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FISHING • HUNTING • NEWS NWSPORTSMANMAG.COM

WHOPPER WALLEYE! 4 Guides Talk Columbia Tactics

The Man The Legend The Hat Land More Springers!

Life & times of

Lower Columbia, Willamette River, & Multnomah Channel

Part I of II

ALSO INSIDE

Western Oregon Bass

Shed Antler Hunting

Spring Turkey Primer

Buzz Ramsey

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MARCH MA MARC M A ARC RCH 2018 RC 2018 20 18 | nwsportsmanmag.com nwspo wssp w wsp sp spo portsm tsm tsm manma aanm anmag nma mag.co g.ccco g.com g.c om


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Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

Volume 10 • Issue 6

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

70TH

SEE MORE AT VERLES.COM!

ANNIVERSARY

PUBLISHER James R. Baker ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Dick Openshaw EDITOR Andy Walgamott LEAD CONTRIBUT0R Andy Schneider THIS ISSUE’S CONTRIBUTORS Randall Bonner, Jason Brooks, Dennis Dauble, Scott Haugen, Wayne Heinz, Doug Huddle, Sara Ichtertz, Michole Jensen, MD Johnson, Randy King, Buzz Ramsey, Troy Rodakowski, Terry Wiest, Dave Workman, Mark Yuasa EDITORIAL FIELD SUPPORT Jason Brooks GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Rick D’Alessandro, Nancy Ekse, Mamie Griffin, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold PRODUCTION MANAGER Sonjia Kells

HEWESCRAFT OCEAN PRO

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

ALUMAWELD STRYKER

ON THE COVER Jerry Han enjoyed a good late winter day on the Mid-Columbia River, catching and releasing this 10-pound, 3-ounce hen walleye. The Tri-Cities dentist was fishing a combination of jigs and bladebaits, and reported that chartreuse was the hot color for the latter lure. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST) 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

VOLUME 10 • ISSUE 6 (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

117

LOWER COLUMBIA SPRINGERS

It’s time once again to head for the big river – Mark Yuasa shares tips for where and how to catch the year’s first salmon!

FEATURES 43

57

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MID-COLUMBIA WALLEYE Following up on his February feature, Wayne Heinz asks four expert walleye guides – Bruce Hewitt, Jeff Knotts, Tyler Stahl and Kimo Gabriel – where and how to catch a personal-best fish this time of year. They did not disappoint. HEAD FOR THE TAILS Dennis Dauble dedicated a year to learning to how to fish for walleye in the waters below Columbia River dams and the free-flowing Hanford Reach. He shares insight on how to angle for these tasty specimens, some of which come in trophy sizes this time of year too! WESTERN OREGON BASS As the waters of the Willamette Valley and elsewhere west of the Oregon Cascades warm up, prespawn largemouth and smallmouth again become a viable target for anglers. Junction City angler Troy Rodakowski has where to go and what to use for early-season bass.

87

IF THE BANKS COULD TALK Imagining herself as the rocky shores of a steelhead river, Sara Ichtertz sees great passion for the fish and fishing, but also thoughtless abuse of the resource.

107 WILLAMETTE SPRING CHINOOK With 50,000-plus spring Chinook headed for the Rose City, Andy Schneider details how to catch them from the hot new fishery below Willamette Falls to popular Portland waters to the long trolls of the gentle Multnomah Channel. 137 PATTERNING YOUR GOBBLER-GETTER Sighting in is not just a requirement for Northwest deer hunters – it behooves spring turkey chasers to dial in their shotguns as well. MD Johnson has a step-by-step guide for ensuring you’re on target next month! 147 SPRING TURKEY PRIMER With signs pointing to an early spring for Northwest turkey hunters, Troy Rodakowski previews the best units and talks tactics for the 2018 campaign!

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

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Come and Join our 6th Annual Halibut Express!!

Our area offers some of the very finest Halibut and Ling Cod fishing on the whole BC Coast, includingAlaska.WeareofferingaspecialearlyseasonCOMBOHalibutandLingCodpackage for the 2018 season. The dates we have selected for our 2018 Halibut Express are from May 1st to May 5th, May 5th to May 9th, May 9th to May 13th, May 13th to May 17th, May 17th to May 21st, May 21st to May 25th, May 25th to May 29th, May 29th to June 2nd, June 2nd to June 6th, June 6th to June 10th, June 10th to June 14th, June 14th to June 18th and June 18th to June 22nd 2018. This will be a 4 night/5 day package and will include up to 30 hours of guided fishing, all meals and 4 nights accommodations. An added bonus will be that the VACUUM PACKING and FLASH FREEZING of your fish are included in this pricing. This is a heck of a good deal and this package would make a wonderful gift for the fisherman in your family. We will also have our fly-in service available from Seattle, Wash., or Vancouver, BC for these dates. You will also have the opportunity to target the early runs of CHINOOK and COHO that will be coming through our waters at the time of the season. The pricing for this exciting package is as follows: Party of 2 fishing, 2 per boat…$1975.00 PP + 5% tax. Party of 3 fishing, 3 per boat…$1675.00 PP + 5% tax. Party of 4 fishing, 4 per boat…$1475 PP + 5% tax. To make your reservations or for more information please give us a call at 1-800-429-5288 or send an email to: rodgersfishinglodge@yahoo.com Best regards, Doug Rodgers PS:WithHalibut selling for upwards of $25.00 per pound at yourlocalfish market,you should easilybeabletopayforyourtrip.Youareallowedupto6Halibut,newfor2018,4LingCod and 8 Salmon in possession per angler. The biggest Ling Cod this past season was a 60pounder. Come and fill your freezers!


COLUMNS (RANDY KING)

153 CHEF IN THE WILD

With spring turkey season just around the corner, Chef Randy shares how to break down big bird to get the most out of its meat! 77

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SOUTH SOUND March arrives with a smorgasbord of ops for Tacoma and Olympia anglers – Jason lays out a feast that includes late winter steelhead, early spring Chinook, ocean bottomfish and prespawn bass. BUZZ RAMSEY For many steelheaders, releasing wild winter-runs isn’t a question, but what about hatchery fish this time of year? Buzz has some tips for when to let ’em go, if you’re looking for quality table fare. WESTSIDER Even with his many catches, widespread name recognition, and trademark hat, Buzz Ramsey is down to earth and humble. Terry sits down with the legendary Northwest angler to talk how it all began, Eric Clapton, and more!

125 THE KAYAK GUYS Some guys just need to make a challenging sport even more so – enter fly fishing kayak angler Michole Jensen, who combines 12 Northwest Sportsman

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“two complicated fishing methods to create chaos and nirvana.” How does he pull off this balancing act? 131 NORTH SOUND What’s one way to cure the fishing blues this time of year? Depression – as in the lake. Doug details how to fish this stocked seepage lake next to the upper Baker River dam, plus has tips for last-gasp hare hunters. 159 GUN DOG Are you cross-training your gun dog to also find shed antlers? While spring’s prime time for finding deer and elk racks, just as with hunting big game, you won’t always tag out every trip. But Scott has some tips for making it a learning experience for your pup nonetheless. 163 ON TARGET Dave reports back from midwinter’s big Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas and has big news from the rifle world – a big move and new models announced!


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(TACKLEBUSTER)

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THE BIG PIC: AT THE HELM From a young age, Depoe Bay’s Tyler Turner was destined to be a charter-boat skipper, but then he suffered a paralyzing accident 10 years ago. Randall Bonner reports how he overcame it to take the Tacklebuster’s helm.

DEPARTMENTS

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THE EDITOR’S NOTE

19

SOCIAL SCENE Reader reactions to recent news

35

PHOTO CONTEST WINNERS Browning, Yo-Zuri monthly prizes

37

THE DISHONOR ROLL Forks float patrol follies; New *OSP tip line; 2 trappers in wolf trouble; Jackass of the Month

39

DERBY WATCH Umpqua, Roche Harbor, Okanogan derby results; Upcoming events

41

OUTDOOR CALENDAR Upcoming openers, Northwest boat and sportsmen’s show schedule

41

BIG FISH Record Northwest game fish caught this month

83

RIG OF THE MONTH Double bead bobber-doggin’ set-up


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THEEDITOR’SNOTE A screen grab from the FishViews’ tour of the upper Skagit I went on in January. (FISHVIEWS.COM)

I

floated the upper Skagit River from Marblemount to Rockport on the final day it was open in January, not a single fish. Pretty decent water conditions too. Wasn’t raining, nice midspring flows. I probably would have heard the grouse drumming back in the budding cottonwoods if I hadn’t had my head underwater most of the way looking for steelhead and bull trout in their hideouts. All from the comfort of my office here on the banks of the Duwamish River just south of Seattle. Wait, say whaaaaat?!?!?

THAT STRETCH OF the famed Washington salmon and steelhead river is one of a dozen Northwest waters that have now received the street view treatment from an outfit called FishViews. They’re based in Texas but three of the four founders have links to the Emerald City. Their motto is “Deliver a data-driven experience – that tells the stories of our rivers, coasts and shores – for science, conservation and recreation.” Basically, they strap a 360-degree camera in the middle of a raft, jab another one underneath the water and push off. Gauges record water temperatures, dissolved oxygen levels, pH and other things. Afterwards they do a bunch of stitching and techy stuff with all the images and data, then post the above- and below-water “tour” on their website, fishviews.com. At right on the tour screen is a Google map that highlights the trip in blue; a red arrow shows you where you are on that stretch. You can play the float as a video, but if you want to see what lurketh below, you’ll need to click on the tiny little screen at bottom left, then hit the forward arrow on the main image to advance from frame to frame. If there’s a drawback, it’s that you only see one line down the river, directly below the raft, which may or may not always be the fishy spot. If you’ve got a virtual reality headset, there’s a mode for that, and perhaps it has a more seamless way to see the bottom. FishViews will probably prove to be a pretty powerful tool for biologists and folks of that nature, but if you’re an angler like me, giddyup, this is pretty damned cool!!! Along with the upper Skagit, so far FishViews has done portions of a number of North Sound and Olympic Peninsula rivers, plus the lower Willamette – and they’re looking for more streams to do too. Hours and hours and hours of entertainment right there, fellow fish fiends! –Andy Walgamott

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SOCIAL

SCENE

Comment from the www

By Andy Walgamott

UNSWORTH OUT AT WDFW After three years in the hot seat and following December’s proposed Puget Sound Chinook plan that he signed off on, making his continued tenure utterly untenable, Dr. Jim Unsworth announced his resignation as director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. After we broke the news on Facebook, Lee Landrum, Chris Gregerson, Brian Moorhead and others offered their “Goodbye, Felicias,” to the man from Idaho. Blake Nelson recognized, “I wouldn’t wish the job of WDFW commish on my worst enemy. Good luck in future endeavors, Dr. Unsworth!” Kevin Spiva hit the nail on the head, advising the candidate committee, “Please hire someone from Washington State that actually understands our fisheries.” Rylee Fee had a person with just those qualifications in mind, the agency’s Fish Program manager: “I am glad to write the (Fish and Wildlife) commission with a recommendation for Ron Warren as a replacement.”

If You’re Not Using PrOlix® You’re Working Too Hard! N E S TEP ALL IN O

WOLF POACHING A pair of wolf poaching cases got readers’ hackles up. Reacting to our posts on trappers from Northeast Oregon and Northeast Washington (see Dishonor Roll, page 37), numerous commenters said the two men deserved awards instead or that Go Fund Me pages be set up to pay their fines. But not everyone thought so. “I disagree with the state policy and actions regarding wolves, but it’s foolish to do what this guy did. Pursue another avenue. A large fine, home detention, loss of hunting privileges, etc., isn’t worth it,” said Ben Thompson about a Spokane-area man’s guilty plea for illegally trapping two wolves. “While I’m not a fan of the reintroduction of wolves, this guy was trapping illegally with unmarked traps and without a license,” Timothy Moran said about an Elgin, Oregon, man who was charged in late January. “That should not go unpunished … I trapped for many years, it was a great experience. This guy is a bad actor.”

CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS In mid-January, the National Marine Fisheries Service reported that West Coast California sea lions are at their “optimal sustainable population,” a triggering point in the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Many readers went Gee, ya think!?!, said it was time for a season and started considering uses for CSL flesh and fur. Pete Richardson was more pragmatic: “Well, it’s a start. Now we will just have to get through all the lawsuits from the animal rights groups before we can terminate them with extreme prejudice.”

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MOST LIKED READER PIC WE HUNG UP ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE DURING THIS ISSUE’S PRODUCTION CYCLE Jim Sroke’s Wynoochee winter-run got a lot of likes, but our revealing of where he’d caught the hatchery steelhead while bobber-doggin’ with a prawn garnered some cranky faces and much debate. Yet for Sroke, who also hooked but lost a second fish, that day on the river was one to remember. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

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Captain Tyler Turner stands at the helm of the Tacklebuster early last month outside its home port of Depoe Bay, Oregon. A 2008 motorcycle accident left Turner paralyzed from the waist down, but through surgery and physical therapy Turner was able to show the U.S. Coast Guard he could pilot a charter boat. (TACKLEBUSTERSPORTFISHING.COM) 22 Northwest Sportsman

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Charter boats named the Tacklebuster run in the Turner family. The third they’ve owned since 1980 is a 1976 50-footer from Delta Marine Industries and powered by twin 8.3-liter 400C Cummins diesel engines. It’s also set up to take as many as 11 wheelchair-bound anglers out at a time.

PICTURE

(TACKLEBUSTERSPORTFISHING.COM)

At The Helm Tyler Turner’s long journey from deckhanding as a kid to a paralyzing accident 10 years ago to Depoe Bay charter boat skipper. By Randall Bonner

F

rom its berth tucked inside the world’s smallest harbor at the eastern edge of the world’s largest ocean, the Tacklebuster leaves Depoe Bay every morning in search of what the Pacific has to offer for its passengers. The 50-foot Delta Marine vessel is powered by twin 8.3-liter 400C Cummins diesel engines rated at 400 horsepower each, and cruises comfortably at 18 knots. The boat itself has developed its own character among the small community

of fish cleaners, crab cookers, and other boats in the fleet that operate under the Dockside Charters office. Captain Jeurgen Turner, more commonly known as “JT,” has been in the charter industry for over 40 years. He started out as a fish cleaner at the age of 14. By the next year, he was on board the Kingfisher as a deckhand, where he would eventually meet a passenger who would become his wife, Teri. JT became a captain at 19, and together, the Turner family has owned three charter boats since 1980, all

of them named Tacklebuster. In more recent years, their son Tyler has stepped up into the wheelhouse as captain of the vessel, continuing the family tradition. Taking that step has been a unique challenge for Tyler, who was left paralyzed from the waist down after a motorcycle accident near the harbor in 2008.

IN THE CRASH, Tyler impacted the driver’s side door of a vehicle and knew right away when he came to and couldn’t feel anything from the chest down that he had

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PICTURE sustained a lifelong injury. The first people to come to his aid were a firefighter and nurse, both also on motorcycles. They lifted his motorcycle off his chest and stabilized his neck as his father JT arrived on the scene. A helicopter then flew him to Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, where he underwent a five-hour surgery to stabilize his spine. The accident broke his T4, T5 and T6 vertebrae. After two months of hospitalization and rehabilitation, he returned home. Tyler was a star athlete in high school and excelled at football, basketball and baseball, and had begun attending Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham just prior to his accident. During rehabilitation, his mind was occupied with the transition of going from being active and mobile to being bound to a chair. He often questioned whether life was worth living like this. During the following months, he was able to find answers and inspiration in his family’s history in the charter industry. In his childhood, the Tacklebuster had served as Tyler’s babysitter during the workweek in the summer. He would come down the dock early and take a nap in the bunk, then have a bowl of oatmeal at the galley table as JT prepared the boat for the trip that day. “When your dad has a charter boat, you can go out whenever you want, so we did,” Tyler recalls. He’d often put fish in the boat, only to donate them at the dock to passengers who’d been too seasick so they wouldn’t go home empty-handed.

IN SPITE OF the adversity Tyler faced entering the early years of adulthood being bound to a wheelchair, following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a captain was a natural progression for him that he became determined to fulfill. Carrying that legacy motivated him to meet the challenges of physical therapy to restore function in muscle groups that most individuals with his diagnosis would lose. With the help of Kandice Vinson at Adapt 24 Northwest Sportsman

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Tyler Turner’s father Captain Jeurgen Turner, known as “JT,” has been in the charter fishing industry for four decades, and took his son out with him at a young age during the summer season. (TACKLEBUSTERSPORTFISHING.COM)

With access to offshore reefs and little competition to the north, Depoe Bay is ideally suited for chasing a range of species, from albacore to coho to halibut and lingcod to black and other rockfish. It’s also a prime whalewatching destination. (RANDALL BONNER)

Training in Beaverton, they started doing two-hour sessions three to four days a week to regain some of his independence. The injuries to Tyler’s vertebrae are near the middle of his rib cage, which normally would disconnect the ability to use muscles below the ribs to move. However, Tyler has dedicated years of work to regain as much of that muscle function as possible. Having challenged himself through an extensive regimen of workouts and physical therapy to exceed the capabilities of his diagnosis, he felt ready to begin the Coast

Author Randall Bonner shows off a nice Dungeness hauled out of the depths while aboard the Tacklebuster. The ocean off Depoe teems with crabs. (RANDALL BONNER)


PICTURE

A charter boat approaches the narrow, 50-foot-wide, 8-foot-deep entrance to the tiny harbor of Depoe Bay earlier this winter. (ANDY WALGAMOTT) Guard medical exam process. Due to his physical condition, he would need to prove that he was able-bodied enough to perform the duties expected of him, but more importantly, he had to persuade the Coast Guard to even give him that opportunity. On paper, he still has a spinal cord injury, and they were unwilling to even see him. With the help of Vinson, they underwent an appeals process, twice. Vinson and her fellow trainers faxed reports and evaluations to a doctor in Washington, D.C., to prove that Tyler could stand for four hours, lift a certain amount of weight, as well as get to and function at three levels of height. Several U.S. Coast Guard representatives evaluated Tyler’s abilities on board the Tacklebuster to ensure that he would be able to assist passengers who had fallen overboard, administer first aid, as well as safely access and depart the vessel, and his abilities met the satisfaction of the inspectors. Afterwards, he went on to excel as a student at Fryar’s Maritime Services in Vancouver, Washington, and complete the process of getting his captain’s license.

CAPTAIN TYLER TURNER today stands at the helm more hours during the day than he sits in his wheelchair. He works with trainers in the gym and at home on a daily basis to maintain his physical rehabilitation. While out on the water, he is 26 Northwest Sportsman

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focused on finding fish or whales to watch for the visitors on the boat and doesn’t have the time to think about his injury. “I grew up watching Tyler pitch baseball with my older brother, Jared,” says deckhand Jacob Mikoleit. “I was their bat boy until I was old enough to play, and he was someone a lot of us looked up to. He handed down one of his mitts and a bat to me. I had many of my fishing firsts onboard the Tacklebuster with JT as captain, including my first bottomfishing trip and salmon. That was over 20 years ago, and I still enjoy working with him today.” The newest addition to the Turner family came last year when Tyler’s fiancé Lauren gave birth to their daughter Hadley, their first child. The couple has plans to marry in September. These days JT spends less time at the helm and more out on the deck, getting in on the action of landing fish for customers during the peak of the season. With his son relieving some of his captain’s duties, he gets to stay home now and then with Teri and spoil their granddaughter while Tyler is running the boat. The Tacklebuster with Tyler at the helm runs trips for halibut, tuna, coho, bottomfish and whale watching, and with its large deck space and accommodating cabin, provides a safe and fun, handicapped-accessible fishing platform for all ages.

