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FISHING • HUNTING • NEWS NWSPORTSMANMAG.COM

Can a

Float Fisher

b become a

Flyrodder?

BBQ MORE

SPRINGERS!

Expert Tips For: Columbia, Cowlitz, Willamette PLUS:

Anchor Fishing Set-up! ALSO INSIDE

Spring Turkey Prep Last-gasp Winter Steelheading

TROUT TRIPS

KOKE FESTS

BULL BLASTS

Central WA Lakes

FDR, Chelan

Billy Chinook, N. Sound

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Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

Volume 11 • Issue 6 PUBLISHER James R. Baker

Your Complete Hunting, Boating, Fishing and Repair Destination Since 1948.

ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Dick Openshaw EDITOR Andy Walgamott LEAD CONTRIBUT0R Andy Schneider THIS ISSUE’S CONTRIBUTORS Frank Bellinger, Jason Brooks, Jerrod Gibbons, Dave Graybill, Scott Haugen, Wayne Heinz, Doug Huddle, Sara Ichtertz, Keith Jensen, MD Johnson, Randy King, Zach Mansfield, Buzz Ramsey, Troy Rodakowski, Mark Veary, Terry Wiest, Dave Workman EDITORIAL FIELD SUPPORT Jason Brooks GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins

ALUMAWELD INTRUDER

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Mamie Griffin, Steve Joseph, Garn Kennedy, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold PRODUCTION MANAGER Sonjia Kells DESIGNERS Michelle Hatcher, Sam Rockwell, Liz Weickum PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Kelly Baker OFFICE MANAGER/ACCOUNTING Audra Higgins COPY EDITOR/ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Katie Sauro INFORMATION SYSTEMS MANAGER Lois Sanborn

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WEBMASTER/DIGITAL STRATEGIST Jon Hines DIGITAL ASSISTANT Samantha Morstan CIRCULATION MANAGER Heidi Belew DISTRIBUTION Tony Sorrentino, Gary Bickford ADVERTISING INQUIRIES ads@nwsportsmanmag.com CORRESPONDENCE Email letters, articles/queries, photos, etc., to awalgamott@media-inc.com, or to the address below. ON THE COVER Dennis Harris hefts a Columbia River spring Chinook.

SMOKERCRAFT OSPREY

(ANDY SCHNEIDER)

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS The image on page 86 of the February 2017 issue misidentified the gentleman standing next to young steelheader Nate Ichtertz as his father. That was incorrect; it is a family friend named Josh. DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and get daily updates at nwsportsmanmag.com.

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MEDIA INDEX PUBLISHING GROUP 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


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Northwest Sportsman 9


CONTENTS

105

VOLUME 11 • ISSUE 6

BILLY CHINNOK BULLS

(ZACH MANSFIELD)

March is in need of more holidays, but for Oregon’s Mansfield family, the opening of bull trout season on the Metolius Arm might as well be one. Zach Mansfield shares how to fish Lake Billy Chinook, one of the West’s only fisheries for these char.

FEATURES 47

77

THE FINAL STRETCH As winter-run season comes to a close, our Sara Ichtertz returns from the coast to her home waters in search of wild upstream steelhead. COLUMBIA SPRINGERS: 3 GUIDES’ TIPS FOR SUCCESS Even with a down forecast, fishing for the year’s first Columbia kings is worth it, and David Johnson, Ted Teufel and Brandon Glass talk about how they plan to work the big river.

119 LAKE CHELAN KOKANEE As spring arrives, where the fjord’s fish will be changes, requiring anglers to adjust tactics. Jump

on board with Chelan koke derby angler Frank Bellinger to track the movements of these tasty salmon. 127 TRI-CITIES BASS CALENDAR Wayne Heinz has fishing logs like you wouldn’t believe – he mined 24 years worth of data to come up with this guide for what and where to fish for Columbia smallies, when. 138 BANKS LAKE SMALLIES Guide Keith Jensen usually works this Washington reservoir for walleye, but makes an exception in early spring for big prespawn smallies. Bone up for Banks Lake bassin’ with his Keith’s hot tips!

153 NORTHWEST TURKEY VEST With youth hunts and the general season right around the corner, our resident gobbler gunner MD Johnson sorts out what you need for that “camouflaged filing cabinet” that you might know better as your turkey hunting vest. 161 SNOW BIRDS This winter’s been snowier than recent ones – what does that mean for spring turkey season? The Willamette Valley’s Troy Rodakowski has some scouting ideas that should put you into some birds next month.

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 © 2015 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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COLUMNS (MARK VEARY)

ALASKA Fairbanks - Compeau’s (907.479.2271 or 800.478.7669) Anchorage - Dewey’s Cook Inlet (907.344.5092) Soldotna - River & Sea Marine (907.262.2690 or 907.262.7402) Petersburg - Rocky’s Marine (907.772.3949)

CALIFORNIA Escalon - Boat Country (209.838.2628)

IDAHO Boise - Idaho Marine (208.342.0639) Hayden - Mark’s Marine (888.821.2200) Lewiston - Valley Boat & Motor (208.743.2528)

ILLINOIS Calumet City - Calumet Marine (708.862.2407)

MINNESOTA m|;um-ঞom-Ѵ -ѴѴvŊ-7b†h t†brl;m|ķm1ĺ (218.286.0813)

MICHIGAN Coopersville - Lynden Sports Center (616.997.8888)

MONTANA Libby - Dream Marine (406.293.8142)

87 THE KAYAK GUYS T th b Truth be kknown, Mark was resting on past springer successes, and when a tough season came along, his catches suffered. With fewer fish this year, it will pay to heed our Portland kayak angler’s advice – much of which was gained during a breakthrough year with a low return. 55

BUZZ RAMSEY It’s time for 20-plus-pounders to arrive in Olympic Peninsula rivers, and Buzz sets us up with expert tips for catching some of those trophy-caliber steelhead.

99

63

SOUTH SOUND With its mix of last chances and first shots, March is a great time to get out after winter’s final steelhead and spring’s initial shot of Cowlitz Chinook.

109 CENTRAL WASHINGTON With this month marking go-time for trout anglers to head to many lakes across the Columbia Basin, Dave previews the best bets.

69

CHEF IN THE WILD A trip to deepest Central Idaho and a stroll through the ethnic aisle of the grocery store yield the ingredients for Chef Randy’s latest creation – a recipe for grilled steelhead garnished with a Mediterranean twist.

Missoula - Gull Boats & RV (406.549.6169 Great Falls - Wallace Marine (406.453.9392)

OHIO "_;L;Ѵ7-h;Ŋ ub;-ubm;"-Ѵ;v (216.789.2419)

OREGON Eugene - Clemens Marina (541.688.5483) Gladstone - Clemens Marina (503.655.0160) Portland - Clemens Marina (503.283.1712) Kalamath Falls - Pelican Marine (541.882.5834) Coos Bay - Y Marina (541.888.5501)

WASHINGTON Colville - Clark’s All Sports (509.684.5069) Pasco - Northwest Marine & Sport 509.545.5586) Mt. Vernon - Tom-N-Jerry’s Boat Center (360.466.9955) Port Townsend - Westside Marine (360.385.1488) Shelton - Verle’s Sports Center & Marine (360.426.0933)

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95

WESTSIDER Looking to make his fishing great again, our resident bobber lobber Terry dug out his drift fishing gear, as well as picked up the fly rod. How has he fared while waving the wand?

NORTH SOUND With opportunities increasingly limited, Doug digs deep for something to fish for in March – Skagit and Stilly bull trout, sea-run cutts and sturgeon.

115 PRO’S CORNER Marking his debut as a columnist, fishing guide and hunting outfitter Jerrod Gibbons takes us to Lake Roosevelt, where the rainbow and kokanee prospects shine in March. 165 GUN DOGGIN’ 101 They’re taboo subjects, but come naturally for your new gun dog – Scott shares his potty training tips for pups. 169 ON TARGET New guns and ammo revealed at January’s SHOT Show impressed Dave – he details his faves.


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22

THE BIG PIC: TRUE LAY OF THIS LAND

Didn’t get your deer? Don’t worry, that unnotched tag can still provide nourishment for next season, if you follow this recipe carefully.

(DNR)

Lidar reveals Earth without all its makeup, and recently released data covering his Washington fishing and hunting grounds sends the editor into ecstasy.

DEPARTMENTS

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19

THE EDITOR’S NOTE

21

CORRESPONDENCE Reader reactions to recent news

27

READER PHOTOS FROM THE FIELD Your steelhead, sturgeon, spinyrays, rainbows and more!

33

PHOTO CONTEST WINNERS Browning, Fishing monthly prizes

37

THE DISHONOR ROLL 3 Oregon poachers sentenced; Warrant issued for Union Co. elk poaching suspect; Jackass of the Month

39

DERBY WATCH Northwest Ice Fishing Festival, Roche Harbor Salmon Classic results; NW Salmon Derby Series schedule

43

OUTDOOR CALENDAR Upcoming openers, closures; NW sportsmen’s and boat shows schedule

43

BIG FISH Record Northwest game fish caught this month

85

RIG OF THE MONTH From the Vault: Springer anchor fishing set-ups


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THEEDITOR’SNOTE

Afternoon sun shines on Astoria during the 2014 Buoy 10 fishery. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

W

ell, that was interesting four weeks. The events that occurred between the time we put out our February issue and wrapped up work on this one left me with a pretty good case of whiplash. Let’s rewind to mid-January. That’s when the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to continue forward with reforming Columbia salmon fisheries, a victory for conservation that was shortlived. Less than a week later, Oregon’s citizen oversight panel went the opposite way, backtracking on the deal to phase out gillnetting on the mainstem, increasing commercial impacts on threatened Snake River fall Chinook, and sending nearly 100 years of concurrent management of the shared Columbia into question. It got worse. Along with news that 340,000 Cowlitz River summer steelhead smolts couldn’t be accounted for following last May’s release for return in 2018, we started hearing rumors that Washington’s two most sport-friendly commissioners were on the governor’s chopping block. With all that, as well as fears over how this summer’s salmon seasons might shape up, the specter of another bruising round of state-tribal North of Falcon negotiations, and WDFW’s fee increase proposal as a backdrop, the single-most optimistic angler in all of Northwest fishingdom – the guy with an omega3-fueled permagrin – was the most pessimistic I’d ever seen him. It all felt like the train was coming off the tracks, which were themselves coming off the rail bed.

BUT AS DARK as things were then at the snowy Northwest Pole, good things were also in the works. In mid-January, the National Marine Fisheries Service finalized its biological opinion for operating Mitchell Act hatcheries in the Columbia Basin. The Wild Fish Conservancy quietly motioned that it didn’t want to pursue its pending preliminary injunction against NMFS, and the feds quickly disbursed funding to hatchery operators. True, the biop will reduce releases of tule Chinook in the lower river, but there are also gains on the springer and coho side. And then, in an extraordinary February letter, Oregon Governor Kate Brown told the Fish and Wildlife Commission that its vote on Columbia salmon reforms was “not acceptable” and gave the members a deadline of April 3 to fix it. Now, I’ve got the beer cooling and fireworks ready to shoot off, but we’re going to hold off on those until we see what the commission ultimately does. Still, it was a bright spot at a time that anglers and the sportfishing industry needed it most. –Andy Walgamott

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CORRESPONDENCE NORTHERNS IN A NOT-GOOD LOCATION Tribal biologists collecting data on Lake Washington’s bass and walleye populations caught an unexpected predator, northern pike, raising fears about how this new species might impact the water’s salmon stocks. “What kind of bucket biologist would do some crap like this!” Te Clark demanded to know after we posted the news on Facebook. Jerry Day answered, “A stupid one that doesn’t understand the harm he’s causing!”“What difference does it make?” Tony Limon wondered. “You don’t get a salmon season anyway.” That didn’t sit well with Dave Alverson, who responded, “Pike will end the fishery.” A state bio thinks the habitat isn’t quite right for northerns, but still, here’s hoping the Muckleshoots caught the one and only northern illegally dumped in the lake.

BATTLE FOR PUBLIC LANDS When Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz withdrew a bill that would have disposed of around 180,000 acres of federal land in Oregon and Idaho and millions elsewhere, we tipped our hat to him for doing so, as well as to the Northwest sportsmen and others who had railed against it. That was one hat tip too many for Kurt Lewis – who said Chaffetz had been “trying to sneak something by. Only withdrawn because of sportsman backlash” – as well as Chad Durkee. “Let’s not get too excited and complacent,” wrote Durkee. “HR 622 is still on.” It would put U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management law enforcement officers out of work and hand block grants to states to take over their duties, weakening already overstretched county deputies and wildland protections.

FAMED ACCESS SITE TRASHED Lewis Street has a special place in the editor’s heart, so it was painful for the longtime Skykomish steelheader to learn how trashed the access site just outside Monroe had become after as many as 80 drug addicts and others made an encampment on the river’s south bank. Responding to our post, Shane Young worried, “If it floods, all the garbage will be swept downriver,” while Brian Waugh lamented, “Used to swim down there. Now I can’t take my kids because we might step on a dirty needle, or get accosted by some junkie … Hopefully all this publicity helps.” Exactly.

MOST LIKED READER PIC WE HUNG UP ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE DURING THIS ISSUE’S PRODUCTION CYCLE Aiden Thompson of Port Angeles picked up his first steelhead on a smaller OlyPen river, and readers loved it. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

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PICTURE

The True Lay Of Our Land

Lidar helps geologists and others spot potential hazards such as areas at risk of landslides, but also provides unseen details of our fishing and hunting grounds. By Andy Walgamott

T

rib 87 was troublesome. The tiny stream that feeds the Sammamish Slough vexed the city of Woodinville during the years I covered my hometown for the local weekly newspaper. If memory serves, the city council and business folks had visions of developing the area where the creek spilled off tony Hollywood Hill and met the

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valley near Chateau Ste. Michelle and the Redhook Brewery, but where the floodprone tributary should be tucked away out of sight and out of mind was problematic. When it was put into a concrete raceway along 148th just north of the old schoolhouse, someone promptly stuck their car in it. When it was dewatered, a handful of dead fingerlings unexpectedly turned up in a low spot. Even though I’ve forgotten much

from those cub reporting days, I distinctly remember an exasperated council member turning to me and asking where I thought Trib 87’s historic channel was located. I could see it plain as day: everywhere within a quarter mile of where it poured off the hillside onto the valley floor. That’s where Trib 87 (now known as Derby Creek) acted as an alluvial fan. The rise of the land towards that point told me


The Washington Department of Natural Resources earlier this year made public its Lidar mapping. Lidar stands for light detection and ranging; using airplanes, lasers and computers it strips away vegetation to reveal the true lay of the land, including the exquisite braided rivers, perched benches and mountainsides around Darrington. (DNR)

Lakes lodged amongst low, longitudinal hills mark where the Great Glacier that came down from Canada in the last ice age made a southeasterly course correction. This area is near Monroe, and similar landscapes occur on the Kitsap Peninsula. (DNR)

Not far to the east of DNR’s home office is this interesting complex above the lower Nisqually River (that’s the I-5 crossing at top). In the hummocks at bottom sits Lake St. Clair, a kettle formed when ice from the glacier that covered Puget Sound was surrounded by its runoff. (DNR) that since the Great Berg melted back to Canada, rain, snow and gravity had been doing their best to flush the hillside across what would eventually become the city’s tourist district.

A TRAINED GEOMORPHOLOGIST I’m not, I will admit, but I do have more than a passing interest in Northwest landscapes. I’ve spent several decades exploring them, fishing them, hunting them, photographing them, reading about them, wondering about them, poring over maps of them. Speaking of maps, give me one and I

am taken away. Doesn’t matter where it is, what it shows, what language it’s in, they suck me in. One of my wife Amy’s recipes is written on the back of a map of somewhere in the country she was born in, Germany. The 4-inch by 4-inch snippet shows some dorf and surrounding landschaft in exquisite detail – I could stare at it until the oven timer beeps and not get bored. So as you can imagine I was enthralled earlier this winter when the Washington Department of Natural Resources posted Lidar imagery for large swathes of Washington. Lidar stands for light detection and ranging, and without going

into all the techy stuff about how it all works, it’s basically X-ray vision. People flying around in airplanes use lasers and computers to see through the Earth’s clothes, which is to say the trees, shrubs and whatnot it’s swaddled in, producing a map that shows the true land of the land. It really shines in well-watered Western Washington. Where on the Eastside, topographic features such as the Missoula Floods’ giant ripple marks on the Wenatchee area’s Crescent Bar stand out because the sagebrush only grows so high, vegetation hides all on the Westside. Well, did. nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

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MIXED BAG FOR A WEEK right after DNR’s early January launch of the site (lidarportal.dnr.wa.gov), after our boys were in bed I spent my evening free time zooming around my favorite spots covered by the data, moaning in exaggerated delight (to Amy’s increasing disgust) at what the subtle silver shading showed me. Ancient river terraces, entrenched meanders, gigantic Ice Age channels, abandoned runoff deltas facing into the Cascades, fluted drumlin fields, mysterious mounds, wavecut beaches high above Puget Sound, the zigzag of logging roads up steep mountainsides, fault lines, scarps and landslides, and more hidden features were all suddenly visible. One of the most interesting things I found was a series of pinpricks near Mount Rainier, revealed as if the Earth could no longer keep a little heroin habit secret. Eventually I realized they were likely artifacts of old coal mines near Carbonado. Well to the north, in the forests of Larrabee State Park were anticlines and

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synclines worthy of the Appalachians, and cupping narrow lakes that Doug Huddle wrote about fishing in his North Sound column last May. In central Snohomish County, bassand trout-rich Flowing, Panther and Storm Lakes sit among a field of long, low, coneshaped hills that mark where the glacier bent towards the southeast to fill up the Skykomish Valley clear back to just east of Reiter Ponds. Speaking of the Sky, down at its lower end a series of oxbows amongst the cow pastures of the Tualco Valley make me wonder if that river and not the much closer Snoqualmie was responsible for digging out what is today Crescent Lake. The vast flats between Tacoma, the town of Rainier and Olympia are revealed to be a complex mix of supersized channels that sent Pugetropolis runoff through Grays Harbor, and rumpilyfrumpily ground where great bergs were surrounded by runoff and filled to become Lake St. Clair and other kettles we fish today.

Ahh, I literally could go on forever, but let me wrap up in Darrington, deep in the Cascades. I was out there on the last weekend in January that the Sauk was open for fishing and had hooked a couple bull trout and was trying for something shinier. But I couldn’t help casting back in my mind to the Lidar maps I’d seen of where the river once turned left down the valley of the North Fork Stilly but now plows north in a great side to side milling of boulders, gravel, sand and glacial grit, speaking to deep time and earth processes that are mostly obscured from view, save for the subtle bar I walked up to a hole I hoped hid a steelhead. At press time, DNR had released one third of its Lidar data, with the rest due out at the end of this month. While meant for scientists, engineers, planners and others (for more see dnr.wa.gov/lidar), it also lets us see the true land of this land we fish and hunt, revealing its secrets and ever deeper mysteries – what’s up with those thin lines across the western shoulder of Mt. Haystack above the Sky? NS


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READER PHOTOS Huge smiles and great catches for lunker largie lander Lily Hunicutt and her panfish popping sister Hannah. They were fishing a small pond in western Whatcom County. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Janae Brock caught this beautiful wild hen while side-drifting eggs on a Southern Oregon river with Jen and Randy Wells of Oregon Fishing Adventure. (FISHING

We show off a lot of firsts in these pages, but seconds are pretty special too! Parker King hooked this winter-run on the upper Wilson River during a great weekend of steelheading with his dad in late January. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

PHOTO CONTEST)

For your shot at winning great fishing and hunting products from Northwest Sportsman and Browning, send your full-resolution, original images with all the pertinent details – who’s in the pic and their hometown; when and where they were; what they caught their fish on/weapon they used to bag the game; and any other details you’d like to reveal (the more, the merrier!) – to 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 use in our print and internet publications. nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

Northwest Sportsman 27


READER PHOTOS

^

Remington Wiebe loves fishing Lake Roosevelt for its winter rainbows. She caught this nice one from the shore while out with her Uncle Tim. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Ashley Burows (left) and Natalie Travis are avid anglers in the Tri-Cities who like to fish for different species, but they teamed up for sturgeon last summer, a day that yielded Burows’ first diamondside and this keeper for Travis. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

It’s not just fish that get hooked – anglers do too. Mike Smith says that’s the case after his bro Travis caught his first steelhead, on the Skykomish River earlier this winter. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

^

^

“Walleye popsicle,” anyone? Jerry Han and his crew braved a snowstorm on the Columbia near Tri-Cities to load the deck with tasty if not also flash-frozen fish. They were out with guide TJ Hester, and Han reports 3 inches of snow fell on them. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

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READER PHOTOS

^

With the .243 that her grandfather gave her for her 11th birthday, Grace Smith made a “perfect” shot on this Eastern Washington four-point muley on last year’s rifle opener. It was her first time deer hunting. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Summer fishing on Newman Lake near Spokane was productive and fun for this husband-and-wife duo. That’s Ken McNaughton with a 15-inch crappie and his wife of 33 years, Joy, with her 23-inch largemouth. Both fish were caught on small jigs tipped with grubs. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

^

Cody the Lab made his first complete retrieve this past season, bringing back this green-winged teal and making master Bud Trubshaw pretty darn proud. They were hunting private land on Clear Lake, in Northwest Washington’s Skagit County. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

The fishing was where it was at for Macie Smith, here holding a pair of Wedding Ring-and-worm-biting Rock Lake rainbows, but truth be known, Cooper enjoyed the shore lunch of marshmallows and hot dogs a bit more, reports their gramps, Larry Kile. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

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Be Prepared with the Best.

