Yes, I jest, but just slightly. Cacklers, for those who haven’t targeted them, are a bird in and of themselves. The recipe for success is a lot of decoys, lots of skilled calling, invisible blinds, and a love of frustration verging on madness. Yeah, I went there. Second, and what I do, is target the big western subspecies during the EGO. I understand; sometimes, one has choices. Other times, not so much. And I’m not insinuating the big westerns are dumb. Oh, no; however, I do find them more accommodating that any of the smaller subspecies, especially when it comes to decoys and calling.

As I write this (December 28, 2017), my goose spread consists of 18 Greenhead Gear Pro-Grade honker full-bodies in a two-to-one ratio, feeders to sentries/actives. I set three – one active and two feeders – 15 to 18 yards downwind, if I have any wind, and at 10 o’clock to my blind(s). These give the impression of geese that have just landed and are walking into the main group of birds. Approximately 18 to 20 yards upwind of those and directly in front of the blind, I’ll arrange the remaining 15 full-bodies in a loose crescent, with plenty of space between feeders and with the actives roughly on the corners. For reasons known only to them, the geese I target do basically one of two things when finishing to the above spread. Either they’ll land slightly above the three but on the outside edge – note: I keep the decoys close, so when this happens, the birds are still well within range – or they’ll light just above the crescent in the middle. Regardless, they’re close, and as 95 percent of my hunts are solo, right where they need to be. The above spread will dwindle in size as the regular season comes to a close in late January. By the time the EGO begins in early February, I’ll be setting just six to eight full-bodies, still in the two-to-one ratio (feeders to actives), and in a rough 15- to 20-foot-diameter circle. Rough is the key word here; precise placement isn’t important. What is important is to know that come February, these big Canadas have paired up in preparation for breeding and nesting. This means that geese on the ground are relatively aggressive and territorial, both amongst themselves and to birds in the air. Birds in the air, likewise, are standoffish; they want the company of their kind, but at a distance. So, and while other’s field research may prove differently, my time in the blind has shown that, yes, some February Canadas will work a small decoy spread like it was November; however, many will want


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HUNTING to be gregarious, yet land 30 to 50 yards away. If I see that happening, I’ll move my layout blind 30 to 50 yards downwind of the spread, and shoot the birds not feet down but on the pass. Improvise and adjust is the name of the game when it comes to geese and goose hunting. And the EGO is an excellent example of this most necessary state of mind.

CALLS AND STUFF

If he’s anything like his grandpop MD Johnson, you’ll see a lot more of Tristan Michael, age 6, in the blind in the future. The lad shows off a pair of honkers taken in the Lower Columbia. (JULIA JOHNSON)

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Calling? I don’t do much. A honk for attention. A cluck. Double cluck. Cluck-moan. Growls, murmurs, and a little ground noise. Indeed, calling during the EGO, like concealment, can be challenging. Canadas on the ground will often go silent when other birds approach. If that’s the program, play accordingly. Get their attention with a honk. Keep their attention on the corners with a cluck or cluck-moan. Or better yet, combine a flag with a greeting, and let the decoys do their job. Still better than that, toss an old-school flute call into the blind bag and use it, albeit judiciously. There’s nothing that sounds like an old gander than the deep, rich her-onk! produced by a flute call. And given today’s short-reed craze, few geese ever hear a flute call. Vocal geese, obviously, would be a contradiction to this mantra of keep quiet. If the birds are noisy, make noise. Again, it’s a game of improvise and adjust. Late-winter Canadas are flyway veterans. If they’re still around come Valentine’s Day, they’ve obviously done something right. Or perhaps those who would pursue them did something wrong. My money sits on the latter. Either way, they’re not easy; far from it. But they’re out there, in excellent numbers, and provide an outdoor opportunity during that timeframe when a lot of folk are bellyach’n about having little or nothing to do. Oh, and jalapeño goose burgers, Canada stir fry, and goose jerky? Yeah, it’s all that good. NS


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COLUMN

When Shotguns Bite S

titches were definitely needed – that much I knew for sure. But that CHEF IN THE WILD happens later in By Randy King the story. Let’s start back at the beginning. It was a cold, wet, muddy morning in a cut cornfield near Nampa, Idaho. Prime goose hunting time. To my right I could see three hunters – my nephew and son Cameron asleep under a makeshift blind, and my father-in-law sitting on a milk crate stoically. To my left were Drew, Justin and Dad. Seven hunters in a muddy ditch, freezing, sleeping and wishing more honkers would be foolish and come our way. It all seemed about right, though the geese needed to be just about blind or stupid to fall for our set-up.