“Everyday is different out here on the ocean,” notes Tyler. “I never get tired of waking up, jumping on the boat, and meeting visitors from all over the world.” The Turners eat, sleep and breathe the lifestyle of a charter fishing family. When the Tacklebuster departs Depoe Bay, all their worries are left on the dock, and they’re focused on the task at hand, creating a positive experience for their customers. “I honestly enjoy watching others catch fish more than catching my own,” says Tyler. “During their time on the boat, they get to experience this amazing outdoor adventure that has become my passion.” A passion that he won’t let be limited by anything. NS

Tyler Turner and fiancé Lauren – here with their daughter Hadley – plan to marry in September. (TACKLEBUSTER)


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READER PHOTOS

Bryan Galea enjoyed a good day of side-drifting on Southern Oregon’s Chetco River in January, catching a couple wild and hatchery steelhead, including this clipped winter-run. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

A well-bundled Christian Lecours shows off his plump cutthroat, caught on Lake Sammamish in December while fishing with his dad’s friend Barry Dubnow. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Mike Campion’s been raiding Canadian waters in his new boat this winter. Here’s his daughter Corrin and a fine blackmouth she reeled in. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Spokane’s Rick Itami escaped cold Inland Northwest weather to wade-fish for a different kind of trout way down Texas way, the speckled seatrout of Laguna Madre. Here he reels in his first ever. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

For your shot at winning great fishing and hunting products from Yo-Zuri 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 2018

Northwest Sportsman 29


READER PHOTOS

The Oregon Coast provided a panful of surfperch for Carl Lewallen in January. He was using red and green Gulp! “Fishing fanatic” Aidan Farr was pretty happy after sandworms off a single No. 4 hook and 3-ounce triangle landing this nice-sized rainbow. He was on California’s weight. “Pretty easy (to rig). Good way to do something Caden and Nathan Holder show off the fruits of a Folsom Lake and his great-uncle Mike Passmore of when nothing else is going, open all year, great eating January razor clam dig on the Washington Coast. Cathlamet sent the pic. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST) panfish too,” he notes. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST) (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

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PHOTO CONTEST

WINNERS!

Anthony Clements is the second winner of our new Yo-Zuri Photo Contest! He caught this nice big steelhead last summer while fishing off the bank, and his pic scores him gear from the company that makes some of the world’s best fishing lures and lines!

Levi Carey is our monthly Browning Photo Contest winner, thanks to this shot of his wife Kylie and her Pend Oreille County whitetail. It wins him a Browning hat!

Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

For your shot at winning Browning and Yo-Zuri 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.

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36 Northwest Sportsman

MARCH 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com


MIXED BAG

OlyPen River Patrol Turns Up Fishing Violations

W

hen her husband was caught fishing illegally earlier this winter, a Forks-area woman took it as an unexpected shopping opportunity and urged game wardens to throw the book at him. According to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s account, Sgt. Kit Rosenberger and Fish and Wildlife Officer Bryan Davidson were on a float patrol down the Sol Duc when they spotted three lines in the river in front of a house. Inspecting the business end of the lines, the officers found the fishing gear to be rigged with something a bit more lethal than the allowed single barbless hook as well. The owner of the rods came out of his garage and allegedly admitted to being in the wrong and fishing with more than one rod. Somewhere around here, his wife’s ears perked up. She “told the officers to write her husband for everything they had, because he made a deal with her that if he got a ticket she could spend the same amount of money on something nice for herself,” according to WDFW. You go girl! Here’s hoping the violations aren’t dismissed or reduced by Clallam County District Court. As it turns out, that wasn’t the only

violation that Rosenberger and Davidson found on their float. Further down the Duc they cited another man for fishing without a license as well as with unlawful tackle. Then over on the Quillayute they came across two men and a woman with five rods out – two too many. When they interviewed the father, son and father’s girlfriend, they found Junior was fishing without a license too. The son promptly ran off, and no wonder: As the officers poked around the scene, they found two dead wild steelhead, which are illegal to retain, plus an undersized cutthroat. According to WDFW, the father and girlfriend would not admit to possessing let alone catching any steelhead. They might have been able to make a better argument if there hadn’t also been “a large amount of fish blood on [the father’s] pants.” The guy tried to claim it was from a hand wound, but when the sergeant reminded him about DNA testing, he allegedly finally admitted he’d caught one of the wild steelhead and that his son had landed the other. Making it three for three, WDFW also reported that “all five rods being fished were equipped with unlawful fishing gear.” They were seized, tickets were written, no shopping sprees were awarded.

Thumbs Up For *OSP

number works for turning in poachers too. Initially offered for reporting nonemergency highway problems, *OSP can also be used to give fish and wildlife troopers the heads up. It rings through to Oregon State Police dispatch, but OSP says that if you can’t get through, you can still use the TIP line (800-452-7888).

N

eed to report fish or wildlife violations or other suspicious activities occurring on Oregon’s waters and in its woods and fields but can’t remember the Turn-In Poachers hotline? The state police’s new *OSP mobile

JACKASS OF THE MONTH

A

n “unrepentant” poacher is this month’s Jackass of the Month. The commercial diver was caught with 1,088 undersized sea urchins plucked out of the Tacoma Narrows in early January. In 2017 he was cited for a similar offense though on a smaller scale. The prickly echinoid’s gonads command high prices overseas, and if there’s any justice, this joker’s penalty will hit him where it hurts.

By Andy Walgamott

Trappers In Wolf Trouble

Two wolf skulls and a snare from the case against Terry L. Fowler of Liberty Lake. (WDFW)

A

pair of fur trappers from Oregon’s and Washington’s wolfy northeastern corners are in trouble with the law. Terry L. Fowler of the Spokane area was ordered to pay $8,000 in restitution to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife after reaching a plea deal in which he admitted to unlawfully taking two wolves and had a third charge dismissed. The case began in east-central Pend Oreille County where a dead wolf led to a search warrant served on the 55-year-old’s local cabin and his Liberty Lake residence. Game wardens found wolf traps and two skulls, among other evidence, and DNA analysis revealed genetic material from three different wolves, apparently all from the Goodman Meadows Pack. Fowler was also sentenced to spend a month at home under electronic monitoring. And in Oregon, David M. Sanders Jr. of Elgin was charged after a state fish and wildlife trooper checking out his trap line allegedly found a dead wolf with a small-caliber bullet hole in its spine near one of his footholds. The 58-year-old was cited for unlawful take of a special status game animal and an unbranded trap. According to state police, at least four other Oregon wolves have been accidentally trapped since 2000, but in each case the trappers contacted biologists who were able to release the animals.

nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2018

Northwest Sportsman 37


38 Northwest Sportsman

MARCH 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com


Big Catch At Ice Festival

By Andy Walgamott

Bowers Towers At Umpqua Derby

A

big day on the North Umpqua powered Daniel Bowers and crew to first place at the 26th annual Umpqua Fishery Enhancement Derby. Held Feb. 2-3 on the forks and mainstem of the Southern Oregon systsem, the guide and Terra-Firma Team 2 caught and released 12 wild steelhead on the northern branch and another seven natives and three hatcheries on the southern. Coming in second with 20 steelhead was guide Scott Worsley and his Giustina team. Eleven of their fish (seven wild, four hatchery) came from the South Umpqua, with the other six wilds and three hatcheries from the North Umpqua.

Overall, 205 steelhead were caught, including 68 nates on the North, 61 on the South and 26 on the mainstem, plus 10, 31 and nine hatchery fish, respectively. The event benefits salmon and steelhead restoration and enhancement projects in the Umpqua basin through a raffle and banquet following the derby. Organizers reported that in 2014 alone it raised over $91,000, and in the derby’s first 22 years, more than $1.6 million had gone towards fisheries projects. The derby also includes a kids competition on Cooper Creek Reservoir with local fishing guides. It’s sponsored by the Roseburg Area Chamber and Douglas Timber Operators.

Big Turnout At Salmon Classic

W

ith a nearly 2-pound cushion on the next closest fish, Robert Enselman of Stanwood walked away with $10,000 at the 15th Annual Roche Harbor Salmon Classic. The two-day mid-January derby in Washington’s San Juan Islands also saw a record attendance of 357 anglers on 100 boats, organizers reported. They weighed in 179 blackmouth, the largest of which was Enselman’s 17.11-pounder. Larry Surdyk of Snohomish scored second and $5,000 with his 15.15-pounder, while Oak Harbor’s Dustin Walker placed third with a 14.10, good for $3,000. Vicki Klein and Michael Beard of Friday and Oak Harbors were awarded $1,500 each for fourth-fifth-tying twin 13.11-pounders.

As the leading lady angler, Klein also picked up a $1,000, while Beard scored a bonus $2,000 for bringing in the biggest boatload of blackmouth, 68.14 pounds. The Roche Harbor Salmon Classic is the second stop on the 15-event 2018 Northwest Salmon Derby Series (nwsalmonderbyseries.com/derbies).

Vicki Klein shows off the resident Chinook that made her the Leading Lady Angler at mid-January’s Roche Harbor Salmon Classic. (KEVIN KLEIN)

T

he Northwest Ice Fishing Festival saw its highest catch in years when anglers turned out at North-central Washington’s Sidley Lake for the midJanuary derby and community event. A total of 59 fish weighing 76 pounds, 4½ ounces were pulled through the ice. Kevin Messer was the grand prize winner. The Tonasket angler earned $1,000 in prizes and cash for his two fish, which together weighed 1,974 grams, or 4.35 pounds. But Brian Sawyer of Oroville had plenty to smile about too. His only catch weighed 1,145 grams, or 2.52 pounds, giving him the biggest overall, and a $125 gift card. Second place went to Mike Gorski with 964 grams, good for a $100 gift card, while Matthew Thompson of Oroville was third at 945 grams, yielding a $75 gift card. With a heavy snowfall just before the derby, as anglers drilled holes in the ice, waters surged up and things got a little wet, organizers reported. But still, a good time was had by all. “It’s good, wholesome family fun,” said Robin Stice of nearby Eden Valley Guest Ranch. The festival’s impetus– 2018’s was the 14th – was when an elderly man approached Stice and she subsequently took the idea to a local group. It’s sponsored by the Oroville Chamber of Commerce, and the day also includes arts and crafts and food at the Molson Grange. Eighteen fish were landed at 2017’s edition, 32 in 2016 and 19 in 2015. Dan Lepley, who judges the event, says he foresees nothing but growth. He says patience and the ability to withstand cold set ice fishing apart from other types of angling. Editor’s note: Richard Sholz contributed to this report.

2018 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES       

March 9-11: Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 17-18: Everett Blackmouth Derby July 13-15: Bellingham Salmon Derby July 25-29: The Big One (Lake Couer d’Alene) Salmon Derby Aug. 3-5: Brewster Salmon Derby Aug. 4: South King County PSA Salmon Derby Aug. 11: Gig Harbor PSA Salmon Derby

    

Aug. 18-19: Vancouver (BC) Chinook Classic Sept. 8: Edmonds Coho Derby Sept. 8: Columbia River Fall Salmon Derby Sept. 22-23: Everett Coho Derby Nov. 3-4: Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Salmon Derby

For more info on this year’s events, see nwsalmonderbyseries.com.

nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2018

Northwest Sportsman 39


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CALENDAR MARCH 1

Lake Billy Chinook’s Metolius Arm opens for fishing; Numerous Eastern Washington lakes open for fishing; Marine Area 6 opens for blackmouth 3, 17 Hunt To Home Clinic ($, register), Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center, Medford – info: odfwcalendar.com 10 Bottomfish, lingcod, surfperch, rockfish and cabezon seasons open in Marine Areas 1-3, and in Area 4 west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line (except for lingcod, which opens April 16) 15 Last day of bobcat, fox, raccoon, rabbit and hare season in Washington 16 Marine Area 5 opens for blackmouth 31 Last day 2017-18 Washington fishing, hunting licenses valid; Youth Turkey Hunting Clinic ($, register), White River Wildlife Area – info: odfwcalendar.com

APRIL 1

New Washington fishing, hunting licenses required; Opening day for specialpermit bear hunts in select Oregon and Washington units 7 Family Fishing Events, Row River Nature Park and Canby Pond in Cottage Grove and Canby – info: odfwcalendar.com 7-8 Oregon, Washington youth turkey hunting weekend 8-14 Idaho youth turkey hunting week 14 Family Fishing Events, Shorty’s Pond and McNary Channel Pond in Molalla and Hermiston – info: odfwcalendar.com 15 General spring turkey season opener in Idaho, Oregon and Washington; Opening day of Washington and many Oregon special-permit bear hunts 21 Family Fishing Events, Hebo Lake and St. Louis Pond near Hebo and Gervais – info: odfwcalendar.com 28 Opening day of lowland lake fishing season in Washington

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42 Northwest Sportsman

MARCH 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com


FISHING This is the time of year to catch your biggest ever walleye. Frank from Couer d’Alene Taxidermy released this 16-pounder while fishing with guide T.J. Hester. He was trolling a Smile Blade 40 feet deep on the Columbia at Tri-Cities in mid-March. (HESTERSSPORTFISHING.COM)

March Monster Madness

Four mid-Columbia guides share tips for catching trophy prespawn walleye, part II of II. By Wayne Heinz

I

n a few weeks, Columbia River walleye will spawn. Catch your trophy now, while she can still contribute 3 pounds of eggs to your scale’s tally. Last month we asked guides, “How can we boat the next state record walleye?” This month, our guides will help us to catch a personal-best walleye. Our five guides: Bruce Hewitt, GoingFishingGuideService@gmail .com; Jeff Knotts, JBGuides.net; T.J. Hester, HestersSportFishing .com; Tyler Stahl, facebook.com/ StahlsGuideServicellc; and Kimo Gabriel, facebook.com/gabrielguides .kimogabriel. In March the Columbia is just beginning to warm. Average water temps at Pasco in the first week of this month, 39 degrees; the second

week, 40 degrees; third, 41 degrees. Cold, yes, but fishable.

WHERE DO WINTER WALLEYE SWIM? Walleye are nomads. Catch them here this week. A mile away next week. Few of us fish enough in winter to follow the fish. Guides do. Northwest Sportsman: Our first topic – where to fish? Jeff Knotts: The Columbia’s vast. You can’t just drift randomly and expect to catch fish. You have to find transition areas – where the bottom profile changes. Tyler Stahl: Late-winter walleye hug the bottom. Find structure, you’ll find fish. Bruce Hewitt: Current flows slower along the bottom. The rougher the bottom, the more friction, the less flow. Kimo Gabriel: The best bottom structure has several features together – gravel beside sand, rocks

scattered on sand, mixed shell and gravel, logs, basalt ridges … NWS: The steelheaders’ mantra, “If you’re not losing rigs, you’re not catching fish,” right? Kimo: Yes. Winter walleye like to hang near breaklines, along the main river channel. These breaks are the predam river edges. They can be rocky. Tyler: I focus on a few key locations. I fish 20 to 30 feet in some spots, 30 to 40 feet in others. Structure and current seams are the key to walleye. Bruce: I find most cold-water walleye at 25 to 40 feet. But not always. It pays to explore all depths. TJ Hester: Concentrate on 30 to 40 feet of water. Except for dawn and dusk. Fish shallower then. NWS: When the dams spill water, the river can get roily. Let’s talk about river flows. Bruce: The Columbia can vary 5 feet up and down in a day. nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2018

Northwest Sportsman 43


FISHING Jeff: Walleye avoid heavy flows. Fish eddies and sloughs off the main current. Tyler: But too much current makes for difficult boat control. And makes it tough to keep your gear in the bite zone. Fish lighter flows, just off a heavy seam. Kimo: And swift current puts a bow in your line. Hard to feel a strike. TJ: I like heavy current. It concentrates the bait in lighter current. Walleye follow.

WHERE ARE SOME TRI-CITIES HOTSPOTS? Few winter walleye fishing areas are secret. When you drive across a TriCities bridge in March, you’ll a see fleet of anglers. NWS: We’ll start with the drift above Pasco’s Blue Bridge (Highway 395). Jeff, you live in Pasco. Jeff: That spot is fished hard. Try the gravel and drop-offs, 20 to 40 feet deep. Bruce: The Blue Bridge fishery centers on an old, predam gravel pit. So there are quite a few humps, 9 to 12 feet deep. Most are out of the main

Troll Hot Lips Xpress plugs 20 to 40 feet deep for big walleye. (WAYNE HEINZ)

current. Start jigging near shore. Work your way out into 20 feet of water. Bladebaits are good here. My Midwest clients cast blades toward shore, then twitch them sideways

MID-COLUMBIA LODGING, LAUNCHES Burbank and Finley, Washington: Hood Park, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 3 miles south of Pasco, at the junction of U.S. Highway 12 and state Highway 124, GPS Latitude 46.21372, Longitude 119.013; (509) 547-2048/(877) 444-6777 (reservations), recreation.gov/ camping/hood-park; 46 campsites, campground open mid-May through early Sept., free boat launch. Two Rivers boat ramp, Benton County park off East Finley Road; (509) 531-7106, co.benton.wa.us.; no camping, free boat launch. Crow Butte, Washington: Crow Butte Park, Highway 14 between Roosevelt and Paterson; (509) 375-3060/(509) 875-2644 (reservations), crowbutte.com, reservations at res@portofbenton.com; 50 tent/RV sites, campground open March 15 through Oct. 31, moorage available, $5 to launch boat. Umatilla, Oregon: Umatilla Marina RV Park, 1710 Quincy St.; (541) 922-3939, umatillarvpark.com; 35 campsites, moorage available, free boat launch. Irrigon, Oregon: Stokes Landing Bed & Breakfast, 415 NE 10th St.; (541) 922-3857, stokeslandingbb.com; at the Irrigon Marina. Irrigon Marina Park, NE 10th St.; (541) 922-3047, ci.irrigon.or.us/marina-park; moorage available, free boat launch. Boardman, Oregon: Boardman Marina & RV Park, No. 1 Marine Drive, GPS Latitude 45.84338 Longitude 119.70760; (541) 481-7217/(888) 481-7217, boardmanmarinapark .com; 63 tent/RV sites, moorage available, free boat launch. Knight’s Inn, 1st St. NW; (541) 481-2451, wyndhamhotels.com/knights-inn/ boardman; 40 rooms, ½ mile to marina. River Lodge & Grill, 6 Marine Drive; (541) 481-6800/(888) 988-2009 (reservations), riverlodgeandgrill.com; 3 miles to marina. Rodeway Inn, 105 Front St. SW; choicehotels.com; ½ mile to marina. –WH 44 Northwest Sportsman

MARCH 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com

Walleye like this 9.5-pounder held by guide Bruce Hewitt will bite bladebaits in March. Fish lures like these Silver Buddy models on the drop. (CATCHINGMOREFISH.COM; WAYNE HEINZ)

into deeper water. NWS: In March, I see a lot of boats fishing a mile below the Burbank railroad bridge, along Foundation Island, near red day marker No. 38. TJ: Fish from the midisland tower to a half mile downstream of the lower end of the island, 25 to 35 feet deep. Zigzag the gravel shoulder that slopes into the shipping channel. Bruce: Below the island, the shoulder along the Burbank flats drops from 12 into 50 feet of water. It’s a mixture of sand and gravel. Walleye feed there. Slide backward down the river. Work your electric motor to keep the boat drifting less than 1 mph. Slow is the key here. Jeff: I fish the gravel drop-off, 20 to 30 feet deep. Fish all the way to red nav. marker No. 34. Stay on the east side of the river. Bruce: Boat different depths, different directions. NWS: Game Range Point at Casey Pond seems popular. Jeff: That’s red nav. marker No. 30. Troll the east side of the main channel, along the gravel shoulder off the flats. Fish nearly to red nav. marker No. 26. That’s about a mile south of the point.


