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FISHING • HUNTING • NEWS NWSPORTSMANMAG.COM

TIME FOR TROUT! Columbia Basin North & South Sound Buzz’s Limit-out Tips

BC BOUND Port Hardy’s Bounty

THERE SHE IS ... Jena Cook, Hunter By Day, Mrs. America Hopeful By Night

CRUSH MORE KOKANEE! EXPERT & GUIDE TACTICS Okanogan Getaways

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Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

Volume 11 • Issue 7 PUBLISHER James R. Baker

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

ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Dick Openshaw EDITOR Andy Walgamott LEAD CONTRIBUT0R Andy Schneider THIS ISSUE’S CONTRIBUTORS Scott Brenneman, Jason Brooks, Brinton Cary, Chris Cocoles, Dennis Dauble, Jerrod Gibbons, Dave Graybill, Scott Haugen, Wayne Heinz, Doug Huddle, Sara Ichtertz, MD Johnson, Randy King, Todd Martin, Buzz Ramsey, Brian Robertson, Troy Rodakowski, Terry Wiest, Dave Workman EDITORIAL FIELD SUPPORT Jason Brooks GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins

ALUMAWELD INTRUDER

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

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SMOKERCRAFT OSPREY

ON THE COVER Kaley Schertenleib shows off a 4-pound Lake Roosevelt kokanee, caught last season on the North-central Washington reservoir that’s part of the scene of today’s hottest fishery. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

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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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CONTENTS

FEATURES 38

105

VOLUME 11 • ISSUE 7

A HARDY FISHERY This northern Vancouver Island port features consistently good fishing for salmon, halibut and rockfish, with great lodging options. Our staff Cannuck shows us around his favorite fishery, Port Hardy!

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SURF’S UP! Prying steelheader Sara Ichtertz off of her Southern Oregon rivers isn’t easy, but she’s discovered another intriguing fishery at one of her other favorite spots – the beach. Grab your long rod and head for the ocean and its surf perch with Sara!

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TRY THE TRIBS With spring Chinook action moving from the mainstem Columbia River to its feeder streams, our fish hound Andy Schneider preps you for prime time on terminal fisheries like Drano Lake and the Wind River, as well as checks in on tributaries such as the Kalama and Cowlitz.

117 COLUMBIA RIVER SMALLMOUTH BASS BY THE NUMBERS When you log every single smallie you’ve caught on the Columbia in the Tri-Cities area for 24 years, you get some pretty interesting results. Wayne Heinz reveals details from his exhaustive fishing diary. 127 BELL’S DINNER BELL When Columbia River walleye guide Brian Bell needs to roust up dinner this time of year, he turns to this old reliable. Writer Brian Robertson rides along to reveal the hot bait! 135 ‘SIGN’ AND SPRING BEAR If you want to bag a Northwest bruin this spring season, keep your eyes peeled – but not just behind binoculars. Willamette Valley bear

BAG YOUR SPRING GOBBBLER!

Over 27 seasons turkey hunter MD Johnson has made every mistake in the book, making for valuable lessons learned in the Northwest’s gobbler woods – plus best Idaho, Oregon, Washington bets! stalker Brinton Cary shares lessons learned from around our region. 151 THEIR FIRST TURKEY Taking a newbie out for spring

(TROY RODAKOWSKI)

turkeys? Junction City, Oregon’s Troy Rodakowski did just that last season, putting a friend into her first bird, and he shares tips for making it a successful hunt!

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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COLUMNS

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SOUTH SOUND April’s all about trout, thanks to the opener on the fourth Saturday of the month, but there are rainbows to be had at yearround lakes in the South Sound, as well as spinyrays.

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THE KAYAK GUYS It seems like an odd place to have an epiphany about rockfish and lingcod angling, but an encounter on a Dutch lake with a northern pike led to a new approach for Scott Brenneman. CENTRAL WASHINGTON The big trout opener’s at the end of the month, but don’t overlook the April 1 one! Dave outlines the top ops in the Columbia Basin, as well as highlights warmwater fisheries not to be overlooked either. NORTH SOUND Doug ranks three North Sound counties’ 10 best lowland lakes for April’s big day! BUZZ RAMSEY There are many ways to load a stringer with trout, but when the Ramsey family’s was in danger of not being filled, Buzz had to adjust his tactics. What did he do to save the day?

105 WESTSIDER It’s the hot “new” fishery, and anglers across the region are eager to learn how to catch 12 Northwest Sportsman

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(JASON BROOKS)

more and bigger kokanee. Terry interviews top sticks on their tactics to catch more of these tasty landlocked sockeye! 111 PRO’S CORNER Local expert Jerrod lets us in on three Okanogan County getaway kokanee fisheries, how to fish them and local lodging options. 159 CHEF IN THE WILD Turns out that videotaping a turkey hunt is slightly more difficult than actually cooking up the bird – Randy’s GoPro wasn’t on, but his recipe for gobbler thigh tortillas with mole sauce sure is! 165 GUN DOGGIN’ 101 Scott’s column is about training your new pup to do more than point out birds and retrieve ducks – hunting dogs are also adept shed antler sniffers, but how you go about teaching them to find doffed deer and elk racks is the trick. 169 ON TARGET It’s true, Dave may own more than one .22, which he admits to in a tribute to the venerable caliber that shines with spring’s shooting opportunities.


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(SHAUN COOK/ STCIMAGERY.COM)

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

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THE BIG PIC: THERE SHE IS

When contestants for the Mrs. Washington America Pageant gather in Olympia in May, Mrs. Vancouver, Jena Cook, will have one of the most compelling stories. Meet the gun-toting hunter who hopes to spread the gospel of conservation amongst fellow beauty queens!

DEPARTMENTS 19

THE EDITOR’S NOTE Ready to become a beaver believer?

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CORRESPONDENCE Reader reactions to recent news

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THE DISHONOR ROLL Bullwinkle case dismissed due to reg’s vagueness; Jackass of the Month

31

DERBY WATCH Spring Fishing Classic preview; Northwest Salmon Derby Series schedule

33

PHOTO CONTEST WINNERS Browning, Fishing monthly prizes

35

OUTDOOR CALENDAR Upcoming openers, closures, events; 2017 Northwest sportsmen’s and boat show finale

35

BIG FISH Record Northwest game fish caught this month

85

RIG OF THE MONTH Diver and bait springer set-up

174 BACK PAGE Wayne’s world – watery edition 14 Northwest Sportsman

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THEEDITOR’SNOTE Ready for work, boss.!(ODFW)

B

ehold, the beaver – rodent beyond compare! True, he is built low to the earth, where he spends much of his time working in the muck, giving him perhaps the most pruned toes in all of existence. His lodge is not very lovely, his dam a muddy, snaggle-sticked mess. And yes, he has been bodyshamed – not to mention tanned and turned into hats for eons. But Mother Nature’s chainjawed little logger may be part of the solution to our salmon and steelhead woes. While we fill out paperwork, he fells trees. While we fester over designs, he dams. While we hold public meetings, he holds back water. While we put plans out for comment, he creates fish habitat. While we scrounge under couch cushions for project funding, he’s working off the clock, 24/7/365. And when we finally get around to Doing Something, he’s back in his lodge, popping a cold one and binge-watching Leave It To Beaver. Just imagine what a whole pack of these guys could do!

THAT LAST BIT was the nut of Mike Sevigny’s testimony last month before the Washington Senate’s Natural Resources and Parks Committee hearing on House Bill 1257, to allow the Department of Fish and Wildlife to keep Westside beavers on the Westside. Currently, the agency can only translocate them to the Eastside or kill them, and according to Sevigny, who is the wildlife manager for the Tulalip Tribes, WDFW is forced to kill the vast majority. But it sounds like there’s a fair amount of habitat they could be put to work in and on, and restoring salmon and steelhead habitat is The Key. Sevigny said that a Tulalip project – the tribes aren’t subject to the same restrictions WDFW is – was able to place 100 nuisance beavers at 13 sites in the Skykomish drainage, Puget Sound’s best coho country. And that’s just one valley. The Westside – hell, the Northwest – is full of waterways, many of which beavers can’t get to and could use a lift, Sevigny said. State representatives agreed, having moved the bill out of the House on a 98-0 over to the Senate. This is not to say that beavers should be air-dropped everywhere, like what Idaho Fish and Game did back in the day, as beavers do cause real problems for property owners when they make dams where people don’t want dams. But having been a beaver believer for some time now, I’m helping spread the gospel. To see Sevigny’s testimony, go to the 1:13:40 mark on this tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2017031059. Preach, brother! –Andy Walgamott nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

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CORRESPONDENCE ‘FOUR IS ENOUGH’ – OR IS IT? How many wild steelhead that anglers should limit themselves to a day was a hot topic last month after Bill Herzog wrote about the “Four is enough” movement at wildsteelheaders.org. We threw the nut of the idea up on our blog, looking at the pros and cons, and let ya’ll have your say. Some pointed to first addressing tribal gillnetting, the “elephant in the room,” as Travis Maurier put it, while others like Shane Nichols had a good laugh, saying, “Sure, let’s leave the hot bite said no one ever!” Bob Singley said of it: “Poor idea. Unenforceable. Just feel-good nonsense. If you truly care for wild steelhead, do not fish for them.” Nathan Ereth had a thoughtful response, posting, “In streams where we haven’t met escapement goals consistently, it’s something to keep in the back of your head and maybe make you push on every once in awhile rather than trying to catch every one in the hole.” And Rich Simms of the Wild Steelhead Coalition thought four was twice as many as is needed “to have a great day. To me it is about encounter rates and sharing the resource, give your buddy or someone else shot at a fish. Enjoy the day, don’t behave like you have to catch every fish in the river.”

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ON PREDATORS Posting anything about furry critters that eat other furry critters is always sure to draw a reaction on Facebook, and last month’s news that Eastern Oregon wolves reached phase III management levels, the feds extended the deadline to comment on grizzly restoration in the North Cascades and Washington lupines cracked triple digits did not disappoint. “Are wolves bad? Nope!” posited Brad Dailey in response to the Beaver State update. “Like any top predator they are part of a natural ecosystem, just like musky in a lake. Now, do we want their numbers growing past the carrying capacity of their habitat, and negatively affecting prey species? Well, hell no.” Ron Ellis and Mitch Friedman had differing ideas on grizzle bears, with the former gentleman saying, “I don’t believe we need more of them here,” while the latter, of Conservation Northwest, deeply involved in the proposition, replied, “If we do nothing, they go extinct in this ecosystem.”