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PHOTO CONTEST

WINNERS! The Photo Contest Judge likes perseverance, and so Amy Hensley, who landed this Columbia fall Chinook with her arm in a sling, is this issue’s monthly Fishing Photo Contest winner. It wins her a pile of loot from the overstuffed office of our editor!

Jeff Boulet’s pic of his opening-day Okanogan County mule deer is this issue’s Browning Photo Contest winner. It wins him a Browning hat.

Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

For your shot at winning Browning and fishing products, send your photos and pertinent (who, what, when, where) details to awalgamott@ 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 | MARCH 2017

Northwest Sportsman 33


Best of B.C. Featured Lodge Of The Month

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WHY IS THE FISHING SO GOOD IN TAHSIS? The answer is Esperanza Inlet and Nootka Sound have been involved in an intense Salmon Enhancement Program for six years. This consists of river and stream rehabilitation projects, volunteer hatchery programs and collaborative agreement processes with the local Conuma Federal Hatchery that has increased the release of Chinook fry by 25%. All of this results in a release of approximately 6 million Chinook salmon fry annually in the local waters. The 3 “P” – Projects, Programs and Process

– have produced some of the best salmon fishing/catching on all of West Coast Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Westview Marina’s Salmon Enhancement Derby has raised over $280,000 over the past 12 years, and all of these funds have contributed to the 3 “P” objective. Join in the fun and fundraising of this year’s derby, running August 25-26. Email info@ westviewmarina.com for more details. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is projecting a better return than the five-year

average to Esperanza Inlet and Nootka Sound, thanks to these enhancement efforts. DFO also anticipates that approximately 50% of the Springs/Kings returning in the 2017 season in the region will be age 4, and approximately 4% will be 5- and 6-year-olds. It is likely that the 2017 season will see lots of Tyees (30+ pound Chinooks) in the Esperanza Inlet and Nootka Sound Fishery. So change out the old fishing line, lube up the reels, sharpen up all of the hooks and get ready for one of the better fishing/catching seasons!

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36 Northwest Sportsman

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MIXED BAG

Man Caught With 2 Extra Deer Last Fall Sentenced A man found with two deer and the hunting license of another person was sentenced to pay $2,000 and won’t be doing any hunting whatsoever the next few seasons. Hunter D. Johnson, 19, of Noti was pulled over by a county deputy last October, and during the stop the officer found a doe and a spike in the bed of his pickup. Both had been shot that day, including one with a .22-caliber rifle, but Johnson had already filled his tag earlier in the season. In mid-January, the Oregon State

Police reported Johnson pleaded guilty to unlawfully borrowing a deer tag, shooting a doe without a valid tag, exceeding the bag limit, killing a spike without a valid tag, and using a prohibited firearm to shoot the buck. Johnson is on probation for three years and can’t go even go hunting with others during that time. The deer were donated to a Florencearea church for needy local families. Two rifles Johnson had in his possession during the stop were foreited to OSP.

Lane Co. Men Sentenced For Spotlighting, Poaching T wo southern Willamette Valley men won’t be hunting for three years after pleading guilty to spotlighting a blacktail last fall. Oregon State Police say that Scott M. Blachly of Springfield and Kevin D. Neu of Eugene were initially spotted by troopers after dark on Nov. 4 shining a light on Weyerhaeuser lands in the Booth Kelly area. With help from an aerial unit, troopers closed the gap on the duo, but they shot a three-pointer and were bringing it to a vehicle when officers arrived at the scene. In late January, Blachly, 40, pled guilty

to unlawful hunting and taking a deer with an artificial light, and was sentenced to pay a fine of $1,000 to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and put on probation for three years. His rifle and spotlight were ordered to be forfeited. Earlier in the month, Neu, also 40, pled guilty to unlawful aid and taking a deer with an artificial light, and was sentenced to pay $1,000 to the Oregon Hunters Association’s antipoaching efforts, as well as put on probation for 36 months. Meat from the blacktail went to a local charity to help feed needy families.

JACKASS OF THE MONTH

T

here’s catching one too many and being a few fish over the possession limit, but a Wisconsin man went overboard. Way overboard. Press reports state that Stanley Paalksnis was found with 2,066 bluegils, 418 yellow perch and 88 crappie at his home and in his boat. Under Badger State law, the possession limit for each species is 50. This doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident of a hot bite getting out of hand for Mr. Paalksnis, who is known to Wisconsin game wardens from previous overlimits cases. Apparently the 74-year-old sold the fish in Chicago at five bucks a sack. Not that the regulation pamphlet appears to phase Paalksnis much, but he faces a 12-year fishing ban, and also a fine of at least $10,000.

By Andy Walgamott

Warrant Out For NE OR Poaching Suspect A

warrant has been issued for a suspect in the poaching of two bull elk in Northeast Oregon last fall. With Nathan Crouch of Elgin at large at press time, the Union County District Attorney’s put out an arrest warrant for him. The 26-year-old faces misdemeanor charges that according to the Oregon State Police include: • two counts of unlawful taking of a bull elk; • casting a light within 500 feet of a vehicle; • hunting with the aid of a motor vehicle; • hunting prohibited hours, two counts for waste of a game animal; • and hunting on the enclosed lands of another and hunting prohibited areapublic roadway. Two other suspects in the illegal shooting and wastage of the elk the night of Nov. 15 were charged with three counts of aiding Nathan Crouch. (OSP) in a game violation, also misdemeanors. As wildlife troopers investigated the case, they also discovered that Crouch had illegally shot a big bull several years ago. The antlers were seized, but as the statute of limitations was up, he can only be charged with unlawfully possessing its rack. Anyone with information on Crouch’s location is being asked to contact OSP Senior State Trooper Marcus McDowell at (541) 531-5906 or email him at marcus. mcdowell@state.or.us. Tips can remain confidential, according to OSP.

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Best of B.C. Lodges, Charters and Guides • Exchange Rate 0.78 US*

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 2017 season. The dates we have selected for our 2017 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 2017.This will be a 4 night/5 day package and will include up to 40 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…$1875.00 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 in your local fish department, you will easily be able to pay for your trip. You are allowed 2 halibut in possession with a combined weight of 100 pounds, 6 Ling Cod in possession and 8 salmon in possession. Last season we were catching Ling Cod up to 50 pounds. Come and fill your freezers!

*Subject to change


By Andy Walgamott

Thomas On Top Again

N

ames familiar to faithful Derby Watch page readers placed highly at a high-dollar mid-January blackmouth derby in the San Juan Islands. Jerry Thomas took home $10,000 for his 14th Annual Roche Harbor Salmon Classic-winning 18.12-pound Chinook, and his fishing partner Larry Quesnell came in fourth and fifth with 13.4and 12.8-pounders, good for $3,000. The Mount Vernon duo won three straight Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derbies, including the 2015 edition. The Classic, held Jan. 20-21, saw a record 296 blackmouth caught, but only one came within 3 pounds of Thomas’s fish, Tim Linderman’s second-place Chinook, a 15.15 good for $5,000. Third place and $3,000 went to Miles Harris for a 13.5. Biggest boat haul was 68.14 pounds for guide Derek Floyd and crew, yielding $2,000. A total of 347 anglers riding in 100 boats participated in the derby, which was held sunny skies with a bit of wind the first day. Catch on both days was pretty close, 156 and 140 blackmouth, which are immature kings. If any of those had been a 30-pounder, the lucky angler would have scored an additional $30,000. According to the Skagit Valley Herald, this year marks three in a row that Mount Vernon-based anglers have won the Roche Harbor event, held out of this northern San Juan Island port. Thomas caught his fish in Thatcher Pass pretty early on in the first day, then held on to win. He told the Herald there was a bit of luck involved – Quesnell fancies eight as a lucky number and their boat flag number was 88.

Jerry Thomas and partner Larry Quesnell have owned the Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby referred to on their hats, and they brought that domination to the Roche Harbor Salmon Classic in January, placing first and four-five. (ROCHE HARBOR SALMON CLASSIC)

ONGOING AND UPCOMING EVENTS 

Through mid-March: Boggan’s Spring Steelhead Derby, Washington’s Grande Ronde River between Oregon border and Highway 129; info: boggans.com

2017 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES 

March 18: Everett Blackmouth Derby July 14-16: Bellingham Salmon Derby  July 26-30: The Big One Salmon Derby  Aug. 5: South King County PSA Salmon Derby  Aug. 12: Gig Harbor PSA Salmon Derby  Aug. 26: Columbia River Fall Salmon Derby  Aug. 26-27: Vancouver Chinook Classic  Sept. 2: Willapa Bay Salmon Derby  Sept. 9: Edmonds Coho Derby  Sept. 23-24: Everett Coho Derby  Nov. 4-5: Bayside Marine Salmon Derby  Nov. 30-Dec. 2: Friday Harbor Salmon Classic  Jan. 5-7, 2018: Resurrection Salmon Derby For more information, see nwsalmonderbyseries.com. 

Tim Linderman placed second with his 15.15-pound blackmouth. (ROCHE HARBOR SALMON CLASSIC)

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Pete Valentine of Oroville, Wash., shows off his winning catch from the 13th Annual Northwest Ice Fishing Festival. (ROBIN STICE, EDEN VALLEY GUEST RANCH)

5½-pound ’Bow Wins Ice Derby

A

rainbow trout that accounted for 15 percent of the total poundage weighed in won the 13th Annual Northwest Ice Fishing Festival in North-central Washington. Pete Valentine of nearby Oroville caught the whopper, a 5-pound, 3-ouncer, at Sidley Lake, winning the $1,000 grand prize. He also caught a 9.9-ounce brookie, which was the event’s smallest. Overall, 106 anglers weighed 18 trout that tallied 36.3 pounds. Participation was up over last year, but the catch was down. Valentine’s big ’bow was larger than recent years’ winners’ two-fish catches. The derby is held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend and is organized by the Oroville Chamber and Eden Valley Guest Ranch. It includes activities in the Grange Hall in Molson, a historic ghost town once the center of mining in the Okanogan Highlands.

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Best of B.C.

OUTDOOR

Brought to you by:

CALENDAR MARCH 1

Lake Billy Chinook’s Metolius Arm opens for fishing; Numerous Eastern Washington lakes open for fishing Lingcod season opens in Washington’s Marine Areas 1-4 (except Area 4 east of BonillaTatoosh Line, which remains open year-round) Last day of bobcat, fox, raccoon, rabbit and hare season in Washington Family Fishing Event, Devils Lake Regatta Park in Lincoln City – info: odfwcalendar.com Last day 2016-17 Washington fishing, hunting licenses valid

11 15 18 31

APRIL 1

1-2 8 8-9 8-14 15 22 29

Youth Turkey Hunting Clinic, White River Wildlife Area, (registration, $10) – info: odfwcalendar.com; Family Fishing Event (youth only), Canby Pond in Canby – info: odfwcalendar.com; New Washington fishing, hunting licenses required; Opening day for special-permit bear hunts in select Oregon and Washington units Washington youth turkey hunting weekend Family Fishing Events, Row River Nature Park and Shorty’s Pond in Cottage Grove and Molalla – info: odfwcalendar.com Oregon youth turkey hunting weekend Idaho youth turkey hunting week General spring turkey season opener in Idaho, Oregon and Washington; Opening day of Washington and many Oregon special-permit bear hunts; Family Fishing Event, St. Louis Ponds in Gervais – info: odfwcalendar.c-om Family Fishing Events, Olalla Res. and Trojan Pond in Toledo and Prescott – odfwcalendar.com Family Fishing Events, Bikini and Sheridan Ponds in Mosier and Sheridan – odfwcalendar.com

UPCOMING BOAT AND SPORTSMEN’S SHOWS MARCH 2-5 2-5 3-5 10-11 10-12 16-19 31-4/2

Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show, Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, Redmond; otshows.com Idaho Sportsman Show, Expo Idaho, Boise; idahosportsmanshow.com BC Boat & Sportsmen’s Show, and BC Hunting Show 2017, TRADEX, Abbotsford; masterpromotions.ca Northwest Fly Tyer & Fly Fishing Expo, Linn County Expo Center, Albany; nwexpo.com Great Rockies Sport Show, Adams Center, Missoula, Mont.; greatrockiesshow.com Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show, Spokane County Fair & Expo Center, Spokane; bighornshow.com Great Rockies Sport Show, Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, Bozeman, Mont.; greatrockiesshow.com

APRIL 7-9

Monroe Sportsman Show, Evergreen State Fairgrounds, Monroe, Wash.; monroesportsmanshow.com

RECORD NORTHWEST GAME FISH CAUGHT THIS MONTH Date 3-6-84 3-14-81 3-25-89

Species Pacific cod Pile surfperch Bull trout

Lbs. (-Oz.) 19.63 3.57 23-2

Water Ediz Hook (WA) Quartermaster Hbr. (WA) L. Billy Chinook (OR)

Angler Ralph Bay Steve Urban Don Yow

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Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show 3/16-3/19 • Brought To You By TEARDROPS NW

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MARCH 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com


FISHING

The Final Stretch

As winter steelhead season nears an end, Sara returns from the coast to fish her home waters inland. By Sara Ichtertz

A

s the coastal runs draw cold and hints of spring begin to flirt with the final stretch of winter, one thing comes to my mind: home waters, and the fact that it’s time to fish them. Upriver steelhead and their incredible journey are special. They travel nearly 200 miles and still are just as resilient as any wild fish you could ever hope to hook. Each fish tells its own story, and the strength and beauty they possess after such a journey never ceases to amaze me. They’re wild and the place that they call home does them justice. I feel a true connection with this river, to these fish, and the people I share it with. I absolutely love that they are the final stretch of my winter season.

HEADLAMPS LEAD THE way as the stars beam bright. The air is fresh, crisp and cold as we reach the riverbank, where we hear what is to me the most beautiful sound in all of nature – the powerful and constant roar of a river. Her power runs through me. I am in my element and I am ready to get my day underway. The creature I am in pursuit of surfaces, letting me know that they are indeed here as well. These feelings that the river brings to my soul truly are indescribable, and as I rest my pack and rods on the rocks I feel a true sense of euphoria come over me. Making sure everything is exactly as I want it, we wait. As the light of day begins to hit the river, the fog is still bedded tightly against winter’s water, and I know that this is exactly where I am meant to be.

Just as wild winter-runs are reaching the destinations of their upstream journeys, seasons for these magnificent fish that are such a centerpiece nowadays for author Sara Ichtertz are coming into their final stretch. She’s received great guidance from friend Brian, a junior high classmate and river rat. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

The winter fish we pursue in this final stretch are no cookie-cutter hatchery program kind of steelhead. No, they are wild in every sense of the word! Each so perfectly detailed

in its own beautiful way, not one alike, I am willing to bet my last cent that I will never forget a single one of them. How great that first headshake felt! How hard they nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

Northwest Sportsman 47


FISHING

fought! How happy they made me feel. How we shared that incredible moment, and how much I loved letting them swim away.

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Where once Sara was most comfortable drift fishing, she’s become proficient with a bobber and loves watching her float drain as another steelhead bites her offering. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

The fishing itself is on a way more personal level at this point in the run too. Fishing with my guys, my husband, my boy, and a couple of

my best friends, even in silence we are having the greatest time of our lives. We listen to the river, and are never disappointed by the wildlife that surrounds us. Nor by the bobbers that never cease to stop draining! When I decided I was in fact going to learn how to fish, I of course thought I would try my river. After all, I have spent my entire life on it. But I realized straight away on my first run that I wasn’t just going to show up and catch a chromer like I did at the coast. My river’s volume and mass is one that you will not see every day. Finding the bottom is a feat all on its own, and learning to read and fish it successfully has taken me a couple years. This river pushes me to be at my best if I intend to catch fish. It forced me outside the comfort of drift fishing and into the world of jigs and bobbers. Even though there is something very right to me about bouncing along the bottom and feeling the bite, I have to say that seeing a float go under definitely is exhilarating. I love how it leaves no room for question – ditch the slack and set that hook now! Set it like you mean it and that magnificent headshake will be waiting for you.


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FISHING “Fish!” Oh, how I love it.

I FEEL VERY fortunate that my friend has such confidence in his float game. I believe that if anyone truly understands my love for the rivers it’s Brian. He and I were best friends in junior high, and amazingly enough the river brought us back together nearly three years ago. What I have learned from him since is priceless. Brian’s entire world revolves around the fish. In a sense mine does as well, but not quite like his. I have life priorities as a mom, a wife, and to my family that without a doubt have to come before the rivers. Brian, on the other hand, has one priority: the fish, and where he will be hunting for them. Everything else in life just isn’t as important to him, and in some crazy way I am semienvious that by living with very little he leads a life full of passion, one where the rivers and weather

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call the shots of his day. He is not obligated to corporations, to loved ones, to anything but that water. It’s a rare thing seeing somebody live the lifestyle he lives, where his success doesn’t determine his happiness but rather his happiness determines his success. I love that about him and feel lucky to have such a friend to share the river with.

IT’S FUNNY HOW even though we are great friends and I truly love our time on the water together, it’s different when we fish at home. Fishermen are funny creatures in the way we think about that untouched water, how we want to deliver that first, most delicious presentation of the day, and how we would like nothing more than to have that wild winter beauty take it and light up our life. I know Brian wants to be there first. Most of the time I gladly let him claim it, though once or twice a run I usually manage to pleasantly surprise him

when he thinks someone has beat him to the hole. No, silly! It’s just me! Watching him fish for those most incredible wild creatures helps me on many levels. His ability with the float and rod is something I have had to stop and take notice of. Knowing there is a time and a place for each method is crucial. Trusting in the teachers the river brings into your life is almost as crucial as actually putting those methods to work. Little by little I continue to set goals for myself and I continue to learn. I am thankful that this big beautiful river isn’t one I have had to travel long distances to fish. She hasn’t been the easiest to conquer. Given loads of passion and drive I can now fish this river in the winter with success. I can share those epic days upriver with my boy, and I am thankful. Learning how to fish that big water together successfully creates this bond for a mother and son that I’m not sure too many people truly


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Northwest Sportsman 51


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A montage of memories from the waning days of winter steelheading with family and friends and a few fish. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

experience. I realize how fortunate I am to have this bond; it is by far one of my greatest treasures. The final fish of the run last winter was Nate’s. At six years old he made his dad’s eyes light up like never before as he watched his son rock that wild hen’s world! We shared with him how to handle these wild creatures with respect and care, and why that’s so important. Letting him feel the love that we have for these fish is huge, but seeing that he gets it is priceless.