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Northwest Sportsman 45


FISHING TJ: Work the gravel slope coming off the flat, 25 to 45 feet deep, daytime; 20 to 30 feet deep in the evening. Stay on the seam, out of the main current. Bruce: Midday, I fish these slopes 35 to 50 feet deep. Early a.m., late p.m. – shallower. Bladebaits; jigs; big, three-hook Rapalas … A lot of baits work here. I tip the jigs with a piece of worm. I drag plugs 6 feet behind a bottom walker. NWS: Weekends, boats stack up off the Boise Cascade Mill, between Badger Island and Crescent Island. Jeff: That’s red nav. marker No. 26. The river has an irregular bottom there. Fish the breaking edges of the flat, 18 to 25 feet deep. Bruce: This area fishes similar to Game Range Point. Same drop-off, from the same flat. NWS: We have two sources of river maps with good bottom contours: Evergreen Pacific’s River Cruising Atlas – Columbia, Snake, Willamette

While late winter’s known as trophy time for whopper walleye, it’s also a great time to load the cooler with eater-sized fish. Jerry Han and crew jigged these up from 50 to 60 feet down at Umatilla while out with guide T.J. Hester. (HESTERSSPORTFISHING.COM)

RECORD? OR REGRET? Did you just land a record-book walleye? Then it’s time to do everything right. Even if your walleye falls short of the state record, it could be a national line-class record. Years hence, regaling your grandkids with your triumph, have no doubts, no regrets. Before you go fishing, download state record sportfish applications. Washington: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing > freshwater > records > bigfishapplication. Oregon: dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing > Oregon’s record fish > state record warmwater fish entry form & rules (Oregon Bass & Panfish Club keeps warmwater fishing records). Keep the applications in your tackle box. Fight your fish alone. Allow no one else to touch your tackle during the fight. Keep your catch alive. Or at least keep it wet. Your lunker will most likely be a female. In air, that fish will dehydrate. Write down the details of your catch: weight, length, girth; where, when, how, tackle and brands, line test, witnesses. Cut off and save your leader and 50 feet of line. Photograph your fish – front view, side view, and view on deck, beside a tape measure. A hanging fish stretches about 4 percent. Stop fishing. Records are broken by ounces. Minimize weight loss. Find a certified scale. Wrap your fish in plastic and head for Safeway. State Departments of Agriculture inspect food scales every six months. The U.S. Post Office certifies their own scales. Jot down the inspection or certification date. Note: UPS scales are 46 Northwest Sportsman

MARCH 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com

not certified. Only weigh your fish once. Have the scale operator and a witness sign the application. Delay freezing your fish. Record keepers will reject any fish that has been frozen. Just keep your catch cold until someone certifies it. Have an official examine your fish. A wildlife officer or biologist can verify your catch. Washington: Call WDFW’s regional office in Yakima, (509) 5752740, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. They will refer you to a wildlife officer, or to a fish biologist, most likely Paul Hoffarth, 2620 N. Commercial Ave., Pasco, (509) 545-2284, Paul.Hoffarth@ dfw.wa.gov. Oregon: Call ODFW’s Northeast Office in La Grande, (541) 963-2138. Caught your lunker on a weekend? Call state troopers. They can put you in contact with a wildlife officer. Paperwork done, you have one task left. You’ve fished for years. Suffered ice and snow, risked frostbite, to break the record. You might as well become famous. Contact editor Andy Walgamott, Northwest Sportsman magazine (206-382-9220/800-332-1736; awalgamott@media-inc.com). The International Game Fishing Association (954-927-2628, igfa.org) in Dania Beach, Florida, keeps line class records for saltand freshwater catches. They’ll want a line and leader sample. And the National Freshwater Fishing Hall Of Fame (715-6344440, freshwater-fishing.org) in Hayward, Wisconsin, keeps alltackle records. They also keep catch and release records. Have your application notarized. –WH


nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2018

Northwest Sportsman 47


FISHING

Walleye prey on salmon smolts. So biologists have studied walleye in the Columbia River. Some discoveries from electrofishing, tagging and the sportfishing rewards program: Spawning: Males mature in three to four years; females, in four to five years; even 9-inch males and 10-inch females can spawn. The larger the female, the more likely the eggs will survive to hatch. An 18-inch walleye may have 48,000 eggs; a 32-inch walleye, 595,000 eggs. Most walleye spawn when the Columbia reaches 42 degrees to 46 degrees. This usually occurs in early April. Males arrive on the spawning grounds before females. Columbia walleye spawn at night,

in current, dam tailraces, and along windswept shores. They spawn on gravel, rocks, reefs, and clean sand, less than 5 feet deep. As soon as they spawn, walleye abandon their eggs. At 40 degrees, walleye eggs hatch in 26 days; at 50 degrees, 21 days. Fry emerge half an inch long. Feeding: Postspawn males soon feed. Postspawn females wait about two weeks to feed. Walleye are most active at dawn and dusk. They feed throughout the night. In the John Day Pool, a walleye’s diet (by weight) is 99 percent fish. Juvenile suckers = 40 percent of their diet; sculpins = 16 percent; smolts = 14 percent. Walleye also prey on bass and walleye. Walleye prefer prey less than onequarter of their body length, but they can eat prey half of their body length. They usually capture fish from the side, then

rotate their prey to swallow it. Movements: Walleye are believed to have first showed up in Washington in Banks Lake, in 1962. They school in mixed year-classes. Radiotelemetry studies in the upper Columbia River show walleye migrate long distances upriver to spawn – up to 170 miles – often through dams. Survival: Annually, about 50 percent of each walleye year-class perishes, so if 1,000 fingerlings hatch in April, by next April, only 500 remain. By the following spring, only 250 remain. In three years, only 125 remain. A 14-inch Columbia River walleye is about 3 years old; 19 inches, about 6 years old; 24 inches, about 10 years old; 29 inches, about 12 years old. Northern walleye live up to 29 years. Post-derby, live-cage studies in the Columbia River show released walleye survive. Within 12 days, in 52-degree water, only 1 percent of caged fish died. –WH

and Fish ‘n Map Company’s TriCities: Lake Wallula & Columbia River (McNary Dam to Priest Rapids Dam).

WHERE ARE SOME IRRIGON HOTSPOTS? Any weekend in March when the wind’s not white-capping the river,

you’ll see walleye boats fishing from Irrigon, Oregon, to Crow Butte, Washington. NWS: Let’s start downstream, near Glade Creek, on the Washington side. Do you fish there in late winter? Kimo: I’ve had good fishing across the channel by the Glade Creek sunken island. There’s a good mix of sand and gravel over there. The edge of the deep channel adjacent to Whitcomb Island can be good as well. Tyler: Yes. You can find structure that holds fish at Glade. I always spend some time there, searching the ledges and sunken islands. NWS: Blalock Island attracts boats like a magnet attracts nails. Is that area good in March? Tyler: Yes. We fish from the green nav. marker No. 49 at Sand Island upstream to the green nav. marker No. 55 off Paterson Sloughs. Kimo: I mainly fish from green nav. marker No. 51 at Big Blalock Island to half way down Sand Island – about 25 to 45 feet deep. NWS: Many anglers fish far offshore on the Washington side, above Paterson. How do you fish there? Kimo: Always a lot of boats off Paterson Sloughs. We fish from

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FISHING green nav. marker No. 57 to green nav. marker No. 59, upriver of the grain elevators. Tyler: Paterson can hold fish yearround. My second walleye ever came from Paterson. I was jigging 25 feet deep, March 2007. A nice fish – 14 pounds That got me hooked. NWS: Many boats launch at the Irrigon boat ramp and run northeast about a mile to the Washington side. Tips? Tyler: Big walleye spawn there. I like to fish the Washington side 15 to 25 feet deep. Sometimes we pitch gear toward the shore, and twitch it back to the boat. Kimo: Lots of walleye across from Irrigon, on the Washington side. Miles of water to fish. I’ve caught walleye from Paterson Point to McNary Dam. NWS: Anything else? Kimo: Yes. The closer to the spawn, the shallower you should fish. I

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Jeremy Siefken fished with Trevor Johnson and guide Kimo Gabriel to catch this 13-pound walleye in the Columbia on a Kits Tackle Glass Minnow. (FACEBOOK.COM/GABRIELGUIDES.KIMOGABRIEL)

believe this stretch below McNary Dam is the main spawning zone in the John Day Pool.

WHAT DO WINTER WALLEYE EAT? Does a walleye’s winter menu differ from its summer menu? Knowing

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our quarry’s diet ought to help us choose what bait to use. NWS: When you filet winter walleye, what do you find in their stomachs? TJ: Yellow perch, salmon smolts, shrimp. Bruce: Perch, yearling squawfish, young catfish. Kimo: The shrimp are about 1.5 inches long. Clear to cream-colored. NWS: Not all smolts make it to the ocean. A certain percentage lack the instinct, or maybe the muscle, to migrate all the way to saltwater. So they mill around in the dam pools, where walleye pick them off. Kimo: Same with shad. Of the millions of 3-inch shad fingerlings that swim down the Columbia in September, thousands are left behind in December. Winter walleye spit up 5-inch shad in my livewell. NWS: Dining on migrants who didn’t migrate. Sort of like eating leftovers for lunch. Jeff: A winter walleye’s top three meals – shad, sculpins, perch. TJ: It takes a sharp hook to nab a walleye. The inside of their mouth is hard, so yellow perch can’t stab them. NWS: If a perch spine won’t penetrate, what chance does a dull hook have? Kimo: I find sculpins in walleye stomachs year-round. Prespawn walleye prey heavily on them. Our sculpins are green to brown.


Tyler: When I clean walleye in the winter, they seldom have much in their stomach. Maybe a yellow perch or two; some shad. NWS: Slow metabolism, few meals. Biologists also find sticklebacks and lamprey in walleye stomachs. Crawdads are a minor food source. Tyler: Baitfish are the key. I look for schools of perch on the ’scope. If you start catching perch on your walleye gear, most likely some nice walleye will be feeding on them. Kimo: Find the bait, you’ve found the walleye. HOW DOES MARCH WEATHER AFFECT FISHING? In February, we battled stagnant, bone-chilling air. We navigated by GPS in freezing fog. This month we face a new adversary – wind. Few Columbia River walleye spots offer relief from March’s ruthless, unrelenting southwest blows. The upside: Air and water are warmer this month. We can feel our fingers again. And fish feed more. NWS: Weather and fishing – always a lively topic. Kimo: February inversions helped us a lot – no wind. March, always a gamble. Bruce: In March, fish in the morning before the wind comes up. Those February high pressure systems allowed us to present baits slow, at precise depths. In March, the double disadvantage of more wind and more current makes it harder to keep the bait in front of the fish. Jeff: I like a rising barometer. Consistent weather produces good fishing. Big weather changes – a sudden drop on the barometer, a late winter cold front – mean harder fishing. TJ: Fog isn’t as bad in March as in February. That’s good. But March winds are a pain. Jeff: A wind chop usually brings on the bite. NWS: March wind can mean whitecaps. Boat insurance doesn’t cover foolhardy fishing. Tyler: Wind turns walleye on. If nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2018

Northwest Sportsman 51


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it’s blowin’, I’m goin’. Fish close to points where wind pushes bait against the bank. NWS: The last two years, we’ve had early spring floods. Both years, the Yakima blew out in March. TJ: Yakima mud hurt the fishing for miles downriver. NWS: How about the Snake? TJ: When the Snake floods, stay home. The Snake dirties the Columbia all the way to McNary Dam. Jeff: Umatilla River floodwater knocks out Oregon-shore fishing for miles. Kimo: If the Columbia’s not totally blown out, fish the mudline.

DEPTHSOUNDER, GPS, CAMERA? NWS: Let’s talk electronics. Tyler: I run a Lowrance HDS 9/Gen 3, with sidescan. Wouldn’t fish without it. NWS: Examples? Tyler: Irrigon to Boardman to Crow Butte – I’ve found, and marked, many submerged bars and drop-offs. Also from McNary Dam to the mouth of the Umatilla River. My depthsounder has shown lots of structure around Coyote Island, Sand Island and Blalock Island – green markers, No. 49 to No. 59. NWS: That’s a lot of water. Tyler: That’s a lot of walleye. Sometimes we’ll venture nearly to Arlington. It’s rewarding to find new spots to fish. TJ: You really need a combo sounder/ GPS to consistently put fish in the boat. Jeff: I run a Lowrance HDS 7 continuously. When I hook fish in new areas, I enter waypoints. Tyler: Some days we fish a lot of waypoints to find fish. Other days, we only need to try a few of our waypoints. NWS: OK. Is an underwater camera worth the investment? TJ: Yes. Definitely. Often, I’ll run my camera along the bottom while we drift. Kimo: A good camera – like an Aqua-Vu – is as important as a


charters & Guides depthsounder. I sometimes spend as much time looking for fish as I do fishing. Bruce: I don’t use a camera. But I do pay close attention to my Lowrance. It’s an old X-18. Still does the job. Tyler: Although I don’t run a camera, it certainly can help. TJ: GPS makes a huge difference. Every bite, a waypoint. Kimo: Winter walleye cruise the same spots, year after year. Catch a fish? See fish on your camera? Mark a waypoint. Tyler: I save waypoints every trip. Over the years, you’ll see your waypoints cluster. I keep a daily log. If waypoint 48 produced fish in midMarch 2015, 2016, 2017 … NWS: In the winter, what’s the biggest mistake you see other anglers make? Bruce: Fishing too fast. In cold water, you have to keep your bait in the fish’s face. Jeff: Wasting time on unproductive areas. TJ: Lack of boat control. Kimo: Lack of patience. Tyler: Lack of attention. They’re not watching their rod tip. They’re not patient. NWS: OK. Let’s wrap it up. Key ideas, where to fish this month? We should look for … Bruce: Breaks, humps, places where current flows over depressions. TJ: Seams. Fish near current, not in current. Jeff: Transitional water – shoulders, weed lines, eddy edges. Tyler: Gravel slopes off flats, island points, current seams. Kimo: Benches, sand bars, high spots along the channel. Location outranks all else. NWS: Thank you. NS Editor’s note: Our guides put the electronics on their helm to good use. To put your depthfinder to work, consider Wayne Heinz’s award-winning book, Depthfinders A Guide To Finding And Catching More Fish. It is available at amazon.com.

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FISHING Bob Mueller shows off a 10-pound Columbia River hen walleye before releasing it. His skills catching the species led fishing partner and author Dennis Dauble on a quest to up his walleye angling game. (DENNIS DAUBLE)

Head For The Tails How to fish for walleye below the Columbia’s dams and in its free-flowing Hanford Reach. By Dennis Dauble

I

n late February of last year, I made a pledge to get smarter about catching walleye. I’d spent far too much time being net man for my fishing buddy Bob, wondering what he was doing that I wasn’t. It had nothing to do with my gear, and

our technique was similar. Yet time after time, he outfished me. Was it his Midwestern heritage? After all, he grew up in Minnesota, thinking about yellow perch and walleye, while I spent my formative years chasing trout in Northeast Oregon. Or was it his so-called secret bait scent?

One thing was for sure: I needed to spend more time on big water. I swept my busy retiree plate clean, charged my trolling batteries, and spent the following spring and summer on the Snake and Columbia Rivers. I visited locations where I had seen walleye caught, and I captured bottom images with an underwater camera. I analyzed aerial photos and bathymetric maps to identify potential habitat. I trolled upstream and downstream with worm

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Northwest Sportsman 57


FISHING harnesses. I jigged with soft baits and I bladebaited. I fished morning, noon and evening, and during a wide range of flow conditions. Practice did not make me perfect, but it did make me smarter about technique and about where to find those walleye.

Within the Hanford Reach, midchannel islands and bends in the river channel slow current and provide refuge for walleye. (DENNIS DAUBLE)

HANFORD REACH: 40 MILES OF TAILWATER In the Hanford Reach, you can find walleye in the main river channel off the mouth of backwater sloughs, and in deep swirl holes, such as those adjacent to the basalt cliffs downstream of Priest Rapids Dam. They reside downstream of gravel bar islands and shoreline points that provide shelter from strong currents. Midchannel refuge habitat for walleye includes the 100-D pool at the upper end of White Bluffs, the deep hole near the White Bluffs boat launch, and the off-channel trough upstream of the wooden powerlines at the Hanford townsite. A special challenge for the Reach and other tailwater fisheries is that regulated flows often change markedly over the course of a day. Under certain discharge scenarios, water surface elevation might change as much as 6 vertical feet over a 24hour period. One key to success is having several locations on your dance card. What rarely works is staying in the same place waiting for walleye to swim your direction when flows are not in your favor. What makes the Hanford Reach unique is diversity of habitat. Its expansive waters provide a wide range of depths, velocities and bottom types, thus serving as a model of where to find walleye in other locations where high velocities are in play.

TAILWATER DEFINED A tailwater (or tailrace) is often defined as the hydraulic region downstream of a dam that is influenced by normal operations. Characteristics that include high velocity and turbulent flow may extend from 100 yards to several miles downstream, depending on river flow, spill pattern, turbine operation and proximity of a downstream dam. Dredging and blasting activities to enable deep-draft barge traffic have altered the river bottom in most tailwaters of the Lower Columbia and Snake Rivers and can lead to hazardous conditions for boaters, so be careful fishing them. –DD

DAM TAILWATERS Upper Lake Rufus Woods, a scaleddown version of the Hanford Reach, supports a sizable walleye population. Although not considered tailwater regions, two popular areas include Buckley and Nespelem Bars, and 58 Northwest Sportsman

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(NOAA)


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FISHING for similar reasons. Both stretches of river have gravel bars that provide shallow-water habitat for prey fish, in addition to soft-bottom and deepwater refuge regions for walleye. Walleye distribution is not limited to these locations, however. Side pools between the Seaton Grove boat ramp and the net pens also hold springtime walleye. Moving further downstream to Wanapum Dam, you might jig or work bladebaits in the “toilet bowl” that sockeye salmon anglers favor near the east shore’s boat launch, back channels upstream of the railroad bridge, and soft-bottom areas near the Crab Creek confluence. Common features for these locations include an abundant prey base. Last year brought great success to walleye anglers in the McNary Dam tailrace. The fish were generally small, ranging from 12 to 17 inches, but they were plentiful

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Having an assortment of walleye plugs of various sizes, colors, shape and diving depths ensures that you can fish effectively over a wide range of conditions. (DENNIS DAUBLE)


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FISHING

enough to divert angler attention from spring Chinook. It was also a year of above-average runoff. High flows and strong currents pushed walleye close enough to shore to make them susceptible to jigs and soft baits tossed by bank anglers on both sides of the river upstream of the I-82 Bridge. In early September of last year, double-digit catches were observed for local anglers who fished deep eddies downstream of John Day Dam, and “soft pockets” near midstream islands. Although high winds and variable currents can challenge boat control here, additional weight helps keep your lure in position.

WALLEYE LIVE WHERE THEY EAT Over the past three decades or so, walleye have moved into the niche vacated by native northern pikeminnow, whose numbers 62 Northwest Sportsman

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Spring isn’t known as a calm time of year in the Columbia Basin, but windless days allow improved boat control and favor vertical jigging for walleye. (DENNIS DAUBLE)

Author Dennis Dauble studied aerial photographs taken during low river flow and relied on bathymetric profiles to identify deposition areas attractive to walleye. (DENNIS DAUBLE)

have declined dramatically in the Columbia River system as a result of the sport reward, a.k.a. bounty, program. Favorite walleye prey species include three-spined stickleback, sandroller and yellow perch. Obviously, spines do not deter the crunch of hard-mouthed

walleye. Juvenile lamprey and sculpin are another favorite food. Does walleye diet tell us something about what kind of habitat they prefer? You bet it does. Each of these prey fish are soft-bottom dwellers that favor low velocities. Low velocity habitat is not


Cowlitz River Spring Steelhead The early winter run of Chambers Creek– stock steelhead used in many Western Washington rivers was hit or miss this season. Some rivers were better than average, while others were a “no show.” It's now the second half of the season, and spring or B-run steelhead returns should start to kick 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 will always steal the show year in and year out. This is usually the case due to a monster smolt plant of over a half million annually! This year, the Cowlitz is ripe to net adult returns from a much larger plant nearing 600,000! This “spring run,” which really gets going in March and lasts until mid-April, boasts 9- to 14-pound steelhead on average. Even a few in the higher teens are landed every season. All the usual tactics apply when fishing the Cowlitz, but if you have a jet boat, this river can really pay dividends! Side-drifting out of a jet boat is a staple technique on the Cow and one of the best pro fishing guides to call is Cary Hoffman of CNH Guide Service. He operates out of a custom 20-foot Wooldridge Super Sport Drifter and is about as fishy as they come! He incorporates typical dual size 4 hooks and Cheater 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 concoction he raves about. You can reach him at (206) 919-1266 or email at cnhguideservice@gmail.com. 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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FISHING limited to backwater and nearshore areas, however. Because velocities are generally about 40 percent lower at the bottom of the river than at the surface, fine sediments are readily deposited in deep pools. Drop your underwater camera down and look for sand-gravel pockets adjacent to where cobbles have been scoured clean by current. The odds are good a walleye or two will be in the vicinity. There’s considerable debate whether piscivorous – a fancy word for fish-eating – predators prefer live versus moribund – another fancy word, this one meaning comatose or dead – prey, but one thing is clear: injured fish attract predators, whether due to erratic motion or emission of scent. Knowing this, what better place for a walleye to live than downstream of a hydroelectric project, where turbines chew up and spit out a fair number of fish,

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Find a fat female walleye in early spring and you are likely to find several males in the vicinity. (DENNIS DAUBLE)

including juvenile salmon, suckers, minnow and shad? The same deep pockets and divergent currents that deliver food to walleye make it difficult to control boat speed and position, however. Be prepared to lose gear in uneven rocky bottom.