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MOST LIKED READER PIC WE HUNG UP ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE DURING THIS ISSUE’S PRODUCTION CYCLE Steve Wisink’s big Lake Roosevelt kokanee brightened spirits in the latter stages of a gloomy, wet never-@$%@$%@-ending winter. His personal-best koke hit 23 inches and around 4 pounds and was caught on an amalgamation of Mack’s Lures parts, reported friend Jeremy Murphy. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

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PICTURE

There She Is Vancouver hunter vies for Mrs. Washington crown and trip to Mrs. America Pageant. By Chris Cocoloes

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s the contestants for the Mrs. Washington America Pageant gather in Olympia for the May 20 event, every woman qualified for a chance to reach national stage will have her own backstory. Here’s a guess: Mrs. Vancouver, Jena Cook, has one of the most compelling. Cook’s submitted platform – the pageant encourages participants to document what they’re passionate about – doesn’t mention desiring world peace but instead “focuses on the importance of ethical hunting conservation through wildlife and habitat management and restoration.” “It’s definitely been a topic of conversation,” Cook says with a laugh about the potential shock value of sharing her views on hunting with the beauty pageant community. But this is who Cook is and she won’t apologize for it to the politically correct/ anti-hunting establishment. And this will also provide her – and by extension, Northwest sportsmen – an opportunity to explain what she does and why she does it to an audience that probably doesn’t have much background in this arena. “There have been a couple of people who have been a little sour on the subject, because all they can think of is animal cruelty,” Cook, 27, says on how she’s been received among the pageant community.

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“The way I try to approach it is, I always say I’m a hunter who hunts for meat, and sport comes with that. It’s not about putting a rack on the wall.”

MAKE NO MISTAKE, Cook grew up embracing the outdoors, even if she wasn’t yet “in love” with hunting. The Vancouver native was introduced to fishing by her dad, Craig Meriwether, who hunted with her older brother. More comfortable with a rod and reel than a shotgun, Cook stuck to fishing, but as she got older, she began to embrace the idea of knowing where the protein she’d eat came from. Already having learned to shoot at a younger age, the reality that she was dating a hunter made it a no-brainer to give it a try someday. Finally, she and her boyfriend at the time went waterfowl hunting along the Columbia River Gorge. It didn’t go very well. How bad? “It was, and pardon my language, a sh*t show,” says Cook, refreshingly

sounding more sailor than sash-wearing beauty queen. “Of course, since it was duck hunting, the weather was sooo beautiful. I didn’t have the right gear and I was freezing. I was doing everything in my power not to complain so I wasn’t that girl that was dragged along.” “I remember the dogs bringing back the ducks and I was fine watching the ducks get hit, come down and the dogs bringing them up and setting them down at my feet. And I thought, ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do right now. Is it like fishing? Do I bonk their heads?’ So my ex came up and said, ‘You’ve got to put them out of their misery,’ and grabs it and whacks it on a rock right in front of me. And it just sprays blood right at me and across my face. I happened to be standing in the right spot, so it went from my knees, up my torso and across my face – a perfect stream of blood. So that was my initiation into duck hunting.” Cook ultimately kept dating hunting but not her boyfriend at the time. (“He’s


Hunter by day, beauty queen by night. Jena Cook was named Mrs. Vancouver and will be vying for the title of Mrs. Washington America on May 20 in Olympia. Her platform includes promoting hunting as a way to “take responsibility for where my protein comes from,” as well for its wide-ranging conservation benefits. (SHAUN COOK/STCIMAGERY.COM; JENA COOK) an ex for a reason,” she quips.) And that she eventually fell in love with a longtime friend, Shaun Cook, who is also a passionate sportsman, only ensured that she would become just as obsessed with the sport. They married in June 2015 and have shared, besides wedded bliss, numerous hunting adventures close to their Southwest Washington home and beyond, including memorable deer and elk trips to Wyoming, where Cook really fell head over heels for hunting, with a big assist from her husband. “It was something he was really investing me – being his hunting partner, not so much that I was just along for the ride,” she says. “He expected me to pull my weight but I was there as an equal partner. Investing all that time together and bonding as a married couple, it was something that was so different. I feel bad for people who won’t get to experience that.” Of course, they are husband and wife, so they’ll chirp at each other when they think one is making too much noise while

searching out big game. “He’ll tell me I’m the loud one,” Cook says, “and I’m like, ‘You’re delusional; you’re not the gazelle that you think you are.’”

ULTIMATELY, WHILE SHE enjoys the quality time with Shaun and the sport of the chase and the shot, Cook savors the idea of knowing exactly the source of what she and Shaun put on their table. She’s also pregnant, and when she takes the stage at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts in Olympia, she’s going to be eight months into her term. Not only is there a good chance that she’ll be the only woman vying for Mrs. Washington who hunts, she says she’ll be the first in the pageant’s history to be visibly showing while she competes. “That’s already an added kind of intrigue for me,” she says of her chances. The Cooks even went out hunting last fall when Jena was in her first trimester, though the mom-to-be-admitted, “I could

really feel the difference, fatigue wise; I felt bad (for Shaun) because I wasn’t the best hunting partner. I just got burned out.” The endgame, though, is harvesting meat without fearing what chemicals or byproducts store-bought meat can contain. So now that she’ll be soon feeding the family’s new addition, the idea of hunting to fill the freezer is going to be even more invaluable to their cause. She found it fascinating that Gerber, the venerable baby food company, initially bottled leftover organ meat (such as liver and beef heart), which was considered to be heavy in nutrients and promote growth in infants. “I was looking at in Native (American) cultures; when a couple was expecting or starting to try to conceive, they always would give that couple organ meat from animals to make sure they were getting all the nutrients,” Cook says. “And I took that really seriously because going into this pregnancy I’ve been trying really hard to get enough of these iron-rich and all-

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MIXED BAG

natural meats. And I want to make sure that’s what’s going into my baby.” So the next edition to the Cook family – the couple is going to be surprised whether it’s a boy or girl – probably shouldn’t expect all Cheerios or a couple French fries as a snack when hungry. Meat pâté or some other semblance of protein is more likely. “I want to know that, ‘Hey, that came from our elk from last season, and I know for a fact that it hasn’t been processed or filled with any hormones.’ It’s really satisfying, and you can take pride in that as a parent and

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Jena grew up fishing with her dad, Craig, and did some hunting before meeting Shaun Cook, whom she married two years ago and has gone afield with on numerous trips around their Southwest Washington home and as far afield as Wyoming. “I want to show that everyday normal people can take pride in harvesting their own meat and experiencing nature,” she says. “Conservation is a legacy and something I take seriously because I want to pass this onto future generations.” (JENA COOK, BOTH)


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MIXED BAG provider. It’s a unique experience that we are kind of losing, culturally.”

SO HOW DOES a woman who clearly likes to get her hands dirty – not only does she fish and hunt but Cook was also a former high school wrestler on the boys’ team – also masquerade as pageant participant just a step away from competing for a Mrs. America crown? First and foremost, when asked if she was OK with carrying around a tomboy moniker, Cook skewed more towards “offbeat” than simply just one of the guys. “Awkward and gangly – yes, but I did love messing with my hair and dying it every color under the sun. I wore everything from 1950s sock-hop attire to punk rock to country girl stuff,” she says. And sure enough, when she was young – fifth and sixth grade – Cook entered a couple smaller pageants around the Vancouver area. (“What little girl didn’t want to be a part of that?” she muses.) Her parents offered this stipulation: If you want

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to do it, you have to fundraise yourself to help pay the fees. So Jena went door to door around local businesses to secure sponsor dollars so she could enter. “I did my last pageant when I was 16 in a local event. But it wasn’t about the fun of it or the sisterhood of the community,” Cook says. “These girls had an eye on the prize and saw themselves as the future Miss America. It was a totally different ballgame. But even though I was competitive this was just supposed to be a super-fun experience.” When she realized that fellow competitors were channeling their inner Mean Girls by attempting to sabotage each other in various ways, Cook seemed done for good. But now that she’s a married adult, the Mrs. pageants that are held around the state and the country don’t seem to breed such cutthroat competition. They’re more about showcasing what young women have accomplished in their lives already. And if you can assume she may have the most unlikely of passions among her peers vying for the crown of Mrs. Washington, this is a golden opportunity to put hunting in a

positive light. When she interacts with other pageant entrants, Cook will ask if they eat meat, then query them on what they know about where that piece of beef or pork came from. It seems like a fair and viable request, doesn’t it? Cook understands that such a potentially volatile and controversial passion will “either help me or hinder me.” “I tell them, ‘I simply decided to take it upon myself to take responsibility for where my protein comes from. And then I give back with my conservation efforts to make sure that the resource remains available,’” she says. “When they say, ‘I couldn’t go out and kill something,’ nobody is asking them to. So why is it a bad thing that somebody is OK with accepting that responsibility to take it upon themselves with what they are eating?” NS Editor’s note: To request appearances or if interested in sponsorship opportunities for Mrs. Vancouver Jena Cook, email Mrslisajacobsvancouver@gmail.com. For more on the Mrs. Washington America Pageant, go to mrswashingtonpageant.org.