I PLAYED ON the banks of this river all of my life. Frolicking, rock hunting, swimming, spending many a day on that bank, I never knew my true passion was patiently waiting for me just beneath its surface. Discovering these fish and sharing them with this handful of my favorite people makes me feel complete and ever grateful for this river that I call home. I believe we should love them, but leave them wild. Take in what we are able to embrace as anglers, love it for all that it is worth, and never take one moment on the river for granted. Finishing such an incredible run of fish in the place where it all began feels right. This very place is the reason why my heart is on the river, and I couldn’t change it even if I tried. NS Editor’s note: For more on Sara’s adventures, see For The Love Of The Tug on Facebook. 52 Northwest Sportsman

MARCH 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com


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54 Northwest Sportsman

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COLUMN

March finds steelheaders doing what they have to do to get on the rivers of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, home to the biggest winter-runs in the Northwest. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

20-plus Time I

f your dream is to catch a trophy-size steelhead, March is the month and the rivers draining into the BUZZ RAMSEY Pacific Ocean from Washington’s Olympic Peninsula are the place to be. Truthfully, you could catch a 20-pluspound steelhead on many of the dozens upon dozens of winter- and summer-run rivers throughout the Pacific Northwest. But the further north you go, the better your chances, which is what makes the West End a destination for anglers across

the region seeking a quality experience and the opportunity to capture what could be a once-in-a-lifetime fish. What makes plentiful numbers of wild steelhead possible is the fact that virtually every major peninsula river originates inside Olympic National Park, where watersheds are in pretty much pristine condition compared to those in other, more developed areas of the Northwest. The park encompasses close to a million acres of territory, including glacier-capped mountains, old-growth rain forests, and, of course, fish-friendly rivers. Due to its centralized location, Forks is the hub for anglers and guides who frequent these fine rivers and chase

the sometimes elusive fish that can be numerous to scarce, depending on the ever-changing winter water conditions. Given the plight of many wild steelhead stocks in other areas of the Northwest and the drive to preserve these handsome fish, the state now requires all native winter-runs to be released. In addition, late-season regulations on the Sol Duc, Calawah, Bogachiel, Dickey, Hoh and its South Fork, Clearwater, Queets, and upper Quinault dictate that only one (it can be single or treble) barbless hook be used, no bait or scent can be employed, and wild fish cannot be totally removed from the water. If your intention is to obtain a quality

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Northwest Sportsman 55


COLUMN photo of a wild steelhead before its release, I would encourage you to wear chest-high waders, as doing so will allow you to sit or kneel in the water and hold the fish without totally removing it from the stream. Keep in mind that according to state regulations, some portion of the fish must remain in the water.

OF COURSE THERE are areas on the peninsula where you might encounter the fish of a lifetime and enjoy the taste of fresh, hormone- and antibioticfree steelhead. For the second year the Bogachiel will see a return of wild broodstock with the needed-to-retain missing adipose fin. Since these fish are progeny of wild fish caught in January, they mostly return early but many will persist in the river through March. They exhibit similar traits as wild steelhead do in regard to size. Given that all smolts are released from the hatchery, they tend to hang around The Ponds upon their return – don’t ask me how they know. In addition, hiring a tribal guide can allow you access to where the Quinault and Queets Rivers enter tribal-owned lands. The Quinault Indian Nation reservation portion of the Queets extends from the mouth of the Clearwater River to the Pacific. The upper Salmon River, a tributary of the Queets, is a walk-inonly stream on which a nearby hatchery produces plentiful numbers of steelhead. You can legally access this river with the aid of a tribal fishing guide. While the upper Quinault, the river above the lake, can be accessed without a tribal guide, the lower Quinault is known to put out plentiful numbers of steelhead as the QIN-operated hatchery releases a half million winter steelhead smolts annually. This is mostly a powerboat fishery, where tribal guides can put you on fish. Given that the hatchery component is derived from wild fish, you have a chance at catching a steelhead bouncing the scale at 20 pounds or more. Cook Creek, which empties into lower Quinault, can be accessed via a tribal guide too. Like the Salmon, this is a small tributary that offers a bank-fishing experience. 56 Northwest Sportsman

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Guide Bill Meyer (206-697-2055; billmeyerfishing.com) and fishing tackle rep Ryan Reed hold a wild steelhead ready for release back into the Sol Duc River. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

ACCORDING TO PROFESSIONAL fishing guide Bob Kratzer (360-271-7197; anglersguideservice.com), his clients catch and release about 10 fish each and every season that likely weigh 20 pounds or more, with two or three of those estimated to exceed 25 pounds. In addition, during his guiding career Kratzer has helped clients land five additional fish that weighed between 29 and 30 pounds. His largest, based on length and girth measurements prior to release, weighed 30 pounds, 6 ounces. “While the average Peninsula steelhead weighs between 8 and 14 pounds, these rivers offer trophy quality, and it can happen when you least expect it,” Kratzer says. While you’ll have to release the fish of a lifetime if it’s a wild steelhead, you can preserve the achievement by obtaining a replica mount of your trophy. Doing so just requires you to get quality photos, and

length and girth measurements from your fish prior to release. Kratzer sends clients wanting a mount to Luke Filmer at Black Water Trading Company in Gig Harbor. “Luke’s replica mounts look dripping wet when he’s finished crafting them,” the guide says.

GIVEN ALL OF the above and the fact that many other streams, particularly those emptying into Puget Sound, don’t offer the quality experience of years gone by, the Olympic Peninsula has become more popular than ever. Many of the anglers and guides I talked with say it has changed a lot in the past five years due to an increased amount of fishing pressure, especially on weekends. One strategy that might help you get away from the crowds is to fish a river offering less-than-perfect water conditions. For example, when most peninsula rivers are low and clear as gin


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Northwest Sportsman 57


COLUMN according to Kratzer. All work, with jigs particularly effective when water conditions are low and clear or when targeting current edges. Given the onehook rule now in effect on the majority of streams, anglers will no longer be allowed to fish a two-rig set-up. Back-trolling plugs has diminished in popularity in recent years, Kratzer says, but he often employs this technique because others aren’t. One reason is that male fish – most giant steelhead caught are males – tend to be more territorial than females, and therefore respond to plugs in a big way. His most productive plug is the Mag Lip in the 3.5 size. As fishing regs vary by location, it’s a good idea to carry the sportfishing pamphlet with you and double check what you think you know before trying your luck at capturing that 20-plus-pound Olympic Peninsula steelhead. NS

due to a lack of rain, the Hoh and Queets offer some color because they’re fed by glaciers. They get a lot of pressure when surrounding rivers are deemed to be too low and clear for good fishing, so this is a time you might find reasonable success and avoid the crowds by fishing rivers other than the Hoh and Queets. Likewise, if you’re a bank-bound angler, you might find excellent catch and release angling by targeting the smaller streams not worked by the boating community. Some of the rivers offering this opportunity include the Dickey, Hoko (lower river closes March 15), and the Salmon downstream from the reservation. Keep in mind that there is a chance you could land a keeper hatchery fish that has strayed from its parent steam from any of these rivers.

THE MOST POPULAR angling methods include side-drifting, bobber dogging, bobber and jig, and back-trolling plugs,

Rob Groves shows off another Duc winter-run, this one caught during a guided trip with Bob Kratzer. (ANGLERSGUIDESERVICE.COM)

VISIT US IN FORKS, WA

Editor’s note: The author is a brand manager and part of the management team at Yakima Bait. Like Buzz on Facebook.


nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

Northwest Sportsman 59


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MARCH 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com


COLUMN

Last Gasps And First Chances A

s the saying goes, “Save the best for last,” and that’s the case when it comes to March winter SOUTH SOUND steelheading. This is one of the best By Jason Brooks months to chase the revered fish. Between rain and sunny days, the rivers tend to fluctuate just enough to keep steelhead on the move. Fish that have been in the rivers for several weeks or months are pushing

back out to the ocean. New fish are still coming in, including an influx of native steelhead that weigh into the upper teens and even past 20 pounds. Daylight is increasing, as is the air temperature, making it more and more pleasant to get outdoors. Indeed, some of my best winter steelhead days have come during the spring days of March. Hatchery runs are becoming more in tune and timed with native returns, especially on the Cowlitz, Lewis, Kalama and Skookumchuck Rivers. Though some would argue that there are few if any wild

steelhead in the Cowlitz and Skook, other rivers tend to have a mixed bag. Notably the Wynoochee, Satsop and Humptulips still have decent returns throughout the entire winter fishery, making for a chance at a downriver, or “kelt,” that readily bites. They might not barbecue the best but they are hatchery fish. New thinking in how wild steelhead need to be protected means taking home fin-clipped fish, regardless if they are headed upriver or downriver, helping our fisheries and even hatcheries stay open under tighter scrutiny these days.

March is a pleasant time to fish, thanks to mixed hatchery and wild stocks of steelhead, improving weather, and on a few systems the chance to double up on spring Chinook. Author Jason Brooks shows off a winter-run from a Western Washington river. (JASON BROOKS) nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

Northwest Sportsman 63


COLUMN It’s hard for aggressive, late-season steelhead to let a plastic worm pass by. Brooks rigs a 4-incher on a shorter leader with a Mack’s Lure Cha Cha Pill Float and size 1/0 or 1 octopus hook. (JASON BROOKS)

The Cowlitz and Skookumchuck are hatchery mass-production rivers where you can use bait without too much worry about wild fish mortality. But for other rivers I try and leave the fresh meat at home when fishing in March.

WITH NATIVES COMING in with every tide, the big and aggressive fish are good biters of hardware. Dardevle chrome and brass 3⁄8-ounce spoons and Vibrax spinners in black with a silver blade swung through a run or beside a seam can provoke violent strikes. Pink worms, either drift fished or under a float rigged “wacky” style or on a jig head, make for an easy way to pick up fish in long runs and over boulder gardens. In fact, fishing the pink worm or other various color combinations such as pink with a chartreuse tail or all black with a pink-tipped tail is my favorite way to catch steelhead in March. Rubber worms have worked in every steelhead river I have cast a line into. But with the water conditions more stable in March and visibility measured at several feet or more, I downsize to a 4-inch worm tied on a short, 18- to 24-inch, 15-poundtest Izorline XXX leader, with a size 1 or 1/0 hook. At the head of the worm is a Mack’s Lure Cha Cha Pill Float that adds profile and floatation, as well as contrast if I want. If fishing an all-pink or bubble gum-colored worm, I often use a purple or green Pill. Use a slinky with enough shot to match the water speed, allowing the worm to get down fast (another reason to use a short leader) so you can effectively cover the water from the time the lure lands in the river until you begin to reel it back. Again, I don’t like to use bait in March, but I do use scent as an attractor and cover-up. I soak my slinky and even use the bait oils to help slide the worms onto my leaders. Preferably I use Pro-Cure bait oils in anise, sand shrimp, or nightcrawler. After all, the pink worm resembles a large nightcrawler that has washed into the river, making for a protein-packed snack. The larger hooks also help with keeping the mortality down as they tend to stick in the side of the mouth. Last month I wrote a bit about using beads, and March is prime time for this 64 Northwest Sportsman

MARCH 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com


tactic. The great thing about beads is that they are versatile for the type of gear you like to fish. A long, limber rod, such as my North Fork Customs Series One 6-10-pound fast-action 9½-footer, allows me to drift fish beads, use them under a float or even as a dropper off a jig (see my column last month for that rigging). But if you like to spey or fly fish, then a few beads in the box can make for a great day of steelheading in March. With water conditions usually clearer than other times during the winter fishery I like to downsize my beads. I switch to a 12mm in light pink or orange. These colors mimic steelhead eggs that have flushed out of redds and are being targeted by incoming fish. Don’t be surprised if you land a few sea-run cutthroat or bull trout as well while bead fishing.

BACK TO THE rivers. The Wynoochee started off strong in early December but since then it has seen a mix of good days and bad. Same with the Satsop, but March brings in fresh fish. Expect these rivers to do a bit better early in the month, but by the last week the hatchery fish have pretty much left the watersheds, and of course the rivers close at the end of the month. If you like to fish in the few Olympic National Park rivers, remember they also close at the end of March. As we near April, it’s time to hit the Cowlitz and Skookumchuck. The former is one of the most fished and writtenabout rivers, and for good reason, as it puts out a lot of steelhead. Boon-dogging and bobber-dogging eggs with a Yakima Bait Corky is the mainstay, but remember that spring Chinook are starting to show up as well. Adding sand shrimp to your eggs and upsizing your hooks to 1/0, as well as tying leaders in 15-pound test, will give you a better chance at hooking and landing an early springer. Another way to increase your chances on both Chinook and steelhead is to fish a bit further downriver. Launch at I-5 and fish from there down to the Toutle. Back-troll bait divers with sand shrimp and Spin-N-Glos through the deep slots to pick up the kings and still have your chance at some steelhead. You will find Nathan Bryant of West Coast Anglers

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nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

Northwest Sportsman 65


COLUMN

As winter feathers into spring, attention transitions from plentiful steelhead on the Cowlitz to the Southwest Washington river’s Chinook. March marks the peak month for the former stock, as well as the kick-off of the latter species’ return. (WCAFISH.COM)

(360-219-3863) on the Cowlitz (as well as other nearby rivers in March), where he often “doubles up” on both species. Bryant knows these waters well and will free-drift eggs, pull bait divers or plugs and a few other techniques as well.

66 Northwest Sportsman

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MARCH IS LOOKED at as our “last chance” for winter steelhead but it is also our first chance at spring Chinook. The longer days, warmer temperatures and big native fish find me chasing the last of the winter-runs. Then I begin to prepare for spring Chinook,

and even rummage through my tackle box organizing trout gear for late April’s general lowland lakes opener. Kokanee are also starting to heat up. So, even if it is our last chance at winter steelhead, it is just the beginning of our year’s fishing seasons! NS


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Northwest Sportsman 67


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COLUMN

Steelhead Salvation

W

The Salmon River cuts through Central Idaho and is one of the state’s best for steelhead. (DALE FORD, USFS)

e were on a s t re t c h of the Salmon River called the CHEF Savior Hole, By Randy King though it felt like we were barely alive. The jet boat was uncovered and flat-bottomed, and the

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Northwest Sportsman 69


COLUMN

Med ’Head S

teelhead are an interesting species from both a culinary and biological standpoint. Steelhead are trout and trout are steelhead, kind of. The determining factor for differentiation is if the fish decides to make a run down to the ocean. If it goes to the sea and comes back, it is a steelhead. If it stays in freshwater, it is a trout. What I find most interesting is that the offspring of two steelhead can decide to stay in freshwater and be a trout. Moreover, the offspring of two freshwater trout can decide to make a run to the ocean, becoming a steelhead. This gives me hope for arguments of free will versus determination. From a culinary standpoint, steelhead are a middle ground between salmon and trout. While typically much less fatty than salmon, steelhead have a bite to them that is often lacking in trout. As such, I like to cook them in ways that add to both of those differences. I add fat into the fish when I serve them, most times in the form of olive oil, cheese or butter. For this recipe, I love the addition of fried cheese. Now, whoever said that fish and cheese do not go together is full of it. Fish, particularly steelhead, go wonderfully with a variety of cheeses. Two types of cheese come to mind – boursin, the cream cheesy and garlic-flavored spread of the 1980s’ fine-dining scene, and halloumi. Halloumi is not just a cheese; it is a miracle of dairy. Why? Because it can be grilled, sautéed and eaten raw – all very good preparations. However, my favorite is fried. The cheese turns golden in color, its saltiness comes out and the little bit of extra fat sends the combination out of this world. The cheese originated in the Mediterranean; Cyprus claims to have been its original creator, and it is popular throughout the Middle East. Typically, halloumi is a combination of sheep and goat milk. Here in the Northwest, a number of boutique dairies make the cheese, and it is available at most grocery stores.

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Chef Randy’s grilled steelhead is topped with fried halloumi and red onion salad fixings. (RANDY KING) Trout often are so thin that grilling them leaves as much on the grill as on the plate. Steelhead do not have this problem. In addition, trout are so thin that you do not get the full effect of smokiness from the grill, but the thickness of steelhead lets you enjoy the flavor without overcooking. Philosophically, steelhead are just fun food. The limitations of the fish combined with its benefits make it a dynamic ingredient. In this case, we are going to toss some fried cheese with tarragon leaves, red onion, lemon zest and a little olive oil, then serve that over some grilled steelhead, creating a dish that is both smoky and full flavored. Tom Douglas ain’t got nothing on this dish.

Add the cheese to the pan in four batches; try to keep them as separate as possible. The cheese will fry. Using a spatula check the color after one minute; it should be golden. If not let, it cook longer until it is. The natural fat from the cheese will crisp it in the pan. Flip the cheese and repeat on both sides. Remove crispy cheese to paper towel-lined plate. Reserve, unrefrigerated and lightly covered for up to a day. ½ red onion, shaved thin ½ bunch radishes, shaved thin ¼ cup tarragon leaves, whole 1 lemon, zested and juiced ¼ cup olive oil 1 clove garlic, minced Salt and pepper Toss all together in bowl and reserve.

1 cup shredded halloumi cheese Preheat a nonstick 10-inch pan on medium low heat. Line a plate with a paper towel to collect the hot cheese.

1 steelhead fillet, about 1½ pounds 1 tablespoon olive oil Salt and pepper (cont. on page 72)


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Northwest Sportsman 71


COLUMN it is easy to get lost in conversation, to lose focus on the task at hand, to enjoy little butane burner was doing its best to the company of others above the lack keep my feet warm. The February cold of fish. Sometimes it is better to be lucky and the hot coffee were doing nothing for than good. So when I turned my back the small town saloon-induced hangover, on my fishing rod to grab my coffee, of and the dark sunglasses and dark circles course a fish had to strike. The rod bent under our eyes told the story – we were nearly in half in the holder, my red-tipped a bunch of tourist anglers who’d come to jig clearly hooked into a silver slime Riggins, Idaho, to catch B-run steelhead rocket. The guide quickly yelled “Fish on!” but first had snagged a lot of cold beer. and the rest of the boat brought up their The hole – a mile-long stretch of lines. There was no play on the bait, no deep channel is a more apt description tap and pull – just bam. The beast put its – is called Savior among the guide head down and charged the boat. community because even if you have The guide, needlessly, kept yelling at a crappy day of fishing, you can almost me to “keep da tip up” while I battled the always count on a fish from its depths. fish. It showed us his rainbow colors, and Above the hole are the cliff-face trails of then dove back into the clear, cold waters. bighorn sheep, their presence known but Eventually exhaustion set in and the fish only seldom seen. was no longer fighting but resisting. As The day had worn on, the sun was I got it closer to the boat we could see starting to sink down and shadows the hook in its jaw; it was a male getting started forming over the canyon walls. ready to spawn. The guide, having done Our party of eight, four on each boat, this a time or two, could also see that was not doing the best. The score was a Fatherkeeper and son poseits with adipose fin was clipped, the sign of a few suckers, one bassSuccess! and zero goat. KING) hatchery-born fish. This thrilled me. The steelhead. At this pointNoah’s in a day of(RANDY fishing,

(cont. from page 70) Preheat grill on medium high. Season the flesh side with salt and pepper, then rub with olive oil. Place skin side up on hot grill. Grill for four to five minutes until fish comes off the grill easily. Then flip over onto skin side. Grill for two additional minutes. Remove from grill and put on platter. To finish, toss the crispy cheese with the salad and serve on the top of the fish. Drizzle the small amount of lemon juice and oil in the bottom of the bowl over the top of the fish. For more wild game recipes, see chefrandyking.com. –RK law states that all native fish must be returned to the water, so having caught a hatchery fish meant we could eat! With a couple quick smacks with the boat’s “forget me stick” dinner was secured. I was tasked with creating a meal for everyone from this fish – steelhead are a hangover cure, apparently. NS

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FISHING

3 Experts On Springers Even with a down forecast, fishing for the year’s first Columbia Chinook is worth it, and DJ, Teufel and Brandon share their tips. By Andy Schneider

W

It’s not the biggest run forecast ever, but big rewards will come to those who put in their time on the Columbia. Author Andy Schneider hefts his biggest springer yet from the big river, a 27-plus-pounder. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

ith the acceptance of fake news and mainstream media no longer considered a reliable source of information, this lowly writer can finally break free of the bonds of sincere and honest outdoor writing! Let’s see, where should we start? Oh, I know … “With a record return of spring Chinook predicted back to the Columbia River, seasons, limits and regulations have been abandoned in favor of modesty, morals, good judgment and common sense.” Ahh, wouldn’t that be nice, just to be able to write your own news and have it accepted? I wonder how many Banjo Minnows and Pocket Fishermans I could sell to hardy salmon anglers before anyone caught on? While someone somewhere (probably in Macedonia) is indeed sitting down and dreaming up the next big fake news story at this very moment, three Columbia springer experts were kind enough to share some very factual advice on how to be successful this season. With the threat of heavy runoff affecting river levels and a run forecast to be slightly down from last year, fishing could be a little more difficult this spring. Though it may not be the news that salmon anglers want to hear, there are still going to be plenty of barbecues a’sizzling this spring. It’s just going to take a lure with the world’s first genetic response, a lure that will make fish bite even when they are not hungry! See what I did there? I almost sold you on that Banjo Minnow, now didn’t I? Heck, if Babe Winkleman guarantees it will catch more fish, I nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

Northwest Sportsman 77


FISHING might even give it a try ...