TAILRACE TACTICS Mid-Columbia guide Bruce Hewitt (catchingmorefish.com) trolls biglipped plugs such as the Rapala Husky Jerk or Hot Lips in an upstream direction when he targets dam tailraces, using a linecounter reel to


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ensure 75 or more feet of line is out. “Select plugs capable of diving to 20 feet or more,” he advises. Hewitt sometimes swaps out a worm harness for a shallow-running plug off 6 feet of leader, using a 3- to 4-ounce bottom walker to keep the line angle at 45 degrees or steeper. Walleye don’t like strong current and will move to edge habitat when dam discharge increases. As guide Jeff Knotts (JBGuides.net) professes, “At really high water you have to get out of the current.” Both guides agree that it’s best to use braided line when jigging, and that you should strive for a vertical presentation to keep your jig near the bottom at all times. Dragging a jighead slowly along the bottom also attracts walleye, partly because it helps dislodge insect larvae, including bloodworms, one of their favorite foods. Hewitt recommends a fast-action rod that will telegraph changes in bottom structure and allow you to detect the subtle bite of a feeding walleye. I’ve found it easier to control my boat speed and direction by working target areas from the slow side of a current edge. Knotts switches to a shorter, stiffer rod and a 20-poundtest fluorocarbon leader when he works deep eddies and uneven bottom with bladebaits. He also favors 5/8-ounce Spectrum Lures jigs, usually tipped with a ’crawler, to get his offering down to the strike zone. Most anglers target walleye in deeper water. However, the fish often move to the shallows under conditions of low light. So don’t be afraid to change it up now and then. As for me, my New Year’s resolution is to be less of a net man and more of a walleye angler when I fish with my buddy Bob this year. NS Editor’s note: Dennis Dauble is author of the natural history guidebook Fishes of the Columbia Basin and two short story collections: The Barbless Hook and One More Last Cast. Contact him at DennisDaubleBooks.com.

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FISHING

Bass Stirring Again

As Western Oregon waters warm up, prespawn largemouth and smallmouth become viable targets for bass anglers. By Troy Rodakowski

W

estern Oregon is a long way from some of the country’s hotbeds for prespawn bass fishing, but don’t let that fool you. According to Kevin Stertz, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife warmwater project biologist based in Corvallis, there’s a real chance of catching big ones in the Beaver State this time of year. And while larger impoundments can be good bets, don’t overlook far more intimate waters either. “An expensive bass boat is not necessary to find these fish, as some really good places to fish at this time of year are ponds and small lakes,” says Stertz. “After a few days of nice weather, these waters can warm up quicker and bass become more active.”

WHERE TO FISH Gary Galovich, another warmwater biologist based out of the home of the Beavers (541-757-5244), recommends many sites throughout the Willamette Valley for pursuing spring bass. “We are fortunate here in the valley to have a variety of waters available that offer different angling experiences,” he states. The Willamette River, with its backwaters and sloughs, can be an excellent fishery though one that’s also difficult to access due to private property. A boat is highly recommended. Lower reaches of some of the big river’s tribs such as the Yamhill and Tualatin are also great places to look for access, tips Galovich. Larger standing waters such as Cottage Grove, Dorena and Fern

Target structure and drop-offs for nice-sized largemouth in Western Oregon in late winter. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

Ridge Resevoirs are good places to spend time too. “Cottage Grove is probably one of the most consistent producers,” says Galovich. He has also been impressed with recent sampling results from Henry Hagg Lake, where not only can good numbers of smallmouth be found throughout the Forest Grove-area reservoir but largemouth as well.

The fishery in Fall Creek Reservoir continues to improve too, while Green Peter has produced some very nice bass over the years and remains a popular tournament location as well. Smaller ponds, both unmarked and private, that are scattered throughout the valley are possibilities too, but just make sure to obtain permission prior to fishing many of them. nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2018

Northwest Sportsman 71


FISHING “A few spots that we worked at this year that would be great to fish from a kayak, canoe, inflatables, or from the bank were Town Lake and Hult Reservoir,” adds Stertz. “We found many really nice largemouth bass at these locations, with some of the fish weighing up to 7 pounds.” If you’re up for chasing unicorns, definitely consider the latter, which is near Triangle Lake. “We also heard from some of the locals that they have seen 10-pound largemouth in Hult Reservoir,” says Stertz. “I cannot confirm this rumor, but I will not deny the possibility.” ODFW also owns and manages a number of small waters in the valley such as Wilsonville, Woodburn, St. Louis and Bond Butte Ponds. “We closely monitor these and are frequently working to enhance habitat and on occasion stock them as well,” says Galovich. He also suggests the Freeway

Small watercraft like kayaks and pontoons can be just the ticket for exploring the region’s smaller venues, many of which are overlooked for their bass fishing. (JASON BLACK, INSTAGRAM: @STRANGEGALAXYUSA)

Lakes along I-5 in Albany, especially for anglers short on time.

GEARING UP Bass are for the most part found in deeper water this time of year. District fish biologist John Spangler

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advises anglers to fish in deeper cover, especially during stormy weather. “Using slow-moving baitfish imitations, lures or submersed flies can be very effective during this time of year,” states Spangler. Quite often bass will stay below weed and grass beds. This type of suspended structure is often quite hard to fish. Try spending the majority of your time fishing in late afternoon and early evening during low barometric pressure. Bass seem to like feeding during these time periods, and the majority of fish I have caught in February and March have been somewhat larger than the average. Your presentation is very important. I recommend long casts and slow retrieves. This seems to work best for me, especially when using a crankbait. In small farm ponds and shallow bodies of water, bass will become more active early, but again, I like to use a slow presentation. In larger lakes, when the water is murky fish will be found along the more shallow shorelines near riprap or other structure that will have drop-offs and much deeper water. These areas are best located using a fish finder or observing the visible shorelines and outcroppings. Here I like to use various spinnerbaits


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with a medium or slow retrieve, reeling just fast enough to keep the blades moving. Spinnerbaits over structure work well during this time of year. Toss purple or black ones over rock beds, outcroppings, submerged stumps and weedbeds. They have been a great bet for me. A ¾-ounce football-head spider jig or a jig-n-pig work very well to get you deep, where you can drag your presentation along the bottom. Some of the best colors in clear water are smoke and black glitter. If the water is cloudy, a fluorescent yellow/black, brown skirt or black and green have produced. When jigging I prefer 8- to 12-pound test. Small jigs, spoons and worms, both live and rubber, work well in the smaller ponds and lakes. Purplecolored worms, white jigs and various colored spoons presented slowly along the edges are great ways to locate small-water bass. Much of the same holds true for smallmouth. However, keep the following points in mind when setting out for your favorite waters. On overcast and stormy days, smallmouth living in deep, clear areas will move to more shallow waters to feed. Make sure to choose the appropriate place to fish as well as the depth in which you will be fishing. The bass are also more likely to strike an artificial lure due to the low light and their inability to see their quarry as well. Female smallmouth will feed more regularly on small baitfish and other aquatic life to rebuild fat reserves and energy to feed their eggs for the spring spawn, so use small minnow lures and jigs while working the shallows of murky or muddied water. In moving water, lures, spinners and spoons are great ways to catch smallmouth. Be prepared to use an assortment of colors depending on weather conditions. Some of my favorites are the red/white spinners and spoons. NS 74 Northwest Sportsman

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BAIT & TACKLE

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COLUMN

Draw A Bead On March Ops

With wild and broodstock winter-runs arriving while already-spawned fish head downstream, this month is a good one to try beads for steelhead. (JASON BROOKS)

M SOUTH SOUND By Jason Brooks

arch is a m o n t h w h e n anglers get ready for the various fisheries to start or finish. As winter steelheading begins to wrap up, spring Chinook

angling arrives, while bass and perch waters warm up. Washington saltwater anglers will also be getting ready for the midmonth lingcod and rockfish opener in Marine Areas 1, 2 and 3. This is a great month for Northwest sportsmen who favor piscatorial pursuits. South Sound anglers need to remember that March is one of the

best months for “winter” steelheading. Hatchery fish are still available, both freshly arrived metalheads and “downers” heading back to the ocean. With the fish either spawning or hungry, bead fishing has become popular for good reason, and March is a great month to give this technique a try. Not only is it a fairly easy technique, but also when you do

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COLUMN hook wild fish – the ones that keep us coming back to our favorite coastal rivers – the way the bead is rigged helps keep mortality down.

BEADS SEEM SIMPLE enough but there are some small differences to pay attention to that will help you hook more fish. The first is the hook itself. A couple of years ago I made the switch to using a Gamakatsu wide-gap. As the name implies, this hook has a wide gap, along with a thin wire, which makes for a quick hookset. Because of this wide gap you will increase your hook-ups when bead fishing. This is because the bead itself often obscures the point, but the wide gap extends the point out just far enough that it will dig into the kype or side of the jaw of the fish as it grabs the bead. Anglers new to bead fishing, or those who are skeptical of the style and think of it is a way to floss fish, need to understand that the reason why the bead is “pegged”

a few inches away from the hook is because the fish will take the small hook deep in its mouth, causing mortality. By pegging the bead away from the hook the angler can use a small thin-wire hook that the fish won’t pay attention to and it reduces mortality since the hook often digs into the outside of the mouth. Larger beads like a 12mm are great for steelhead fishing because they are highly visible, but if you use a size 2 hook right behind it your bite-to-hook ratio will go way down. The bead itself also makes a big difference in enticing the bite. Talking with John Duma, co-owner of Steelybeads with his brother James, the most popular sizes in Alaska, where he spends his summers guiding for large rainbows, char and salmon, are 6mm to 8mm. Those sizes replicate the eggs of sockeye, one of the Last Frontier’s two most abundant salmon stocks. Since we have very few rivers here in the Northwest that have a large enough sockeye run to require such a small bead,

the most popular here are the 10mm to 14mm. These beads are the size of spent Chinook and chum eggs, or slightly larger, and have a profile that grabs a steelhead’s attention. Stealybeads are hand painted, one at a time, with several finishes for the angler to choose from. This helps if your local river has a good coho run and you want to mimic a coho egg, which would be either a red or red and cream colored “dead egg.” Since this is March, one of the best options would be to use a size 8mm or 10mm bead in orange or a pink/orange marbled color that resembles a washedout steelhead egg. One other reason why the company makes its products one at a time is that since each bead is hand painted, it’s already been inspected for quality control. Any angler who is new to bead fishing will see that fishing beads look a lot like the same beads you get from a craft store, except that they need to have better quality. You don’t want to hook a

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BAIT & TACKLE


COLUMN large native steelhead in late March and wonder if that bead has a sharp edge or a crack in it that will cut your leader. Brad’s Killer Fishing Gear also makes a great bead for steelhead fishing. Besides UV finishes, there are several new colors such as “pink lady” and “pearly roe.” Rigging beads can be simple and they are versatile as far as being added to your leader. You can drift fish them just like any other attractor, but most anglers use beads in combination with other presentations. Bobberdogging is becoming very popular these days and anglers will use a leader to their primary bait, such as the standard egg cluster or sand shrimp tail, and then add a “trailer” by tying a leader to the bend of the hook and trailing a bead set-up. Those who prefer to fish jigs under a float do the same thing with a bead trailer. If you like to fly fish or use a spey rod, then fishing a bead by itself is preferred, as they are easy to cast on a moderate sinking line.

Ralph Thomas and fellow salty dogs are eagerly awaiting the March 10 lingcod opener out of Ilwaco, Westport and La Push. (JASON BROOKS)

IF LINGCOD IS your game, you’ll be excited to know Washington’s southern and central coasts open Saturday, March 10, with a daily limit of two. When bottomfishing, the total daily limit is nine fish and remember, you must have a descending device onboard. Angling for rockfish and lingcod is one of the most underrated but fun trips a family can have together. There are many charters out of Westport, Ilwaco and La Push/Forks that offer day trips for a reasonable price, especially since you will be going home with a bunch of great eating fish. If you don’t have a seaworthy boat, or any boat at all, and really want to get out fishing in March, this is a great time to visit these small fishing towns and go on a charter. THOSE WHO CHOOSE to leave the steelhead rivers alone and chase after bass or other warmwater fish look forward to late March. Lakes will be warming and spinyrays will be hungry. Crawdads are becoming more active and also start to spawn this time of year. Though bass won’t be on their beds as of yet, they will be near structure, and flipping a crawdad or Texas-rigged grub towards it can be a fun way to fish. Look to the lilypads as well for holding fish. If you fish lakes such as Spanaway or American, slowly cruise along the many docks and pitch crankbaits. Once water temperatures start to climb the fish become real aggressive, so using crankbaits can produce a lot of fun and constant action. It is also a simple way to fish: just cast out near the docks and reel it back in. There is no mistake when a bass hits it. BY MARCH’S END, salmon anglers will be getting excited for springers. An early spot for those in the South Sound who are willing to drive a couple of hours is the Port of Kalama. A short boat ride away is the eastern shore of Sand Island where you can troll with the other boats just outside casting distance from the plunkers set up on the beach. Standard set-up here is a 16-ounce lead ball on a short sliding 10-inch dropper and an inline flasher such as the

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BAIT & TACKLE Big Al’s from Yakima Bait in chartreuse or yellow and a 36-inch leader to a cutplug herring. Be sure to brine the bait overnight, with some in chartreuse and some in blue, and another batch in natural shine. The simplest way to do this is by using Pro-Cure’s Brine ’N Bite premix in the 2-liter bottles. This is a trolling game until the tide shifts to the outgoing and then you can either continue to troll or drop anchor and sit on the hook. For those who prefer to anchor fish you can keep the same trolling set-up out or switch to a Mag Lip 4.5 in double trouble or watermelon, or a Brad’s KillerFish X15, either in candy corn or double take, with a tuna belly wrap. If you don’t have tuna bellies, then a sardine fillet soaked in Bloody Tuna scent and toughened with Slam-Ola Powder is another bait that springers can’t resist. Be sure to use the dropper weight with the plugs as well and set up in the hoglines. For more solitude, look for depressions in sandy flats on your sonar. Springers gravitate to these slight hollows on the bottom as they make their way upstream. Let’s go back to trolling herring for a moment. Last spring, I was fishing with Buzz Ramsey and he explained that early in the season, when the water is high and still off color, he likes to use a double flasher set-up. Because inline flashers spin you can connect them together, doubling the flash and not cause any additional line twist. Yakima Bait also makes a slider that is similar to the rudder used by kokanee and trout anglers in front of Pop Gear. This slider is easy to use and really helps with keeping your dropper weight from tangling in the mainline when fighting a fish.

OFTEN OVERLOOKED BY those who enjoy the outdoors, this month actully offers many angling opportunities, especially as we close in towards April. Whether you prefer steelhead fishing, chasing early springers, the solitude of our many bass lakes or heading to the salt for some table fare, March offers Northwest sportsmen all of these options. Clean the boat and hook it up to the truck – it’s time to go fishing! NS

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RIG MONTH OF THE

Double Bead Bobber-doggin’ Set-up 18- to 24-inch, 10-pound-test leader 8mm or 10mm bead

Size 2 Wide Gap hook

Bobberdogging a double bead setup increases your chances of catching more steelhead. Start with a sliding bobberdogging bobber on your mainline

Mainline

5mm bead

Size 1 Wide 12mm or 14mm Gap hook bead 18 inch, 8-pound-test leader

NOTES

Bobber stop

Snap swivel Slinky or other weight

with a bobber stop knot 10 feet from a snap swivel and a slinky, stick or tangle-free weight. Tie an 18- to 24-inch, 10-pound-test leader with a size 1 Gamakatsu Wide Gap hook at the end. Peg a size 12mm or 14mm Steelybead 2 inches

Bobberdogging float

5mm bead (JASON BROOKS)

from the hook. Add another leader, this one 18 inches of 8-pound test, to the bend of the hook. Peg a size 8mm or 10mm Steelybead ahead of a size 2 Gamakatsu Wide Gap hook.

–Jason Brooks

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If The Banks Could Talk

FISHING

A beautiful sunrise over the banks of a Southern Oregon river. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

Imagining herself as the rocky shores of a steelhead river, Sara sees great passion for the fish and fishing, but also thoughtless abuse of the resource. By Sara Ichtertz

O

h, what a good life I have. In geological terms I am still quite young, but compared to the fishermen who have stood upon me I am quite old. Every memory they have ever made here I am a part of, though whether they realize this I have no idea. I am the landmark to so much joy – trials and tribulations that lead them to the sweetest of victories and greatest of triumphs. When the river rages I am truly

one with her as she rushes all around me, and when she drops, she is still by my side. And now we are joined by anglers with all their gear – their river arsenal of rods and packs, some carrying nets and some not. Today they carry phones to take their pictures, but it was just a moment ago that 35-millimeter cameras captured the moments. And just like that, my season with these winter fishing fools is underway. They are here to see if they can’t find a most beautiful creature

that joined the river when she was raging. Though I honestly did not miss them, I did miss what it is they seek, as apparently so did they. Like clockwork they come and like clockwork they go. With what I see through the years, it’s probably best that the riverbank can’t a speak a word, but rather stay steady and true, always knowing each year will be different. You never know what you are going to get as winter brings the river and I so closely together each year, but we do know those nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2018

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FISHING fired-up beauties you call steelhead join us in all of their glory. So just this once, I am going to share a little of my perspective with you.

WITHOUT A DOUBT I do believe the good outweighs the bad – those beautiful moments in which I see those who know how to hunt for the fish, start to share what it is they have learned and then those moments of incredible firsts. When newer fishers explode with joy as a steelhead explodes from that winter river, I can’t help but notice the angler beside them and the level of their joy too! This may go unnoticed by the excited fisher who grasps onto their first fish, but I see it. And in sight of such passion I truly see the good in humanity. For the most part, I do believe these fishers fish for the right reasons. At the same time, the comedic acts I have observed since the first time a man decided to toss a line in the river with an enticer on it has led to my greatest rumbles of laughter ever. Trying to get that line in the water and somehow finding the trees instead. Silly! But they do it, most every single one of them. Once they finally do find the water you know they are getting there. They find the bottom of the river and begin to set their hooks into me, the rocks! Fighting me but if only for a minute I know they are growing. And then that time that rock was not a rock at all and they feel their first headshake of it all, hooking into their first ever majestic winter beauty – well, I have to say, I love these sights. Seeing these fishers and their methods grow is one of the highlights of my winters each year. I SEE GREAT fishers who fish for nothing more than what it does for their soul. They are so cautious in their approach that sometimes I may not even notice them until I feel their hearts racing through their boots as a fish erupts out of the river. They may be alone, or they might have a mate, but they are there to fish. No 88 Northwest Sportsman

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Fisherman Zach Henriksen momentarily holds a wild winter steelhead hen. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

need for any ruckus. They handle our most beautiful winter swimmers with respect. They may be able to capture beautiful moments behind a camera but as their comfort and passion on the river grows, I see their top concern is what’s best for the fish, for the river. I see parents allowing their children to gain strength outdoors, knowledge that could never be found in any book. Knowing what I have seen over the years allows me to believe I am a crucial part to so many of these little people’s lives. They have a better understanding in being connected with nature, and in seeing this it gives me great hope for their

future fishy lives, for myself, and for the rivers. They might not realize it, but I have been their nanny and their playground as they have observed and learned from their parents. There is something quite marvelous about watching them grow from a frolicking child on the bank, hoping their mom or dad gets some action, to a hands-on fisher themselves. To some it comes quite naturally, and I can tell the river is a part of them. For others they play and observe for quite some time before deciding they are in fact going to try and fish. In those few sets of families that come to me year in and year out I


FISHING have been able to see the entire growth of these fishermen. Amazing! Seeing them become a father and then begin to share it with his children, while his dad now plays fisher grandpa instead of dad – this is priceless. The decades that have led up to these kinds of moments is one a riverbank can’t help but love, as I know these humans truly love me. They leave me cleaner than they found me. The highs they seek and feel come solely from the river, from the fish. How could I not feel happy knowing what I know? I believe the river helps make them better people.