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Bullwinkle Elk Case Dismissed For Vagueness Of Regs

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ecause the phrase “branch antlered bull elk” isn’t clearly defined in Washington’s hunting regulations, the case against a Westside man who shot a trophy in a part of the state listed as only open to true spikes or antlerless elk was dismissed by a judge early last month for vagueness. That lets Tod L. Reichert of Salkum off the hook for shooting the all-but-tame elk known as Bullwinkle in a Kittitas County pasture in December 2015 on his Central Washington raffle tag, as well as his guide, David Perkins. Reichert had been charged last spring with unlawful hunting in the second degree, Perkins with aiding and abetting unlawful hunting, also in the second. Their trial was repeatedly delayed through pretrial motions and efforts to dismiss the case by Reichert’s attorney, Steve Hormel of Spokane, but it finally produced a result on March 2 when Kittitas County Judge James E. Hurson granted a defense motion to dismiss the case. While the term branch antlered bull elk might seem obvious to you and me, the unfortunate fact for prosecutors and by extension the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is that it appears in only three places in the hunting pamphlet, all inside the Raffle Permit Hunts section but not on the definitions page. For his ruling Hurson cobbled one together using the definitions of “true

spike bull,” “branch” and “visible antler,” as well as standard definitions of elk and bull. “Taking those terms together, a ‘branch antlered bull elk’ means a male elk with a horn like growth that has any projection off the main antler that is at least one inch long and is longer than it is wide. As such, a ‘true spike bull’ restriction area is an area open by the Fish and Wildlife Commission to branch antlered bull elk hunting, as long as there are not branches originating more than four inches above where the antlers attach to the skull,” Hurson wrote. “As such, this court finds that GMU 334 was an area that was ‘open’ to branch antler bull elk hunting by the commission.” Game Management Unit 334 sits on the floor of the Kittitas Valley, a wind-flared skirt, per se, around Ellensburg. Under Reichert’s raffle tag, he was advised he could hunt elk everywhere in 300- and 500-series units except in “those GMUs closed to elk hunting and those GMUs not opened by the Fish and Wildlife Commission to branch antlered bull elk hunting.” Per WDFW’s 2015 regs, 334 was open during the Sept. 12-24 early general archery season for spike bulls or antlerless elk, during the general Oct. 31-Nov. 8 rifle season for true spike bulls, and during the general late archery Nov. 25-Dec. 8 season for true spike bulls or antlerless elk. But Hurson wrote that if WDFW “had wanted to adopt [its] regulations

JACKASS OF THE MONTH

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Redmond, Wash., man was fined $1,300 in December after shooting a cougar inside a state researcher’s cage in late winter 2016. Ronald Dean Wentz, 53, at first told the game warden sealing the young tom’s hide that he’d shot it near a trap on the Snoqualmie Forest, according to a Seattle Times story. But when the researcher advised the officer that same day about a “big pool of blood” in his 10-foot-by-4-foot enclosure, the officer questioned Wentz, who admitted the cat had been inside it. “There was absolutely no way to see the animal without realizing it was in a trap,” the Times reports investigators wrote. Wentz pled guilty to interfering with hunting equipment.

By Andy Walgamott

Oregon Woman Who Hassled Waterfowlers Charged

and issued its permits to provide such a limitation for this GMU it could have done so, but the regulations and permit as written do not contain that language and limitation.” It left Hormel pleased for his client. “I think it’s important that the community at least be informed that from the very beginning of this case we have maintained that Mr. Reichert did nothing wrong,” the attorney told the Yakima Herald. “He was maligned,” he told The Seattle Times. “I think the manner in which information was presented wasn’t fairly done. He’s an honest man, law abiding.” WDFW did not comment. County prosecutors were expected to decide by late last month if they were going to appeal, according to the Daily Record News of Ellensburg. Reichert runs a business specializing in cedar products, and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on tags to hunt and harvest trophy bulls. He claims to have killed “over 100 elk” in his lifetime, and that he’s gutted each one himself. He ran afoul of the law in 2007 for not being truthful with Forest Service agents and was barred from national forests for two years. His case was closely watched on Hunting Washington, with pages upon pages of comment, locked threads and legal threats. Though hardly a trophy in terms of where and how it was killed, Reichert wants to get Bullwinkle’s rack and hide back from WDFW, according to the Times. It’s often said you need a lawyer by your side to interpret the fishing and hunting regs, and thanks to a lawyer the pamphlet is sure to become slightly thicker for the 2017-18 season with a new definition for branch antlered bull elk, and perhaps a better enumeration in the Raffle Permit Hunts section of precisely which units are open and which are not for those who’ve got trophies on their mind and money to burn on tags, and attorneys.

nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

Northwest Sportsman 29


By Andy Walgamott

Spring Classic Set For April 8

A

quarter century in the making, the 25th Annual Spring Fishing Classic is set for Saturday, April 8. A fundraiser put on by the Staci McAdams caught 2016’s biggest Northwest Sportfishing Industry Chinook at the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association’s Spring Fishing Association and held out of Classic, and she and husband Randy Portland, the derby pays $500 for McAdams and guide Terry Mulkey came biggest spring king or steelhead, in second in the team competition with and gives away thousands of 30.35 pounds of fish. (NSIA) dollars worth of fishing gear. Topping it all off is the raffle for a brand-new 17-foot drifter by Willie Boats. “The boat comes with Tempress seats, seat boxes, and a brandnew trailer donated by Clackacraft,” NSIA reports. Weigh-in is open till 5 p.m. and located at the Airport Holiday Inn, not far from the Gleason/34th Street ramp on the Columbia. Whether the big river is open for springers will likely depend on the catch through April 6, when the fishery below Bonneville Dam was scheduled to run through. Even if season isn’t extended, the Multnomah Channel, Willamette River and Cowlitz, among other waters, are still fair game. Last year’s big fish was caught by Staci McAdams, a 22.90-pounder, while Jason Berg and crew placed first in the team competition with three Chinook weighing over 35 pounds. The event raised $60,000 for the enhancement and defense of Northwest fisheries. For more, see nsiafishing.org.

ONGOING AND UPCOMING EVENTS  March 11 through end of season: Westport Charterboat Association Weekly Lingcod Derby; charterwestport.com

2017 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES            

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

nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

Northwest Sportsman 31


32 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com


PHOTO CONTEST

Barrett Ocean Series 23’ | 25’ | 27’ Offshore Bracket Walkaround Pilothouse

WINNERS!

Ashley Burrows’ photo of herself and friend Natalie Travis with Travis’s keeper Columbia sturgeon from last summer is this issue’s monthly Fishing Photo Contest winner. It wins her loot from the overstuffed office of our editor!

BARRETT MARINE COMPANY

(253) 297-0334 barrett32.com barrettboats

Hopefully this brings a bit more of a smile to Brian “Ought-Six” Johnson’s face – he’s this issue’s Browning Photo Contest winner, thanks to the Douglas County, Wash., mule deer he took last October with brother Drew “Sticks” Johnson. We’ll let them fight over who gets the Browning hat.

Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

For your shot at winning Browning and fishing products, send your photos and pertinent (who, what, when, where) details to awalgamott@ media-inc.com or Northwest Sportsman, PO Box 24365, Seattle, WA 98124-0365. By sending us photos, you affirm you have the right to distribute them for our print or Internet publications. nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

Northwest Sportsman 33


Best of B.C.

Our area offers some of the very finest Halibut and Ling Cod fishing on the whole BC Coast, including Alaska. We are offering a special early season COMBO Halibut and Ling Cod package for the 2017 season. The dates we have selected for our 2017 Halibut Express are from May 1st to May 5th, May 5th to May 9th, May 9th to May 13th, May 13th to May 17th, May 17th to May 21st, May 21st to May 25th, May 25th to May 29th, May 29th to June 2nd, June 2nd to June 6th, June 6th to June 10th, June 10th to June 14th, June 14th to June 18th and June 18th to June 22nd 2017.This will be a 4 night/5 day package and will include up to 40 hours of guided fishing, all meals and 4 nights accommodations. An added bonus will be that the VACUUM PACKING and FLASH FREEZING of your fish are included in this pricing. This is a heck of a good deal and this package would make a wonderful gift for the fisherman in your family. We will also have our fly-in service available from Seattle, Wash., or Vancouver, BC for these dates. You (PHIL will COLYAR) also have the opportunity to target the early runs of CHINOOK and COHO that will be coming through our waters at the time of the season. The pricing for this exciting package is as follows: Party of 2 fishing, 2 per boat…$1875.00 PP + 5% tax. Party of 3 fishing, 3 per boat…$1675.00 PP + 5% tax. Party of 4 fishing, 4 per boat…$1475 PP + 5% tax. To make your reservations or for more information please give us a call at 1-800-429-5288 or send an email to: rodgersfishinglodge@yahoo.com Best regards, Doug Rodgers PS: With Halibut selling for upwards of $25.00 per pound in your local fish department, you will easily be able to pay for your trip. You are allowed 2 halibut in possession with a combined weight of 100 pounds, 6 Ling Cod in possession and 8 salmon in possession. Last season we were catching Ling Cod up to 50 pounds. Come and fill your freezers!


Best of B.C.

OUTDOOR

Brought to you by:

CALENDAR APRIL 1 1-2 4 5 6 7-12 8 8-9 8-14 15 16 22 29 30

New Washington fishing, hunting licenses required; Opening day for special-permit bear hunts in select Oregon and Washington units; Family Fishing Event (youth only), Canby Pond in Canby – odfwcalendar.com Washington youth turkey hunting weekend North of Falcon public meeting to present state-tribal negotiations results, preliminary fishery proposals, Lynnwood Embassy Suites – wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon North of Falcon discussion on preliminary ocean, Columbia River options, Office Building 2, state capitol campus, Olympia – wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon Last scheduled day of Lower Columbia spring Chinook fishery before run update Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting setting Oregon, Washington ocean, Puget Sound salmon seasons, Sacramento – wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon Family Fishing Events, Row River Nature Park and Shorty’s Pond in Cottage Grove and Molalla – odfwcalendar.com Oregon youth turkey hunting weekend Idaho youth turkey hunting week General spring turkey season opener in Idaho, Oregon and Washington; Opening day of Washington and many Oregon special-permit bear hunts; Family Fishing Event, St. Louis Ponds in Gervais – odfwcalendar.com Washington Marine Area 4 lingcod opener Fishing opener on select Oregon waters and numerous Washington lowland lakes; Family Fishing Events, Olalla Res. and Trojan Pond in Toledo and Prescott – odfwcalendar.com Family Fishing Events, Bikini and Sheridan Ponds in Mosier and Sheridan – odfwcalendar.com Last day for steelheading on Idaho’s Clearwater system, lower and upper Salmon, and Snake up to Hells Canyon Dam

MAY 1

Northern pikeminnow sport reward fishery begins at all stations on Columbia and Snake Rivers – pikeminnow.org; Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca lingcod opener 4 Tentative start of Oregon-Washington Columbia River subarea Thursday-Sunday halibut openers 4, 6, 11 Tentative Washington Marine Areas 2-10 halibut openers 11-13, 18-20 Proposed Oregon Central Coast all-depth halibut weekends 15 Oregon fall controlled big game hunt permit purchase application deadline 20 Washington special hunt permit application deadline

UPCOMING BOAT AND SPORTSMEN’S SHOWS APRIL 7-9

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

RECORD NORTHWEST GAME FISH CAUGHT THIS MONTH Date 4-9-04 4-12-13 4-14-80 4-15-89 4-15-03 4-22-89 4-23-61 4-23-66 4-24-04 4-25-91 4-30-70 4-30-05

Species Northern pike Lake whitefish Winter steelhead Yelloweye rockfish Chiselmouth White catfish Bull trout Smallmouth Burbot Green sunfish Cutthroat Largescale sucker

Pds. (-Oz.) 34.06 6.81 32.75 27.75 1.16 15-0 22.50 8.75 17.37 0-11 18-15 8-6.7

Water Long L. (WA) Rufus Woods L. (WA) EF Lewis R. (WA) Dallas Bk. (WA) Salmon R. (ID) Tualatin R. (OR) Tieton R. (WA) Columbia R. (WA) Bead L. (WA) Umpqua R. (OR) Bear L. (ID) L. Cascade (ID)

Angler Bryan McMannis Tony Martin Gene Maygra Jan Tavis Justin Powell Wayne Welch Louis Schott Ray Wonacott Mike Campbell John Baker Roger Grunig Patrick Perry


Best B est o off B.C. B.C C.