A MILE OFF, a flock was headed directly away from us. “Those ones must be going to the golf course,” noted a dejected-sounded Justin. It became a game, at one point, to pick a ridiculous location for the geese to be headed – the more ludicrous, the better. “Those ones are going to the Seventhday Adventist pond.” “Those are totally hot springs geese.” “Sugar beet factory.” “Well, they certainly are not headed here,” I’d add, taking a sip of my black coffee and standing up out of the ditch I was taking cover in. “Yep,” “Mmm-hmm” and “Sure enough” came from my fellow hunters. We spent hours with binoculars to our eyes, trying to locate a flock headed our direction. When we did find one, taking down the binos set us up for disappointment. The geese were often a mile high and 2 miles off. But we persisted.

IT WAS HUGELY surprising that eventually a foursome of honkers began heading

Members of the King clan of the Boise area, including Chef Randy’s son Cameron (foreground), bide their time waiting for geese to wing their way. (RANDY KING) our way. This group was close, so we all put our heads down, barely daring to look up at them. Drew blew on his call, making the “feeding” noise. Wings locked on the geese, then they started to back-flap their wings. A goose folded one wing in and dropped himself onto his nearest flockmate, then folded his other wing, dropping yet another position and getting closer to the ground. I had seen ducks do this barrel-roll technique to lose elevation faster, but never geese. If they were that excited to get to the decoys, we had them. Or so I thought. About the time Drew commanded

“Take ’em,” the flock flared off. They swung wide but were still close enough to get shot at. Yet nothing dropped, as my 3.5inch goose loads and shooting were not enough to bring a bird down. Disappointed, we all stood and looked at each other. Six shots, no geese. “Let’s not talk about this to our friends,” Justin counseled. We all chuckled. “Down!” Drew suddenly blurted. All seven of us ducked in unison. A few quick calls and I heard the wing beats of a pair of geese over my head. “Hold … hold …,” Drew advised. The geese at this point were 20 yards

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COLUMN

White bean and goose chili garnished with grated jack cheese, avocado and sliced fresh jalapeño. (RANDY KING)

HONK IF YOU LIKE CHILI

F

or hunters, geese are often a problem. They are fun to hunt, sure, but most do not enjoy eating them. Geese are movers. They have dark red meat with a deep flavor. Plus, they can live for a long time. This does not a delicious animal make. Oftentimes, goose flesh is made into jerky. While I am a fan of jerky, I think other preparations are a good idea too. Previously in Northwest Sportsman we’ve published recipes for corned goose and goose pastrami, as well as duck leg confit (February 2012, February 2016 and December 2011). While these recipes are awesome, frequently hunters want to know what they can do with a noncured, raw hunk of breast meat. This recipe is for just that occasion. It calls for diced breast meat, but ground leg meat will work too (not diced leg meat – it will be too tough). The recipe is an easy, one-pot white bean chili. Feel free to substitute canned bean varieties, however. This could just as easily, and deliciously, be a black bean chili.

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White Bean and Goose Chili 2 slices of bacon, raw and cut into thin strips 2 cloves garlic, minced ½ medium onion, diced 1 jalapeño, diced, seeded 1 tablespoon canola oil 2 goose breasts, cut into ½-inch cubes (do when meat still slightly frozen) 1 can (12 ounces) white beans 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, fresh 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano, dried 2 teaspoons cumin 1 teaspoon garlic powder 2 bay leaves 2 cups chicken stock (low-sodium, store-bought stock is fine) 1 teaspoon red chili flakes Salt and pepper Optional: Grated jack cheese Avocado Fresh slices of jalapeño

Heat a 10-inch cast iron or thick-sided sauté pan on medium heat. Add the bacon and cook it until it is crispy. Next add the garlic, onion and jalapeño. Cook until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Remove the mixture from the pan and reserve. Add the canola oil to the pan and heat until almost smoking. Add the cubed goose breasts to the pan and brown them for four miniutes. The more color, the more flavor. Add the onion and bacon mixture back in. Cook for one minute together, then add the remaining, nonoptional ingredients. Simmer the mix on low for one hour, covered, until the goose is tender. You might need to add a little water as time goes on. Spoon chili into a bowl and garnish with avocado slices, shredded jack cheese and fresh sliced jalapenos. For more wild game recipes, see chefrandyking.com. –RK