THE RESPECT THEY give to the harvest of the fish, to the river, and to me helps me so very much when I feel the magma rumbling deep inside of me. Seeing humans using tactics that lead to the harvesting of fish that did not bite – where is the sport in that? Leaving behind endless packaging, cans, bottles, mono, braid, leftover riggings, butts of their cigarettes – you name it, it’s been left on me. Taking nothing more than selfie photos and victory shots. Far more often than they will ever admit, a photo was their priority with wild fish. And rather than hold it in the river as it should be held, they carried it onto me where my earthly ways can’t help but damage these mighty swimmers as they slap the rocks and roll in the sand. For whatever reason, what they do on those phones matters more to them than the fish do. This is something I do not understand, as the most beautiful moment is truly captured in the heart, no matter what a photo may portray. I wish the priorities of these moments were taken into heart as to how they made you feel more so than what the world sees from a photo. I wish the reason they had come to river was to cleanse their soul and get high from the love of the tug, not pollute me with their empty beer cans and gear they are 90 Northwest Sportsman

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Garbage and empty shells mar a forest clearing at water’s edge. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

too hammered to handle.

WHETHER CERTAIN PARTS of what I have said resonate inside you, all I hope to do is give you the perspective of me. I am happy to share the joys of what I have to offer with you, though I have no arms to clean up after you once you are gone. You always have a choice as to what you take with you and what you leave behind in life. I know the happiness the river and I bring into your life. It is one of a kind. Whether you are blessed enough to leave me with a harvest

or not, all I ask is that you pack out what you packed in, and maybe even leave me cleaner than you found me. Share what it is you love with those whom matter most of all, let your actions teach them to love the river right, and respect the creature that brought you to me in the cold of winter in the first place. 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.


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Bonk

COLUMN

Or

Release? F

or steelheaders on the western side of the Cascades, March marks the countdown to the end of the winBUZZ ter run. RAMSEY While enthusiasm may be fading for some by this time, there are benefits to continuing the chase through March and even early April. For example, it’s during the late season when your odds of landing a fish weighing 20 pounds or more increases, as the wild run produces the majority of trophy-size steelhead. It’s also when the pressure eases up as anglers, especially those living close to the Columbia, leave the tailouts and riffles of smaller rivers to begin their spring Chinook quest. And while this article highlights the benefits of chasing winter steelhead on Westside rivers, you should realize there is opportunity for inland anglers too,

including those living in Spokane, Lewiston and Enterprise. March is the time when warming temperatures spur the last push of summer steelhead up Snake River tributaries.

RIGHT NOW, MOST Westside rivers that are open to fishing have decent numbers of returning fish. If you’re looking to harvest a fin-clipped keeper, you need to target rivers with broodstock programs – that is, rivers where the hatchery fish are direct descendants of wild fish. Their return timing will likely favor the late season. You will encounter plenty of fish that have just arrived back to home rivers from their saltwater journey, complete with sea lice still attached. You will also likely catch a fair number of dark fish, those that have already spawned. These are also known as downers or kelts. For seasoned anglers, it’s no big deal to determine how good the eating quality of a fish, based on their body shape, sex and color. Those new to

Buck steelhead begin to show their spawning colors soon after leaving saltwater. They can also be identified by their longer jaw/maxillary bone. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

the sport might be tempted to keep a fin-clipped metalhead, but don’t bonk it before knowing how good that fish will be to eat. Here are a few thoughts that might help you make the right decision: For late-season steelhead that may have spent a few weeks or more in freshwater, realize that fish that have already spawned are not good table fare. Males show off their spawning colors more vividly than females. For example, some buck steelhead will exhibit a rainbow trout look but still have sea lice attached to their bodies. It’s generally true that male steelhead are of superior eating quality compared to hens, likely due to females devoting much of their nutrients to egg development. A male, recognized by the long jaw/maxillary bone extending past the eye, can have a rainbow trout color and still be good to eat, but if he’s darker than a rainbow trout or has a black belly, release him.

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COLUMN Generally speaking, female steelhead, with a short jaw that extends even with eye, don’t develop colors darker than a rainbow trout, even after spawning. Their nickel-bright color deteriorates the longer they stay in fresh water, and they get a white or white/gray look. If you hook a female fish you want to keep, it should appear either chrome-bright or be dull bright with a slight pink cheek and/or narrow red stripe down the sides. When they turn darker than this, they look tattered, their color turns gray/white with a gray or black belly. You’ll want to release it. Another sign to remember: If a female’s eggs are loose, she’s not worth keeping. If you press on her stomach and single eggs stream from her vent, release her. And lastly, whether male or female, take a long look at the condition and shape of the body. This can go a long way in identifying a fish of decent eating quality. Downstream spawners will look thin, their bodies tapered from the head back. Some call them “snakes.” Eastside anglers – those who fish Upper Columbia waters (closed this season) and the Snake River and its tributaries – should realize that all upriver steelhead will exhibit spawning colors. But these fish, even though they have spent months in freshwater, can still be decent eating! They entered the Columbia with heavy fat reserves designed to sustain them until the spring thaw. Still, the basic guidelines described above apply here, too.

IF YOU LAND that once-in-a-lifetime trophy steelhead of 20 pounds or more, you’ll have no problem keeping it, providing it’s fairly bright and has the required clipped adipose fin. If it’s a wild fish, you will likely have to release it. This involves two things: one is to do the fish as little harm as possible when letting it go; two is to record your trophy with a quick photo. Getting a decent photo of what might be a lifetime trophy can be a little tricky and something you should prepare for in advance. For example, I always keep my camera handy. And I wear waders so I can get in the water with the fish I intend to photograph. After all, being able to get in the water makes it a lot easier to keep that 94 Northwest Sportsman

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Hen hatchery steelhead that have spawned and are on their way back to the ocean tend to look snakelike – that is, thin and tubular – and some (but not all) anglers prefer to put them back because of their lesser taste. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

steelhead mostly submerged, which helps survival after the encounter. In fact, if you fish in Washington, you should know that state regulations require that you do not totally remove fish intended for release from the water. A tape measure can give you an idea of the fish’s weight. Most 30-inch steelhead weigh 10 pounds, and you can add

a pound for every inch above that. Near 40 inches, a steelhead’s exact weight depends on its girth as compared to length. I guess in this way steelhead are similar to the anglers chasing them. NS Editor’s note: The author is a brand manager and part of the management team at Yakima Bait. Like Buzz on Facebook.

While there are a few streams where wild steelhead can be retained, namely Western Oregon, most anglers prefer to take a photo then release their catch. Here is how angler Ryan Reed and Olympic Peninsula guide Bill Meyer complied with state laws and still showed off their trophy. Though fishing from a boat, they wore waders so they could get in the water with the fish for a quick photo. (BUZZ RAMSEY)


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COLUMN

The Man, The Legend, The Hat Part 1 of 2

P

onder who qualifies as a legend in Northwest fishing and one name emerges: Buzz. Buzz Ramsey, to be WIESTSIDER By Terry Wiest exact, but with such an iconic moniker, everyone knows who you mean when you just use his first name. The silhouette of a well-built man, hip boots, fishing vest, groomed beard and a cowboy hat is as famous in the fishing world as the Marlboro Man is to those who smoke. As a true legend of the sport, Buzz is also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He’s approachable, humble, and a gentleman I am proud to call my friend. I met Buzz a dozen or more years ago when I invited him up to Washington to speak at a Steelhead University seminar I was hosting. At that time, I’m sure he didn’t know me from any of the other hundreds of thousands of anglers in the Northwest. But he accepted and made the trip up, even though he had a Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association meeting that same night in Portland. As he walked toward the warehouse where the event was being held, I was almost nervous as he approached, steam from his breath rising in the frigid temperatures, rods in both hands, and, of course, the hat. He greeted me with a big hello, put the rods down and shook my hand. We’ve been friends ever since. I feel privileged to call Buzz my friend, and I recently had a chance to sit down and chat with him.

Terry Wiest: The name Buzz – how did that all come about? Buzz Ramsey: My mom started calling me that since before I can remember. Although a nickname, it stuck and I’ve always gone by Buzz. Over the years my distinctive name

Even with his many steelhead and salmon catches – including this big 2015 fall bright from Buoy 10 – widespread name recognition, product lines and trademark hat, Buzz Ramsey is down to earth and humble. Fish for fun with him and you’ll hear self-deprecating tales mixed with expert advice. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

has been a huge bonus for the products and companies I represent, as it’s unique to pretty much myself in the fishing world. Oh, there are other Buzzes out there, but not many.

TW: Something else that’s unique – the hat. You know, I may be one of the few people who have ever seen a picture of you fishing without your famous cowboy hat. What’s the story there? BR: Oh geez. You know, growing up in the ’50s playing Cowboys and Indians was the main source of entertainment when you were a kid. I had my toy guns, and I had my

hat. The cowboy hat thing stuck and I’ve pretty much worn one since, especially when fishing or hunting. TW: So are they custom? BR: No, or at least it’s a style most western stores can duplicate. The Portland Outdoor Store is where I can count on getting a replacement any time I need it. Felt cowboy hats like mine hold up pretty well until they get wet, which is when they begin to shrink and lose their shape. Even though I try to keep mine dry by carrying a rain cover, the rain can sometimes sneak up on me, and once soaked it’s the

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COLUMN beginning of the end of the classic look, so I need to replace it every few years.

TW: Growing up, who had the biggest influence that got you into fishing? BR: My mother. It was she who kept my passion for fishing fed. Since my stepdad wasn’t into fishing it was my mother who would drive me to different fishing destinations, often dropping me off for the day or just hanging out while I tried my luck. Other than a few trout trips with my uncle and one salmon trip out of Depoe Bay, my early fishing adventures consisted of plunking Spin-N-Glos from shore for salmon and steelhead on the Lower Columbia. It was during my sophomore year in high school when a friend and I decided we’d try our luck for winter steelhead. Because we weren’t yet driving, it was mostly my mother who provided the transportation. TW: And what got you hooked on fishing? BR: My very first time fishing ever was at a pay-to-fish trout pond. I was so thrilled at

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catching a 10-inch trout that it was all I could think about from that point on. I wasn’t just hooked; I was totally enthralled with it. I remember racing home from grade school so I could watch our guppies swim around in a bowl. If I wasn’t fishing, or reading about fishing, or cleaning gear, sharpening hooks or trying to earn a few bucks to buy a new rod, reel or gear, I was completely lost. From an early age I immersed myself into the fishing world and have never regretted it. I was somehow born with a passion for the outdoors, particularly fishing, and the adventure of harvesting nature’s bounty.

TW: So a 10-inch trout set you up for life. When was your first steelhead? BR: Damn if I didn’t struggle when it came to catching steelhead from a tributary stream. You see, all my fishing up until then was for fish that yanked on the rod when biting. Making the transition from plunking the Columbia with a Spin-N-Glo to fishing the Sandy River near Portland with an imitation salmon egg cluster was a challenge. I was told that to catch

Ramsey traces his trademark hat back to growing up in the 1950s and the era’s strong Western mythos. “I had my toy guns, and I had my hat. The cowboy hat thing stuck and I’ve pretty much worn one since, especially when fishing or hunting,” he says. (BUZZ RAMSEY) steelhead from the Sandy I needed to use an Okie Drifter. So naturally, I spent my first day there plunking one. It was another passing angler who suggested I might try drifting rather than still-fishing it. But trying to learn on my own proved to be quite the test. I got the drifting thing down pretty good but kept waiting for Mr. Steelhead to signal it was biting by giving my rod a yank. So the first winter steelhead season passed without me catching one. Not having a teacher meant I had to learn


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COLUMN the hard way. So, that first year I got zero steelhead. Yep, zero. TW: That’s funny, my first year steelhead fishing I never caught one either. Continue. BR: So the next year I started watching others and realized the better fishermen were doing a fair amount of yanking and would sometimes hook one. It took me a while but I finally figured out I needed to yank when my outfit stopped drifting, and not wait for the fish to yank. So in December of 1966, my second year of steelhead fishing, I did catch my first steelhead from a tributary – on the Sandy River near Portland. TW: Awesome, and I didn’t realize we had that in common, as I only caught a single steelhead in my second year of steelhead fishing as well. Dang, I’m feeling pretty good about matching steelhead with a legend! OK, sorry, continue. BR: It was from then on that I sharpened my drift-fishing skills by spending all of my free time on the river. The other factor was that I began driving, which provided me with access to countless rivers. I began to write

everything down in a journal so I could chart my success and when the fishing would be best on different rivers. And I took pictures of my catches! I ended up landing over 80 steelhead the year after catching that first one, many of which I released. Yes, I was a madman on the water. TW: Holy crap, I guess that’s why you are considered a legend. I believe I did hit double digits in year three, but over 80 – you are the man!

TW: So tell me about your days as a guide. BR: I’ve never been a guide. That rumor has been around since my early 20s, since I spent so much time on the water. I guess people figured I had to be a guide. Back in 1974 a company called LuhrJensen caught wind of me and asked if I wanted to go to work for them. At the time I was in the sheet metal trade working my butt off, but still fishing every spare minute I had. When I asked what I’d be doing the simple answer was, all kinds of things related to the business but it included spending time on the water

testing gear and promoting it. I was in. But as you might imagine, there was a lot more to it than fishing. Most of my time on the water included taking outdoor writers, tackle buyers, and VIPs fishing. Some of my other duties included product development, working on the company catalog, attending trade and consumer shows, managing a field staff, and interacting with guides and anglers across the country. For me, the overriding themes of the whole effort was to project an image that the company was made up of avid anglers devoted to making and designing lures that really did catch fish, while helping anglers find success, in addition to doing our part to help preserve the resource we all depend on. During my last 12 years there, and in addition to my other duties, I was sales manager for the Northwest and Western Canada. I poured all my passion and nearly my whole life (30 years) into that company. Since 2009 I’ve been working at Yakima Bait as their brand manager, which includes many similar duties.

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COLUMN In many ways, I’m living the dream many anglers aspire to.

TW: I know growing up I never thought I’d ever talk to you, let alone be able to fish with you. And you’ve obviously fished with many people during your over 50 years of fishing. Who stands out as someone you’d never thought you’d be able to fish with? BR: I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and fishing with so many great anglers and personalities during my lifetime. My goal when fishing is to make sure everyone has a good time and takes part in the catching. There are some who think trips with me should be about competing but I’m beyond that. In fact, if someone steps on my boat with that thought in mind, it’s kind of a turn-off for me. Sure, I like to catch fish just like everyone else, but I’m not going to stack the odds in my favor but rather that of my guests. And I’m happy to do that. After all, I’ve caught plenty of fish. But I’d have to say there are a couple people who stand out.

Eric Clapton, for one. He’s a great dude. The first time he fished with me it was for winter steelhead, and he and a couple of his bandmates showed up wearing furcollared coats and blue jeans. Thankfully it didn’t rain that day. Eric and I hit it off pretty good and fished steelhead together several times but didn’t keep in touch and lost contact in the years since. One of his musician friends, Gary Brooker, was really into fishing, and after visiting the Northwest he came out with an album called Lead Me to the Water that features songs about steelhead, the Deschutes and other rivers. Another person I wished I could have gotten to know better and fished with more was John Denver. JD was one hell of a good guy and we lost him too soon. He once flew myself and a few friends on his Learjet to Alaska, where we spent a week chasing fish on rivers like the Yakutat and in the Bristol Bay watershed. It was a fun time.

NEXT ISSUE: In part II, Buzz talks about his

30-pound

steelhead

and

other

While a 10-inch stocker trout caught at a payto-play pond launched Ramsey into fishing, it took him two seasons before he finally caught his first tributary winter steelhead, this one from Oregon’s Sandy in 1966. After that, his abilities exploded. (BUZZ RAMSEY) memorable fish. He also gives his take on the future of fishing in the Northwest, and he’ll also introduce a brand new plug that he’s extremely excited about releasing to the public. 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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FISHING

Kings Coming To Rip City Tips for spring Chinook fishing from the falls to the mouth of the channel.

Portland-area salmon anglers are hoping this year’s Willamette spring Chinook run is a little more cooperative in the early going than last year’s, which saw managers restrict fishing and bag limits due to poor initial counts. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

By Andy Schneider

T

he obscenely loud honking, trumpeting, rattling, croaking and whistling from above drew everyone’s attention to the sky as a low-flying formation of sandhill cranes gained altitude from Sauvie Island, heading to lands unknown. As the racket from the birds slowly faded away, a new creaking sound arose. But instead of a late-rising member hurrying to catch up to the rest of the flock, it was coming from a rod holder flexing as a spring Chinook pulled fiercely on a fully loaded rod that had been spinning a headless herring only moments before. The Willamette River runs right through the heart of Portland and as it does, it creates a connection and stewardship with its residents and daily commuters who cross over its waters on their way to and from work. Anyone who calls themselves an angler and sees the Willamette on a daily basis will always wonder how the fishing is or will be on their weekend. True, the river has had its challenges for consistent salmon fishing the last few years. While multiple rods and barbed hooks are allowed, water conditions and fish returns have been less than ideal. Yet with 53,820 spring Chinook expected back this season, the Willamette should give anglers a good reason to keep their fishing close to home from now through the Fourth of July.

CHARTING CONDITIONS The Willamette and its Multnomah Channel is almost always warmer than the Columbia River in late

winter and early spring. And with that warmer water, salmon here tend to be slightly more aggressive, giving anglers a better opportunity. But on the flip side, as temperatures start to rise, rapid snowpack meltoff in the mountains can raise turbidity to unfishable levels in an afternoon. To monitor water conditions, most anglers log onto the U.S. Geological Survey’s website (waterdata.usgs.gov/or/ nwis/rt) and check the river’s daily turbidity, as measured the Morrison Bridge in downtown Portland. A turbidity level of 30 FNU and above means the Willamette will have just an inch or two of visibility. Ideal conditions are when the value falls below 5 FNU, though fish can still be caught when the turbidity is under 10 FNU. By monitoring turbidity levels you can easily estimate when

the river will be in good shape. It may fish a day sooner in Oregon City while remaining murky another two days in the Multnomah Channel. While there definitely is a current to the Willamette, the lower river below the falls is heavily affected by the tide and the Columbia’s height. Whenever the Columbia is running high, expect the Willamette to back up and most current flow to cease completely except on an outgoing tide. While this can make fishing challenging, it also has a tendency to flood in some Columbia springers, rewarding anglers who can prospect for suspended fish in the lower river.

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FISHING prawns are the most popular baits for back-trolling just below the falls. Start with a Jumbo Jet diver clipped to a weight slider on your mainline, tie a six-bead-chain swivel between your mainline and leader. For leader, run 6 feet of 25-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon to a 3/0 hook. Run a Spin-N-Glo or winged Cheater above your hook to add some buoyancy, or pin two large black Corkies in the middle of your leader, minus the Spin-N-Glo. Back-bouncing eggs or prawns also works well in the Oregon City stretch. As the Willamette’s water temperature approaches 50 degrees, usually in late April, the egg bite can really take off, making for some very fast and furious but also crowded action. Adding a sand shrimp, piece of sardine or chunk of prawn to your eggs is often needed to entice a spring Chinook, as they can become finicky during these crowded conditions. Use

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just enough lead so you can move your bait 6 to 8 inches downriver with every bounce. Last year, the 360-degree flasher bite took off between the Oregon City and Interstate Bridges. Anglers trolling size 3.5 spinners were finding quick limits, but they also had to battle heavy crowds. While this technique is sure to work this season as well, the bite might not pick up till later in the season, when water temperatures rise and more fish start to stack up below the falls. Once it does, expect the Oregon City area to resemble Drano Lake’s Toilet Bowl, with most anglers trolling in a counterclockwise circle. There is sure to be some growing pains this season, as the word is out on this fishery.