Help Us Celebrate Our 34th Season in Hakai Pass, BC! JOE’S “CENTRAL COAST FISHING ADVENTURES” INCLUDE: • Round-trip airfare from Vancouver, BC • Unlimited use of 17-foot Boston Whalers and unlimited fishing time • Delicious home cooked meals • Box lunches, beverages and bait • A beautiful lounge and sun deck • Heavy-duty Wetskin raingear and boots

• Complete fish care: filleted, vacuum sealed, flash frozen and boxed to be flown back with you • Rods and reels all in A-1 condition • Complete boat care: boats are cleaned and fueled every time you come in • Bait and tackle for both salmon and bottom fishing

June 26–30th, 5 day trip special! Regular price: $3,750 | Sale price: $1,800 U.S.

g! 49 pound sprin

1 -888-452-8822 email: doug@joessalmonlodge.com

CALL TOLL FREE


Best of B.C. WINTER HARBOUR, BC NORTHERN VANCOUVER ISLAND

All Inclusive Fully Guided Packages World Class Fishing and Lodging HALIBUT / LINGCOD / SALMON ROCKFISH / TUNA

250-650-5182 / www.olisямБshingcharters.com


A Hardy Fishery Northern Vancouver Island port consistently good for salmon, bottomfish, with great lodging options.

Port Hardy locals work the scenic coastline at the northern tip of Vancouver Island for Chinook. Rich with salmon, rockfish and halibut, the area is a destination fishery reachable by vehicle or plane. (TODD MARTIN) 38 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com


FISHING By Todd Martin

I

always get asked the same question when talking to other anglers, at the boat launch, a tradeshow, or shooting the breeze at the local watering hole. Hey, Todd, what is your favorite saltwater fishing destination? I always give the same answer: Port Hardy, British Columbia. Every time I fish in Port Hardy on north Vancouver Island, I have an epic trip, and come back with great stories and full coolers. It’s not a secret spot that I am going to get crucified by vicious internet trolls for identifying in this article; Port Hardy has been a well-known fishing destination for decades. It just has consistently good fishing, year after year.

PORT HARDY’S SITUATED on the northeastern tip of Vancouver Island, and has past lives as a copper mining and logging town. It is the oldest known site of human habitation on the island. In recent years this small town with a population of 4,000 has transformed itself into a Mecca of outdoor and ecotourism. It is the gateway to the growing central coast of BC, including the popular Shearwater and Rivers Inlet areas. It also harbors whale watching and wildlife viewing operators, and is a northern base for BC Ferry’s operations. Due to Port Hardy’s advantageous location, it is blessed with easy access to millions of migrating salmon and bountiful bottomfish habitat. As salmon migrate south towards the Fraser, Columbia and dozens of other Northwest rivers, they must choose a transit route near Port Hardy. Here they either travel the west, or outer, side of Vancouver Island, or utilize the inside passage, between the island and BC mainland. Using Port Hardy as a base of operations gives anglers direct access to wherever the fish are during their migration

path, from early June right through September. The north island receives its fair share of all five migratory salmon species, including large numbers of tyee Chinook, but is famous for its large coho, which can attain weights to 20 pounds. Chinook, or springers, arrive in Port Hardy waters in early June. Coho arrive in mid- to late July and offer tremendous sport through mid-September. Sockeye, chum and pink salmon are also plentiful here. Prime time is mid-July through the end of August. The abundant waters of the north island also hold huge populations of halibut, rockfish and lingcod. Another reason I do so well at Port Hardy is that it’s the home base of one of the top fishing guides on the BC coast. Wade Dayley and his wife Shannon own and operate a little piece of heaven called Bear Cove Cottages. To say Wade is passionate about catching fish is an epic understatement. This guy lives to get bit. His enthusiasm for fishing is contagious and he is not truly happy until you are hooked up into a scrappy Chinook or angry halibut. Wade and Shannon are what I call the Port Hardy power couple. They have operated Bear Cove Cottages for 16 years, and Wade has been guiding in these waters for over 25 years. Wade also worked six years for the Canadian Coast Guard, and they operated the nearby Telegraph Cove restaurant and pub for two years before opening Bear Cove Cottages. Wade has two other very proficient guides working for him in the peak summer season and he operates three absolutely loaded 27foot Grady Whites for his guiding fleet. One of Wade’s best features as a guide is that he really cares about a client’s angling experience and does everything in his power to make your visit to Port Hardy the fishing trip of a lifetime. The most important thing he will do to ensure you have an epic nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

Northwest Sportsman 39


FISHING trip is that he will burn as much fuel as necessary through his fleet to get you away from the crowds and to his most productive fishing grounds. Other guides will cheap out on the fuel and stay closer to port, but not Wade. This is why I believe he has been such a successful guide. He does whatever is necessary to ensure you catch more and bigger fish.

THE WATERS AROUND Port Hardy are wildly productive, with many established fishing hot spots. While I won’t name the secret spots that Wade takes me to, if you fish with him you’ll discover them for yourself. Options here are vast. You can exit Hardy Bay and turn north towards the tip of Vancouver Island and Cape Scott, or you can explore further east to the wilds of Queen Charlotte Sound and the mainland, or south to Telegraph Cove and Port McNeil. You can also stay close to home and fish some of the preferred local hot spots such as Duval Point (also known as Chicken Point or Coward’s Corner), the Gordon and Masterman Islands, which include Castle Point and Daphne Point. My favourite location is the “witches’ tree” just past Duval Point. Even Hardy Bay itself is consistently good in July and August. Obviously in the peak summer times, the further you venture, you’ll find fewer boats and more room to explore. I’ve fished with Wade a few times now and it’s always a special trip. We’ve always done well for salmon but my latest trip here was outrageously successful for bottomfish. After limiting out on Chinook in the morning, we made a short 10-minute run to one of Wade’s new bottomfish spots. In 40 minutes, we had a nice yelloweye rockfish and two huge halibut weighing 47 and 65 pounds on board. That’s what I call cleaning up! We were home for cocktail hour and bragging rights by early afternoon. For salmon, the most productive 40 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com

Guide Wade Dayley (above, left) and author Todd Martin enjoy a moment of success while fishing out of Port Hardy, which sits along the migration path of millions of US- and Fraser-bound Chinook, coho and other salmon stocks. Among the local lodging choices is Bear Cove Cottages, operated by Dayley and his wife Shannon, and Martin’s preferred accommodations in the area. (TODD MARTIN, BOTH)

method in Port Hardy is trolling a salted anchovy in a Rhys-Davis green teaser head behind a green or purple Hot Spot flasher. It’s been the goto Canadian set-up for years. Wade always proclaims that if you need to get bit, bait is best. It’s a mantra I have learned to trust. Key tactics that we utilized during this trip was finding the bait, staying on the bait, getting the right action on our bait, and constantly adjusting the downriggers to troll through the schools of bait. A mix of Silver Horde lures and

various Gibbs Delta hoochies are also employed to match the hatch. When you salmon fish in Canada, you get to experience using our “knuckle buster” mooching reels. Wade has just switched to the Rapala Shift mooching reels. They have a handy free-spool option, a large arbor for holding massive amounts of 30-pound line, and a smooth, silent drag system. He pairs these up with custom Fenwick rods for a first class fishing combo you will savor using. For bottomfish, we used standard


nwsportsmanmag.com | AUGUST 2016

Northwest Sportsman 41


FISHING weighted jig set-ups with green and yellow squid bodies, and added a succulent piece of salmon belly. Make sure you are holding on and paying attention because it won’t take long. Another option that Wade has added to his repertoire is ultralight jigging for black rockďŹ sh and lingcod in very shallow water.

A bonus to ďŹ shing in this area is the abundant wildlife. There are humpback whales, orcas, porpoises, sea otters, sea lions, and bald eagles everywhere. A factoid for you: The Province of BC has more bald eagles than the entire continental US. A fantastic opportunity that Wade has recently added is his remote outpost ďŹ shing trips. These are three-

or four-day packages to secret spot X, as we’ll call it. Wade transports supplies and guests via oatplane and brings a couple of his boats to a remote location north of Port Hardy to chase the legendary Canadian tyees, or Chinook over 30 pounds. It’s a very special trip that he hosts a few times each summer. Bear Cove Cottages has also been featured

Port Hardy marks the point where salmon have to decide on using the Inside Passage – that’s mainland British Columbia in the distance and viewed from Bear Cove Cottages – and the ďŹ shy west coast of Vancouver Island. (TODD MARTIN)

/RFDWHGRQDUHPRWHLVODQGRQWKH QRUWKZHVWFRDVWRI9DQFRXYHU,VODQG%ULWLVK &ROXPELDLQWKHEHDXWLIXO.\XTXRW6RXQG • 8 guest maximum • Family operated • On-site processing ‡*UHDW¿VKLQJ • Great food • Drive in • Airport pick up at Comox Good Old )DVKLRQHG 6HUYLFH

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42 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com

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nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

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FISHING three times on the West Coast Sporting Journal show on WFN. The latest episode features one of these outpost tyee trips. All fish caught with Bear Cove Cottages gets the best treatment possible to preserve your catch. Hardy Buoys is a local processing plant that packages everything you catch. They pick up the fish from your boat, and they handle all the cleaning, filleting, freezing and packaging. All you have to do is show up at the Hardy Buoys loading bay before you leave town to pick up your catch.