TED TEUFEL “With a smaller run, it makes me think that I need to fish lower in the Columbia, so that I can get my bait in front of more fish,” says springer guide Ted Teufel (503-803-2616). “I won’t change my techniques too much, unless we have some higher water. Then I may move in and fish shallower waters.” Teufel will be making his transition from winter steelhead to Columbia spring Chinook on March 25. “I’d really like to fish longer, but the season only really gets good those last two weeks.” That’s not to say fishing isn’t worth trying earlier in the month. “If you start your season earlier in the month, starting lower in the river and moving your way upstream as the season progresses only makes sense,” Teufel says. “But no matter where or when you start, these springers can be finicky at times and fishing can be inconsistent at times.” Indeed, everyone knows spring Chinook don’t come easy, and while some may believe guides have all the answers to consistency, they have slow days just like every other angler. “If you only get one fish, that’s awesome, especially if it’s only a onefish type of day. You have to put a lot of work into catching them. Some days you just can’t call it early if it’s slow – you’ve got to stick it out. Even a slow day of fishing is better than spending time in rush-hour traffic!” Teufel plans on trolling all through his springer season on the Columbia. “I always start my day with a frozen herring straight from the package, along with multiple herring brines to see what is going to work best. While I really like blue dyes for my herring brines, I did have some good days with chartreuse. Even though green-label herring are the most popular size for springer fishermen, I did have some days where blue labels outfished the smaller baits.” 78 Northwest Sportsman

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Herring and plugs are mainstays for Columbia springer anglers, but guide David Johnson reports picking up more than a few on Mulkey Squid Spinners in 2016. (DAVIDJOHNSONFISHING.COM)

Teufel also had some good days trolling metal. “Spinners too! Don’t forget to throw a spinner on, especially as the season progresses. Red and white was my most productive color, smaller sizes especially, like 5s and 6s. Well, I guess that’s only small by Tillamook Bay standards, but when I was running spinners, I would usually not run a flasher.”

first right to my flasher. Next year I’m bringing my paintball gun. * When trolling spinners with your herring rods, make sure that whatever way you have your rod positioned, when a fish bites, it will get into the backbone of the rod and help set the hook. It seems those long, limber herring rods can be tricky when it comes to hooking fish with spinners.

DAVID JOHNSON TED’S TIPS * I’m very observant when I’m fishing. I’m always watching other boats, seeing where they are hooking fish, and try and match that troll on my next pass. If you’re seeing fish caught, be willing to match what is working – that’s always paid off for me. * When the sea lions get bad, avoid being all by yourself. It seems those things will key in on you when you are away from the flotilla. We watched a big one last year swallow one of our springers whole, head

“I’m going to start the first of April, or maybe just a little sooner, depending on how the season is producing,” says guide David Johnson (davidjohnsonfishing.com). He will leave the coast as a strong flurry of winter steelhead usually pushes in, and relocate to the Portland Metro area to catch the tail end of Columbia springer season. “Normally the fishing doesn’t get good till the end of the season they give us,” Johnson explains. “And


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FISHING in all honesty, I would be willing to trade the second week of April for the four weeks before that.” The later start finds better fish saturation in the system. “It doesn’t really matter where I start on the river; by the time I’m fishing the Columbia, the fish are already spread out enough through the lower river that it’s productive everywhere,” Johnson says. A big question is, how will winter transition into spring in the Inland Northwest, and how will that affect flows? “We don’t know what we are going to have for river conditions for this springer season,” Johnson notes. “But if you stick with the simple rule of thumb – fish shallow for higher water and deeper water for clear water – you will be successful, no matter what the river level is this season.” The snowpack and run forecast may suggest one thing, but Johnnson

You’ll find three different brines on board Brandon Glass’s boat, and while he likes to run chartreuse herring on overcast days and blue anytime, he says sometimes the bait just looks too good to dye and will run it naked. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

will be sticking to his tried-and-trues. “Even with the possibility of cooler water and fewer fish, I’m not going to change tactics much. I’m still going to be trolling herring the majority of the time, with some time spent running plugs, as the flows are sure to increase as the season progresses,” he says. “With the big uncertainties looming for this season, I’m still

going to fish areas I know best and choose baits I’m most comfortable with,” Johnson adds. “I’m only going to change tactics up if my program isn’t working.” “I’ve had extremely good luck flat-lining plugs in higher water conditions. I flat-lined the Mag Lip 4.5 a lot last season and had excellent success. I’m really excited to fish the slightly smaller Mag Lip, the 4.0, this year,” he adds.

DAVID’S DIRECTIONS * Stick with it to learn and figure out the program. Once you figure out a section of river, keep at it and don’t chase reports. * While herring is usually everyone’s most favorite bait to troll, I caught quite a few fish on the Mulkey Squid Spinners last year. The red and white and chartreuse with the green dot were my most productive. * When trolling herring, I always have more confidence with slower current speeds. Ideally, I would like to keep a 1.5- to 1.8-mph troll speed. Sometimes with bigger tides, the current speed will take your troll speed up to 4 mph. While you can catch some fish at these speeds, I’ll search out softer and slower waters.”

BRANDON GLASS “This year we have seen very little warm rain, but a lot of snow and sleet. While I’m hoping for good water conditions this season, I’m getting ready for higher water this year,” warns guide Brandon Glass (503-260-8285). 80 Northwest Sportsman

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He judges high water by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Vancouver gauge on the Columbia River. “Anything over 10 feet in height, I consider ‘high’ water, and I’ll change my tactics more towards anchoring and back-trolling. Anything less than 10 feet on the gauge, I’ll be trolling more.” “When running plugs, I like to back-troll areas that are in 6 to 9 feet of water. Flat-lining plugs like the Mag Lip are perfect for this, and I’ll be looking forward to trying the new 4.0 this springer season.” When back-trolling, Glass likes to work his plugs right along ledges. “My shoreline rods may be as shallow as 4 feet, while my channelside rods may be deeper than 12 feet,” he says. Glass is also not afraid of trying different techniques. “If we do end up with some high water, I’m going to do some back-trolling with a diver and bait, running whole anchovies, herring or prawns. I may even try using some planer boards to get a wider spread behind the boat,” he says. If water conditions do allow for trolling herring, Glass will have a variety of brined baitfish onboard. “I usually take at least three different brines with me, and also fish a herring straight out of the package – sometimes I come across a perfect herring not missing any scales and it’s just too good-looking to put in the brine. I really like chartreuse baits on rainy and darker days, and blue baits fish good all the time. It never hurts to keep some bait dye onboard; if you hear that a certain color is working, it only takes an hour with today’s dyes to cure up a bait.” While Glass has had success with rotating flashers, like Pro-Trolls, he will probably stay away from them this spring. “These spring Chinook really hug the bottom and trolling that big flasher that close to the bottom could end with a lot of lost gear,” he warns, adding, “If I was to fish these nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

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FISHING rotating flashers, I would probably concentrate below the mouth of the Cowlitz, where you have a good incoming tide influence.” As for when he’ll start, Glass says last year he picked up his first springer during Cody Herman’s seminar on March’s first weekend. “This year’s seminar will be March 11th and 12th, so those will probably be my first days on the water too.”

Best advice of all? Just get out there – and keep a close eye on the rods, as the author’s fishhound Ollie’s doing. (ANDY SCHNIEDER)

GLASS’S GUIDANCE * Work corners and points of the Columbia with plugs. Find a spot fish are moving through or have a tendency to group up and concentrate your effort there. * You just have to realize that it takes time to get into a spring Chinook; you have to spend multiple hours in pursuit of these fish. Do what you have most confidence in first. If that isn’t working, then try something different. Don’t try and rebuild the wheel; never lose your confidence. * Of course a fresh sardine is always

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a good bait to wrap a plug, but so is mackerel, coon shrimp, prawns and even tuna out of a can that has been toughened up with some egg cure.

WHILE YOU MAY have lost some faith in mainstream media, there is no doubt that these three spring Chinook experts are shooting straight and

are all looking forward to a good season this year on the Columbia. Smaller returns, higher flows and cooler water temperatures – maybe that’s the news we have to doubt to be able to pursue these fish with the confidence that March and April are indeed perfect months for grilling some salmon. NS


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THE KICK-BACK-AND-RELAX SPRING KING RIG NOTES Some days are just too unpleasant for trolling herring. Anchoring up and hunkering under the canvas while running Mag 4.5 or 5.0 Mag Lip No. 7 barrel swivel Lips or Kwikfish is a very productive way to catch spring Chinook and keep 8mm bead out of March’s and April’s 60-inch, 30-pound3/0 Big sometimes nasty weather. Large duolock test leader River When fishing in less than snaps Bait 12 feet of water, simply flatWeight slider (open line a 4.5 or 5.0 Mag Lip 80 50-pound eye) to 100 feet behind the boat. braid Medium duolock snaps hooks When fishing deeper water, mainline deploy a Kwikfish on a lead K14X Kwikfish dropper. No matter what 24-inch lead plug you deploy, secure Split ring dropper a small fillet of sardine or 4/0 Big River Bait anchovy to its underside. (open eye) hooks Then sit back, pour some 4- to 8-ounce No. 7 barrel swivel coffee and wait for your rod cannonball to bury over. –Andy Schneider Colored, shortened line used for illustration purposes. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

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COLUMN

Back To Spring Chinook Basics I

remember the year I finally got my kayak springer fishing dialed in. All the time I’d invested learning a half-mile stretch of river Kayak Guys finally began paying By Mark Veary dividends. Managing the details had become second nature. The following year, my mojo was strong; it didn’t seem to matter where I fished, I was bringing home the chrome. I’d deciphered the secret to water

THE KAYAK GUYS

With lower returns of spring Chinook forecast, author Mark Veary says this isn’t the season to “be cycling through techniques or getting sloppy about the details.” Instead, get back to the basics to achieve success like this. (JURISSAH NAÏVE)

temperatures and knew exactly when to switch from herring to spinners. I’d added flashers full time to draw in the biters, and I always seemed to have the right bait/cure/lure/scent for the conditions. It seemed that I could do no wrong. And then the run sizes dropped. Though I carried an unflagging confidence into each launch, my average fish per trip became trips per fish. I soon found myself chasing reports to places I hadn’t mastered. I was constantly switching between what I’d heard

worked, what I thought should work and what I desperately hoped would work. Each successive failure fed the second guessing that led to the next. A couple of years of scratch fishing left my enthusiasm in tatters. I still loved catching springers from my kayak, but it was getting difficult to justify the early wake-up calls and the long days spent paddling. There just wasn’t a commensurate return on investment. That’s when it dawned on me: It doesn’t matter how much you invest if you’re not investing in the right things. Time is your capitol, but timing, technique and consistency are the vehicles that will provide the returns in a down year. This epiphany came as a result of looking back over my fishing results and comparing them to run counts. It turned out that the year I’d made my breakthrough in consistency, the springer return was well below average. Not surprisingly, the following years, where I could do no wrong, were well above average. Those high return years had given my confidence an artificial boost and allowed me to become lazy in my application of the basics. The reason I’m talking about this is, 2017 is forecast to be at or slightly below the 10-year average for the Columbia and Willamette, among other drainages. In other words, it’s not the kind of year to be cycling through techniques or getting sloppy about the details. In order to capitalize on a less than spectacular return, you’ll need to get back to basics.

BAITS There’s a reason that herring is the go-to bait for Chinook fishermen. It is consistently the most productive. To get the most out of your herring, treat it right from start to finish.

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COLUMN Start with the best baits you can find. Flash frozen. Scales and eyeballs intact. No visible blood in the packaging. Green or red label size. Brine your herring before use. While you can spin a herring right out the package, your bait will hold up longer, keep its scales better and spin more consistently when brined. Whether you use a wet or dry brine, start off the brining cycle by leaving your frozen baits in brine at room temperature for two to four hours before refrigerating. This will ensure that the salt doesn’t keep your herring frozen, thus preventing the brine from penetrating. Once refrigerated, herring should be kept cold until deployed. When transporting your bait and carrying it on the water, make sure that they remain well iced, in an insulated container.

FLASHERS I have a love/hate relationship with flashers. They can draw in salmon from a greater

distance but they cause a lot of drag, and often have the effect of pulling your bait above the strike zone. Compensating with a heavier weight will keep your bait in the zone but increases the likelihood of getting snagged on the bottom. Unless the water is running brown, I’ll opt to skip the flasher. On days with marginal turbidity, I’ll run a small Colorado spinner blade, like you’d find on a prawn spinner rig, above my bait.

WHEN TO FISH The best times to fish are at sunrise and sunset. If you want to take advantage of the first-light bite, it’s imperative that you’re fishing before the first rays of sunlight touch the water. The second best time to fish is at a tide change. The hour before and hour after a tide change will produce a marked increase in the potential for a takedown.

HOW TO FISH Keep in mind that in water less than 30 feet deep, spring Chinook will be hugging the bottom and so should your bait. You’ll know that you’re in the strike zone when you’re able to bounce your weight off the bottom by tilting your kayak to one side or by dropping your rod tip. If fishing a reef, troll well off the edge of the reef before turning around. Often times, Chinook will stage up at the edges of a reef before and after crossing.

THE REQUISITE NOTE ON SAFETY Springer fishing occurs in cold water. Dress for comfort and immersion in quality gear like Kokatat’s Tropos 3 Angler suit. Always wear a well-fitted PFD and know the forecast for the area you’ll be fishing.

FISH SMARTER WHERE TO FISH When the going gets tough, there’s no confidence booster better than returning to an area that has produced consistently for you in the past.

Remember, your time on the water is precious. Make the most of every moment by being mindful of the details. Do this and you’re sure to maximize the return on your investment. NS

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COLUMN You know Terry Wiest as a float fishing fiend, but he’s been shaking things up to keep his angling fresh, including taking up the fly rod. While he has yet to catch his trademark fish, steelhead, he’s landed a couple Chinook so far. (TERRY WIEST)

Switching Up A

s some of us have been fishing for a few years (or more), I feel that sometimes change is good, even WIESTSIDER if we’re successful in the way we’re fishing By Terry Wiest or what we’re fishing for. In my case I’ve made several changes in the past couple of years that have really renewed my enthusiasm towards fishing, almost back to how I felt about it as a kid. One major change I’ve benefited from has been to go back to my roots as a young steelheader, a time I knew of no other technique than drift fishing. This

was my only method for the majority of my early steelheading career, until I was introduced to the art of float fishing by a guide by the name of Bret Stuart down in Oregon. That was back in 1990. After that introduction there was no turning back. I was a firm believer in the power of the jig, confident it would outproduce any other method when fished correctly. Float fishing has never let me down. I loved the technique so much and became so extremely proficient at it that I use it literally 95 percent of the time on the river. In the early days I became known as “the jig guy.” I’d stumble across holes lined with drift fishermen and wait for them to clear out so I could give my

jigs a try. More often than not there was a fish that hadn’t seen that presentation before and stomped on it. My belief in this system and continued success led to the writing of my book, Float Fishing for Salmon and Steelhead.

A FEW YEARS ago while fishing with my buddy, guide Mike Zavadlov (mikezsguideservice.com), I once again pulled out the float rod and begin to hook fish. We were having such a banner morning that I decided to switch it up a little. I had a brand new drift rod that I’d only brought to the river, but never tried. I figured since we were doing so well, this was as good of a time as any.

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COLUMN So I cast out with the drift set-up and it felt good. Wow, I thought, I remember this! The rod was so sensitive it brought back many memories. With the telltale sign of a steelhead sucking in the presentation, I set the hook. That’s something you never forget, as the feeling is cemented into your brain and instinct takes over. Dang, that felt good. Mike and I continued the day drift fishing, ending up with an incredible 23 fish. I since have committed myself to using the drift rod more and not being so focused on one technique. The advice I give beginners, however, is to learn one technique, learn one body of water until you become proficient at it, and then expand your horizons.

ANOTHER THING I’VE done is to take the advice of my friend Bill Herzog. It’s a wise idea to listen to anyone who has hooked as many trophy fish as this dude has over the decades. “Dude, you gotta learn to fly fish,” Herzog told me. “It will open up so many more opportunities.” You know what? He was correct – as if there was any doubt. So I begin learning to fly fish with the help of buddies Mike Perusse and Ron Camp. Perusse got me set up with a beautiful G.Loomis 9-weight rod and size 7/8 reel and the fundamentals to get me started. Then I had the pleasure of fly fishing with Camp on Alaska’s Situk River for sockeye. Many will laugh at the mention of fly fishing for sockeye, because as we know the majority of the red salmon do not actually take a fly and are lined instead. But the experience was unbelievable in two ways. First, it taught me how to handle the rod, cast correctly and handle a fish once hooked. And second, these fish are a freakin’ blast, I don’t care how they’re hooked! We caught and released so many sockeye that I have no idea of the actual final tally. My casting became better and better, and my confidence level rose by the fish. I’ve now caught several species on the 96 Northwest Sportsman

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fly rod – sockeye, coho, cutthroat, Dolly Varden and Chinook. Two Chinook, in fact, both on the 9-weight rod. Never bet a steelheader they can’t land a fish on light gear! I drank for free that night, thank you. The one species I have yet to land on the fly? Steelhead. So far I’ve only targeted them once, and my record is 0 for 1. Another technique I really enjoy because I’m able to float fish at the same time, is using a center pin. These are a blast. They may look like a fly rod setup but are far from it. The main thing to remember, though, is that there is no drag! Wait until you cast the first time and don’t stop the reel from rotating – huge bird’s nest. Pro tip: Cut the line.

have some fun with them. Many times there’s also steelhead mixed in, as I found out during a recent trip with Zavadlov and Camp. After hooking several I thought I had another, and while it seemed bigger, heck, I was up for that. That is, until it flashed its side and Zavadlov went to grab the net. Yep, got fooled on that one, as it sure wasn’t fighting like a steelhead, but I’m glad it was. You should also try sockeye, whether in Alaska or Washington. For those who may not know it, there are sockeye in Forks! “Oh, heck yeah, we catch sockeye all summer,” says Zavadlov. They aren’t big like those in the Last Frontier, but they’re fun as heck on light

We can get bogged down chasing just steelhead or salmon, but swimming alongside our faves are other species. On an exploratory midwinter steelhead trek, the editor purposefully ran his spoon through bull trout water and was obliged by this colorful specimen. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Also beware the first time you hook a steelhead and it runs – bloody knuckles. But land that steelhead and you’ll grin from ear to ear, even more than normal as this is the closest thing to just you against the fish. Awesome.