WILLAMETTE PARK AND HARBOR Trolling under the Sellwood Bridge produced the first confirmed spring Chinook of the 2018 season early

last month, and is sure to yield many, many more kings. While trolling below the bridge tends to be more of a “local” fishery, there’s a lot of nearby water that can be just as good. Downriver from Willamette Park you start approaching the stretch of the river commonly referred to as “the Harbor.” The Harbor stretches all the way to the mouth of the Multnomah Channel and is broken into stretches by the bridges crossing it. Almost the entire stretch of the Harbor is fished by suspending baits throughout the water column. This stretch of the Willamette is also one of the best areas to utilize the second rod endorsement, as you can target fish at multiple depths with a variety of baits, all while having plenty of room to navigate around other anglers. Three-sixty flashers have really proven effective when fishing for suspended salmon in vast featureless areas, like the Harbor. When trolling the Harbor,


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FISHING make sure to pay attention to your fish finder and find what depth fish are suspending at. The most productive depth to start your search for suspended springers is 24 feet.

THE HEAD OF THE CHANNEL The start of the Multnomah Channel remains one of the best locations to consistently find spring Chinook success, from the last days of winter to well into the summer months. No one knows exactly why salmon take the short cut of the channel, but enough do every year to it make it an ideal location to ambush them as they hit the mainstem Willamette. It seems that spring Chinook will stage in this area and will make their move upstream as the tide turns and at first and last light, so concentrate your efforts accordingly. A green label cut-plug herring has been the standard bait here for so long that it would be hard not to

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Trolling rotating flashers and size 3.5 spinners below Willamette Falls worked well when last year’s springer run decided to show up after all. Whether the tactic works so well again in 2018 is hard to say, but seems likely, so expect this to be a common sight. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

have at least one rod rigged with this tried-and-true choice. But there can be no denying the success of fully rotating flashers, so as the water warms, except catches to increase for those running 360 attractors.

THE MULTNOMAH CHANNEL This slough on the west side of Sauvie Island is one of the most consistent areas in the Portland Metro area to catch a spring Chinook. Whenever water clarity is


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FISHING even remotely fishable, expect there to be fish caught in the channel. While every angler who fishes here has their favorite spot to troll, one of the best qualities of the Multnomah Channel is that its entire length is just a short boat ride away. That makes it especially nice when you are at Coon Island and hear from a buddy that fishing at Rocky Point is really good – a 15-minute boat ride later and you are now verifying the validity of your buddy’s report. One of the most common occurences in the channel is that you will see a bite make its way upriver. One day it may be excellent in the Santosh area, then the following day it’s Rocky Point, and then it moves right up to the head of the channel. If the bite just isn’t happening the second day you’re fishing the same area, make a run upriver to see if the fish have moved. But don’t expect these salmon to

keep a calendar that reminds them it’s time to move on or to slow down their migration. These fish definitely keep to their own schedule. You will oftentimes see a consistent bite last for days in the same area because fish are holding there for some reason. When this phenomenon occurs, it’s usually detectable by a complete blackout from one of your fishing buddies who doesn’t necessarily want to spread the wealth. There is very little water deeper than 35 feet in the channel, so hugging the bottom isn’t too difficult to do. But be cautious when exploring waters away from the popular trolling routes, as snags and debris litter the floor of the channel. Trolling downstream is the most popular technique, but when the tide is flooding, trolling uphill can be a good option. While your progress may be much slower, presenting your bait differently may produce a strike, and once you find

a pod of fish, it’s much easier to stay on top of them when you are not trolling away from them at 4 miles an hour.

SPRINGERS IN THE CITY Bridge City, Stumptown, PDX, City of Roses, Rip City – whatever you want to call this city we call home, there is no denying that there is a beautiful and bountiful piece of water flowing through the middle of Portland. The Willamette River draws our gaze and thoughts as we daydream about the upcoming weekend and where we want to spend it. There is nothing more enjoyable than landing such a prized fish as a spring Chinook, then looking up and seeing all those unlucky folks heading to work with the stress of the day ahead of them. Dinner in hand, the toughest thing you now have to contemplate is whether you topped off the barbecue’s propane tanks last fall. NS

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FISHING Spring Chinook catches on the Lower Columbia will build through March before usually busting loose in April, which is when Josh and Mason Weinheimer caught this nice one last season. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Springer Run Blooms Anew It’s time once again to head for the Columbia – tips for where and how to catch year’s first salmon.

By Mark Yuasa

T

he Columbia River’s spring Chinook return is a marker to put winter doldrums in the rearview mirror, and go full speed ahead to warmer weather, longer days, blooming dogwood trees and a chance at catching the pilot run of migratory salmon! “I would expect the initial sport fishery seasons will look pretty similar to what was set last year, and it’s hard to draw any scenarios right now,” said a spokeswoman at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s office in Ridgefield early last month.

“There are so many variables that could affect the success,” she added. “Some years we see early catches while in other years it’s more of a late-timed return.”

THE 2018 FORECAST is for 166,700 upriver spring Chinook, which is 90 percent of the recent 10-year average return. That is compared to 160,400 forecasted in 2017 and an actual return of 115,822, but somewhat down from 2016’s 188,800 and 187,816. In addition, 21,692 jack spring Chinook returned in 2017 and was the seventh highest return dating back to 1979. State, tribal and federal managers

draw up computer-modeled salmon return forecasts – also known as “paper fish” – in December that annually offer anglers a peek into the crystal ball of salmon fishing expectations. A majority of Columbia “spring/early summer” are Snake River-bound fish, with 107,400 forecasted in 2018, which is nearly twice as many as 2017’s actual return of 51,948 (95,800 was the forecast). Further breaking down the forecast shows 20,100 Upper Columbia spring Chinook in 2018 (19,300 was predicted in 2017 and 11,166 was the actual return); Upper Columbia wild spring Chinook is 3,400 (3,700 and 2,514); nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2018

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FISHING Snake River wild spring Chinook is 18,500 (15,100 and 6,261); and MidColumbia spring Chinook stock total is 39,200 (45,300 and 52,708). The Willamette River forecast is 53,820 adult and 2,130 jack spring Chinook, with 19,460 being the allowable catch total. The initial forecast in 2017 was for 40,200 fish, which was later downgraded to 38,100, but the actual return ended up being 56,163. The largest springer return on record was 541,000 (364,600 was the forecast) in 2001, and the worst was 12,792 (12,000) in 1995. Many fisheries experts are cautious on 2018 expectations due in large part to warm ocean conditions that have stayed in place since the fall of 2014, but could finally be waning. The ocean ecosystem was turned upside down in 2015 and 2016, creating very poor conditions for young salmon survival. But there was some news last year that the situation was on the mend, and the ecosystem was turning in a positive direction. In summer of 2017, the copepod system switched back to a cold-water community, a sign that it was transitioning to more normal conditions.

COLUMBIA SPRING CHINOOK create a fishing frenzy beginning as early as January and February, and builds to a crescendo in late March and early April. Though at press time the 2018 fishery had not been set, the river from Buoy 10 to I-5 is open under permanent regs through March 31, while typically the stretch from I-5 to Bonneville Dam opens March 1, with a boat ban above Beacon Rock. Please check the Departments of Fish and Wildlifes’ websites (dfw. state.or.us, wdfw.wa.gov) for specific restrictions, and opening and closing dates for the mainstem fisheries. Fishery managers will regularly review in-season counts and catch data at certain points to see if 118 Northwest Sportsman

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Cut-plug herring is a favorite of Chinook anglers, and those hoping to catch the year’s first salmon on the Columbia are no different. Just remember to vary your spread, and the deeper we get into season, consider options like prawn spinners, spinners, plugs and eggs as well. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

additional days can be pegged on before or soon after the season is otherwise scheduled to end. Last year, 63,303 angler trips were taken with 9,047 adult spring hatchery Chinook kept and 943 released, plus another 137 steelhead kept and 113 released. That averages out to about one hatchery spring Chinook kept for every 6.9 trips. The fishery was extended three times, from the initial April 6 end to April 10, and then April 13-17 and April 20-23.

A WIDE RANGE of variables make the spring salmon fishery a difficult one to pinpoint when fish will actually arrive in large numbers. All in all, catches can be drastically different from one spring to the next. Usually weather, high water levels from upstream runoff due to snow melt, muddy water spewing out of the Willamette and Cowlitz Rivers, and cold water temperatures dictate their migration pattern. While the springer catch usually starts off spotty in late February and March, the sport allocation below Bonneville is often eaten up by early to mid-April, even though the run peak occurs in late April or early May. The prized red-fleshed meat and high Omega-3 oil content of Columbia spring Chinook rival that of Alaska’s popular Copper River kings.

YOU DON’T NEED to be a brain surgeon to catch spring Chinook, but a little

bit of homework should provide you enough information to get you in the trolling or anchoring zone. The top bait getter is a green-label whole or cut-plug herring, and the key to keeping them from getting “blown out” in the swift-moving current is a proper soak in a brine concoction that can be bought at a tackle shop or homemade. Effective herring brining is by far an advantage that puts the angler in the right direction to catching more fish and keeping your bait in the water much longer. Lastly, don’t just stick the herring on your hooks and drop it down. Be sure it has the perfect tight spin first. A little dab or a complete wash down of your bait with a wide variety of scents will also work in your favor. I’ll use a whole herring and insert a toothpick into the anal vent, bending the fish at a 45-degree angle. Then insert the top hook under the lower jaw and out through the hard spot between the eyes. Allow the trailing hook to dangle free. Put it in the water beside the boat to make sure it spins correctly. A lot of fishermen run a double “mooching style” 3/0 or 4/0 hook set-up, which includes a 6- to 8-foot leader tied to one of a wide variety of triangle Fish Flash rotating-type flashers – many prefer a chartreuse, green or red one – with a sliding drop swivel, and a 18- to 24-inch dropper leader to a 4- to 8-ounce lead ball. As the water warms up, many


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FISHING anglers switch from herring to plugs like a Luhr-Jensen Kwikfish wrapped with a sardine, Yakima Bait Mag Lip or Brad’s KillerFish, and a wide variety of spinners or prawn spinners. This is a tidally influenced bite, and the best action occurs right at tide change or during the early phase of an outgoing tide. On the flood, spring Chinook will often come up as high as 10 to 15 feet from the surface, but during the outgoing, try to stick your presentation near the bottom. Some claim trolling in a zigzag pattern will get the fish to bite, and fish will hug the banks when the water is turbid and high. Also, when boat pressure is heavy, the fish will move out into deeper water, as much as 30 to 50 feet. Be patient when you see your rod begin to twitch, and don’t grab it out of the holder, as you’ll likely pull the bait right out of the springer’s mouth. Wait until the rod is bent over, with

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the tip nearly bouncing into the water. Lastly, the biggest takeaway for spring Chinook is being able to adapt to conditions and switching up your tactics if one thing or another doesn’t work in your favor.

THE LOWER COLUMBIA – the river from Bonneville to Buoy 10 – covers 146 miles, and can be daunting for someone unfamiliar with fishing locations. According to Joe Hymer, a longtime WDFW biologist, here are his top-five places to keep an eye on for spring Chinook: 1) Cathlamet; 2) Bonneville; 3) Vancouver; 4) Woodland; and 5) Longview. In a nutshell, last year the best action occurred from Longview downstream as opposed to the more popular Vancouver-Portland stretch just below and above the I-5 Bridge. It’s no big secret that anglers do well every year off Sand Island at St. Helens just downstream of the Multnomah Channel mouth,

which is the main travel route for Willamette-bound spring Chinook and other “dip-in” fish heading to points upstream. The urban fishing spots along the east end of Reed Island to the Portland Airport Tower, Kelley Point to Warrior Rock, and off the mouths of Kalama and Cowlitz Rivers are also locations to target spring Chinook. Water levels will dictate success for bank anglers, and higher water levels tend to offer the best plunking action. Public access areas include Frenchman’s Bar in Vancouver; Kalama Bar; Woodland Bar; Sauvie Island; Davis Bar directly across from the Willamette mouth; Willow Grove at Longview; and the west side of Puget Island at Cathlamet. Bank fishing off the Washington shore just below Bonneville Dam is another top spot. This area builds to a crescendo in April as spring Chinook stage before heading further upstream. NS


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COLUMN

Author Michole Jensen says fly fishing from a kayak combines “two complicated fishing methods to create chaos and nirvana,” though it may take a while to achieve this state of zen balancing skills. (MICHOLE JENSEN)

Fly Fishing From A Kayak? Yes! B

eing a lifelong angler, and a fly angler for nearly as long, fishing has been my escape and THE KAYAK GUYS my passion. It’s this By Michole By Mich ichol hole le JJensen ense en senn passion that got me into kayak fly fishing. I tell most people that “it’s combining two complicated fishing methods to create chaos and nirvana.” But done correctly, it can also be simple and relaxing. Kayaks are one of the world’s most versatile and oldest boats and can be used anywhere from some streams and ponds to major rivers and oceans. They come in all styles and sizes, from the 8-footer you sit inside to a 17-foot tandem that two people can dance on. For most fly fishing in the Northwest, a 10- to 12-foot sit-in or sit-on will work well. Keep in mind, however, that the larger the water, the longer the kayak you’ll need. With March and April kicking off fishing season on many Oregon lakes, now is the perfect time to prepare for this style of fishing. Kayaks allow fly anglers to stay dryer and go farther and faster than with float tubes or pontoon boats, especially when the wind kicks

up and you find yourself on the opposite side of the lake from your truck. Kayaks require less maintenance than a skiff, and provide an enjoyable outing, and exercise if the fishing is slow. If you get a plastic kayak, keep it out of the sun and it will likely outlast you.

PERSONALIZING A KAYAK is a big part of fly fishing out of one. At a minimum, I recommend a rod holder, but stay away from a “fly rod holder,” which I find difficult to get the rod in and out of. Additional equipment varies by task and budget but may include a fish

finder, anchor, anchor trolley, and milk crate to hold gear (common on sit-on kayaks). Always, always, always bring and wear a lifejacket, preferably one with pockets for your tippet material, clippers, floatant and fly boxes so it becomes as important as your current fly vest. I usually try to have one fly box specifically for kayak fly fishing. It is plastic, waterproof and floats. They are inexpensive and have several compartments where I can put my flies and split shot. My basic collection includes size 6 Woolly Buggers in

Jensen takes his personal motto “go farther, catch more” to heart, here showing off a kayakcaught rainbow trout from a Portland-area lake. (MICHOLE JENSEN)

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COLUMN brown, olive and black, Spruce flies in size 4 and 8, midge adults and emergers, damselfly nymphs and adults, Adams and Royal Coachman. I also keep a few leaders in a small fly box in the kayak or in my PFD because I have, on occasion, forgotten my primary boxes or tippet. These patterns work in most waters. Before going to new water, I always check with a local fly shop or do some research. Most kayak fly anglers fish lakes and reservoirs or calm rivers. The typical method is trolling wet flies or streamers on sinking or sink-tip lines, usually with 5- or 6-weight rods. This works for trout, as well as warmwater species. If you currently fish in a float tube or pontoon boat, you likely already have your equipment. If you typically fly fish streams and rivers, and only have a floating line, use a 12- to 14foot leader and carry small split-shot sinkers in case you need to get the fly deeper. Weighted flies work well also. When the fish are taking small nymphs or emergers, you can tie the smaller fly to the hook of a larger fly with a short leader. This is also a great way to double the odds of hooking up or finding the right pattern.

As with many kayak anglers, Jensen uses a milk crate to hold gear, including multiple fly rods, and like many lake trollers, he’s also partial to the myriad styles of Woolly Buggers. (MICHOLE JENSEN, BOTH)

I TAKE TWO rods at the very least, one with floating line and another with a sink tip or full sink line. I’ll sometimes use both on waters where two rods are allowed. When hatches start or you see fish taking flies just below the surface, you have the floating line ready instead of having to change spools. Note that it can be difficult to run line through a 9or 10-foot rod while in the kayak. When trolling with a paddle kayak, it’s best to paddle backwards, making sure to look over your shoulder occasionally. This way you have enough momentum to keep the line tight when you drop the paddle and pick up the rod. If you use a Hobie kayak, you can turn the drive around to use it in reverse. With a prop drive, you simply pedal backwards. The advantage of pedal kayaks is that they are “hands free” and you can keep tension on the 126 Northwest Sportsman

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fly line by pedaling. When trolling, try to vary your speed and add a little rod action. If there is wind, let it push you along without pedaling or paddling. And, if you catch a fish in an area, go back through it several times. As for casting a fly while sitting, it is something that takes practice because the line can hit the water on the back cast. Long casts are not necessary since you can sneak up on rising fish. When using a sinking line, I cast about 20 to 30 feet. Before casting, I strip out that same amount, and use a zigzag motion

with the tip of my rod to pay out the line before starting to troll. One of the biggest challenges in kayak fly fishing is where to put the fly line when casting, fighting a fish or strip-retrieving a fly. If you have a sit-in kayak, use a skirt to cover the opening. If you don’t have a skirt, or are in a siton kayak, keep the line in the water on the side from which you reel. When you hook a large fish, get the fish on the reel as fast as possible. Another option is to use a stripping basket, especially if you are standing up and casting to


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COLUMN rising fish. Having a net is helpful and makes managing the fish easier. It also helps keep the fish in the water instead of flopping around in the kayak or slapping you in the face.

When trolling a fly, it’s best to paddle or pedal backwards, which keeps tension on the line for when you need to reach out and grab the rod after a bite. (MICHOLE JENSEN)

KAYAK FISHING CONTINUES to gain in popularity and every year I see more kayaks and fewer float tubes and pontoon boats. The obvious reason is because if the fish aren’t biting in one area, you can quickly get to another. One last tip: rent or borrow a kayak before you buy one. There are many styles and sizes, and choosing a kayak that fits your needs and budget keeps it from sitting on the side of the house instead of in the water. Get out there, go farther and catch more. NS

A kayak can provide a good platform to troll for steelhead at the mouths of coolwater tribs in the Columbia Gorge too, at least when the wind’s not blowing too hard. (MICHOLE JENSEN)

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Destination Alaska


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Rainbow trout provide decent late winter fishing opportunities in the area. (JASON BROOKS)

COLUMN

Fishing Blues? Embrace Depression M

arch finds a number of trout lakes – even those By Doug Huddle tucked into the Cascade foothills – awakening from their winter doldrums. Before the madding crowds of summer anglers descend on them, these lakes will yield trout, and you can even find a convenient camping spot on their banks. And if you’re looking for that last contribution to the spring stewpot and get a great March workout, head up to the national forest for your own biathlon pursuit of spring snowshoe.

NORTH SOUND

FINDING EARLY MARCH TROUT Though it is ensconced well up the Baker River and not in the rain shadow of the 10,000-foot volcano, man-made Depression Lake emerges from winter’s blanket well before the calendar officially says it’s spring. Depression exists through the

hydraulic largesse – that is, groundwater seepage – of Baker Lake, the uppermost of the two Puget Sound Energy reservoirs north of Concrete in the Baker River Valley. It gets annual replenishments of 7- to 10inch rainbow trout from the nearby PSE fish facility as part of the utility’s support of recreation. However, its relatively short water turnover (in-flow/out-flow) rate and shallow depth work against production of nutrients that sustain fish. Unfortunately, trout growth is slow in its cold, gin-clear spring waters. Some carryover rainbows do turn up in the early-season catch, though the fish often have the physique of a petite supermodel. Diving ducks, which feed mainly on snails, typically dominate the broad shoal zones off the south shore’s long containment levee that captures the escaping waters from the main reservoir. This means both the carryovers and newly introduced fish quickly gravitate

to Depression’s two “deeps,” which are located at either end of the lake. Spur roads easily access these two holes on the west and east ends. The main “sink” is in front of the West Pass dike, which is the 70-foot-tall earthfill dam holding back Baker Lake.

BANK AND BOAT OPTIONS Avoiding the aforementioned shallow areas, bank anglers easily can hold court at either end of Depression, and though it lacks a formal launch ramp for larger trailered craft, it’s still possible to haul canoes, cartopper tin dinghies and other personal-sized floats to the water’s edge at the west end’s access. At the east end of Depression, tube and pontoon crafts can be carried with relative ease the short distance down the dike from adjacent parking areas to the water’s edge on either side of the fenced main pumphouse. Do stay out of the intake forebay waters sectioned off by the orange boom.