REACHING PORT HARDY is a coastal adventure, but a civilized one. You can take a ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, or drive to Canada and then take a BC Ferry from Tsawwassen or North Vancouver to Vancouver Island. Whatever route you take, drive north on Island Highway 19 until the road ends at Port Hardy. It’s my preferred way of getting there. The latter half of the drive from Campbell River to Port Hardy is scenic and relaxing. The Island Highway is paved all the way, so there is no stomach-churning dirt road that beats up your vehicle. Total driving time from Victoria to Port Hardy will be around six hours. If you want to save time, Pacific Coastal Airlines runs daily scheduled flights from Victoria to Port Hardy. Of course you can bring your own boat to Port Hardy and explore the waters yourself. Just ensure you have an updated GPS chart plotter, and radar if you plan on venturing out of Hardy Bay past Chicken Point. Fog is never far away in this area – so much so that the month of August is nicknamed Fogust. And no matter how lovely the weather forecast is, always bring some warm fleece and raingear. An added benefit for visiting American anglers is that the Canadian dollar has been hovering around $0.75 compared to the American greenback. So your Canadian fishing 44 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com

A colorfully attired Kristine Martin shows off an equally vibrant – and tasty – yelloweye rockfish. Magestic bald eagles as well as other marine wildlife abounds in the area. (TODD MARTIN, BOTH)


VANCOUVER/FRASER RIVER

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Visit us at www.kagoagh.com

nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

Northwest Sportsman 45


We’ve said it in these pages before and we’ll say it again: When you fish out of Port Hardy or other Vancouver Island harbors, you’re going to want to bring a big cooler or coolers to tote your haul home. (TODD MARTIN)

adventure just got 25 percent more affordable. And you don’t need to shell out for a bank accountdraining, fly-in trip to experience a first-class Canadian fishing resort. Bear Cove has eight luxurious cabins, all with a view of Hardy Bay. They offer vacation packages that include golfing, kayak tours, whale watching and grizzly bear viewing, but their primary focus is first-class guided salmon fishing. For more information on fishing adventures in BC, visit fishingbc.com. You can check out Wade and everything he offers at bearcovecottages.com. If you want to explore the best of Canadian salmon fishing, try Port Hardy this summer. You will have bragging rights and full freezers your fishing buddies will be envious of for a long time. NS 46 Northwest Sportsman

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nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

Northwest Sportsman 47


LEADING NW BOAT SHOWCASE

Weldcraft | 18’ Angler

Duckworth | 24’ Pac Pro

www.weldcraftmarine.com

www.duckworthboats.com

Boulton Powerboats |20’ Skiff

Custom Weld Boats | Offshore 23’

www.boultonpowerboats.com

www.customweld.com

Fish On Boats | 522

Life Proof Boats | 25’ Full Cabin

www.fishonboats.com

www.lifeproofboats.com

Hewes Marine Co., Inc. | 160 Sportsman

Class 5 BBoatworks Cl t | Dragonfly

www.hewescraft.com

www.class5boatworks.com


W

ith the Northwest,s many varied fisheries, you see a lot of different boat styles and brands on our waters. In the next few issues, Northwest Sportsman will be showcasing the top manufacturers and

their many different styles of boats built specifically for the lakes, rivers, bays and ocean of the Pacific Northwest. Check out boat builders, websites for more information and to see their many options.

Fish Rite | 20’ River Master

Riverwolf Boats | 16’10” Side Drifter

www.fishrite-boats.com

www.riverwolfboats.com

Rogue Jet Boatworks | Coastal 22’

SJX SJ JX BBoats, oats, Inc.. | SJX2170

www.roguejet.com

www.SJXjetboats.com www.SJXjetboats. s co om

Smokercraft | 172 Osprey

Stabicraft | 2050 Supercab

www.smokercraft.com

www.stabicraft.com

Kingfisher | 2225 Escape HT

Wooldridge Boats | 29’ Super Sport Offshore

www.kingfisherboats.com

www.wooldridgeboats.com


50 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com


FISHING

SURF’S UP! Sara’s favorite steelie rivers flow to the Pacific, where she discovered a new family fishery on the beach.

As her hat suggests, author Sara Ichtertz is a huge fan of fishing for steelhead on her Southern Oregon rivers, but the beach has long had a powerful hold on her too – even more so now that she and her family have discovered angling for surf perch. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

By Sara Ichtertz

P

rying ourselves from the river isn’t always the easiest thing to do. There is true depth within angling the rivers. The challenge is enough to keep us devoted and well-grounded to these waters, but from time to time it isn’t a bad thing to find something else to do with our day. Before my heart was literally on the river, I in some ways took it for granted. I loved it, but I found myself longing to be on the beach. Those massive rocks, waves crashing, hearing that certain constant roar, seeing those breathtaking sunsets. I loved it and I always looked forward to any time spent there hunting for agates, driftwood and fossils. Throughout my life I’ve combed many a mile along the Oregon coast, never knowing the beautiful little creatures swimming in the surf beside me. The day I discovered them was amazing, and in finding the perch my angling-addicted self has found a fun, family-friendly fish that we can target while the children frolic to their heart’s content.

OFTEN WHEN HEADED out agate hunting, I would see men with five-gallon buckets and huge rods. Though on a completely different mission, still I kind of wondered what they were fishing for. Last spring we decided that we would truly try to target surf

perch and see what happened. Researching the riggings I found that this approach was nothing like any I had ever set out to tie. Good thing it was team effort, because the entire set-up seemed pretty intimidating to me at the time. In reality, though, they are quite simple. It’s basically a crappie rig with a pyramid weight on the bottom. Using shrimp fly knots with each dropper the wild rigging came together and

we were ready for action. I packed our picnic, the kites, the sand toys, our waders, bait, a fivegallon bucket and the stiffest of our spinning set-ups and we were off in search of those little beauties that swim in the surf. My babes were beyond thrilled to have a day on the beach, and I was excited to see if their dad and I could find those fish. We arrived at the beach a couple hours before high tide. As we reached nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

Northwest Sportsman 51


FISHING the top of the dunes and peered down on the ocean, there they were, men with their massive surf rods and their buckets. It made me smile and feel all giddy! As my husband set up our rods, I set up my babes with everything they needed, all while I watched a man 50 yards down the beach. I noticed he was fishing the deeper nooks where the beach inclined and had some depth. Before I knew it he had a fish on! Indeed, it was pretty much one after the other. A little dog proudly guarded his dad’s bucket. I was so excited to see what this was all about. We put on some stinky rubber worms and found ourselves a spot resembling what the fellow was fishing and gave our rods a mighty fling. Never having fished off an ocean beach before I felt the pyramid weight crashing around in the surf and thought, “This is crazy! Am I going to feel them bite or what? This is nuts!” Unsure whether or not I was truly fishing I reeled in, watched the wave cycle and gave it another cast midcycle. I felt the weight rolling around once more and giggled at the entire experience until whapwhap-whap! Fish! Not only could I feel those little beauties bite, they bit like they meant it! I loved it! When I had the fish in my grasp, I was amazed at how truly beautiful they were. Such pretty pink, peach and gold tints. Wow, I thought, these are crappies’ beautiful little saltwater girlfriends! I eagerly showed the family and handed the fish off to my daughter Ava, as she loves to play with any fish I am keeping.

AT THIS POINT, my son Nate was no longer digging in the sand but ready to fish too. His dad cast him out and in nothing flat, whap-whap! We were all catching fish while enjoying our day on the beach. As the tide continued to come in Nate 52 Northwest Sportsman

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It wasn’t long before Sara’s son Nate was giving his mom advice on how to get more bites by “jigging” the baits, per se. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

was fishing strong. Bless his heart, he advised me, “Mom, I’m catching more than you because I’m jigging my bait. Like this, see! Just jig it and then it will be like, boom, fish on!” As he literally taught his mom a thing or two, it was just like he said, boom, fish on! He was laughing hard, as was I. “See, Mom! See!” What do you know, but taking his advice my hookup ratio improved drastically. These are the moments that make me thankful to be exactly who I am. As we all fished together I was able to take in the beauty of the Pacific Ocean. Feeling its power, and finding petrified wood and fossils as we caught fish – how cool! After that first trip we started using the tiny sand crabs you find on the beach, just beneath the surface of the sand. I always check my catch’s stomach to see what they are after, and the surf perch were full of them. Free natural bait is always a good thing, so we use those in addition to plastic baits. WE FISHED DURING late spring and the surf perch were spawning at that point. We caught some nice-sized ones and the children got to behold something in nature that not many species of fish actually do. Surf perch give live birth to their babies. Ava,

being the animal lover that she is, was beyond amazed at what she was witnessing. She felt compelled to be their midwife, and because of her most all of the perch we caught that day had their babies released back into the surf. Seeing what fishing brings out in my children never ceases to amaze me. Just the fact that they love nature like they do and that they embrace it means so much to me. I think that by sharing the water with them since day one they will have a good understanding in life as to what truly matters. In that afternoon we experienced something new as a family. We found an outing that combines angling and great family fun, so I encourage all of you to do a little research and go give surf perch fishing a whirl. It is action-packed, and I am certain it could hold the interest of your wife, husband, children, or anyone else you know who may not fish all that often. This is totally different than working hard all day on the river for what could be one beautiful bite. The fact that perch are so eager to whap your rigging takes so much pressure out of what can come when taking your children steelhead fishing. Not to mention, what child doesn’t like


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That’s Sara’s daughter Ava behind a surf perch. As the species bears its young alive, Ava delivered the babies of those fish her mom, dad and brother caught back into the waves. A collage (below) highlights the Ichtertz family’s catches of fish as colorful as the agates they hunt on the same shore’s sands. (SARA ICHTERTZ, BOTH)

to frolic on the beach? Heck, I love it too! This truly is a wonderful way to spend the day, and makes for a great meal. Surf perch meat is white and the tacos that follow are out of this world! In pursuing the surf perch, I realize that it’s OK to step away from the river from time to time. She is the keeper of my heart but I find being a well-rounded angler who is able to share as many adventures with my family as possible to be most fulfilling! My heart is on the water, 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. 54 Northwest Sportsman