WITH THE LACK of fishing opportunities for salmon and steelhead, maybe a look at some of the other species available might keep you in the groove. I mentioned Dolly Varden, which in the Northwest are mostly actually bull trout. These can be a blast and you can use the same gear as steelhead. When imitating eggs, orange seems to be best in Washington, but for some reason Alaskan Dollies like pink. If you find some,

gear and small red jigs. After you see what these little dudes can muster up in a fight, book yourself a trip to Glacier Bear Lodge (866-425-6343) in Yakutat and really find out what damage sockeye can do. I’ve never had so much fun fighting fish. OK, so fighting coho is as much fun. Oh, steelhead too. And kings! Heck, just fighting any fish is fun! So go do it. NS Editor’s note: Terry J. Wiest is the author of Steelhead University: Your Guide to Salmon & Steelhead Success and Float-Fishing for Salmon & Steelhead, and is the owner of Steelhead University, SteelheadU.com.


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Cowlitz River March Steelhead! Earlycomponent 1RUWKZHVW steelhead runs have been slow to mediocre VRfar this winter season. No need to give up just yet because itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time for the B run and broodstock programs to start kicking it into high gear! These later runs of steelhead are more robust on average and usually return in stronger numbers to boot! The Cowlitz River in particular usually steals the show year in and year out. Why wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t that be the case with a magnum smolt plant of nearly 542? This â&#x20AC;&#x153;spring runâ&#x20AC;? which really gets going in March and lasts until mid-April, boasts 9to 14pound steelhead on average. All the usual tactics apply when fishing the Cowlitz but if you have a jet boat, this river can really pay huge dividends!

Cary Hoffman sporting a super-sized Cowlitz River March steelhead! Sidedrifting is a staple technique on the Cow. One of the best pro fishing guides to call is Cary Hoffman of CNH Guide Service. He operates out of a custom 20IRRW Wooldridge Super Sport Drifter and is about as fishy as they come! He incorporates Dtypical dual VL]H hook and &heater set-up tipped with eggs but also has plenty of secret yarn configurations to fill the fish box as well. If you are lucky, he may even treat you to one of his secret shrimp concoctionV he raves about. You can email KLPat cnhguideservice@gmail.comRUUHDFKKLPDW   Look him up on Facebook too! If you decide to get down to the Cowlitz this spring, make sure you check the WDFW website for rule updates before you go. Have fun and be safe out there!

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COLUMN Fishing options are few and far between this month in the North Sound if you don’t have a blackmouth boat, but bull trout, sea-run cutthroat and catch-and-release sturgeon are options here. Riley Burke caught this nice bull off a Camano Island beach while casting a No. 2 Dick Nite with her dad, Eric. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Bulls, Cutts, Sturg Swim North Sound Waters T

he tidally influenced reaches of the lower Skagit By Doug Huddle and Stillaguamish are going to quench – at least partially – the long spring river-fishing drought in Northwest Washington. Now that March and April fisheries for

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steelhead virtually everywhere in Puget Sound are gone, they’re the only northern inland feeders scheduled to be open for personal-use angling. The lower Stilly and outside waters of northern Port Susan are the focus of a sturgeon catch-and-release fishery, while the Skagit Delta has long been renown among spring fishing enthusiasts for its

bull trout and cutthroat. In this first of a two-part series, here’s where to focus that pent-up spring desire to fish flowing water close to home.

THE LOWER STILLY On the tidewater Stilly, one well-placed, powerboat-friendly ramp at the top of the open Hat Slough reach just below Marine

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COLUMN Drive provides strategic access to this short, fishable-in-spring stretch of flowing water. This 1.5-mile section is essentially a drift down/power up rounder, but a second Stilly Delta option for personal craft is the much narrower namesake Stillaguamish River channel that runs to the north, toward the City of Stanwood. It ports into the West Pass/South Pass saltwater channel that links southern Skagit Bay with the mudflats of northern Port Susan. If you elect to take a pontoon or kayak on this cozy channel, put-ins are problematic. There’s no room to park at the Marine Drive bridge except to the north at the Rydford Road intersection, and there’s considerable brush under that bridge. The next downstream entrée is at the right-of-way of an old drawbridge crossing of the slough at 84th Avenue North and Old Marine Drive. In either case there’s just over 3.5 miles of drift down to the confluence with the West/South Pass channel below the old

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Twin City Foods plant. Haulout is on the west side of that channel, almost directly across from the confluence, along Eide Road on Leque Island. If you drift further south for some reason, don’t go any further toward Port Susan than the first casements shoring up the Leque sea dike. You’ll still have a walk back of several hundred feet to the parking lot. Go past the first levee plug and there’s not even a decent walk-back. The optimal time to hit this estuary channel is from the half point in the flood through high slack and on toward the split on the ebb or outgoing cycle. Salter cutthroat and occasionally a bull trout coming in from Utsalady on Camano Island are the target, and the trick here is to find them in the “tucks” of the deepest part of the thalweg, or channel slot. These short stretches are scoured on the outsides of bends or at points where upland topography or some structure forces water flow to change direct. In the lower half, fish in close to pilings, wing walls, bulkheads or any artificial

overhead structure. In the upper half, look for overhanging brush where the fish hold up when the tide goes out and the river water is clear. There is little rhyme or reason to searun society. Likely holding water may have just one occupant but there’s the possibility you’ll encounter a covey of cutts. Don’t be a one-cast-and-done fisher; multiple offerings should always be made in prime water. I’ve always had a decent percentage of first-cast takes in good lies indicating these fish are predisposed to the Andrew Zimmern admonition: “If it looks good, eat it.” In other words, often a solo occupant will let you know immediately it’s there. However, in a school they may not be prone to the cutthroat equivalent of boarding house reach. Unless the offering passes right in front of a nose, most often they’ll all pass on a take, until the second time around. That being said, don’t be complacent or presumptuous about fish behavior as your gear clears a prime lie. A breakfrom-cover dash by an impetuous fish to strike a disappearing morsel is rare but it happens, even as late as the last few feet before you draw the lure out of the water. So be prepared for such and resist the inthe-moment instinct to jerk the lure out of the fish’s mouth. The Hat Slough distributary of the Stilly is wide and deep enough for sleds out to the sea dike, but you’ll need to know where the channel is or be on the high tide if you decide to glide out onto northern Port Susan’s expanses after spring sturgeon. Above the sea dikes, there are essentially four “fishable” slots below Marine Drive, and if you are not anchored over them or casting/drifting gear through them, you’ll be off the fish. Anchoring technique is an important consideration here. Besides having a good amount of scope (line length) in your bottom tether, a ball buoy clipped into the end is critical. Before the advent of Mylar, Hypalon and PVC old-timers would tie any available float, usually some kind of liquid container, to their anchor line, hence the term “jugging” the anchor. If you hooked into a big fish that pulled off your line to


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COLUMN bank, a second sled launch called the Spudhouse Access sits behind at a potato processing plant. The north and south distributaries each have at least one well-placed ramp for trailered boats: the North Fork’s at Blake’s Resort is a private concern that charges a daily or annual fee, while the South Fork has three back-down/slide-off launches at Conway (off Dike Road north of bridge), the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Skagit Wildlife Area headquarters and Milltown off the Stanwood Highway. Remember that the Milltown launch may have limited utility because of the log jam blockage at its top. Powered sleds may have to drop down and run up Steamboat Slough from the bottom end. In addition to these entries, drift anglers borne on personal watercraft, canoes and kayaks can set up drifts incorporating the WDFW’s Skagit City (South Fork) and Moore Road (North Fork) accesses on Fir Island. Walk-in high bank as well as very

the backing, you’d slip anchor rope off the cleat and give chase. The jug would enable you, once the fight was over, to find your anchor even if it was a No. 10 tin of concrete with rebar spikes and not some fancy Danforth.

SKAGIT OPTIONS With trailered boat ramps on the mainstem and both forks, the Skagit’s delta has one of the best sets of boat launch public accesses of any of the North Sound rivers. Powered craft always have the greatest flexibility, but here lengthy one-way drifts connecting convenient, well-spaced public accesses enable anglers with lesser, self-propelled, shallow-draft craft to enjoy a good day’s fishing. There also are a fair selection of bank spots for land-bound fishers. Below the State Route 536 (Memorial) bridge in Mount Vernon, there’s a traileredboat ramp near the highway span at the city’s Edgewater Park, while downstream, just above the forks on the right or west

limited bar fishing opportunities are afforded at the Rawlins Road and Craft Island (North Fork), Milltown (South Fork – Moore Slough), the Skagit Wildlife Area’s Headquarters Access (South Fork – Freshwater Slough), Moore Road (North Fork) and the city park in West Mount Vernon (mainstem). An emerging twist in recent years is the natural reconfiguration of the lower North Fork, where a breach in the natural levee at the Fish Town Bend is porting much of the river flow more directly into Skagit Bay off Craft Island. Less than half the flow is now going into the Sullivan Slough Arm, which used to have very good action for cutthroat and bull trout under the log rafts once moored there. The three Ika Island channels, also renown for back-trolling for bull trout, are nearly cut off. With that, back-trolling the slots along the North Fork for bulls is readily doable, and prospecting the South Fork’s myriad wood jumbles, brushy cutbanks and backeddies for cutts is as lucrative as ever.

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CAUTIONARIES These waters are no place for a cavalier attitude for lack of experience, poor preparation or inattention due to distractions. The twice-daily rise and fall of marine waters plays a crucial role in fishing here and surviving the experience. Always carry a tide book and plan your voyages, especially down to and over the bars for the last half of the flood and the first half of the ebb. Be prepared for weather changes, glide lightly over potential shallows and always give large wood and surface boils a wide berth. Running up and getting pasted to a log or jam in current is a sure invitation to capsizing. On both of these rivers you can get invitingly – tantalizingly – close to the river in many places, especially via public roads. Despite that, the thin leveed strip of land separating you from the flowing waters is almost always no-man’s land, privately owned and subject to trespass enforcement. Many dike stretches are fenced off, gated at drive-ups and posted by the three diking districts, 1, 6 and 22, against trespassing on behalf of the landowners. If they’re not, do check for ownership before venturing on them Prominent white wood strips historically have marked the mouths of all main river channels, delineating where freshwater rules officially end and saltwater rules apply. More often than not these days maintenance is lacking, so these key legal transition points aren’t readily apparent. Remember, barbed hooks are OK for trout in freshwater, but not outside on the tideflats. Targeted sturgeon catch-and-release in the lower Skagit has ended, but it’s still lawful to rig for and pursue whites in the lower Stilly. Special regulations condition hook configuration in both fresh and saltwater venues but bait’s OK in both.

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FISHING

Char-t Your Way To Success

Billy Chinook’s March bull trout fishery is one not to miss.

By Zach Mansfield

T

he crisp air left a layer of frost on the pickup window, a reminder to us that winter was alive and well even though it was “springtime” in Central Oregon. With the boat hooked up, the truck warm, and coffee hot, we were heading to Lake Billy Chinook in search of trophy-size bull trout. The sunrise over the high desert is worth getting up early for any day of the week, but being on the water this morning made it extra special. Dad’s 125-horse Honda pushed his 18-foot Hewescraft around the final bend to a gliding stop, and after a couple quick pulls on the kicker, it wasn’t long before we were into our fishing pattern, with downriggers deployed in search of bull trout. A few minutes into our trolling sequence, my rod snapped off the ’rigger ball. One of two things had just happened: Either 1) I had missclipped my line to the cable, or 2) a fish had just hammered my herring. The follow-up strikes told me it was the latter, and the hook-set was all I needed to know we had found what we were in search of. “Dad, I think it’s a big fish!” Indeed, the steady pull and violent headshakes led me to believe that I was hooked into a much larger than average bull. A few minutes later my flasher showed, a sign I was gaining the upper hand in this battle with the coldwater brawler, and shortly afterwards, we caught a first glimpse

Author Zach Mansfield shows off a fine Billy Chinook bull trout. The Central Oregon reservoir offers one of the few retention fisheries for the species of char outside of select Puget Sound rivers. (ZACH MANSFIELD)

of the fish. Dad excitedly confirmed my initial statement through the use of some colorful language.

BILLY CHINOOK’S HOME to one of the nation’s leading bull trout fisheries. These char are meat eaters, and when the fishing is good, it can be a flatout blast catching 2- to 15-pounders. They can be fished for most of the

year, but the best time is early spring. As the water begins to warm, the bull trout tend to go off the bite. March 1 marks the opener for the Metolius Arm of the lake, which is comprised of three streams merging into one, and it’s become something like a holiday around our home. It’s more than the first day of bull trout season, and it’s never missed. Dad’s nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

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FISHING Fishing the Metolius Arm, which sits east of Mt. Jefferson, requires a tribal permit. (CARL LEWALLEN)

Hewescraft is equipped for the job. Double electric downriggers, 9-horse trolling motor and Lowrance fish finder all make finding and fishing

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for large bulls a lot easier. While the only essential item for this type of fishing is a boat to get you on the water, ’riggers and electronics

certainly help. Bull trout can be caught several ways. Early in the morning before the sun hits the water pulling plugs along the shoreline can be dynamite. Any plug that looks like a kokanee and about baitfish size will do. My personal preference is a 4½-inch Lyman, but we’ve boated fish on Rapalas and Mag Lips, as well as spinners and flies. The key with this style of bull trout fishing is to imitate a wounded baitfish. As the day wears on, the fish tend to move off of the shallow shelves into deeper water. It is here that I love to target big fish. The fish finder is key; it shows you schools of kokanee, which in turn lead you to bull trout. Once you have determined the depth of the former, you have located the latter. For bait I absolutely love to use plug-cut herring behind a large flasher. Dying and scenting the bait can give you an added edge for catching these coldwater brutes. My go-to method is to find school(s) of kokanee and roll my herring 10 feet below them, as long as it’s not deeper than 100 feet. I’ve learned that you won’t touch too many fish down that deep. The strikes are subtle and


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oftentimes hard to see when the weight of your downrigger ball has your rod shaped like a taco. But to the trained eye, they tell a story of large fish in deep water in search of a hearty meal. Jigging is another method that can prove productive. Once again, find a school of kokanee 20 to 60 feet deep on a bank shelf, tie on a blue- or green-colored deepwater vertical jig and hang on. Some of my most memorable fish have came while jigging for kokanee. Any bull trout will give a kokanee rod a work out, but put a big 24-incher on the end of your ultralight set-up and you’ll have memories that will last a lifetime.

AS THE DAY wore on, the fishing began to slow. We boated probably 12 fish that morning, four of which were more than 8 pounds, with two over the 10-pound mark. Of all the days I’ve spent in search of bull trout that has been the best. I make the voyage every year, so if you see a Hewescraft cranking in another brute this month, simply give a tip of the coffee cup, as I’m just doing what I love in one of Central Oregon’s best fisheries. NS nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

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COLUMN

Early Birds, Worms Get The Trout A

nglers all over Washington can’t wait for March to arrive. Where many of them head is for Eastern Washington. This region of the state promises not only sunny, springlike weather, but excellent fishing opportunities for a variety of species. CENTRAL Most are after rainbow trout, and lakes that WASHINGTON By Dave Graybill offer the season’s best bets are abundant. The only thing that may stall the advent of trout fishing on our lakes is ice. It all depends on whether we get some warm days in late February for the ice caps to shrink or disappear, allowing access to the hungry trout waiting below. I contacted fishery managers at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s three regional offices and asked them for the best fishing prospects in March. I was familiar with many of the waters and also learned of some new ones. March can’t get here soon enough for me to try as many of them as I can.

IN REGION 2, North-central Washington, where there has been an “Early Bird Opener” on March 1 for many years, most anglers celebrate it in the Columbia Basin near Quincy and George in Grant County. Chad Jackson, at the WDFW office in Ephrata, gave me the forecast for some of the most popular lakes, and what anglers should expect from them. Lake Lenore: There has been a little bit of a revival happening at Lenore the past couple years. It’s not necessarily related to an increased abundance of Lahontan cutthroat, but rather anglers relearning where to catch these quality trout. Those who have been successful in the lower Grand Coulee lake have been fishing its “greater northern end” in pontoon boats, drift boats, or cartoppers. When on the water anglers cruise around looking for pods of trout, anchor up when a pod is spotted, and cast towards them. Double-digit catch days have been reported. Quincy Lake: Fishing at this lake last opener was a little off. It’s unclear whether the fingerling trout plant had poor survival or the weather negatively impacted fishing. Hopefully, 2016 was just an off year. Normally, this lake produces robust 12- to 13-inch-long yearling trout and very nice carryovers up to 20 inches. Catch rates are usually pretty high. Also, keep this lake in mind for April, May and June. Fishing during these months can be dynamite. Burke Lake: Fishing at this lake should be fair. Rehabilitated in 2012 to remove crappie and bullheads, last year it was discovered that yellow perch had been illegally introduced into Burke, and they appear to have exploded. Not expecting the spring fingerling

The March 1 openers in Central and Eastern Washington represent a chance to catch trout as the Columbia Basin emerges from winter. This father and son had a successful morning of trout fishing at Caliche Lake near George on a past opener. (DAVE GRAYBILL)

trout plant to fare very well, WDFW stocked 4,000 catchable trout (11- to 13-inchers at release) last fall to help the trout fishery. Burke is also the site of the annual trout derby conducted by the Quincy Valley Chamber of Commerce. Over 200 anglers have participated in this derby each year, trying to win everything from fishing tackle, cash to the top prize of a boat and motor. To learn more about this derby, log onto quincyvalley.org. Quincy walk-in lakes: For anglers looking to get away from the crowds, Chrystal, Upper and Lower Spring, Cup, and Cliff

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COLUMN

Dusty Lake produces trout up to 20 inches, but sitting in a steep-sided coulee it can take a few more weeks to warm up. People say the trail is 1 mile down – and 3 miles up! (DAVE GRAYBILL) Lakes might be for you. They are located to the west of Evergreen Reservoir and Burke Lake. Anglers will want to fish two or more lakes in an outing, in order to catch a decent number of trout. Trails and signs make it easy for anglers to find these lakes. Some of the largest trout seen on opening day come out of these small but productive lakes. Dusty Lake: This quality water produces nice-sized rainbow, brown, and tiger trout up to 20 inches. Fishing is best from a float tube or pontoon boat, though know that the hike in is a little less than a mile. One thing to note: Because Dusty sits in a canyon of sorts it warms up slower than the other March 1 lakes, so fishing can be pretty slow on the opener. You might wait until late March or April to fish it. Note this lake has selective-gear rules (singlepoint, barbless-hooked lures and flies only, no bait) on it. Martha Lake: This is one of the best and most consistent producers on opening day. Fishing from the shoreline is very productive, and anglers fishing here routinely catch or nearly catch their limit of five. Trout are mostly 11 to 13 inches, with the opportunity to catch a large carryover. This lake is also very crowded, so anglers may want to arrive early to claim a spot along the shoreline. Upper Caliche Lake: Like Martha, Upper Caliche Lake is one of the best and most consistent producers on opening day. It is effectively fished from the shore or boat. Limits or near limits of 11- to 13-inch fish are common. Lenice and Nunnally Lakes: Very popular quality lakes for fly fishers, Lenice is by far the most popular of the two. Trout averaging 14 to 16 inches are the norm. Catch rates are also very high; most anglers land and release between 12 and 20 trout in an outing. Anglers should not overlook Nunnally Lake. It has the same size trout, but with far fewer people fishing it. Note that both 110 Northwest Sportsman

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lakes have selective-gear rules. You may want to call WDFW’s Ephrata office (509-754-4624) prior to the opener to get updates on ice conditions on the more northerly waters in Region 2.