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COLUMN out and paralleling the decoys in front of us. They swung wide and circled back. “If they follow the same path as last time, shoot them,” Drew whispered. The geese came in slow and low to the ground. Being the left-most shooter in the ditch, I muttered, “I have the far left one.” “Now!” Drew blurted. Cameron and I stood. The geese flew right to left right in front of us. We both shot and two geese fell from the sky. Hoots and hollers came from the gallery. Thrilled, I nearly ran out into the decoys to get the geese. It was my first honker in years and Cameron’s first goose ever! It was a big day.

THEN I HEARD something behind me that made my guts drop: “Dad, I think I cut myself.” I turned and looked to see blood cascading from Cameron’s cheek. “Sh@t!” and other expletives came out of my mouth in quick succession.

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“Anyone have a tissue?” I asked. One of the guys handed me a McDonald’s napkin with the remnants of a McMuffin still on it. It would have to do. Stitches were definitely needed – that much I knew for sure. “Head to the car,” I told Cameron. Next I grabbed my phone: I had to call home. “Chicks dig scars!” came from the ditch. I think it was for encouragement. Cameron smiled, causing a fresh stream of blood to roll down his cheek. I grabbed his gun, carrying it out across the muddy field. Looking down at the hammer I noticed a small scrap of flesh still attached. Apparently, a 3-inch mag in a youth single-shot 20 gauge creates enough force to cut on the recoil. It made me flinch, but I admired the boy even more. He was beaming, laughing, bleeding. Cameron and I waited patiently at the Quick Care, a fresh paper towel against his face. When we got called back, the PA decided five stitches were needed. I took a picture, and you can tell he is very

There’s scope bite and then there’s shotgun bite. As Cameron fired at his first goose, the recoil from the 3-inch magnum shell in his single-shot 20-gauge created enough recoil to take a chunk out of his face, requiring five stitches. (RANDY KING) proud of himself. As I drove us home to face a less-thanhappy wife, Cameron noted, “Well, I got more off that goose than it got off me.” NS


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COLUMN Dog vests serve many purposes, including protection from sharp grass and pointed objects, and they provide warmth and offer visibility. Here, author Scott Haugen’s pudelpointer Echo retrieves a goose in icy conditions while wearing a camouflage neoprene vest. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

Dress-up Days M

y wife and I have been married for 27 years, and we’ve always had a lap dog. Growing up, Tiffany had small dogs, and GUN DOGGIN’ 101 like many young girls, By Scott Haugen she loved dressing them up. She even dressed up our lap dogs on holidays. But when we brought gun dogs into the family, I told her the dress-up days were over. Rather quickly, however, things changed. Before I knew it, at nine weeks old, some of our pups were wearing pullovers! These were pups we were training for other people, and it was winter. The pups were noticeably cold when outside, and there’s no doubt that dressing them up in warm clothes

helped keep them comfortable, which allowed us to spend our basic training time more efficiently.

WE DRESSED OUR latest pup Kona in vests to get him used to wearing hunting vests later in life, both for waterfowl and upland birds. But he was leery of things moving around him when he was young. At four months, when I started hunting quail with him and running him through Scotch broom and vine maple thickets, he sometimes became apprehensive. Tiffany came up with the idea of sewing loose pieces of material to the dog vest and running him in the fields. Kona didn’t like it at first, but it worked to get him used to it. On the next hunt, a few days after wearing his moving-parts vest, Kona did great, focusing on the birds and not the brush.

One day, at five months old, he tangled with a big, mature male. His wounds didn’t require stitches, just ointment and bandages. But the bandages were in a bad spot and wouldn’t stay on. One bite was on the front of the chest, the other on the underside of a front leg. We had to shave the areas and apply ointment, and Kona kept wanting to lick them. Putting a snug shirt on Kona kept the bandages in place and prevented him from licking and further irritating the areas. They quickly healed up.