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COLUMN An encounter with a pike in a Dutch lake led to author Scott Brenneman’s epiphany that SlugGo baits might just also work for nearshore rockfish and lingcod. (SCOTT BRENNEMAN)

Nothing Sluggish About This Bite T he morning’s incoming tide exchange is small with a light current, and will be followed by THE KAYAK GUYS a much larger outgoing By Scott By Sco cott tt Brenneman Bre renn nnem eman exchange with a much stronger current in the afternoon. Bright sun, calm air and cool temperatures greet me as I paddle out to fish along the coast. There is a four- to five-hour window until the wind starts to blow and the swell picks up. The plan is to throw and retrieve a 9-inch Slug-Go for lingcod close to shore in 15 to 20 feet of water. But unable to move in due to larger wave sets crashing against the rocks, I decide to stay

in 25 to 35 feet of water. Plan B, I rig up a white 9-inch Slug-Go on a drop shot 24 inches above a 4-ounce weight. Two hours before high slack, I start a slow troll into the soft current. The linecounter reads 35 feet when my weight touches bottom. I paddle just enough to keep moving forward. Between strokes, I lift my rod just enough to move the dropper weight. As it hits bottom again, I lower the rod tip to get the Slug-Go to drop. Twitching the rod, the drop triggers a savage strike. The first victim of the day is a thick black rockfish that is quickly released. I deploy again, and the next player is an undersized ling that self-releases at the surface. I drop down

once more and hook into what looks like the same undersized ling; I assist in the release this time. I continue my troll parallel with the reef. A large school of rockfish show up at midcolumn on my fish finder. Reeling up causes an immediate hook-up. A large portion of the school decides to follow their friend towards the surface. Not willing to pass up a good topwater bite, I switch to a light-action steelhead rod and toss out a weightless Slug-Go. One after another, black rocks rapaciously attack the soft bait as it darts erratically just below the surface. Skipping and lifting it out of the water results in fish jumping well above the surface in pursuit. Time passes quickly when you’re having fun; I decide to keep enough rockfish for a couple of meals and head in before conditions deteriorate.

I WAS FIRST introduced to Slug-Go soft baits in the Netherlands, at the 2014 Hobie Worlds fishing competition. After

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COLUMN

Rigging the soft plastic bait, the style of which some refer to as a jerk shad, is as easy as adding a jighead heavy enough to get it down in the water column, but Brenneman likes to use a two-hook set-up. (SCOTT BRENNEMAN)

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dinner one evening, we noticed one of the guys tossing a lure from the dock. A few of us headed down to check out the action. He quietly pointed towards the shore where a pike of about 3 feet in length lay motionless. We ran back to our room, grabbed some gear and took turns throwing our offerings. But the pike remained still. Someone put on a 7½-inch white Slug-Go and with each cast started to work it gradually closer and closer to the fish. He directed the lure with the motion of his fishing rod, like a conductor with a baton. I watched with enthusiastic interest as the SlugGo responded to every jerk and twitch. The erratic action of the big, white soft bait roused the prehistoric-looking fish from its indolent state. The pike set off towards the lure as it ducked, darted and wiggled, the fishâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s energy level rising with every twitch from the rod. Anticipation grew, but then the pike refused to play anymore, turned left and went someplace more reclusive. Nevertheless, I was sold. While


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watching the pike’s triggered response to the Slug-Go’s erratic action in the Vinkeveen Plassen’s clear water, I kept visualizing a similar response from lingcod resting on rocky reefs. This soft bait has been around since the mid1980s. Initially designed for bass, it is very popular on the East Coast for stripers. Many other jerk shads, like Hogy lures, are also popular but I prefer the action of the original. A Slug-Go is a horse of a different color when compared to the traditional soft plastics used in the Northwest. When fished properly, they imitate the unpredictable movements of a wounded fish, unlike curl-tailed grubs, twin scampi tails and swimbaits that mimic the natural rhythmic swimming of baitfish. A straight retrieve or simple jigging motion won’t cut it. Twitching, jerking, and snapping motions are necessary to breathe life into this lure, followed by a pause to allow the bait to sink. This will provoke explosive strikes at the surface and throughout the entire water column.

RIGGING CAN BE as simple as adding a jig head, but I prefer a two-hook setup. Tie some 50-pound-test Dacron to a 7/0 hook, then thread the line through the body, starting on the convex side of the soft plastic an inch aft of the center markings, continuing to embed the hook shank. Pull the Dacron out the front, insert the second hook, and then tie it off with the Dacron. Inserting weights, like pencil lead, into the body can improve action. Jerk shads are great topwater lures for rockfish. These lures also excel when targeting Mr. Snaketooth. Use a SlugGo during slack tide periods or soft tide exchanges on the tops of reefs. Rig them with a drop shot and troll or drift them along jetties or breakwaters. These soft plastics are the closest you can get to live baiting. Slug-Gos allow the fisherman to be more engaged in working the lure in a creative way. I am convinced that their chaotic movements will summon lings out of their homes, evoking vicious strikes that would have otherwise not have happened if conventional soft plastics were used. NS


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FISHING With menacing skies overhead, Brad Baker holds a Wind River spring Chinook. The terminal fishery is a good bet this month, despite a lower forecasted return. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

Try The Tribs Springer action moves from the mainstem Columbia to its feeder streams. By Andy Schneider

T

he wind rocked the truck from side to side with such force that it felt like an unseen giant was playing with his new toys. The conversation grew quiet in the cab, as a little concern crept into the crew’s thoughts. “Don’t worry,” reassured the driver. “Fish bite best with a wind from the west!” But where exactly along the Beaufort scale does wind change to gale? And at what point does an angler begin to question their own sanity in venturing out into such conditions? As salmon fisherpeople here in the Northwest, we have to answer to ourselves with a justification for our

adventures. While it’s said that an insane person never questions their own sanity, for the sake of trying to keep some mental health while in pursuit of our sport, as anglers we must question our sanity from time to time. This year’s spring Chinook forecast is definitely on the ho-hum side of things, making it seem a little crazy to pursue them, but there is no doubt there will be successful anglers this season. And so we have to remind ourselves that this isn’t about the harvest, but sharing the love of the pursuit of this Northwest bounty with our friends and family. Spring Chinook season on the Columbia always leaves us wanting just a little more, but there is a saving grace in its Washington-side

tributaries, which start producing shortly after the lower river closes. Starting in mid- to late April, spring Chinook begin staging at the mouths of terminal areas such as Wind River and Drano Lake. At the same time, tribs further downstream like the Kalama and Cowlitz start to see their first real push of returning fish.

DRANO LAKE Everyone expects a little wind when fishing in the Columbia Gorge and most even plan trips around days with it in the forecast, compared to days without. Conditions in the gorge can be intimidating to even the saltiest of anglers, especially when Columbia looks like a field of sheep in the dark as 4-foot rollers break. nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

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FISHING

Columbia Gorge tribs have long attracted spring Chinook seekers, and count Josh Weinheimer among them. He and a crew did well at Drano Lake last year. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

But those with a steady tiller, decent seamanship skills and a willing crew can find the slightest of shelters in a man-made lagoon nestled dead center in this wind tunnel. Drano Lake starts to see its first fish show up in early April. If there have only been a couple hundred fish over Bonneville Dam, then there are sure to be a few of those fish milling around the drowned mouth of the Little White Salmon River just below the federal salmon hatchery there. While this year’s forecast isn’t anything to get overly excited about – 7,500, about a thousand more than 2016’s actual return, which was initially predicted at 9,800 – there are still going to be plenty of opportunities for anglers to take home a Drano springer. While bank anglers fishing the mainstem Columbia may not be happy with recent years’ implementation of the “hand-casting” only regulation, boaters inside the lake will more than likely see an improvement in their catch rates. Drano has been in a constant state of evolution ever since the boat ramp was built in 2002, from Magnum Wiggle Warts to the M2SP – which itself evolved into the Mag Lip – to prawn spinners and herring and 64 Northwest Sportsman

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now to Pro-Troll flashers with Brad’s Super Baits and Cut Plugs. While older techniques still produce fish, there is no doubt that if you want to have a productive day on the water, you’re going to have to update your techniques too. That said, the one thing that seems to remain the same here is trolling speed. Whether you’re running an old-school herring or the new 4.0 Mag Lip, 1.4 to 1.8 mph seems to be the most productive speed. Brad’s Super Bait, Cut Plug and Mini Cut Plug have all proven their worth behind an 11-inch Pro-Troll or Shortbus Super Series flasher, but small spinners and Spin-N-Glos are also worth trying. Rigging a Super Bait starts with 50- to 65-pound braided mainline tied to a plastic spreader. Utilizing a spreader will ensure that your flashers won’t create mainline twist. Attach 8 to 20 ounces of lead to the bottom of the weight slider, depending on how far behind the boat you want your gear fishing. Twentyfour inches of 40- to 50-pound monofilament between spreader and flasher will allow proper rotation of the flasher. Behind the flasher, the faux baits should slide down a fixed mooching rig, giving a total length of 36 inches. Fluorocarbon leaders don’t seem to be overly important when fishing a Super Bait, but can’t hurt. The most popular are 30- and 40-pound test, mostly to ensure the rig can be

fished again after catching a fish. There are countless different ways to rig hooks with Super Baits, but starting off with simple mooching rigs with a single 4/0 hook is probably the simplest. Since most Drano fish suspend, alternating your depths is a good way to locate biters, as the most active fish will constantly be on the move throughout the water column.

WIND RIVER Just a few short miles from the Wind Surfing Capital of the World, you will find the Wind River. This aptly named tributary is predicted to see a return of spring Chinook several hundred fish higher than last year’s actual return of 3,200, though definitely down from the 10-year average. While some anglers may find the Wind too troublesome to fish with that forecast, plenty of diehards will still be willing to brave the conditions to catch some of the most aggressive springers on the Columbia. The Carson National Fish Hatchery almost certainly will have lower returns than its upriver neighbor, the Little White Salmon, but catch rates hold their own. Wind has also had multiple years where angler harvest has outperformed Drano’s, even overcoming the handicap of larger returns. In 2015, the most recent year available, just under 2,500 were bonked on a run of 17,600 back to Drano, while more than 3,650 were punched on the Wind on a run of 7,100.