I WAS FAMILIAR with some of the lakes that open on March 1 in the Spokane area, but learned of many more. According to Chris Donley at the Region 1 office (509-891-1001) in Spokane, the early season is when the biggest trout of the year are taken at many of these lakes. If the weather cooperates, the fishing will be spectacular for big rainbow and brown trout. There are even some interesting fisheries to try if the ice is still solid. Here are some of the better prospects in March: Coffeepot Lake: Known for excellent early-season fishing, with plenty of rainbows to 18 inches, Coffeepot is particularly popular with fly fishers. Anglers can keep one fish over 18 inches per day. Amber Lake: Catch and release until the lowland lake opener at the end of April, rainbows and cutthroat in Amber range in size from 12 to 20 inches, and the lake is known for very good fishing for larger cutthroat. No internal combustion motors allowed. Medical Lake: This western Spokane County water can be excellent in March. Rainbow and brown trout from 14 to 20 inches are what attracts anglers to this lake. Anglers can keep two fish over 14 inches. No motors are allowed on the lake. Rock Lake: A year-round lake with statewide rules, when this northern Palouse lake isn’t muddied by run-off from Rock Creek, the trout fishing is something special. While most of rainbows and browns are 14 to 18 inches, some of the latter species reach 4 to 6 pounds, and browns into the teens have been taken here. Deer Lake: This Stevens County lake opens March 1 to trout fishing under statewide rules. It has a good population of rainbow


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Although Coffeepot Lake is remote – it’s located northeast of Odessa – it attracts big crowds of fly fishers. (DAVE GRAYBILL) and brown trout, but what really intrigues anglers is that if the lake is still frozen in March, they can catch Mackinaw through the ice. Most are 20 to 24 inches, but Macks up to 12 to 15 pounds are possible. Liberty Lake: Popular for rainbow trout that range from 10 to 14 inches, Liberty is also known for brown trout of 5 to 6 pounds. It is also a good lake for perch and even bass in the early season.

Snake River: Sometime in mid- to late March a good walleye bite develops on the Snake River, as far up as Lyons Ferry. Yakima River: The biggest smallmouth of the year are caught in the lower section of the Yakima River. It all depends on how fast the water warms, but the action usually starts in the delta and then moves upstream.

THERE ARE SOME really good prospects starting in March in the Tri-Cities area, though not necessarily for trout. This is when trophy walleye are taken and the biggest smallmouth of the year are caught here too. Paul Hoffarth, fish biologist with Region 3 (509-575-2740), mentioned these prospects for March. Columbia River: Walleye anglers used to look for really big fish above and below McNary Dam, but now they have shifted their attention to the area below the mouth of the Snake. The current state record of just over 20 pounds was landed here. Another place to look for good walleye fishing is in the lower Hanford Reach. There are catch-and-release sturgeon seasons that open in February and run through July 31 on the Columbia as well.

EVERY YEAR I make a list of the fisheries I would like to try in the

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coming year. The list just got longer. As you can see there is an abundance of terrific fisheries coming up in the early season, and that’s just the beginning. More prospects for good fishing unfold as the weather and the water warms. I hope you get the opportunity to sample a number of the ones mentioned here. I am going to try hard to cross as many as possible off my list this season. NS Editor’s note: Dave Graybill is a longtime North-central Washington angler and fishing writer (fishingmagician.com), and he is also a member of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.


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COLUMN

Rosey Fishing Future At FDR W

hen one thinks of trophy kokanee and awesome rainbow fishing, Lake PRO’S CORNER Roosevelt is, By Jerrod Gibbons undoubtedly, at the top of the list – and the time to be there is right now! Roosevelt is the 150-mile-long impoundment backed up by Grand Coulee Dam on the upper Columbia River. The reservoir is managed by three federal agencies, two federated tribes and the state of Washington. Between the Colville Tribes and Spokane Tribe and Department of Fish and Wildlife, somwhere around 250,000-plus hybrid kokanee as well as 750,000 fin-clipped triploid rainbows are released annually. Combined with a super-high food base, you have a premier lake for a trophy fish. By November most rainbows average 17 to 22 inches, with many pushing 24-plus inches. Pure-strain kokanee, identified by an intact adipose fin (daily limit two), average 18 to 24 inches, with an average weight of 3.5 to 5.5 pounds, and fishery managers have high hopes for the triploid kokes. The lake is also home to native redband rainbows (currently closed to harvest), burbot, smallmouth bass, and a very healthy walleye population.

ROOSEVELT FISHES GREAT throughout the year, but the prime months are November through June, and that’s when you will find Troy Black, owner of Blacky’s Guide Service (blackysfishing.com), cruising up and down the lake in search of the next state-record kokanee, as well as its many rainbows. “It just keeps getting better and better each year,” says Black, who has spent more

Lake Roosevelt shines for hatchery rainbows and both fin-clipped and wild kokanee, and this a good time of year to fish the North-central Washington reservoir. (BLACKYSFISHING.COM) than 30 years fishing the reservoir. I got to know him a little over 10 years ago, while fishing summer Chinook at Brewster, and as I interviewed him for this article I was again struck by his passion for fishing. Not only is he one of the funniest guys to be around, he exudes knowledge as he talks about fishing. He’s a true master of his craft. He tells me that in November he targets the awesome trout fishery, and as the season progresses he then transitions over to the landlocked salmon. “The rainbow bite is hot and heavy the months of November, December, January and into February, but when they start dropping the water in the lake, usually about the end of January, that triggers the kokanee to school up and put on the feed bag,” Black says. “As the lake drops, the feed in the lake gets pushed down to the lower third of the reservoir and the kokanee and rainbows follow the food source. “It’s not uncommon to have 30- to 50fish days during the winter when targeting rainbows, mixed in with a few kokanee,” he adds. “When the big kokes get going it’s hard not to specifically target these fish. As the water stabilizes in the spring

and they start bringing the water level up again, the fish then start migrating back up the reservoir to their summertime haunts. Both the (rainbows) and kokanee have awesome table quality. I personally like to can my triploids and barbecue the kokanee fresh.” He firmly believes that Clarence Rief’s 2003 6.25-pound state record will be broken here, and while there are sharpies in search of that fish, he adds that FDR’s salmonid fishery is “perfect for the novice all the way up to the expert and everyone in between.” Not only that, but the surroundings make it a beautiful, unique place. Healthy populations of bald eagles, bighorn sheep, black bears, and mule deer can be seen daily while trolling the miles of shoreline. Catching fish is merely a bonus.

A TROLLING FISHERY, there are four boat launches for getting on the fishing grounds: Seven Bays, Lincoln, Keller Ferry, and Spring Canyon. Some of the more popular places to target rainbows and kokanee are the mouth of the Spokane River, Hawk Creek, A Rock, Sterling Point,

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COLUMN

An array of good trolling tackle for catching Roosevelt ’bows and kokes would include plugs, Muddler-type flies, and spoons, as well as Money Maker Liminator squid-and-dodger combos. (JERROD GIBBONS) Whitestone, Goat Ranch, Sanpoil River, Swawilla Basin, Spring Canyon, and the water in front of the dam. Many times both species will be hanging out with each other, and Black tells me that the biggest challenge each day is just finding the fish. “Once you find them you can catch them. For the most part they are very willing to play. This is one of the most consistent fisheries I fish,” he says. During my interview, he shared with me three efficient methods for catching these fish – using downriggers, planer boards, and leaded line. “During the winter months both the rainbows and kokanee are near the surface, say in the top 20 feet of water. All three of my methods are very simple,” Black says. “Planer boards allow you to get your gear out away from the boat, thereby hitting fish not spooked by the boat. I like to run Sidewinder boards for this method. I usually run 9-foot light-action Shimano Clarus rods, with a good linecounter reel spooled with 30-pound Spider Wire Stealth. I tie on a ¼-ounce bullet slip sinker to the main line. I then tie a small barrel swivel to 48 inches of 8-pound Maxima Ultragreen leader to my offering. I will run my gear 50 feet behind the planer board. “On my downrigger set-up it’s very simple as well. I will run the same rod set-up without the slip sinker as above. I usually run my gear 10 to 20 feet behind the ball. I like to try and run my downrigger gear 2 to 3 feet above the fish that I am marking on the graph. “For my leaded line set-up I run an 8½foot medium-action Shimano Clarus rods with Okuma 30DX linecounter reels. I run 50 feet of Maxima Ultragreen 10-poundtest mono off my leaded line. I then tie on a small barrel swivel to 36 inches of 116 Northwest Sportsman

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8-pound Maxima Ultragreen leader to my offering. I really like using leaded line this time of year because it is very simple for my clients to set rods, and when we find fish at a specific depth it’s easy to go right back out at the exact depth. When we find fish at 150 feet back, it’s easy to have them go right back out to 150 feet.” Black says that as the winter fishery transitions into spring and water temperatures rise, he puts the surface gear away in favor of running straight downriggers. “The fish, especially the kokanee, will start going deep. Many times, by June and July we will catch our kokes down 70 to 100 feet deep. I will run four downriggers this time of year, but I will always have one middle rod out with leaded line just in case there happens to be a fish in the top section of water. I just like to keep all my bases covered,” he says.

AS FOR LURES, when it comes to rainbows Black likes to run Muddler flies with a 1-inch Money Maker Shaker Wing tipped with a nightcrawler and scented with Super Dipping Sauce on his leaded line. “I don’t think the specific scent (matters), as long as there is some kind of scent trail. My favorites, however, for rainbows are Dipping Sauce’s anise, garlic and kokanee scents,” he says. His favorite colors are perch, pink, yellow, orange, natural brown, or any combinations thereof. On his planer boards, he likes to run Rapalas or Needlefish in the same abovementioned colors, and he gives both styles of lure a bath in scent before sending them out. “I really believe it makes a huge difference,” he says. “On my downriggers,” Black adds, “I will specifically run dodgers and mini squids.

These are the rods that I am targeting the kokes. Even though I catch kokes and rainbows on all my rods, most of the kokes come on my downrigger rods. Early in the season I will run smaller dodgers, and as spring and summer rolls around and the fish get deeper I will run bigger, 0 size dodgers. I run 15-pound Maxima fluorocarbon leader to my Money Maker Liminator squid. I will also tie on a 1-inch Shaker Wing for extra added flash. My favorite colors of mini squids are pink, pink, pink, or any combination of pink.” Joking aside, he tells me he does catch kokes on other colors, but pink is the most consistent. Black likes to tip his mini squids with shoepeg corn and/or maggots. “This is where I think scent is imperative,” he says. “I will always have my corn cured in some kind of Super Dipping Sauce concoction. I don’t know what you put in this stuff, Jerrod, but I know the kokanee love the sauce!” As you might expect, his favorite for kokanee is the sockeye-kokanee scent, and he shared his secret mojo. “My favorite recipe for the kokanee is half a can of shoepeg corn, 1 tablespoon of Sockeye/Kokanee Dipping Sauce, 1 tablespoon of Dipping Sauce garlic, and 1 teaspoon of Dipping Sauce liquid krill. I mix this all together the night before I go fishing, and it will usually last in the cooler for about three days. After that I mix up another batch.” As for how fast Black runs his gear, he likes the 1.8- to 2.2-mph range for trout and a bit slower for the salmon, 1.4 to 1.8 mph. For updated reports, see facebook .com/blackysfishing. NS Editor’s note: Author Jerrod Gibbons operates Okanogan Valley Guide Service, okanoganvalleyguideservice.com.


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FISHING

Move With Chelan’s Migrating Kokanee As spring arrives, where the fjord’s fish will be changes, requiring anglers to adapt their tactics. By Frank Bellinger

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Prepare to switch spots at Lake Chelan in spring if you want to keep catching the North-central Washington water’s abundant kokanee. (FRANK BELLINGER)

isten up, Lake Chelan kokanee addicts – there’s something you need to know. Right now it’s March, and those of us who take advantage of Chelan’s fantastic winter kokanee fishery are out at Mitchell Creek, 25 Mile Creek, and the Yacht Club. The fish aren’t schooling up just yet, but they’re gorging on mysis shrimp and willing to play – just take a look at the limit pictures already being posted online. But change is coming, and you need to be ready. Several hundred of us watched that change take place during a popular kokanee derby in late April 2016. Many derby teams had been prefishing their most productive spots for weeks, looking to build a solid strategy for game day. And then it happened – less than a week before the derby, honey holes suddenly ran dry. Boats that continued to work those spots could still eke out fish, but they were dinks, not the fat 15- and 16inch kokes we had been doubling and tripling up on. As a friend of mine dejectedly stated after a long, tough grind on the lake, “They’re just not there anymore.” What happened? Well, I’ll tell you: those dinks people were

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FISHING catching were the tail end of the thundering herd headed south. The kokanee were migrating downlake to the lower basin, where they prepare to gorge on plankton blooms, and it left a lot of people scratching their heads. Some claimed that this migration just turned off the bite, but that’s not true. New tactics were required to keep our boat in the derby running, and this article will walk you through the most successful ones.

WORK THE LANES This first one is a doozy, because it requires you to fight both instincts and training. Think about your “normal reaction” to picking up a triple or a quad while kokanee fishing – you mark the location, get gear back in the water, and get turned around to hunt for more, right? But when you have fish that are on the move, that strategy may not net you the results it would in March and May. We fell prey to that very mindset on derby day one as we trolled circles to keep working a hot spot that wasn’t a hot spot at all, but just a pod that we had merely intercepted. During migration, Sam Baird of Slammin’ Salmon Guide Service would advise you (as he advised us) to “work the lanes.” A review of our fish logs indicates that we picked up the vast majority of our fish in specific depths of water as we trolled downlake from Lake Chelan State Park to the Monument, directly across from Wapato Point and marking where a school bus plunged off the road, with the most productive depths being over 350 and 410 feet of water. By derby day two we would only troll east to west in the early morning to find a couple of fish at the day’s starting depth, and then spend the rest of the day trolling that depth north to south, chasing any marks on the fish finder between 90 and 140 120 Northwest Sportsman

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Gold, silver, brass, and nickel are all MVPs for migrating kokanee. (FRANK BELLINGER)

feet. Anything above 90 feet was a dink, and anything below 140 feet wasn’t interested in playing. Don’t get me wrong – many a fisherman has witnessed a kokanee rise 30 or 40 feet to hit a presentation, but during this particular hunt, putting our flies right in front of those silvery faces proved most effective. Working the lanes takes a lot of effort, but the rewards are there.

PRECIOUS METALS Here’s another tough one. Northwest kokanee fishermen have been pretty well trained. Ask us “When do you use UV?” and we’ll answer “Always use UV!” Now, while this is a truism that I personally incorporate into my kokanee fishing tactics, there is a big difference between using UV and using all the UV. In March you’re using products like moon jelly UV tape to attract scattered fish, and using them again in

May to work schooled fish into an aggressive frenzy. But what about that April migration? Metallics were the name of our game. While UV-heavy dodgers like Rocky Mountain Tackle’s Bahama mama were highly effective in the early morning, they became noticeably less effective once the sun was full in the sky and shining down on Chelan’s remarkably clear water. By midmorning we were transitioning to chrome and 50/50 gold/chrome-plated Simon Wobblers, which triggered some incredibly aggressive strives. Blades also saw a midmorning change out, from UV-taped 1-inch Shaker Wings from Money Maker to PenTac’s 000 gold French blades. UVoriented setups continued to pick up fish throughout the day, but plain metallic dodgers and blades virtually eliminated short strikes and were responsible for nearly all of our triple and quad hook-ups.


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FISHING With the sun high in the sky and shining down on Lake Chelan’s clear water, author Frank Bellinger says he’s had better luck running straight metallic dodgers than those with UV tape. (FRANK BELLINGER)

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One of the keys to successfully fishing Chelan during the April migration is adaptability. Bill Herzog advises us that “the fish will tell you what they want,” and scent is no exception. Scents can be roughly broken down into two categories: attractors (like shrimp) and aggravators (like garlic), and using a combination of these scent types kept us in the fish. Here are two extremely effective scent recipes, one that combines attractor and aggravator scents, and another that is pure attractor. Tuna/Garlic Maggots • Pour white Berkley Maggots onto a paper towel. • Sprinkle with McCormick’s garlic salt and Pautzke’s Fire Cure, roll this mixture around in the paper towel, sprinkle again, and then pour the maggots back into the jar. • Drain the oil from oil-packed tuna into a bowl. Let the oil sit for


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10 minutes, remove the vegetable oil from the top, and fill the jar with remaining tuna oil. • Add 10 drops of Pautzke’s orange Fire Dye and shake well.

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Shrimp had also been an incredibly effective scent all year, so you can bet it played a key role in our scent arsenal. The recipe: • Pour pink Berkley Maggots onto a paper towel. • Sprinkle with Pautzke’s pink Fire Cure, roll this mixture around in the paper tower, sprinkle again, and then pour the maggots back into the jar. • Fill jar with Pro-Cure’s Water Soluble Shrimp scent and add 10 drops of Pautzke’s pink Fire Dye. By derby day two we had identified a very effective pattern: our boat would run the tuna/garlic maggots until approximately 0930, when the sun was full on the water and the breeze had died down. At this point we would slowly introduce the shrimp maggots into our line up until we were running shrimp on all four rods by approximately 1030.

WRAP UP My disclaimer: This is all just one team’s experience and opinion, leavened with good advice and solid reports from other fishermen. Using these tactics helped us consistently catch larger fish during the April migration. For more in-depth information, you can read and download all of our 2016 fish logs from the Reports & Tips page at franksflybox.com, which include exact setups, depths, times, and locations. Change is coming, March fishermen! Come April, it’ll be time to adapt to new conditions as you test your mettle against Chelan’s migrating kokanee. Come April, it’ll be time to hunt. NS Editor’s note: Frank Bellinger is owner/ operator of Frank’s Fly Box, a kokanee fly outfit in Hillsboro, Ore.


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www.tohatsu.com 126 Northwest Sportsman

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FISHING

COLUMBIA BASS CALENDAR

Tri-Cities angler mines 24 years’ worth of data to figure out best times for biggest, most smallies, top baits each month.

PART I of III By Wayne Heinz

W

ant to catch Columbia River smallmouth 10 months a year? Here’s how. If you fish for smallies, you may wonder: When do big bass hit best? What’s the best month to catch large numbers of bass? What baits catch the most fish? The biggest fish? To answer those questions, let’s mine data from 24 years of fishing logs, 1993 to 2016, for the Columbia – successes and failures that partners and I experienced on over 1,700 trips. The logs show what works, and what doesn’t. If you want to catch more bass, you might benefit from our scribblings. Let’s put our logs to practical use to create a typical year of Columbia River bassin’: Data collected by author Wayne Heinz and longtime girlfriend Lucie Fritz show that March, April and November are their best months for catching larger Columbia River smallmouth – Lucie caught this 4.8-pounder in April on a jig – but other months yield their share in terms of numbers. (WAYNE HEINZ) nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

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FISHING

Forsythia blooming? Time to start fishing the Columbia around Tri-Cities for bass. (LUCIE FRITZ)

EARLY MARCH TO LATE MARCH – Forsythia’s yellow. A loon calling quickens our pulse. The first bass of the year hit blade baits – ¾ ounce, silver or gold. Clip line to hole nearest nose of blade. Lift 2 feet. Bass hit on the fall. Water’s crystal clear. We drift in 40- to 55-foot-deep water, along steep drop-offs. Carolina-rigged, 3-inch plastic tube baits – green or brown – and dropshot 4-inch Robo worms 2 feet off the bottom also work. Needed: 1-ounce sinkers. Jigs don’t work. River’s too swift. First-bass water temps numb fingers – 40 to 43 degrees. The deep bite slows when cherry orchards Tube baits account for 15 blossom pink and white. percent of the author’s bass, We only catch a dozen or two bass but note that he rigs them in March, but they’re big. We catch Carolina-style instead of fishing them on a jighead due 51 percent of our smallmouth over 4 to strong, deep river currents. pounds from March 11 to April 26. (WAYNE HEINZ)

Caspian terns dive on smolts in the Yakima in early April. (WAYNE HEINZ)

EARLY APRIL – When a tributary – like the Yakima River – reaches 54 degrees, Caspian terns arrive to dive on salmon smolts. This usually occurs between April 5 and April 11, as lilacs bloom. We drift 5-inch light-colored flukes on 4-foot leaders behind ½-ounce egg sinkers, 14 to 18 feet deep in the trib mouth. A long leader allows the bait to swing naturally.