MY 4-YEAR-OLD DOG Echo didn’t do well on a pheasant hunt a couple years ago, when she wore a new vest. The vest fit her well and was easy to see, but she just didn’t hunt right. It took me a while to figure out the vest was very noisy when Echo moved through dry habitat.

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COLUMN Getting pups accustomed to clothing is an important part of their development, and you can start very young. This will make the transition to wearing hunting vests go more smoothly. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

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She didn’t like that. I took it off and she instantly started hunting like her usual self. At home, I washed the vest to soften it up, and trained with Echo wearing it in short- and medium-height grass habitats. She did great, and soon we were back in the tall, dry brush, where she excelled. My mistake was not having practiced with the new vest before going on an actual hunt. I’ve learned now how sensitive dogs can be to things. The fact that Echo grew up wearing clothes helped make her vest-wearing experiences simple. Tiffany even gets the dogs Halloween costumes, which may not fit the mold of most gun-dog owners, but I don’t mind them wearing something, as it keeps them conditioned to new things. And the more moving parts there are on these costumes, the better. It gets the dogs used to wearing vests, working around moving brush, even retrieving big birds like geese and fall turkeys, which have necks, wings and tails that flail all over the place.

DRESSING GUN DOGS up may not be on most owners’ list of things to do with their hunting pups, but there is value in it. Whether it helps in healing wounds, or gets your dog used to wearing neoprene waterfowl vests, early dressup days will make the transitions smoother. Puppy clothes can be bought or homemade. My wife made our pups’ clothes from old baby clothes she had saved from when our sons were little. Kona, our 70-pound pudelpointer, now wears kids pajamas that my wife tailored to fit him. Nine to 10 weeks old isn’t too early to introduce your puppy to clothes. Don’t make a big deal of it, and don’t laugh or be loud if the dog reacts out of character, as this can scar them. When introducing clothes and hunting vests, make sure to keep the experience fun and positive. It will pay dividends down the road. NS Editor’s note: To watch Scott Haugen’s series of puppy training videos, visit scotthaugen.com. Haugen is the host of The Hunt, on Netflix. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter


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Midwinter Lull Good For Reloading, Gun Shopping W inter is when I like to settle down to some serious reloading of brass that’s been sitting around in boxes for ON TARGET By Dave Workman months, having been polished and, in the case of rifle brass, sized, trimmed and perhaps even primed. That said, I think the people at Hodgdon Powder and Lyman have me figured out. At late January’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas, they introduced some products that ought to delight anybody who brews their own.

MY RELOADING ACTIVITIES as spring looms will include .308 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield rifle loads, brewing up some .257 Roberts ammo for coyotes using 100-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips and a healthy dose of IMR 4895 powder, plus an assortment of .357 and .41 Magnums, .45 Colt (there is no such thing as a “.45 Long Colt”) and .45 ACP. Hodgdon introduced WinClean 244, a smokeless ball powder for reloading

some handgun cartridges, including g the g and 9mm, .38 Special and .45 ACP. Spring summer typically offer lots of competition tition opportunities, and now is the time to load up that brass for action over the horizon. zon. For the muzzleloading crowd, Hodgdon gdon ellets. has introduced Triple Seven FireStar pellets. acted This black powder substitute has attracted a strong following among muzzleloaders, aders, and the FireStar pellet is designed d for .50-caliber inline front-stuffers that use e No. 209 primers for ignition. These pelletss will me in be shipping this month and they come a 60-count clamshell package. Federal is offering four new .30-- and .270-caliber and 7mm/.284 Edge TLR hunting bullets for handloaders. If you’re looking for a new single-stage stage press, Lyman has introduced the Brass Smith Victory model. Built on a classic ic “O” frame from heavy-duty cast iron, this press has a sturdy 1-inch ram-and-compound ound ange linkage, and wears a tough orange powder-coat finish, which is something thing of a Lyman trademark color. It uses 7⁄8-by⁄8-by14 thread dies and accepts standard shell holders. The MSRP is less than $200, which ought to fit anybody’s budget, and before long – as I discovered many years and

BIG NEWS FROM INTERIOR Just as this month’s column was being prepared, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the creation of the national Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council. This group will ostensibly “provide the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture with advice regarding the establishment and implementation of existing and proposed policies and authorities with regard to wildlife and habitat conservation,” according to a press release. This council will look at encouraging partnerships among various interest groups, with an eye on benefiting hunting and recreational shooting opportunities. This council will be “strictly advisory,” the announcement stressed. Now here’s the good part: You get to nominate people to serve on this council. You can submit those nominations and/