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COLUMN From March on, still-fishing with garden worms, single eggs and/or PowerBait are effective and frequently used fishing tactics for the ever-hungry trout. Offering a fly pattern such as a larger dark marabou or leech free-drifted with a slow, occasionally twitchy retrieve also will entice strikes.

GEARING UP FOR SPRING The greatest fishing pressure at Depression is from the traditional April opening day on through the summer because of the plants of up to 50,000 hatchery-bred trout. Releases may be split into three doses that occur between April and July. To get there, from the Baker Lake Highway just north of Komo Kulshan Guard Station, take the paved Forest Service Road 1104 (a.k.a. Upper Baker Dam Road) east. It links to the old FSR 1106 road down to the dam. The spur down to the Depression’s west end is FSR 1105-011; it takes off near the top of the hill. Just east of PSE’s Kulshan Campground, turn left off FSR 1106 and drive north on Puget Sound Energy’s West Pass/Grover Mountain Road. At this time of year camping is permitted at the west end of the lake on U.S. Forest Service land. If you have an RV, you can park overnight in a space along the West Pass Road just south of the lake.

LOTS OF WATER TO COVER You can make a weekend fishing/ camping family adventure out of a Baker Lake area foray by adding stops at Grandy and Vogler Lakes, both open year-round. Grandy is allocated up to 4,000 rainbow trout that it gets in increments from March through April. Camping and small-trailered boat launching are accommodated by the Skagit County park on its north shore just off the Baker Lake Highway. Grandy is a uniformly shallow former log transfer mill pond with its greatest depths located along its south shore opposite the campground. For trout seekers, springtime is preferable to later in the summer and fall because Grandy gets quite weedy. Surface trolling with straight trout 132 Northwest Sportsman

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lures or bait/lure combos such as a Mack’s Wedding Ring works well. Boat-borne stillfishers should come equipped with an array of bobbers or floats to enable them to wet their single egg and PowerBait offerings well away from the thwarts. Grandy has had for several decades a thriving population of largemouth bass that will show up regularly on the end of your line starting in late April. I’ve not heard any claims that Grandy is harboring any hogs, though. Vogler is a smallish jigsaw puzzle piece of a lake just off Baker Lake Road on the Burpee Hill route down to the town of Concrete. With its waters reserved by rule strictly for fly fishing, Vogler has an interesting feel to it, resembling a north-central Canada taiga lake with its shallow, tannin-tinted surface that blends seamlessly into the stunted Douglas fir-lined uplands. Simple chironomids (even I can tie them), a trusted late winter or early-spring favorite of many fly fishers, are viable offerings here and drop-dead easy to fish. Presented with a floating line and 10foot tapered tippet, occasionally anglers will fold a pinch-on strike indicator shortly up the tippet to suspend their chironomid above the bottom vegetation in Vogler. As the lake waters warm a little near the end of March, switching to nymph patterns such as a No. 10 version of the venerable Carrot can work very well. Nymphing here is a viable severalhour pastime, but when the introduced rainbows begin snapping hatches from the surface and dry fly offerings come into vogue, dawn and dusk become the prime fishing period.

LAST-CHANCE WILD HARES Several extended cross-country ski recon trips into the Cascades in early February were enough to convince me that snowshoe hares are unusually plentiful this year. What’s more – and this was surprising to me – sign of coyote, fox and bobcat predation seemed to be, at most, intermittent, so if you’re up for a telemark biathlon-like run or snowmobile hunt in the Cascade foothills of central Whatcom

County and east-central Skagit County, both the heftier snowshoe hares and more diminutive cottontail rabbits are likely to come in range. Mountain hares are a more challenging quarry to pick out by sight since their winter-wear fur is mostly but not completely white. But with the onset of spring breeding, it’s common to see some pelage turn to a mottling of tans and grays. They typically forage from dusk to daylight, but as the days lengthen and warm, snowshoes can be found loitering after sun-up and through the morning in hides above the snow surface. If stressed by prolonged, deep snow cover, rabbits will take to gnawing on shrub bark – a giveaway of their presence – to get at the subsurface, nutrient-laden green cambium layer as these understory plants begin to force spring leaf buds. When encountered, walking out “crosswalk” tracks a short distance into the surrounding vegetation occasionally will flush them. Occurring down to about 1,500 feet in Whatcom County, snowshoes are adapted to and do best in mixed second-growth clearcut units on westerly and southerly slopes. They also can be found, though less frequently, on colder north slopes and dark hollows dominated by conifers. Wells Creek, Deadhorse Creek and Hannegan Pass Roads in the North Fork Nooksack River are especially viable hunt routes for snowshoes. Also look for snowshoes up Warm Creek Road off the Middle Fork Nooksack. In the Baker River and upper Skagit watersheds, shoosh out the Dillard Ridge and Sauk Mountain Roads, respectively. South of the Skagit ski out the Iron Mountain Road in the Finney Block and on the Illabot Creek system, set tracks out the Illabot Peak Road.

NEXT ISSUE April’s opening day roster of Skagit and Whatcom County trout lakes. NS Editor’s note: Doug Huddle lives in Bellingham, is retired from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and has written about hunting and fishing in the Northwest for more than 35 years.


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HUNTING If you hope to bag a gobbler this spring, the preparation starts now with running more than a few shells through your shotgun to properly pattern it. (JULIA JOHNSON)

Patterning Your Gobbler-Getter Sighting in is not just required for Northwest deer hunters – spring turkey chasers too. By M.D. Johnson

W

e’d chased ’em all morning, always just a step behind. Glimpses. And gobbles. Good Lord, the gobbles. We had ’em at 25 yards once – all three of them. Maybe 20 yards. “No shot,” my wife Julie whispered. We let ’em walk. Again. Down the little hardwood valley. Across the creek and up the other side. They disappeared over the next roll, gobbling the entire time. “They’re on that little flat below the Indian mounds,” I told Julie. “Let’s give ’em a few minutes, and then we’ll move.”

We did, and we moved. Just like they had. Down and up. They were hidden now; tucked into a tiny fold in the hardwoods. At the flat, I set a single hen decoy while Julie got herself ready. My first yelp was met with a thunderous response from all three 2-yearolds. Again. And again. And again, without provocation. “They’re coming,” Julie said quietly. And they, as they often are, they were there. Just there. Identical triplets. Gobbling on their own; trying their damnedest to pull that hen they’d been hearing since sunrise out into the open. Tentative steps in our direction. Stop. More tentative steps.

“They’re going to slide off,” I hissed in my wife’s ear. “They ain’t getting any closer. Your call,” I finish. “That’s a stretch.” Single file now, one by one the trio passed between two big oaks. The first made it through safely. “Shoot the second one,” I suggested. “Which one?” she replied. “The second o...” Boom! Number Two had stopped for a split second to gawk, and rolled like the world had been yanked out from underneath his scaly feet. “That one?” she asked, the 12-bore’s hollow crash still echoing through the woodlot. “Yeah, smartass,” I say, already nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2018

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HUNTING getting to my feet and spreading my arms for the post-shot hug. “That one.”

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT Fifty-three steps. Yes, sir; a legitimate 53 steps. In the woods. With obstacles and an extremely brief window of opportunity. That’s far in my opinion. Borderline too far to be shooting at a gobbler, especially under those conditions. And even more so for ultraconservative shooters like Julie and me. How conservative, you ask? I’d venture to say that of the 109 spring gobblers we’ve killed since I began keeping records in 1994, 100 met their maker at distances between 20 and 30 yards. And five of those remaining were under 40. So why one at 50-plus? Two reasons, really. The first I have somewhat of a difficult time justifying – that is, they simply weren’t going to get any closer. Ordinarily, and in such a situation, we’d let the bird walk. He won; we didn’t win. Simple as that. In other words, desperation doesn’t legitimize an error in judgment when it comes to shooting at a live target and distance. So, again, why this time? In this instance, and despite a touch of what must be hypocrisy, my shooter – Julie – could make the shot. She knew it, and I knew it. She was up to the task. Her firearm was up to the task. Her ammunition was up to the task. She had a solid shooting position, was relaxed, and was mentally where she needed to be. Let me put it this way: I worry about a lot of things – North Korea and my septic system, say, and not necessarily in that order. What I don’t worry about is my wife’s ability, when the time comes, to put a longbeard on his backside. Faith in my shooter. That’s what it is. But, in truth, it’s more than that. Much more. Our confidence in our ability to kill gobblers when given the chance is a result of hours upon hours spent behind the trigger of our shotgun of choice. We’re beyond 138 Northwest Sportsman

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Just as important as your turkey calls and a shotgun that blends in with the spring woods is the feeling of confidence that comes with knowing you are on target and won’t lose wounded birds. (JULIA JOHNSON)

familiar with these firearms. We know, each and every time we pull the trigger, how that shotgun is going to perform at the distance we’re currently dealing with. Every. Time. But such knowledge didn’t just happen. We had to make it happen. And the best part is that anyone with the desire to transform Ol’ Betsy into a tried-and-true gobbler getter can do so – with, that is, some time spent at the range and a couple little changes, here and there.

THE SHOTGUN Do you need a so-called turkey shotgun in order to kill a turkey? If you’re looking for a reason – any reason – to buy a new firearm, well, then, the answer is “Absolutely.” The

truth of the matter, though, is you don’t. Any shotgun, with a couple exceptions, is capable of killing a turkey; however, it’s important to remember that every gun, including a 105mm howitzer, has its limitations. You need to keep that in mind. Today, as we’ve done for years and years now, Julie and I carry one of a quintet of shotguns into the spring woods. In brief detail, these include: Remington M870 Youth Model 20-gauge with a 20-inch barrel, Red Dot scope, and Hunter’s Specialties Undertaker choke tube. Ammunition: Winchester Xtended Range 3-inch shells with size 5 shot. Beretta AL390 Silver Mallard 12-gauge with a 24-inch barrel, Burris Speed Bead sight, and Beretta Extra-


HUNTING Full turkey choke. Ammunition: Winchester High Velocity 1¾-ounce, size 5 lead shot. Knight TK-2000 muzzleloading shotgun with fiber optic (iron) sights and Knight Extra-Full choke tube. Ammunition: 90 grains of Triple Seven powder, Ballistic Products steel shot wad, and 1¾ ounces of size 7 HeviShot pellets. Yes, I said size 7 shot. A pair of Thompson-Center Encore single-shot 12-gauges, each with a 24-inch barrel, fiber optic (iron) sights, and a Hunter’s Specialties Undertaker turkey choke. Ammunition: Winchester Xtended Range 3-inch shell with size 6 shot Now, let’s break each of these down, albeit briefly, so that I might explain the “why” behind these combinations.

THE GUNS All of the above shotguns, with the exception of the TK-2000, are

Author MD Johnson, who has shot a few birds in his time, says that the choke tubes that came with your fowling piece are probably going to the best ones for it, but there certainly is no shortage of options out there. (JULIA JOHNSON)

lightweight and well-balanced. The TK-2000, unfortunately, is neither of these. However, what it lacks in comfort, she more than makes up for in lethality. All five shotguns are reliable,

durable, accurate and, most significantly, extremely consistent in their on-target performance. Each too can be easily and rather inexpensively customized in terms of stocks, slings, sights, paint schemes, and other variables.

THE CHOKE TUBES Quality choke tubes are expensive, running from $40 to $100 or more. So how do you afford to try a dozen or more at the range? Well, you don’t. You start with the tubes that came with your shotgun. But …? No, buts; surprisingly enough, the modified, full, or extra full tube that came with that shotgun might just prove to be the one that performs best. But maybe not. I’d suggest trolling Al Gore’s Internet to see which tubes come highly recommended, and which might be best avoided. Remember, though, every shotgun is different. Two seemingly identical Berettas with seemingly identical choke tubes may very well shoot differently – sometimes, radically differently. With choke tubes, it’s often a matter of making the very best guess as to which one.

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HUNTING variable in the shooting-consistency equation. And boy howdy are there a lot of options available today. Let’s start with shot size, the most common being sizes 4 through 6, with 5, I’d venture to say, the most popular. And with good reason. With size 5 shot, you have a higher pellet count, and thus increased pattern density, than you would with size 4. And with size 5 shot, you have higher kinetic energy – read: more oomph! – than with size 6 shot. Lead is fine; in fact, lead works wonderfully. I shoot nontoxics because 1) I obtained shotshells like Xtended Range (discontinued) and Hevi-Shot when they were still affordable; 2) I still have plenty of them; 3) they’re what I patterned our shotguns with; and 4) they work incredibly well. That said, lead works, especially modern lead shotshells that move fast, hit hard, and incorporate innovative wads designed to hold

Once you’ve packed your range bag with choke tubes, ammunition in different shot sizes and hearing protection, head for the range with your shotgun(s) to see what combination provides the best shot density on target at different distances. (JULIA JOHNSON)

shot charges together beyond distances that 99 percent of turkey hunters should be attempting.

THE SIGHTS My rule on shotguns used for turkey hunting and sights is simple. If you’re

going to turn a shotgun into the multiple projectile equivalent of a centerfire rifle, then you’re going to have to replace that traditional single front bead with something more conducive to accurate shooting. Iron sights, fiber optics, red dot, Holo

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HUNTING What you’re ultimately looking for, says Johnson, is a uniform pattern of shot on target. (JULIA JOHNSON)

Sight, glass-filled scope – I don’t care what it is, as long as 1) it can be adjusted, and 2) you shoot it well.

THE STEP-BY-STEP So now we’re at the point where we’re patterning this creation of ours.

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Patterning a turkey shotgun, to me, is more than simply shooting two or three shotshells at a cardboard box and saying, “Uh. Huh. That oughtta work.” True, I’m Type A, but still. Step-by-step, the patterning process is as follows.

Step 1: Gather the equipment consisting of a shotgun (or shotguns), choke tubes, and ammunition. Experiment with both 2¾- and 3-inch shotshells, and shot sizes from No. 4 to 6. You’ll also need a goodly number of targets, cardboard backing, and a target stand of some nature. I use two types of targets: one, a simple 30-inch piece of white butcher paper with a large black dot (aiming point) in the center, and something commercial like Birchwood Casey’s Shoot-N-C turkey targets. Finally, a gun vise, sandbag, or other gun rest, hearing and eye protection, and, for those of us who don’t cotton to recoil, a shoulder-saver pad like the PAST Recoil Pad. Step 2: With the butcher paper target at a measured 30 yards and your shotgun in a secure rest – note: think sighting in your deer rifle – begin shooting combinations of ammunition and choke tubes. What you’re looking for is pattern density and consistency: Which combination of shot charge, shot size, hull length, velocity, and choke tube delivers a dense (tight) pattern with every shot? That is, a uniform pattern, without noticeable holes and voids. Step 3: It’s very likely that this consistently dense portion of the pattern with Combination “A” isn’t on target. Rather, it’s 6 inches right and 5 inches low, let’s say. Now’s the time to adjust the sights using this densest part of the pattern as you would a rifle bullet. Essentially, you’re zeroing your shotgun. Step 4: Once you’ve settled on a consistent producer and adjust your sights, if necessary, fire several rounds at distances from 15 to 50 yards to determine how this combination performs at short, mid- and long distance. The point (distance) where the pattern falls apart, or is no longer consistently dense, determines that combination’s maximum effective range. This step gives you time also to practice judging distance. What


Julie Johnson shows off the reward of knowing precisely one’s shotgun’s capability, a spring turkey down. (JULIA JOHNSON)

is 30 yards? What does 45 yards look like? How does 45 yards look different standing versus seated? Patterning, like a precise centerfire rifle zero, counts for little to nothing if the range is a wild guess. No ethical big game hunter would buy a new .30-06, slap a new scope on it, buy bullets, and take the combination afield on opening day without first sighting it in. However, each year scores of unsighted shotguns find their way into the turkey woods, their owner/ operator ignorant of how that particular firearm performs each and every time the trigger is pulled. We owe it to ourselves as hunters to be completely familiar with all of our gear. And, first and foremost, we owe it to the resource – here, the wild turkey. Patterning takes time, effort, money, and commitment, but when that longbeard steps out of the woods at 36 steps and drops out of strut. When that glowing red dot quivers … quivers … and settles on his wattles. When that muted metallic click of a safety being pushed out of the off position reaches our ears. It’s all worth it. Every round. Every bit of recoil. Every pellet-punched piece of paper. It’s all worth it. NS nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2018

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HUNTING With spring stirring early this year, turkey hunters may find their quarry moving away from wintering grounds. This big tom is looking for insects in the freshly sprouted vegetation. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

Ahead Of Sched? Signs point to an early spring for Northwest turkey hunters, so it’s time to brush up on hot spots, tactics. By Troy Rodakowski

A

s I sit here and write this in early February, turkeys are enjoying an early spring throughout the Northwest. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we won’t have any cold, wet weather

between now and April’s openers, but looking out the window I can already see daffodils blooming and crocuses popping out in bright spring colors. When I took a hike through the woods, I found trillium popping through the soil and ready to spring into action as well.

I heard my first gobbles this morning from the local flock – and these weren’t the typical shock gobbles of late fall and winter either. These signalled the onset of breeding season. Mountain snowpack has lagged in Oregon, with warmer than normal temperatures in the Cascade Range and elsewhere. Granted, it was a 60-degree February day at the time of this writing, but all signs were pointing to a very early spring. “It doesn’t take a biologist to nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2018

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HUNTING see that the Pacific Northwest’s wild turkeys had a relatively easy winter. Hens will go into the breeding season in good condition, which should translate to maximum egg production and incubation effort,” says Mikal Cline, the National Wild Turkey Federation’s regional biologist. If you are a serious turkey hunter, now is the time to prepare for an early season to remember in our gobbler woods. The hens are cutting and yelping up a storm and the clear evenings provide songs of crickets, frogs and owls calling from their roosts. I’m no meteorologist but I can tell you from experience and recent excursions into the woods that this year is going to be a dynamite opener. It’s very likely many birds will begin breeding in late March if this weather pattern holds, and be on nests earlier than we have seen in some time.

TURKEY POPULATIONS CONTINUE to expand throughout the Pacific Northwest as birds do well and thrive in many locations. Now is the time to get involved and become a part of this exciting sport throughout our region. If you haven’t been turkey hunting yet, I highly recommend giving it a try, since prospects for the 2018 season are looking pretty darn good. The top five units in western Oregon are the Melrose, Rogue, Willamette, Evans Creek and Applegate. All have had good harvests, with some of the highest in Melrose and Rogue, followed by Evans Creek and Willamette, respectively. Many of these birds congregate on private lands and the borders of private timber and Bureau of Land Management tracts (blm. gov/or/index.php). While Douglas County can lay claim to being the “Turkey Capitol” of the Oregon – it sees over a third of the annual harvest – last season 13,716 hunters managed to harvest 5,246 birds 148 Northwest Sportsman

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Early April’s youth weekend is a great time to get youngsters in the field after their first gobbler. Isabelle Sayer packs out a big gobbler. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

during the spring season throughout the Beaver State. One unit to keep an eye on this year will be the Siuslaw near Lorane, especially in the southeastern portions near the small towns of Drain and Creswell. Also, the McKenzie, Alsea, Chetco and Keno Units have seen increasing numbers of birds near the foothills. If on a doit-yourself hunt in any of these areas, knocking on doors will be a best bet, as over 90 percent of the birds will be found on private holdings. Hunting from a ground blind is

one of the most popular methods in Western Oregon since birds are concentrated on smaller parcels. But hanging trail cameras isn’t just for deer and elk hunting – it’s also a great way to find a place to construct a blind. In Central Oregon, your hunting experience will differ with many birds inhabiting high-mountain pine, juniper and sage habitat. A more run-and-gun style of hunting is recommended and hunters should be in decent physical condition in order to chase these


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HUNTING mountain gobblers. But NWTF’s Cline is quick to point out that in certain spots on the east side of the Cascades, don’t be surprised if the cohort of 2-year-old toms is lacking due to jake mortality during the winter of 2016-17. “In general, turkey numbers and range are growing slightly,” notes Randy Lewis, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist in Bend. “We experienced a moderate population setback last year with the harsh winter, although surviving birds did produce larger broods that thrived because of the mild spring and summer conditions. We would expect with that being said it would balance out to be an average season. Birds will be spotty and on a mix of public and private lands. Be sure to get permission before accessing private property.” Camping on national forest lands (fs.usda.gov/r6) is usually the best bet. We have used trailers and tents in the past. Oftentimes, I like to drive or hike old logging roads early in the mornings while stopping to throw out some locator calls from time to time. This is a great way to cover large expanses of terrain when trying to locate birds. In my opinion, Northeast Oregon is one of the best regions to hunt spring turkey in the Beaver State. Locations near La Grande, Imbler, Elgin, Union, Cove, Wallowa, Sumpter and Flora all hold decent flocks. The Catherine Creek, Sumpter, Walla Walla, Pine Creek, and Minam Units all saw decent harvests in 2017, while Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Keating and Starkey have seen significant increases the past few years.