The honking of sandhill cranes high overhead tells the author to begin to fish shallower for bass. (NGP)

END OF MARCH – Canada geese are on nests. Willows are greening up. Sandhill cranes honk north. We drift shallower, 25 to 35 feet deep, with Carolina-rigged, 5-inch plastic flukes and crawdads on 3/0 Gamakatsu EWG worm hooks. Colors: crawdad brown, green pumpkin. Leader: 3 feet of 8-pound fluorocarbon, behind a 1-ounce sliding egg sinker. Spray-paint sinkers and swivels black – less likely a smallie will bite them. We persist until the main river reaches 48 degrees. When the first cliff swallows flit under bridges, time to change tactics. 128 Northwest Sportsman

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Flukes catch bass when salmon smolts migrate this time of year. (WAYNE HEINZ)


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FISHING EARLY MAY THROUGH MID-MAY – Our catches peak in the first two weeks of May. Days with three to four dozen bass per rod are common. May’s our top bass month. We catch 28 percent of a year’s smallmouth this month. Not surprisingly, May accounts for 27 percent of our trips. Soft plastic curl-tails and GitZits on jigs or Carolina rigs work. So do shallow-running plugs, like a Shad Rap 5. Casting unweighted Senkos has produced many May bass for us.

When ospreys nest in mid-spring, bassin’s at its best. (WAYNE HEINZ)

LATE MAY – By the time yellow mist from Russian olive trees clogs eyes and noses, most bay bass have spawned. Threepound females become scarce. One-pound males abound. Guarding fry, they bite most anything.

MID-JUNE – When orioles feast in mulberry trees, we target

Single, curl-tailed grubs and tube baits together combine to account for 55 percent of the annual smallie catch. (WAYNE HEINZ)

MID-APRIL THROUGH LATE APRIL – Ospreys are back, a sure sign of good fishing. When the Columbia reaches 51 degrees and bays reach 54 degrees, spawning bass wallop a jig. Over the course of a year, jigs account for 44 percent of our bass. We fish 5-inch single curl-tails, twin tails, crawdads, tubes, and spiders on ¼- to 3/8-ounce jigs. Dark colors – like crawdad brown and green pumpkin – work best for us. We fish gravel flats in back bays, 8 to 12 feet deep. Goslings paddle in line between watchful parents. April’s our fourth best month for bass. It provides 13 percent of our annual catch. Our earliest good catches – 15 or more bass/rod/day – occur between April 7 and April 26. Look for yellow arrowleaf balsamroot blooming on hillsides. A late spring flood can delay the bite. 130 Northwest Sportsman

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two fish populations: bass that spawn late on main river gravel bars; and bass that ambush salmon smolts off the heads of islands. Carolina tubes catch the spawners. Silver plugs catch the ambushers. June’s our third best month for bass. It accounts for 15 percent of the year’s bag. Although bag numbers are high, we only catch 8 percent of our big bass in June.

BASS BAIT COLORS

Biologists, seeking to increase survival of salmon smolts, study the diets of predatory fish. Stomach pumps show smolts are less than 1 percent of a bass’s annual diet. As anglers, what else can these studies tell us? A river smallie’s main meal is fish. Crawdads, dessert. Crawdads are mostly minerals and salts. Fish, mostly protein and fat. If you’re a growing bass, fish is the ticket. Fish form 71 percent of a bass’s diet. What kind of fish? Sculpins. They’re over half of a smallie’s diet. What colors are sculpins? Browns, greens, grays – dull, drab, boring colors. Shopping for soft plastics, ask yourself, “What’s the ugliest color on the shelf?” Buy it. –WH


DESTINATION ALASKA


FISHING BEST BASS BAITS

You have your favorite baits. We have ours. This table – covering 24 years of catches – reflects our preferences and, hopefully, baits smallmouth like to bite.

Shad Raps tempt June bass. (CABELA’S)

MID-JUNE THROUGH EARLY JULY – An hour before sunset, when bass bust late-migrating salmon smolts near islands, we cast plugs – like Rapala’s Shad Rap 8 – under the diving gulls. We also troll plugs – like 9D Flicker Minnows – 80 to 160 yards upstream of the islands.

MID-JULY THROUGH LATE-SEPTEMBER – Bass have scattered and gone deep. Afternoons exceed 100 degrees. Sweat beads on brows, stings eyes. We abandon sunny fishing. Instead, we troll evenings, swatting swarms of midges out of eyes and ears. Flat-lining big-lipped plugs – like a ½- and ¾-ounce Luhr Jensen’s Hot Lips Xpress – now accounts for most of our summer bass, and 20 percent of our annual bass. The best part of trolling? You don’t have to awake at 4 a.m. to do it.

We’ve caught dozens more bass on size 3 Mepps spinners, 6-inch plastic lizards, 3-inch leeches, and live nightcrawlers. The best part of dragging ’crawlers for bass? You catch a few tasty walleye. –WH

EARLY OCTOBER THROUGH MID-OCTOBER – Maples blaze red. Sandhill cranes vee south, so high you hear them but can’t see them. Coots bob by the thousands in weed beds. Time to zero in your rifle. If you slay your deer on opening day, consider adding bass to your October calendar. Fall logs show a surge in bass landed. October’s our second best month. Over the past 21 years, we’ve netted 20 percent of each year’s bass in October.

Trolling isn’t strongly associated with bass fishing, but for some it’s hugely effective. The author says 20 percent of his annual catch comes while dragging plugs, Luhr Jensen’s Hot Lips Xpress in particular. (WAYNE HEINZ) 132 Northwest Sportsman

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LATE OCTOBER – Big rafts of mallards gabble in the bays. Trolling big-lipped plugs 20 to 40 feet deep alongside weed beds and sand bars produces many 2.5- to 3.5-pound bass. MID-NOVEMBER – Loons reappear. Wigeon are back,


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dabbling along shorelines sheltered from the wind. Smallies begin to move to overwintering holes. Time to don an ear-flap hat and wool coat. We fish Carolina-rigged flukes, tubes and crawdads on 3/0 Gamakatsu EWG hooks behind a 2½-foot leader, with a 1½-ounce egg sinker, 40 to 55 feet deep. We drift along steep drop-offs, downstream from underwater humps. Carolina rigs catch a fifth of our annual bass.

Blade baits catch the last smallies of the year – Del Bareither hefts a pair of November 5-pounders – as well as the first. (WAYNE HEINZ)

LATE NOVEMBER TO EARLY DECEMBER – We deep-drift until the first bitter cold front drives the coots to California. Buffleheads and goldeneyes fly in to replace them. Bald eagles arrive to tear salmon carcasses into chunks. By the first week of December, when chimney smoke wafts the air and water temps dip below 48 degrees, our catches drop to a few bass a day. We catch 18 percent of a year’s big smallmouth (4 to 6.9 pounds) in November. Water’s so clear, you can watch a fish fight, 18 feet down. The last bass of the year succumb to blade baits, just as the first of the year did.

WHENEVER YOU CHOOSE to fish, whatever baits you use, I hope our logs encourage you to try some new ideas. Although we haven’t fished everywhere, we have fished a lot of states. I’d guess that Columbia River smallmouth bass fishing ranks second to none in the nation. We had three, 70to 90-bass-in-the-boat days in 2016. You can, too, in 2017. NS

When eagles return in November, drift flukes deep. (STEVE MASLOWSKI, USFWS)

Editor’s notes: Improve your fish-finding skills. Read Wayne Heinz’s latest book, Depthfinders – A Guide To Finding And Catching More Fish, Amato Publications, Portland, (800) 541-9498. Also available at Amazon.com. Parts II and III will look at smallmouth by the numbers, and look at the barometer’s and moon’s effect on the bite. 134 Northwest Sportsman

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You’ll want to bundle up because it’ll still be cold, but late March and early April represent a good time to catch lots of nice-sized smallmouth on Banks Lake. (BIGWALLYSGUIDESERVICE.COM)

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FISHING

BIG

REWARDS FOR BANKS SMALLIE SEEKERS

Early spring serves up numbers and nice-sized bass at the north end of this Columbia Basin reservoir. By Keith Jensen

A

s a walleye guide, the vast majority of my days on the water involve chasing these spiny demons throughout Central Washington’s waters. There are a few times each year, however, when I sprinkle in a few smallmouth trips. Early April is one of those times, and Banks Lake is the place. Beginning in late March, the smallies at this 27-mile-long reservoir in northern Grand Coulee begin to move out of their deep winter haunts and hit the shallows. At this time the bronzebacks have one thing on their minds: eating! This time of year, the amount of daylight grows day by day. Gone are those weeks where we leave for work in the dark and come home in the dark. It is the increased

amount of daylight, or photoperiod, that triggers smallmouth to move shallow. For years I had equated this early spring movement to water temperature, and a warming lake surely is one factor. But after years of watching cold fronts move into the Columbia Basin during late March and early April, dropping the water temperatures, and yet still seeing smallmouth push shallow informed me that length of daylight is actually the number one factor. On Banks in early April, when you know the areas to target and what bait presentations to throw, you can enjoy days of whacking 40-plus smallmouth. And we are talking quality fish, bass in the 2- to 4-pound range. The smallie spawn here typically begins in late April in some areas, so the fish are all in prespawn mode in late March and nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

Northwest Sportsman 139


FISHING early April, meaning it’s time to hit the local buffet table.

FAR AND AWAY the one thing smallmouth line up for in early spring is crayfish. At this time, the perch fry have not yet made their presence known, so the bass key in on crayfish, which also are full of calcium, helping egg development

in female smallies. That said, all of my bass trips this time of year are catch and release. Taking good care of these prespawn fish is vital for the future of this fishery. Also vital – covering a lot of water. One of the best if not the top way to cover a lot of water is tossing a crankbait. A plug allows you to fish fast and find the areas where the smallmouth are holding.

A size 7 Berkley Flicker Shad in dirty crayfish and size 6 or 7 Rapala Shad Rap in crawdad red are author Keith Jensen’s picks for best early-season crankbaits for the reservoir’s smallies. (BERKLEY, CABELA’S)

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Not only that, but the lure mimics a crayfish fleeing from a predator. My go-to crankbait in early spring is the Berkley Flicker Shad. The Dirty Crayfish Flicker Shad in size 7 has literally accounted for hundreds of line-peeling smallmouth for myself and my clients on Banks in early April. Its tight wobble with minimal rattle makes it a perfect coldwater crankbait. The Rapala Shad Rap in sizes 6 or 7 in crawdad red or brown is another great earlyseason bait. Both cranks are very lightweight, making them difficult to cast on a baitcasting outfit. As a result, I have my clients cast the Flicker Shad on a 7- or 7½-foot spinning rod and reel combo. The Bass Pro Shops 7-foot Bionic Blade in medium action is my rod of choice for this technique. I couple it with a Johnny Morris signature spinning reel from Bass Pro Shops. This combination also works great for many other techniques, such as bouncing jigs along the bottom for walleye, making it a great multipurpose set-up. For line, I prefer to use 6- or 8-pound P-Line monofilament in moss green, or 10-pound fluorocarbon. When fishing either the Flicker Shad or Shad Rap, you want to use a fast stop-and-go retrieve. I want my crankbait to tick the bottom and the tops of rocks. When I detect it hitting a rock, I pause my retrieve for a split second before continuing to reel. This pause and deflection off a rock is what triggers many strikes. Just remember, you can’t reel faster than a fish can swim. Use a fast retrieve to trigger those hungry smallmouth into a reaction strike.

THIS TIME OF year, I launch my boat at either the Northrup ramp, located right along Highway 155, or at the launch inside Steamboat Rock State Park. Both put you right in the heart of early-season action on the reservoir’s northern end. While most of the main lake will have water temperatures in the


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FISHING

Devils Punchbowl and the Airport Sloughs, both at the north end of Banks and seen here during 2011’s drawdown, are good spring bets for smallmouth and largemouth, respectively. (BUREAU OF RECLAMATION)

low to mid-40s, you will find upper 40s to 50 degrees in the Devils Punchbowl here in early April. Look for rocky structures and road beds. These will be the areas where prespawn smallmouth stage and gobble up crayfish. Once you venture out of the Punchbowl, continue to look for areas in the backs of bays, as well as shorelines that contain scattered boulders on shallow flats. The back of the Old Devils Lake and Barker Canyon have that mix and will hold good numbers of early smallmouth. Other key areas include the shoreline between Devils Lake and Barker Canyon, as well as Barker Flats, and an area known as the Boulder Garden. The Boulder Garden is a long flat shoreline a couple of miles south of Steamboat Rock. It begins right where Highway 155 leaves the lake. The large boulders that you see on shore extend out into the water a considerable distance. It is a crankbait fisherman’s dream. I find 142 Northwest Sportsman

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Largemouth also become active this time of year, and they can be caught alongside their smalljawed cousins. (BIGWALLYSGUIDESERVICE.COM)

this area really heats up during the second weekend of April. I typically don’t fish Banks’ south end too much this time of year. The water takes much longer to warm up, delaying the bite for a bit. Come mid-May through summer, though, I spend nearly all my time at the Coulee City end of the lake, but that’s for a later article.

I WOULD BE remiss not to mention the largemouth fishing on Banks in early spring. For starters, when you target smallmouth in the Devils Punchbowl, you are also targeting largemouth. Don’t be surprised when a 4-pound largie clobbers your Flicker Shad in the rocky areas here. The largemouth, however, can also be found in great numbers along and through the vast areas of reeds in the Punchbowl. Five-inch Yamamoto Senkos in cinnamon, watermelon, 144 Northwest Sportsman

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Northwest Sportsman 145


and green pumpkin colors are dynamite on the green variety of bass anywhere in the country, and Banks Lake is no exception. Other key areas include Osborne, Jones and Kruks Bays, and the Airport Sloughs. Again, pitching soft plastic baits such as the Yamamoto Senko is a great bet, but don’t be afraid to try shallow-running crankbaits. My go-tos for earlyseason largemouth have square bills. The Strike King KVD 1.5 is a killer, especially in areas around riprap banks and spots that contain submerged wood. You want to bang your square bill into the cover. Deflecting it off rocks or wood will trigger those reaction strikes. With largemouth I typically put down the spinning rod in exchange for a casting rod. My rod of choice for casting square-billed crankbaits is a Bass Pro Shops 7-foot Crankin’ Rod in medium action. Fishing around wood, reeds and rock, you need a solid casting rod to keep the fish from digging down and getting wrapped up in the cover.

WHEY YOU LOOK in nearly any bass boat you will find a myriad of different baits for various presentations. Yes, there are many techniques that will work on Banks for early smallmouth and largemouth. But I love the crankbait bite. It allows me to cover a lot of water and locate the fish – and catch both quantity and quality. If you’re thinking about an earlyseason bass trip, keep Banks Lake on your radar for the first few weeks of April. And if you have one week to pick, pick that first week. Pick up a few Flicker Shads and Shad Raps and hit the water. Lastly, please feel free to give me a call or drop me an email to get the latest fishing report before you head this way. NS Editor’s note: Author Keith Jensen operates Big Wally’s Guide Service (bigwallysguideservice.com). 146 Northwest Sportsman

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FISHING

TROLLING GEAR SHOWCASE COMPANY NAME Troll-Master

WHAT THEY DO Manufacture downriggers and trolling accessories

LOCATION Tampa, Fla. CONTACT INFO (800) 274-1656; troll-master.com Steve Joseph You recently finished research and development on your new Hydrodynamic line release. Why develop a line release when there are so many already on the market? Vadim Beznes Line releases are one of the most important pieces of trolling equipment. Often, release deficiencies and failures cost fishermen a chance at a trophy fish, which generates a lot of frustration. There are virtually dozens of different release types; however, the easiest one to use is a “pincer” type, which works a lot like a clothespin. Two opposing hinged members are joined at one end and movable at the other while tensioned by the spring. Unfortunately, these releases generate a lot of drag in the water, causing increased blow-back, as well as vibration and turbulence that affects the lure or bait presentation. We have been working diligently to improve Troll-Master, a company that makes downriggers and accessories for fishing with the trolling aid, has created a more hydrodynamic line release (above right) that allows for a more natural presentation of lures and baits for increased bites.

these deficiencies in order to make a great easy-to-use product that will improve your fishing experience.

SJ How did the idea develop? VB We worked on improving the hydrodynamic qualities of the object until achieving an optimal shape that glides easily through the water first. Then we applied that shape to the functional design of a pincer-type release that resulted in a hydrodynamic line release designed to minimize the resistance, turbulence and vibration generated while trolling. We have also applied for the patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

SJ Tell me about the new release and what makes this a breakthrough product. VB First is a decrease in resistance. The introduction of the side covers and improvement of the hydrodynamic properties of the release body results in a decrease of the underwater resistance. This allows for an almost perpendicular descent with minimal angular deflection. This is important in achieving the desired trolling depth; the closer it is to 90 degrees, the more precise the depth of your bait is. There’s also a decrease in turbulence and vibration, and the elimination of the open cavities in the release body minimizes turbulence and vibration generated while trolling. This allows for a more natural presentation of the bait and significantly increases the number of strikes. Finally, with regards to buoyancy, our release is light enough that it floats and can be picked out of the water if dropped overboard accidentally. SJ What kind of feedback are you getting? VB We have many happy customers, ranging from those in the hot Florida Keys to the cold waters of Alaska, those high-speed trolling for big fish and slow-trolling for trout. We are proud to say that we achieved our goal and improved the fishing experience for fellow anglers! NS nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

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HUNTING

How full or empty you pack your turkey hunting vest is up to you, but no matter the make or model, the goal is to be able to locate and access everything by feel, says author MD Johnson, and without moving your head and taking your eyes from that approaching gobbler. (JULIA JOHNSON)

Inside A Northwest Turkey Hunting Vest Or, welcome to your wearable camouflage filing cabinet – and how to fill it. By M.D. Johnson

T

he modern turkey hunter carries an array of equipment and gear into the field that rivals the field pack of even the most well-equipped World War II foot shoulder. But short of a wheelbarrow, how does all this gear, not to mention

the person packing the load, get into the field? Better yet, how does a hunter keep all this gear organized and ready for action? Enter the turkey vest. While I have no concrete evidence, I’m certain it was a manufacturer of turkey hunting-related items who first conceived the notion of a turkey

vest. The thought, I’m sure, was that given more pockets, even the most disciplined turkey addict could not resist the temptation to fill each and every fabric-rimmed orifice with the latest field technology. But for all the sales and marketing know-how that went into the creation and evolution of the turkey nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

Northwest Sportsman 153


HUNTING vest, there is a definite plus to having what can perhaps be best described as a camouflaged filing cabinet. Whatever you call it, a glimpse into the interior of a woodsman’s turkey vest is as revealing an experience as you can have. If, as some say, the eyes are the windows to a man’s soul, then the turkey vest is the portal to a turkey hunter’s mind. Or what there is left of it.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: THE VEST Every year since 1990 – the year I killed my first spring gobbler – I’ve unloaded my field vest and stuffed everything into a brand-spankingnew, better-than-Ziploc Bags vest. Why? Not that the former didn’t work, only the latter was indeed new. And bigger. And supposedly better. And each year since ’90 and after only one trip afield, I would unload the new vest, and stuff everything back into Old Reliable. Why (again)? Because Old Reliable was and is just

that – reliable. The specific make and model of vest you wear really doesn’t matter. I’ve used them all, from my current (sadly) discontinued Cabela’s Deluxe ($29) – Note: I bought three of them when I first realized how much I liked them – to the $319 TP14 Turkey Pack with Chair from Tenzing Outdoors, which alone weighs 11 pounds before you start cramming gear into the pockets. The bottom line with turkey vests is actually twofold. First, get one that’s comfortable, and that includes strong padded adjustable shoulder straps. And two, once you organize the vest – that is, put Item A in Pouch A, Item B in Pocket B, Item C in Loop C, and so on – put everything you use back exactly where you found it. The goal with a vest is to be able to locate and access everything strictly by feel, without moving your head and taking your eyes from that approaching gobbler. Or that spot where the gobbler should, at any

second, appear. To quote the cliché, a place for everything, and everything in its place.