17,100 SPRINGERS EXPECTED BACK TO COWLITZ The Cowlitz River spring Chinook forecast is down over last year’s actual return, but it’s still around 10,000 fish stronger than the average over the past decade, thanks to increased production, making it a good bet this month. Plunkers began picking up springers on the lower river last month, and in April more and more fish will move toward Barrier Dam and the hatchery there. Elbow in and run bait under a bobber. Many boaters like to back-troll the standard plugs – larger Mag Lips and variants, with or without a bait wrap, and Mag Warts – but running a diver-and-bait set-up with sand shrimp and/or eggs is productive as well in the typical salmon holes. There are spots for hover fishing, even trolling herring, depending on water conditions. There are ramps at Barrier, Blue Creek, Massey Bar just above Toledo, and one in town, as well as directly underneath I-5 and Olequa, not far above the mouth of the Toutle. –NWS


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With its numerous put-ins, good bank access, decent returns and beautiful settings, the Kalama is a great fishery for spring Chinook. Mike Fung holds one from the Lower Columbia stream. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

Granted, a fair number of those fish were caught in the canyon and above Shipherd Falls, but two techniques have been consistent producers where the Wind enters the Columbia since the expansion of the terminal zone in 2012: trolling plugcut herring and prawn spinners. Each day, one of these baits may be slightly more productive than the other, but overall they end the day in a close tie. Green-label herring straight from the package will work, but brining your baits seems to be more effective for these tributaries above Bonneville. Fishing your herring behind a flasher is most productive when the Columbia’s visibility is low, which has become the norm for the spring fishery. Trolling a prawn spinner starts with either a No. 4 or 5 Cascade or Bear Valley spinner blade. Red and white, rainbow or chartreuse with a green dot are the most popular and productive blade colors. Attach your blade with a plastic clevis and slide them down your 25-pound fluorocarbon or monofilament leader. Below your spinner blade, run five 4mm beads above two 2/0 66 Northwest Sportsman

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hooks tied an inch apart. Running your prawn in its natural curl seems to be the easiest and most effective way to entice a bite. When trolling herring or prawns, make sure to use a 20- to 24-inch dropper to keep your bait spinning above the abundant woody debris on the bottom. The Wind River standard is to keep your gear “one crank” off the deck. Though these springers tend to hug bottom, they are also known to suspend at times. Paying attention to your electronics is a must to catch fish throughout the day. If you are marking them, bringing your gear to that depth only makes sense. But just as importantly, just because you are not marking fish doesn’t mean that there aren’t any there. Oftentimes these Wind springers hug bottom so close that you cannot identify them on your electronics. When the screen goes dry for an extended period of time, start dragging your gear on the bottom.

KALAMA RIVER This sleepy Washington tributary has some pretty interesting characteristics. The Kalama’s upper


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stretches are very isolated, wild and scenic, while the lower end transitions into a river that feels like it’s flowing through a neighborhood. While the river’s spring Chinook run size has varied from year to year, its catch rates have remained good to excellent. This has a lot to do with the aggressive and early return of these salmon. By late April, spring Chinook are spread throughout the entire system, and oftentimes river conditions are ideal for bank and boat anglers. Indeed, one of the best things about the Kalama is its accessibility. There are multiple locations to drop a drift boat in and lots of bank access points from the mouth to its canyon stretches. Finding a location to fish should never be an issue; a bigger dilemma will be how to dodge those honey-dos at home and get here. A popular technique for drift boaters here is a diver-and-bait setup. One of the simplest ways to run this out of a drift boat is using a Brad’s Bait Diver with 5 feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon to a 2/0 barbless hook. Above the hook run a small Spin-N-Glo above a live sand shrimp or a small cluster of roe. But don’t overlook running smaller plugs. The 3.5 Mag Lip and K11X Kwikfish are two very effective plugs for targeting spring Chinook, as well as summer steelhead.

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APRIL IS ONE of the most amazing months here in the Northwest. Our brown deciduous forests turn green with renewed life, flowers shoot past their weedy neighbors creating fields of color, and birds wake us each morning a little earlier than the last as they search out mates. Best of all, we are lucky enough to find the tastiest of all salmon returning to our tributaries only a short distance from home. April may sneak up on us here in the Northwest, but it brings with it an improved state of mental health to our psyche as we pursue the season’s tasty rewards, with the best of company. NS


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RIG MONTH OF THE

Diver-and-bait Springer Set-up NOTES Nothing feels more like “spring” than fishing for spring Chinook on a small river flowing amidst freshly leaved trees and lush green undergrowth. And catching one of those elusive and tasty salmon will bring grins of joy to anglers of all ages. One of the simplest ways to catch a tributary springer is on a diver-and-bait setup. Having live sand shrimp or fresh roe is a must for catching these notoriously finicky fish. While inline bait divers will effectively fish to 10 feet, those deeper holes or holes with faster water are best fished with a Jet Diver on a dropper. Make sure to start at the top of the hole and fish it all the way through the tail-out. Once a fish starts biting, make sure to wait until the rod is fully loaded up. Sometimes techniques can get overly complicated in today’s fisheries, but the simplicity and effectiveness of a diver and bait has withstood the test of time. –Andy Schneider

6- to 10-inch, 40-pound-test mono line

Size 20 Jet Diver

50- to 65-poundtest braided mainline

Size 8 barrel swivel and duolock snap

2/0 hook (see regs for barb rules on your trib)

Plastic weight slider

Size 6 Spin-N-Glo

8mm knot-protecting bead

Size 14 Lil’ Corky

Six-bead chain swivel

Live sand shrimp or eggs

5-foot, 20-pound-test fluorocarbon leader (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

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COLUMN April sees another round of fishing openers in Central Washington, both at the start and end of the month, but in between it just may pay off to make a trip to Buffalo Lake on the Colville Reservation. Author Dave Graybill calls it one of his spring favorites. “Big rainbows, and in some years good kokanee fishing,” he says. (DAVE GRAYBILL)

Spring Flings M

any anglers in the central part of Washington have their calendars marked with a special CENTRAL WASHINGTON note for April 1. That By Dave Graybill is when the “April Fools” opener occurs, and they get to sample the trout and warmwater fishing opportunities in Central Washington. Most of the lakes that are included in this annual opening day are found in Grant County and in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge south of Potholes Reservoir, with some exceptions. These lakes will serve anglers well until the general trout season opener at the end of the month.

Many lakes dot the landscape in this area and are managed to provide good fishing in the early spring. There are many year-round waters in the region, but these lakes draw big crowds in anticipation of quality fishing. There are dry campgrounds and good camping sites at many of the lakes, and it is common to find big groups of friends and families enjoying this weekend. Chad Jackson, a Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist for Region 2 in Ephrata, provided this preview of what he expects to be the best lakes in the Columbia NWR this year: Upper and Lower Hampton: These lakes fished very poorly in 2016. It’s possible the extreme heat and drought conditions in

2015 negatively impacted fingerling trout survival. Fingerlings stocked the previous year are what anglers encounter in the fishery in the following year. Hopefully last year’s poor fishing was just an anomaly. Give both lakes a try in 2017. Pillar-Widgeon Chain: Located just north of Upper Hampton Lake, this chain is composed of 10 lakes ranging in size from 1 to 10 acres. Some of the largest trout caught come out of these lakes. These are hike-in only. Anglers should fish at least three or four lakes in an outing to ensure a good daily catch. Most can be fished from shore, whereas a few are better fished from a pontoon boat or float tube. The hiking is easy through this high desert landscape. North and South Teal: Solid trout lakes easily fished from boat and shore. Rainbows of mostly 12 to 16 inches are to be expected. Shiner and Hutchinson: Providing

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COLUMN particularly good opportunities for bass anglers, these medium-sized (~40 acres each) lakes offer great fishing for largemouth between 14 and 20plus inches. Anglers should know that fishing from floating devices equipped with an internal combustion motor is prohibited. However, electric motors are fine. Also, Shiner can only be accessed from Hutchinson via a small connector channel. These lakes fish great from April through June and again in lateSeptember. Fishing during the summer can be good, but excessive weed growth makes things difficult. Dry Falls: Catch rates in 2016 were fair to poor, but the average trout size (16 to 18 inches) was exceptionally large. The low abundance of trout seen in 2016 is likely related to the extreme heat and drought conditions in 2015 impacting fingerling survival. Hopefully, the fair to poor catch rates in 2016 were just an anomaly. Anglers should expect good fishing (catching and releasing eight to

It’s been colder than usual so far this year, so spawn timing might be a little later, but don’t overlook opportunities for warmwater species this month. Mike McKee shows off one of the many smallmouth he caught with Graybill on Moses Lake last April. (DAVE GRAYBILL)

15 fish day) in 2017 for fish mostly 15 to 16 inches, with the chance of hooking some larger ones. This lake has limited shoreline fishing and is best fished from a pontoon boat, float tube, pram or similar vessel. Internal combustion

motors are prohibited, but electric motors can be used. Anglers must use barbless single-point lures and flies only, with no bait allowed. Washburn Island Pond: This 119-acre lake near Bridgeport has been a favorite for bass anglers for a long time. It has a very good population of largemouth, and anglers can have high double-digit days when they are on the bite. The lake also offers very good fishing for bluegill. There is a gravel launch and only electric motors are allowed. Spectacle: This long and narrow lake has offered good trout fishing for those who visit Okanogan County for decades. In recent years there has been an increase in the population of warmwater species. While this makes it easy for families to enjoy a day of fast action, some are disappointed in their trout catch. There are three resorts that serve the lake (Spectacle Falls, Spectacle Lake and Sonora Point Resorts).