Populations here remain stable with consistent harvest rates over the past few seasons. Brood survival has been near average or slightly above average here, with surveys showing good numbers of turkeys going into winter. It could be one of the bright spots for the Eastside this coming season, but just remember that conditions were particularly harsh in this region two winters back.

WASHINGTONS SEEN TURKEY harvest rise from just 588 birds in 1996 to nearly 5,000 the past few seasons. Last spring’s harvest was 4,980 birds taken by 9,565 hunters across the state. The northeastern region of the state accounts for much of that, with Game Management Units 101 through 136 producing around 3,000 birds annually. Both Yakima and Kittitas Counties’ turkey populations have held fairly steady, with some minor declines over the last few years. Most of the harvest here comes from the Naneum, Quilomene and Teanaway Units. The highest populations are found in the lower elevations on private lands of the Teanaway area. In Okanogan County, turkeys are found in scattered groups and are primarily on private aglands. With reduced numbers in the Methow Valley hunters may find it a bit more difficult to fill a tag here, but try looking on its western sides. Turkey densities seem to be increasing in northern Douglas County, where there is a growing amount of public land too. Hunter success has been low except where folks are able to obtain permission and find good seasonal habitat. In Chelan County, the Stemilt

SPRING SEASONS Oregon and Washington youth turkey seasons occur the weekend of April 7-8 for hunters 17 years of age and younger accompanied by an adult 21 years or older. The general season in both states runs from April 15 through May 31. Make sure to see regulations for bag limits in the area you plan to hunt prior to heading to the field. –TR 150 Northwest Sportsman

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Basin above Wenatchee and lands along the Wenatchee River usually hold some birds. In Western Washington, GMUs 667, 510, 672 and 520 provide the bulk of the small harvest, but more people are inquiring about turkeys here as populations grow.

FINDING FORAGE IS a top priority for all turkey hunters, and especially those who head for the plentiful public lands located in our mountains. “Due to the lack of snowpack, I believe turkey hunters will need to look to the higher elevations earlier to pursue turkeys this spring,” tips NWTF’s Cline. Hunting near creek bottoms and drainages where insects, seeds, fresh shoots of grass and creeping buttercup are found will be your best bet in locating hungry birds. Search along ridges where birds will travel; gobble and move from one canyon to the next. Hillsides with exposure to the sun above small creeks along trails are great places for turkeys to dust and strut too. Gobblers will hold in these locations and display for hens, especially during the late mornings prior to them heading to nest. Sharp cutting from a box call or mouth diaphragm and crow calls are great ways to induce a gobble from a silent bird that has set up shop in a deep draw or canyon. Follow the snowline and search for tracks, scat and scratch in the remaining snow banks. Birds will migrate quickly once the snow begins to recede. Amazingly enough, turkeys will find their way upslope with a good amount of snow remaining on the forest floor. The first few days of warm weather and signs of fresh feed and cold running water will entice these birds to move from winter quarters. “The Pacific Northwest is truly a world-class wild turkey hunting destination,” says Cline. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the change of season than in pursuit of spring toms.” NS


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COLUMN

Turkey, More Than Just A Butterball Roast I

After unexpectedly bumping into birds while hiking into hunting grounds deeper in Central Idahoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s woods last spring, author Randy King begins the process of breaking a turkey down. The breasts, legs, neck and other parts are cooked differently. (RANDY KING)

fancy myself a backpack hunter, just me and 45 pounds of ultrahighCHEF IN THE WILD tech lightweight By Randy King camping gear against the elements. A true nontest of my survival skills, but one that often gets me to game no one else will go after. Case in point, the 2017 spring turkey season. I planned to backpack in behind a large ranch near Whitebird, Idaho, with a bear tag, two turkey tags and two vacation days to burn. My onX Maps app made short work of finding my hunting spot. I found the nearest Forest Service road to the ranch, then plotted a course to avoid trespassing so I could access the riparian area behind the private property. It was a raining on the hike in, and it was a Wednesday. I was the only hunter for miles in each direction. My big plan was to get to my spot, set up camp and then roost some birds for the next morningâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hunt, all while trying to stay dry. But on the hike in I heard a squawk come from my left cargo pocket. Examining the noisy niche I noticed that the rubber band that held my turkey call closed was missing. I spend a few moments looking for the band then inspected my call. It looked a little wet. So I used my hand to dry it off, then gave it a few practice clucks. Gobbles. Four of them. Immediately. And close. I was dumbfounded. I was in my bright blue rain gear and nowhere near where I intended to hunt. But a gobble is a gobble. Quickly, I ducked behind a deadfall and gave a few more clucks. The gobblers were even closer now. This was not the plan, but oh well. I called in the birds to about 20 yards. I peeked over the top of the deadfall and caught sight of a jake standing on the far end of the tree I was using for cover.

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COLUMN

BREAKING DOWN A TURKEY Turkeys are the king of all game birds. Sure, a chukar can test a hunter’s will to live. A goose tries a hunter’s willingness to endure cold. A quail can kill a weak-

hearted person with one good flush. But the turkey, oh the mighty thunder chicken, they are a different class entirely. Being the only bird that I know of that

shows up wanting to either breed you or fight you puts them in a class of their own. Fornicating and fighting, it’s all the same – let the lovin’ come right back to me. –RK







 Let’s start at the end – this picture shows a “fully” processed turkey. You can see the two breasts with wing drums attached, two legs, two tenderloins, the carcass (neck is inside) and the neck skin. Each of these cuts has a different use and cooking method. The breasts can be used much like chicken. Maybe brine and smoke them. The legs need a long and slow cooking method. They need a lot of time to become tender. The tenderloins are the “ready to eat” part of the bird. Scrape out the tendon and you have some great meat. The carcass and neck make great stock – simmer with some carrots, celery and onion and you have a great soup base. The neck skin is like a ready-made sausage casing.

 Next I remove the legs from the bird. Cut down the inside of the leg, holding your blade as close to the “pelvis” as possible. When you hit a bone, stop. Next grab the underside of the bird and hyperextend the ball socket of the hip. You will feel it slip out and expose itself.

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 &  Place a towel under the butt of the bird at this point to keep it from sliding around. Find the top of the breast bone on the turkey. Slide the knife down into the meat, holding the blade as close to bone as possible when cutting. The closer the blade stays to the bone, the more breast meat you will get. The breast will almost wrap around the outside of the bird.

   When the ball of the hip joint is free lay the bird on its side, back facing you. Notice how the leg muscles run up and nearly touch along the top of the back. This is called the “fool’s oyster” in classic cuisine. It is a test of a rookie cook – if they leave the oyster, you know they are “new” to meat butchering. After the oyster is removed the leg should be easily removed. Repeat the process on the other side.

  I pluck my birds but leave the skin on – it tastes good. After I pluck them I remove the feet. Grab the bird’s feet and hyperextend them, then run the blade of a knife across the top of the “knee” cap. This will cut most of the tendons. Twist the foot and then sever the remaining tendons. Repeat on the other side.

(RANDY KING, ALL THIS PAGE)



 Cut the breast toward the head of the bird. Eventually you will encounter the wing bone. Again, hyperextend the tendons and sever them at the ball joint. After you do this the breast meat is only attached by a few more small sections of meat. Cut those and remove the breast. (Not pictured: When the breast is removed look at the nonskin side. You will notice a large tendon starting at the top of the breast. This can be grabbed and, with a little pulling, the tenderloin can be removed.)


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COLUMN

(RANDY KING, ALL THIS PAGE)

– Next remove the head, the beard, the neck skin and the neck from the body. Now you have a butchered turkey! Editor’s note: For more wild fish and game preparations, see chefrandyking.com. I shot him with a 3½-inch goose load in the face. I was done hunting by 9:30 a.m. I had driven three hours to get there that morning too. I was still 2 miles from my desired destination, but I was into the birds. I was in

the national forest and alone, surrounded by turkeys. No need to move too much. I made camp along a sheltered spot on a game trail and began plucking my turkey. I erected my tent, strung up my tarp, inflated my bed pad and unrolled my 20-degree

sleeping bag. I was truly roughing it! Then I made myself lunch from the heart and liver of the wild turkey and took a nap. This backpack hunting is really tough. I had two more tags and some exploring to do. NS

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Pup’s First Shed Hunt

Hunting for sheds is just like hunting for bucks. You don’t always tag out, and nor will your pup always find antlers. That means it may be up to you to make the most of the outing. This can be accomplished by planting sheds to ensure success, which ultimately educates and motivates a dog. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

W

alking an overgrown logging road, my dogs in the lead, we were in search of quail and grouse. The road was GUN DOGGIN’ 101 no longer drivable, By Scott Haugen but covered in grass and clover, and bordered by Scotch broom on one side, timber on the other, it was the perfect habitat. Echo, my 3-year-old pudelpointer, took the lead. Nose to the ground she

worked hard, 40 yards ahead of me. By her side was Kona, my 3-monthold pudelpointer. Echo had been on numerous hunts, and was proving a good mentor to Kona early in his life. As Echo moved forward, Kona suddenly stopped and went on point. He held, looking into a little clearing along the side of the road. Figuring he saw a squirrel or songbird, I kept approaching. Then Kona pounced out of sight, appearing seconds later with a bleached shed antler. His long legs, big paws and floppy

COLUMN ears whirled in every direction, as he couldn’t get the shed to me fast enough. Instantly I praised him and tossed the shed out for a short retrieve. Kona was immediately on it. We repeated the fetch, then I praised him and put the shed into my pack. It was Kona’s first found antler, and we were both excited; it was a moment I’ll never forget. I trained both of my dogs to locate bleached antler sheds, something we’ve previously covered in this column (Northwest Sportsman, January 2018, April 2017). I also taught them to sniff out fresh sheds, something we weren’t going to find on this October outing. In this case, I wanted to reward Kona for finding the shed, and we did that through a quick game of fetch, and rubbing his ears and praising him. I put the shed away when Kona still desired it. I didn’t let him chew on it, engage in tug of war or let him run off in a possessive manner. I wanted him to give up the antler while still excited.

WITH SPRING SHED hunting season upon us, when taking your pup out on its first antler outing, make the effort to guarantee success. Training a dog to hunt sheds is far different than hunting them, as actual finds can be hours, if not days apart. Indeed, don’t expect miracles just because you’re shed hunting with a dog. Our four-legged friends can’t find sheds that aren’t around. Hunt in areas you know bucks to be in from January through March, the time of year they drop their antlers. The same goes for elk, which are dropping their sheds about now. After a couple hours, if your pup hasn’t found any, plant one or two. Prior to leaving home, slip a couple sheds into your pack. Be sure and wash them and handle them with rubber gloves to eliminate your scent. I like roughing them up with abrasive paper to enhance the smell of fresh bone, so the pup can detect it. When the pup is in the brush, searching, take a shed from your pack nwsportsmanmag.com | MARCH 2018

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Author Scott Haugen’s gun dog Kona, then 3 months old, proudly brings in his first shed. He found this bleached blacktail antler on his own while on a fall upland bird hunt. He was taught, starting at 10 weeks of age, what to look for. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

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and toss it into a place where the pup will find it. Ideally, this is into a headwind where the dog can smell it prior to seeing it. Make sure to toss out the shed when the pup can’t see you, and wear a rubber glove to cover your scent. Planting sheds, even when hunting them, keeps pups optimistic and educates them as to what it is they are looking for. It’s not an overkill to do this a few times a morning when you’re not finding any sheds. You can also plant old, bleached sheds for the pup to find. Again, handle them with rubber gloves to mask your scent. When the dog is working a brushy draw or timber and out of sight, toss the bleached shed as far as you can, into an open place where you can see it. Sometimes I’ll have my dog sit, and I’ll walk 75 yards ahead, out of sight, plant the bleached shed, then call my dog. From there, the search is on. Encourage the pup to work the area where the bleached shed is laying. If the pup can’t find it, guide the pup to it by hand and whistle signals. I’ve had my dogs retrieve many bleached sheds that I guided them to in this way. Remember, when a dog is sniffing for sheds, their eyes are only inches off the ground, so they can’t see what we can. On top of that, bleached sheds carry little or no odor, and are located and fetched by sight, meaning the dog has to initially see them, not smell them. By guiding pups to bleached sheds, they’ll learn to trust what you’re communicating to them while simultaneously learning what to look for. This spring and summer, if you’re not finding as many shed antlers as you’d like, help your dog learn what to look for by planting sheds. After all, practice makes perfect, and the more success a pup has, the more they’ll learn and the greater their desire to find sheds will be in the future. NS Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is host of The Hunt, on Netflix. To watch some basic dog training video tips by Scott, check out his Facebook Page, or visit the blog at talltimberpudelpointers.com. Follow him on Instagram too.


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Well-known gun manufacturer Weatherby is moving from central California to northern Wyoming, the company announced at January’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas. (DAVE WORKMAN)

One Rifle Co. On Move; Others Add Models T his time next year, Weatherby should be well into the process of moving its entire operation from California to Sheridan, ON TARGET Wyoming, in what By Dave Workman a lot of gun writers and outdoor observers at the January Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas were certain is a long overdue move. Let’s face it, California gun control

laws and regulations against firearms manufacturers have made it increasingly difficult for a time-honored outfit like Weatherby to exist in the Golden State, much less make a profit. I chatted with Ed Weatherby, whose father started the company some 75 years ago, and found out that the company has been looking to leave California for about three years. “We looked at several Western states,” he said, “but Wyoming seriously wanted this company to put down roots in the Rockies.”

Last year, Cowboy State Gov. Matt Mead took a personal interest in getting the company to move to his state. Underscoring that, Mead traveled to the SHOT Show for the announcement on Day One. In a prepared statement, Adam Weatherby, grandson to founder Roy Weatherby, explained it thusly: “We wanted a place where we could retain a great workforce, and where our employees could live an outdoor lifestyle. We wanted to move to a state where we

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Southpaws, rejoice. At SHOT Show, Savage Arms introduced several new bolt-action rifles, including the Savage B Series of rimfires chambered in .17 HMR, among other calibers. (SAVAGE ARMS)

can grow into our brand. Wyoming means new opportunities. We are not interested in maintaining; we are growing.” By no small coincidence, California lawmakers recently began moving to put a surcharge on businesses that make more than $1 million annually. Weatherby beats that by a country mile. The decision to move was probably easy considering that Sheridan has really rolled out the proverbial red carpet. Ed Weatherby said the building hasn’t been constructed yet, but that’s going to happen over the next year or so. By the second quarter of 2019, the company ought to be in mountain country. The Wyoming Business Council worked with Mead’s administration and the Sheridan Economic and Education Development Authority Joint Powers Board to put this all together. The WBC reportedly expects more than $7.4 million in additional state and local tax revenue and more than $164 million in direct and indirect “support payroll.” Long story short, Wyoming’s gain is

going to be a multi-million-dollar loss for California. The consensus among gun writers at SHOT is that the lawmakers in Sacramento have it coming. Weatherby told me that the move will provide somewhere between 70 and 90 jobs. While we were chatting, a guy who said he had experience in metalworking strolled up and literally asked where to apply for one of those jobs. The “welcome mat” is definitely out. The company will continue producing some of the best rifles and shotguns on the landscape, but it will be a friendlier landscape with a much brighter future where it’s going than where it is leaving in the rearview.

RIMFIRES ON PARADE With political pressure off of gun rights, one thing that was noticeable at the SHOT Show was more traditional rifles, including a slug of rimfire models. Not everybody wants a modern sporting rifle in .223 Remington, although they remain the most popular

rifles on the map. Savage Arms has introduced several models designed for left-handed shooters. These bolt-action rifles are chambered for centerfire and rimfire calibers. Let’s check out the lefties in rimfire this trip. The Savage B Series rifles feature blued 21-inch barrels and receivers, black synthetic stocks and button rifling. Chambered in .17 HMR, .22 LR and .22 WMR, all measure 39 inches overall length and weigh 5.79 pounds. They come without sights and have 10-round rotary magazines, so one never has to worry about losing the magazine. They’re drilled and tapped for scope mounts and they have top tang safeties. For more, click on savagearms.com. Henry Repeating Rifles didn’t exhibit at the SHOT Show, but that hasn’t prevented this company from lifting the curtain on a couple of very special lever-action rimfire rifles for 2018. First up is the God Bless America edition of the Golden Boy, featuring an American walnut stock and blue steel octagonal

The God Bless America edition is one of two new rimfire models from Henry Repeating Arms’ Golden Boy line. It features an American walnut stock and 24-carat gold enhancements on the receiver. (HENRY REPEATING ARMS)

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The Patriot, a new bolt-action from Mossberg, is chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, holds five cartridges (four in the magazine and one in the chamber) and weighs 7 pounds without a scope. (MOSSBERG)

barrel and magazine tube. It’s got a nickelplated receiver with side ejection and a nickel-plated barrel band, and on the receiver are 24-carat gold enhancements. The front sight is dovetailed into the barrel and the rear sight has an elevation ramp. There’s also a Stand for the Flag Golden Boy edition chambered for .22 Long Rifle. It also has a blued octagonal barrel and round magazine tube, lever and hammer, and nickel-plated receiver finished with an American flag on the sides. For more on Henry Repeating Arms and its products, log onto henryusa.com or call (866) 200-2354.

Meanwhile, Steyr Arms has also launched a new rimfire, the bolt-action Zephyr II, with features from the original Zephyr model that was produced from 1955 to 1971. Where the Henry repeaters are lever-action guns that might be prized by collectors as well as small game hunters and/or recreational plinkers, the Zephyr II is a pretty serious game getter. There are models available in .17 HMR, .22 Long Rifle and .22 WMR. While the .17 and .22 LR calibers are good, I think the biggest bang for the buck may come with the .22 Magnum version. A lot of people overlook the magnum rimfire cartridge

because of several reasons, not the least of which is the cost of ammunition. Take my word for it, this cartridge delivers when it comes to putting game in the pot. This rifle features a 19.7-inch cold hammer-forged barrel, five-round detachable box magazine, European walnut stock with Bavarian cheekpiece and fish-scale-pattern checkering. The overall length is 39.2 inches and the Zephyr II weighs 5.8 pounds without a scope. It is available with an optional threaded barrel cut with a ½x28 thread. Look for more details on this and other Steyr rifles at steyrarms.com, or call (205) 417-8644.

THERE’S ALSO A centerfire model of the God Bless America edition of the Big Boy from Henry. Chambered for the .44 Magnum cartridge (it will also handle the .44 Special), this one is capable of putting down something bigger than a rabbit! And from Mossberg, there’s a new bolt-action rifle called the Patriot. With a black synthetic stock chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, it’s got a 22-inch fluted barrel finished in a matte blue and cut with a 1:8inch rifling twist. The bolt has a spiral flute pattern and the magazine holds four rounds, which makes this a five-shooter with one in the chamber. Mossberg designed this with a 13.75inch length-of-pull and an overall length of 42.75 inches. There are three versions: one without a scope, another being a Vortex scoped combo featuring a 3-9x40mm scope plus rings and the third also comes with a 3-9x40mm scope. It comes with Weaver-style bases. While the basic rifle weighs 7 pounds, the combo models weigh 7.5 pounds, according to Mossberg literature. It also has an adjustable trigger. Check with Mossberg.com. NS 166 Northwest Sportsman

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