A LOOK INSIDE So, let’s take a look at what I pack into the pockets and pouches of my turkey vest. Mind you, this is an Opening Day list; by the end of the season, the contents of my working vest will have dwindled down to a micropile which consists of headnet, gloves, pot call, diaphragm call, striker, and a couple of shot shells. The reason? I can only serve as a pack animal for so long. Veteran turkey hunters know this already; however, you folks new to the spring woods will soon enough understand the difference between what you need and what you don’t. You’ll also be faced with the inevitable – the one piece of gear you carried for four weeks and then left at home for whatever reason will be the one piece of gear you desperately need on the very next outing. Get

Amongst the calls, camo, seat, decoys, snacks and drinks Johnson packs into his vest is three 3-inch Winchester Xtended Range shells from his hoarded stash of the now-discontinued turkey shot line. (JULIA JOHNSON)

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HUNTING used to it. That said, my vest looks like this: • Fingerless camo gloves, two pair: I’ll lose one pair somewhere. You will, too. • Mesh headnets, two: I’ll lose one of these, too. Why mesh? Because they don’t cause my glasses to fog up. • Gerber pruners: For cutting brush out of my way and for building temporary blinds. • Small AA flashlight: For finding said lost gloves in the dark. Also, for spotting that last strand of barbed wire when fence crossing. • Winchester Xtended Range 12-gauge, 3-inch size 6 shot: Three rounds – if I shoot three times and haven’t filled my tag, I’m going home. Sadly, Winchester no longer makes this incredible nontoxic shot shell. Fortunately, I have a stash. • Backwoods Calls pot-style call: A glass-over-slate calling surface in a purpleheart pot. Sounds incredible

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OFF-SEASON STORAGE Some years back, after – again – searching for misplaced items that should have been in one or another pocket of my turkey hunting vest, I decided simply to store the entire package, everything included, in one very specific location during the off-season. True, it sounds like an elemental undertaking, but, well, sometimes I struggle at keeping things together. The problem with my turkey vest was that I needed something big enough to hold the entire thing, as well as a container that would both protect the gear inside and maintain somewhat of a dry environment. Why dry? Wood turkey calls don’t cotton to being damp for any length of time. Trust me on this one. Plastic totes were big, bulky, and a general pain to store. Contractor garbage bags got a look, but they don’t offer much in the way of padding and protection. Eventually, I came ’round to a somewhat unexpected solution – the Scent-Safe Travel Bag from Hunter’s Specialities. This innovative tri-layered sack was actually conceived by and designed for big game hunters as a way of storing their hunting clothes in a scent-free, i.e. free from bad human-related odors, environment. Over the years, I’ve found these bags work extremely well not only for their intended purpose but for storing any number of large items such as fully loaded turkey vests. The bags keep my gear organized, dry, easily accessible should I need something, and, with the addition of a lightweight jacket or two, reasonably well padded and protected. Plus, the bags, even loaded, can be compressed somewhat, making storage a snap. –MD

near and far. • Jimmy Schaffer’s Oak Ridge Custom Calls: Another glass-overslate surface, but this one in a

Jamaican blue mahoe pot with an inlaid gobbler breast feather. Sounds as great as it looks. • Strikers, three: Purpleheart, solid


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As the old saying goes, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. That could be true this spring, following a cold, snowy winter, so you can bet that Julia and MD Johnson might be adding a fleece or two to their vests lest we see April snows in the turkey woods. (JULIA JOHNSON)

acrylic, and rosewood. Different materials equal different tones. I can also use the acrylic in the rain. • Primos Old Crow crow call: Loud and obnoxious, just what I want out of a crow call.

• H.S. Strut Palmer Hoot Tube barred owl hooter: Super user-friendly and sounds great. • Primos A-Frame Triple Reed diaphragm call: The only one I carry; yes, it’s that good. I typically

carry two or three in a small blue compartmentalized call-specific case in my pocket. • H.S. Strut stone call conditioner: Hard surface pot calls like glass or aluminum require frequent and often robust touch-ups to stay sounding as they sound. • Tin of Pacific Pearl smoked oysters: For postharvest celebrations with Julia Carol. • Granola bars, sunflower seeds, and two 8-ounce bottled waters: For the munchies and thirst. • Five-Hour Energy, Sour Apple in the camo bottle: Because turkey hunting’s tough and demanding work. • ThermaCELL butane mosquito repelling unit: Best $25 you’ll ever spend. Period. • Field kit, aka Ziploc Bag: containing Tylenol, aspirin, Carmex, Q-tips, bandages, dental floss, tweezers, small compact mirror, 36 inches of 550-pound-test Paracord, Rolaids, antiseptic wipes, turkey tags, clickstyle pen, butane lighter, assorted safety pins, fingernail clippers, spare eyeglasses, and Zeiss lens cleaning wipes. • H.S. Strut Bun-Saver seat cushion: Permanently underinflated, like New England footballs, but it keeps my backside dry. • Zink Avian-X LCD decoys: One head-up, and one feeder. Ultrarealistic and lightweight.

BETTER TO BE PREPARED … Some of you veterans might scoff at the list above, knowing, as I do, that in-depth scouting and an accurate, well-patterned shotgun, along with a seductive yelp or two combined with the ability to put the call away and be quiet, is often all that’s needed in order to give that ol’ longbeard a ride home in Grandpa’s pickup. Still, a well-stocked vest can be a godsend on any number of levels, particularly should you subscribe to the mantra ’tis best to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. And boy howdy, do I have it. NS 158 Northwest Sportsman

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HUNTING

SNOW BIRDS Spring turkey season is just around the corner, but the Northwest’s winter could impact where and you hunt gobblers. By Troy Rodakowski

W

e haven’t had a winter like this in a very long time. Heavy snows in the lowlands, long periods of cold weather on both sides of the mountains, and a constant barrage of Pacific storms marked the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017. It’s been rough on wildlife, especially Idaho big game, and while turkeys are very tough birds and true survivors, they’re not immune to harsh winters, or lingering conditions that may affect how and where you hunt our region’s plentiful flocks. So now it’s time to figure out how to effectively hunt turkeys in locations with higher than average snowpack, which this year includes much more of the Northwest (good news for water supplies this coming summer), and includes some important hunting areas. In early February, snowpack levels across the Northwest ranged from a high of 180-plus percent of average in parts of Southwest and eastern Central Oregon to 110 to 129 percent in parts of Northeast Oregon and Northeast Washington, according to Natural Resources Conservation Service data. I have had some very good success during years with plenty of snow at elevations between 3,500 and 4,500 feet. This being said, hunters on the east side of the Cascades and near the mountain west can likely

With a heavier winter than we’ve seen in over a halfdozen years, it may pay to adjust your spring turkey tactics to find success afield when seasons open next month in the Northwest. The author’s cousin Justin Falk bagged this gobbler near the snowline a few years back. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

expect to find most of their birds at lower elevations during the opener. I have personally seen several flocks in locations where they are nestled in close to a good food source below the snowline. This poses the next problem for hunters – obtaining permission to hunt these birds. Normally, mountain birds can readily be found on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management ground, but during our harsh winter they may have moved to private ranches or rangelands that are private property. Regardless, a hunter will need to adapt to the area in which they plan to hunt.

MORE THAN EVER, this year we will need to scout and pay close attention to flock movements. Really, it is pretty simple, and many hunters already know that turkeys will follow the receding snowline in search of fresh plants (creeping buttercup, dandelions) and insects. However, birds may also be found in more concentrated flocks, especially early in the season. “Weather (especially moisture), forage, predation, and catastrophic events (e.g. fire, flooding, and blizzards) are the main factors that affect whether you are looking at

a wild turkey down the bead of your shotgun,” notes Mikal Moore, National Wild Turkey Federation regional biologist. On stormy days they will find sheltered locations and not move much or long distances. When the weather breaks and warms, they will be out feeding and following the snowlines to higher elevations. I like to concentrate near creek drainages, as they have plenty of aquatic life, insects and freshly sprouted plants. “Healthy riparian areas and wet meadows can really boost poult health and survival as an excellent source for protein,” notes Moore.

BIRDS WILL BE more vocal during fair weather as they move about, strut and dust. Hillsides with dry dirt, near old burns or lightning strikes also provide places for mature gobblers to set up shop. Hens will frequently visit these areas to dust and feed, and gobblers will be waiting or not far behind. These are some of my favorite locations to hunt, especially on warmer days during the late mornings and afternoons, when the dirt warms and dries out. Beau Brooks of Brooks Custom Calls (facebook.com/brookscustomcalls) nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

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DRESS FOR GOBBLER SUCCESS

has a few pointers for hunting birds this coming spring. “We like to hike above the heavy snow drifts and find meadows where the snow has melted, where gobblers will set up shop,” Brooks says. However, he anticipates many of the larger flocks will remain at lower elevation this spring. “I like to hit them with a box call that resonates well from a distance, and then switch to one of my mouth calls once we close the gap,” adds Brooks. Finally, most hunters forget one really neat thing about having plenty of snow to contend with, the ability to track turkeys. I have actually followed flocks several miles in the snow until I caught up with them. It’s at that moment you can decide a strategy to close the distance and hopefully harvest a bird. I suspect there will be more 2-plus-year-old birds this season than jakes due to the harsh winter we have had. NS

I have hunted spring turkey during snow squalls that quickly turned into 55- to 60-degree sunny afternoons, which highlights the importance of layering. Make sure to save room in your vest for extra dry socks, hand warmers and fire starter. Also, I like to have an extra beanie and neck gaiter to keep my head warm. These garments can easily be shed once the weather warms. Of course, a warm wicking base layer is most important, and several companies make very good undergarments. Grays Harbor Unders, Cabela’s brand and others provide affordable warmth during chilly spring mornings. However, probably the most important piece of clothing is your jacket and pants, which need to be warm, comfortable and durable. Last year I hunted most of the spring wearing gear made by Huntworth, out of Pennsylvania (huntworthgear.com). It’s not only affordable but very quiet and also comfortable. In my opinion, they actually have some of the best fitting, warmest gloves on the market with very good pricing. For me it is very important to be able to feel my calls, gun and open

Spring weather runs the gamut, so it pays to consider how to layer up for warmth and comfort. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

zippers and pouches with ease. Their gear is ergonomically designed to provide the highest dexterity and comfort for any shooter. Luckily, I packed one of their balaclavas to keep my head warm during the cold mornings. Huntworth has these available in an assortment of camo patterns and styles. One thing I also applaud them for is having extensive women and youth lines of apparel that many other brands often times neglect. For boots I chose Muck for their waterproof abilities. They aren’t always the warmest but they will keep you dry when crossing swollen creeks. –TR

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COLUMN

As your pup grows, lead it to where you eventually want it to potty as an adult. This will prevent dead grass and foul odors from lingering near the house. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

respond to it. For the first week or two, it’s a good idea to physically carry the puppy outside, placing it where you want it to potty. Once it establishes a place to potty, it will keep going to that same spot. After a couple weeks, when the pup awakens from a nap, take it out of the daytime kennel or pen, positioned by the door, and let it walk outside to potty, on its own. This will help it learn that when it has to potty, to go to the door and walk to the established site. Reward it with praise and petting. At this young age, physical contact is a big part of developing a bond between you and your dog, and positive reinforcement is the key to quick potty training.

On Nos. 2 And 3

P

otty training your pup begins the day you bring it home. Actually, it starts before you bring it home. Being prepared to successfully potty train a pup starts with having strategically placed kennels and pens near doors, for quick access. It also starts by having one door with a direct connection to the outside where the dog will learn to go when it needs to potty. I like having two kennels in the house for a new pup. One is placed GUN DOGGIN’ 101 near the door where the pup will exit to go potty. The other is placed By Scott Haugen on a table or bench near my bed, where the new pup sleeps at night. I want the bedtime kennel at eye level, so the pup feels comfortable and where I can keep an eye on it throughout the night. This is not only a good way to monitor when the pup needs to go potty, but also to establish sleep patterns as it grows, and foster bonding. A seven- or eight-week-old puppy plays hard, then crashes. Before it falls asleep, take it potty. When the pup is sleeping, never wake it up to go potty. But when it awakens, get it out the door

as soon as possible. Decide on a potty command that everyone in the family will use. You want your dog to learn how to urinate on command. “Go potty” is our command, and all three of our dogs

DURING THE DAY, I like placing a pup in a pen, in my office. This gets it used to sleeping in a different place, allows me to keep an eye on it, develops bonding, and when it wakes up, I can immediately get it outside to potty. When the puppy is awake, take it outside to potty every 20 to 40 minutes. Male pups have to potty more frequently than females, so every 20 minutes is not an overkill with a young pup. Calling them to the door, in the middle of play time, is a good way teach them to go to the door when they have to potty, and is also the start of teaching them the command to come. At night, for the first week or so, when the pup is sleeping in the bedside kennel, take it out as soon as it begins to stir, every two to three hours. This will teach it that it’s not OK to potty in the kennel, and also develops the trust that you can be counted on. I’ve had female pups be fully potty trained at three and a half months of age, while males can take up to five months. After a few weeks of going potty out the same door of the house, start changing things up. Begin taking it out different doors and having it potty in different places, even on different surfaces. You don’t want a dog that always has to potty on grass and only grass. Having a pup that will potty on gravel, sawdust, river rock, dirt, even on pavement, nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

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COLUMN ensures that as it matures it will potty on command, wherever you are. In order to prevent accidents, after about a month of age, don’t give the pup water two to three hours before bedtime. As a growing pup they need water, just limit it at night time.

Praising your pup with positive reinforcement can expedite the potty training process. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

ONCE PUP’S COMFORTABLE with going potty as soon as it gets outside, start carrying it to where you’ll eventually want it to relieve itself as an adult, usually further from the house. This will prevent the pup from doing its business next to a sidewalk and killing the grass. It’s nothing for a dog to go 50 yards or more before going potty, but you have to teach them that, early. As they mature, and you teach them verbal and hand signals, you’ll be able to direct them to exactly where you want them to potty, at whatever distance. Before you bring that pup home, have a potty training plan in place. Be patient and positive, and don’t scold a pup for any accidents it has in the house for the

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first month or so. If you catch it in the act, sternly say “no,” pick it up and carry it outside to finish its business. Accidents will happen, and positive reinforcement will see better, quicker results than negative ones that will stress a pup and

inflict uncertainty. NS Editor’s note: To see some of Scott Haugen’s dog training video tips, check out talltimberpudelpointers.com, and follow facebook.com/pudelpointers/.


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COLUMN

New Rifles, Ammo Shine At SHOT Author Dave Workman had a chance to shoot Browning’s new Hell’s Canyon Long Range Rifle in .300 Win. Magnum at January’s SHOT Show, and he found it to be deadly accurate. (DAVE WORKMAN)

M ON TARGET

By Dave Workman

edia Day at the Range once again preceded the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas, and it gave outdoor

and gun writers – including yours truly – the opportunity to press a lot of triggers. One experience I won’t soon forget is the all-too-brief time I spent at the Browning display because the centerpiece of that exhibit was a brand-new entry in the X-Bolt family they call the Hell’s Canyon Long Range

rifle. It’s a gem. Keep in mind, this is the 100th anniversary of the famous Browning Automatic Rifle, and the company chose the occasion to introduce a BAR Safari model, a handsome selfloader chambered in .30-06 Sprg. Only 100 of these guns were made

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COLUMN

Brought To You By:

to commemorate this centennial anniversary, and they’re likely all gone by now. So, for the people who want a rifle to shoot rather than admire in a display case, the Hell’s Canyon Long Range is just the ticket. Browning chambers this rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor with a 22-inch barrel, .270 WSM and .300 WSM with a 23-inch barrel, and 26 Nosler, 7mm Rem. Mag., 28 Nosler and 300 Win. Mag. with a 26inch barrel. MSRP on the Hell’s Canyon ranges from $1,229.99 to $1,299.99. So, what’s the big deal? Well, for starters, from a sandbag rest at 200 yards, I hit everything I shot at, including a small steel plate. Since an elk, deer, moose, goat, sheep, caribou, black or brown bear are much larger, I’d say that at double the distance, they’re all in big trouble. Translation, this rifle was deadbang accurate, and it had been fired by at least a few other people before I got my grubby little hands on it.

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The sample gun I fired was chambered in .300 Win. Magnum. Thanks to modern recoil pad technology and materials, this baby is a delight to shoot. I was wearing a lightweight nylon jacket and felt recoil was no different than with my own ’06. Browning put some eye-catching cosmetics into this model. It’s got a burnt bronze Cerakote finish that is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It wears a fluted heavy sporter contour barrel, and the composite stock is finished in A-TACS AU camo with DuraTouch armor coating. The grip has a palm swell and gripping surfaces are textured, which is important to anyone who hunts in the Pacific Northwest, North Idaho or Western Montana, and especially in Southeast Alaska. While the other cartridges are dandies, especially the 26 and 28 Nosler, I think the .300 Win. Mag and 7mm Rem. Mag are probably the two

®

most popular long-range big game cartridges now in common use in North America. I like that .30-caliber pill for any number of reasons, and being a handloader, if this was my rifle I’d already be tinkering at the loading bench with a good supply of Hodgdon powder and an assortment of 180- to 220-grain bullets from Nosler, Hornady, Barnes, Speer and Sierra.

ANOTHER ENTRY THAT impressed the hell out of me is Ruger’s brand new GP100 in .44 Special that I mentioned in last month’s column. Now I’ve had a chance to shoot that baby. I’ve never owned a .44 Special, or even a .44 Magnum for that matter. I’m a fanatic for the .41 Magnum, and I have a couple of Ruger single-actions in .45 Colt. That said, when I cut loose with the GP100, which is all stainless steel with a Hogue Monogrip, adjustable rear sight, smooth double action and crisp single-action, I was impressed. The .44 Special can be handloaded to fairly stout levels for defense against bears and other predators. The fiveround GP100 no doubt will handle factory and recommended handloads, and I happily discovered that it is also a comfortable and accurate shooter. You can find several good loads in the various loading manuals. With any luck I’ll round one of these wheelguns up for a more extensive test and evaluation. With a 2.75-inch full shroud barrel, this will make a terrific trail gun for backpackers – frankly, it’s a revolver that will be right at home in the backcountry. If you’re a fisherman who hits rivers in bear country, this could be a perfect handgun because it’s just about impervious to wet conditions.

I ALSO HAD the chance to shoot Winchester’s new XPC rifle, a hot little bolt-action number with a tactical stock, steel receiver wearing a Permacote black finish, button-rifled free-floating barrel and a Cerakotefinished machined alloy chassis frame. 170 Northwest Sportsman

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COLUMN

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The author also was able to put a couple rounds through Winchester’s XPC bolt-action tactical rifle. He reports that with a suppressor attached, the .308 Winchester round sounded more like a .22 rimfire. (DAVE WORKMAN)

The one I fired was fitted with a suppressor, and chambered in .308 Winchester. It was a kick in the pants to shoot, with a good crisp trigger and was very quiet. For hunting in areas that

might have seen human encroachment, or for gun ranges that are now falling victim to suburban sprawl, suppressors might be the answer. There is legislation before Congress

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MARCH 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com

Winchester’s new 20-gauge Long Beard XR load should be on dealer shelves in plenty of time for spring turkey hunting. General seasons in the Northwest states open April 15, with youth hunting opportunities beforehand, and this might make a good shell for smaller-framed gobbler gunners. (WINCHESTER) National Firearms Act of 1934.

LAST BUT CERTAINLY not least, Winchester Ammunition has introduced what it calls a “ground breaking Long Beard XR” load in 20 gauge, just in time for spring turkey season. This new 3-inch magnum comes with either No. 5 or No. 6 shot and it is packaged ten rounds per box. So, what makes this stuff so hot? This new entry in the Long Beard XR family features Shot-Lok technology. ShotLok is injected into the hull with the lead shot and it then hardens, keeping pellets in place until the shot is fired. At that point, the Shot-Lok fractures into what Winchester calls a “micro-buffer” that prevents the shot from deforming, so that when it exits the muzzle, it maintains its shape to create a uniform pattern. The result, provided you do your part, is a tom in the bag. Over the past few years, I have grown increasingly fond of 20-gauge shotguns, even though I have hunted since my teens with a 12-gauge Beretta S/S double barrel that has put more grouse and pheasants in my cooler than I can remember. I expect next month we will be “talking turkey” more extensively. NS

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nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2017

Northwest Sportsman 175


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