Lyman’s new single-stage Brass Smith Victory press runs for less than $200 and will “pay for itself in savings from buying factory ammunition,” according to author Dave Workman. (LYMAN)

or comments to Joshua Winchell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Refuge System, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 220413803, or you can email Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke at a nominations to Joshua_ signing ceremony last year. (DOI) winchell@fws.gov. Some people don’t care for Zinke, but since he took the helm at Interior, he has reversed a last-minute order from the previous administration that would have banned lead ammunition and fishing tackle on U.S. National Wildlife Refuge system lands, and he’s expanded hunting and fishing opportunities on 10 NWRs. This council will have a two-year life span from the time the charter is filed unless it is renewed. –DW nwsportsmanmag.com | FEBRUARY 2018

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Ruger’s PC Carbine takedown model is chambered for 9mm cartridges and lists at $649. (RUGER) many thousands of rounds ago – it will ultimately pay for itself in savings from buying factory ammunition.

SPEAKING OF AMMUNITION, Federal has a bunch of new loads that cover a lot of bases. Keep your eye on dealer shelves, because if you burn factory ammo, these new entries should keep you busy. For handgunners, there’s a new 9mm Hydra-Shok 135-grain self-defense load, and a trio of new offerings in the Syntech lineup for NRA Action Pistol shooters in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

Hodgdon’s new Triple Seven FireStar pellets, a substitute for black powder, is designed for .50-caliber inline muzzleloaders that use No. 209 primers for ignition. (HODGDON)

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Looking ahead to spring turkey hunting, which isn’t that far off, there’s a new lineup of turkey loads called Grand Slam. There are 10 loads in the series, all featuring copper-plated shot with FliteControl Flex wads. Federal also announced a Gold Medal Grand Paper series of seven paper-hull 12-gauge loads with SoftCell wads and PrimerLock heads. There are six new 12- and 20-gauge additions to the Black Cloud line, all with FliteControl Flex wads. They’re offered with No. 1 or No. 3 shot. Waterfowlers can look ahead to fall and stock up on redesigned Speed-Shok steel loads. They feature a faster, cleanerburning propellant, according to Federal, and there are a whopping 48 different load choices. For people shopping around for a new gun – it won’t be long until those tax return checks start showing up for some of you! – Ruger recently announced a couple of new long guns. The PC Carbine is a takedown model chambered for pistol cartridges, and it has interchangeable magazine wells that will accept common Ruger and Glock magazines. The PC Carbine is chambered for 9mm cartridges and there are two models, both with 16.12-inch barrels. The MSRP is $649. The other Ruger could be a sizzler, not to mention an eye-catcher. It’s a new variation of the AR-556, and it’s a distributor-exclusive with a turquoise Cerakote finish. Chambered for the 5.56mm NATO round, it comes with a single 30-round magazine.

The new Ruger has a cold hammerforged 4140 chrome-moly steel barrel with a 1:8-inch rifling twist for bullets weighing between 35 and 77 grains. It’s got an adjustable post front sight and Rapid Deploy folding rear sight. It weighs a comfortable 6½ pounds and is available from TALO.

STATE CAPITOLS ALWAYS bear watching this time of year, and if you live in Washington, you might pay attention to House Bill 1134. This is the proposed “assault weapon” ban bill pushed by a dozen Democrat representatives at the request of anti-gun state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. He apparently wants to be the next governor, and zeroing in on your guns seems to be a steppingstone to that office. Under his legislation, this new AR-type rifle would be prohibited for sale in the Evergreen State. And there’s another piece of bad news for gun owners, Senate Bill 6146. At this writing, the bill had just been introduced and it is aimed at dismantling the state preemption law. That’s the statute that places all authority for regulating firearms in the hands of the Legislature. That’s so the gun laws are the same from Aberdeen to Asotin, and local governments – cities and counties – can’t write a bunch of confusing, and even conflicting, laws that seem more designed to entrap gun owners than stop criminals. The handful of legislators behind this thing are anti-gun Democrats, not to be confused with pro-rights Democrats from outside the Seattle region. At this writing, there were no Republican cosponsors on either bill, and it wasn’t likely. NS


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