SEVERAL ON-GOING FISHERIES are also worth a try in April. Kokanee fishing will continue to be excellent on two lakes in particular: Roosevelt and Chelan. Kokanee on Lake Roosevelt should be well distributed in the lower basin of the lake, and will still be found in the upper end of the water column. Anglers won’t have to run far from the launch at Spring Canyon to find them. The anticipation of seeing a new state record for kokanee 76 Northwest Sportsman

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COLUMN landed this year on Lake Roosevelt is high, and catches of kokanee over 20 inches have been very common. Although not as large as their cousins in Roosevelt, Chelan kokanee are very abundant this year, with two year-classes predominanting. One group of kokanee is averaging 10 to 11 inches, and the other 12 to 14 inches. Getting a 10-fish limit of a mix of kokanee of these two sizes has been easy this year. Another species that gets a lot of attention in the spring here in Central Washington is walleye. Due to an exceptionally cold winter the prespawn fishing on the better-known reservoirs should last into April. Banks

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Lake was frozen top to bottom through the month of February, which is highly unusual. Last year anglers were able to hit Roosevelt in the morning to get their two-fish limits of kokanee and then drop down to Banks and finish their day catching walleye. Not so this season. Potholes Reservoir and Moses Lake are two other lakes that should offer good fishing for prespawn walleye well into April, depending on the weather. One of my personal favorites to fish in early April is Buffalo Lake, on the Colville Reservation. It is located about 10 miles from Grand Coulee and offers excellent trout fishing with some very large fish available. Kokanee fishing can be quite good here in the early season in some years. You will need a tribal permit to fish here, and they’re available

at Big Wally’s outside Coulee City, Coulee Playland Resort in Electric City, Walmart in Omak and Colville, and Eich’s Mercantile in Republic. An event that takes place at the end of April is the Banks Lake Triple Fish Challenge. Sponsored by the Coulee Dam Chamber of Commerce, it is a twoday derby (April 22-23), and anglers who can catch a walleye, a smallmouth bass and a trout both days can win big prizes. The top prize is an inflatable boat and motor. You can learn more about it at grandcouleedam.org. Central Washington has long been the place to go for quality trout fishing in the early spring. After the long and cold winter, April looks like the month to take full advantage of the many opportunities throughout the region. NS Editor’s note: Dave Graybill is a longtime North-central Washington angler and fishing writer (fishingmagician.com), and he is also a member of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.


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April Options

COLUMN

S

outh Sound anglers and hunters are rejoicing that it’s finally April. After a very cold start to the year, with snow falling in March, our hills and lakes are warming up. This month brings opportunities to catch trout, bass, SOUTH SOUND crappie and other species, while By Jason Brooks hunters are dressing head to toe in camo and grabbing their shotguns for turkey season.

STARTING WITH ANGLERS in mind, rainbows rule in April,

April’s all about trout, thanks to the opener on the fourth Saturday of the month, but there are rainbows to be had at year-round lakes in the South Sound, as well as spinyrays. (JASON BROOKS)

what with the lowland lakes opener towards the end of the month. But you don’t have to wait until the fourth Saturday to have a fish fry. These days, many lakes are open year-round and many have just been stocked. These fish will be mostly at the surface until they can fully acclimate to the lake. If you have a small boat, float tube or kayak, you will be able to access more of the lakes and ponds. Try fly fishing with a Mack’s Lures Smile Blade fly, Carey Special or a black streamer. These flies are designed to be stripped in slowly, fished just under the surface to mimic different aquatic insects and emerging bugs like the damselfly. If you don’t fly fish, then rig up an ultralight spinning rod with Izorline’s Platinum monofilament in 6-pound test and troll the same pattern with a split shot. Other trolling options for early spring trout include small spoons like an 1⁄8-ounce red-and-white Dardevle from Eppinger, a black Rooster Tail from Yakima Bait Company, a silver Super Duper from Luhr Jensen and yellow Promise Keeper spinner from Mack’s. Keep the spoons and spinners close to the surface and troll at slow speeds. I have even used a fly rod with floating line to troll hardware, which makes for a fun fight with the smaller planter trout. Bass anglers are focusing on the prespawn. The fish become super aggressive this time of year and you won’t have to worry about pulling them off of a fertilized nest. Crankbaits under docks or overhanging trees in small baitfish colors are a fun way to catch bass. Dropshot or Texas-rigged rubber worms do well as natural nightcrawlers are flushed into lakes with spring rains. A crawdad soft bait or a brown football-head jig with matching skirt danced across any rocky bottom will entice the bass. As water temperatures warm up the bite will come on, so afternoon fishing can be better than early morning. We have several lakes in our area that offer other fish too, such as crappie, bluegill, perch and even catfish. It can be a fun day to catch different species. Crappie and varieties of sunfish are easily caught once you locate them. An old-school white-and-red bobber clipped to your line a few feet above a yellow or white 1⁄16-ounce jig tipped with

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COLUMN a piece of worm or maggot can work well. These fun fish school together and are found near docks, lily pads, or other cover. Once you find them and zero in on the right depth, action can be pretty steady. This is a great way to get a younger or new angler interested in fishing before the general lowland lakes trout opener, and it can be fun on ultralight rods. For places to go check out the “Fish Washington” tab on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website, wdfw.wa.gov. McIntosh Lake near Tenino in Thurston County has bass, trout, brown bullhead catfish, and yellow perch. This 109-acre lake has a state boat launch and access as well as plenty of shore access at the Thurston County Rails to Trails Park. Lake Lawrence is also open year-round and has even more species, including bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish, yellow perch, catfish, trout and bass. There is a public boat launch, and at 326 acres this lake has plenty of room to roam and fish. Pierce County’s Lake Kapowsin is one

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of the most versatile waters in all of the South Sound. It offers an opportunity to catch trout, largemouth bass, rock bass, black crappie, bluegill, yellow perch, and pumpkinseed sunfish. The 490-acre lake has shore access as well as a boat ramp, but keep your speed down as this lake is full of sunken logs and stumps, the result of a mudflow 500 years ago and which is why it is so good for the many species. Amongst its other habitat is lilypads, which can make for a very fun fishery for largemouth. Use a stout rod with heavy braided lines and pitch weedless jigs.

TURKEY HUNTERS HAVE few options in Western Washington and relatively low success rates, compared to those hunters who head to the hills of Eastern Washington. In spring 2015, the latest year harvest stats are available for, 38 were killed west of the Cascade crest, which is well up over the previous two seasons but below the high point since 1999 of 77 in 2006. Still, if you are just looking to get out and do some spring hunting or are trying for the state’s rarest gobbler, then head to the South

Turkey hunting opportunities are few and far between in Western Washington – this gobbler was actually shot in Stevens County – but those up for a challenge or to round out a turkey slam should look towards the Skookumchuck Game Management Unit if attempting to bag an eastern tom. (J.D. BARRETT)


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Sound and a little beyond. The eastern subspecies of wild turkey can only be found in Southwest Washington. Give the Skookumchuck Wildlife Area, Lincoln Hills, and area around Yelm a try. Further afield and typically a better bet (though in this snowy year, a bit dicier), Klickitat County offers the Merriam’s variety of wild turkey. Your best bet is near the Klickitat River canyon and areas around Wind Mountain and Goldendale. Stay low in elevation, under 2,500 feet and even closer to the Columbia River Gorge. Keep in mind success is really hard to come by in this part of the state and most of the turkeys live on private lands. The birds should be in full breeding season by the time opening day comes around April 15 and they can be located by their calls. The big birds roost in trees and feed in small openings. They are most active in early mornings, when they come out of the roost to feed. By midmorning the birds settle down. Scouting a few weeks before the season will increase your odds. You don’t have to find the birds themselves to figure out where they are. Instead look for tracks, feathers, and droppings. Turkeys don’t roam too far from the roost but do travel around, so if you don’t see them but find signs of the birds it can be a place to come back to. WDFW advises using gobbler calls sparingly on the Westside, as the brush is thick and there’s greater chance of calling in a fellow hunter than a turkey. Camo is a must, as the birds have keen eyesight, but make sure to not have any red, white or blue on as this is the color of their head and what hunters look for when stalking birds. Hen and jake calls will help bring gobblers to a decoy. Place it 20 or 30 yards away and sit at the base of a tree to help conceal yourself, as turkey pick up movement as well as colors. A 12- or 20-gauge shotgun with a tight choke and heavy shot in size 4 will get you started. Turkeys can also be hunted with a bow, which makes for a great challenge.

APRIL BRINGS MANY opportunities to get outside. Try fishing early for different species, then gear up for the lowland lakes trout opener as May approaches. Break out the fly rod or the shotgun. There’s plenty to do in our region. NS 86 Northwest Sportsman

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COLUMN

Silver Lake, scene of good boat and bank fishing on a past opener, ranks highly in regional columnist Doug Huddle’s 2017 lowland lakes prospects. (AARON HOSTETLER/WHATCOM COUNTY PARKS & RECREATION)

North Sound’s Top 10 Opener Lakes, Ranked O

p t i o n s abound for good opening-day trout By Doug Huddle fishing in the three mainland counties of northern Puget Sound. Whether it’s a desire simply for a change of scenery on the inaugural, maybe a chance for a bigger rainbow or two or perhaps a need to find bigger or smaller waters if your family has grown or shrunk over the years, you’ll find a lake to fill your needs in Whatcom, Skagit and northern Snohomish Counties. These lowland waters are all readily

NORTH SOUND

accessible, well stocked with rainbow trout and other coldwater gamefish according to tried-and-tested formulas and have reputations for delighting even the pickiest angler. Included are some stocking numbers, but at the time of writing these had not been finalized. Here’s a regional top 10 list of opening day waters organized along somewhat subjective lines from which to choose:

1

Lake Padden is perhaps the most kid- and family-friendly opening day fishing destination in the entire

North Sound region. Its 152 acres are entirely surrounded by a city park and because of that, unlike many lakes with a bias against the boatless, you can readily get to the Whatcom County water’s edge. Two floating docks on the east and west sides offer that “over the trout” feeling, and a paved revetment enables disabled fishers to get a front row seat in the action on the lake’s northwest side. What’s more, Padden is on a Whatcom Transit bus line if you’re sans wheels. If you are only a casual or awkward angler, it’s still hard to leave Padden with an empty creel. Almost any terminal

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COLUMN tackle will work, from an egg or PowerBait floated off the bottom with marshmallows to trolling with any of a broad variety of spoons and blades. Stocking and expected catches: 17,000 half-pound rainbows, cutthroat and kokanee from past year fed fry plants. Boat launching and use rules: Bellingham Parks Department’s single concrete puncheon ramp with good draft and staging pier is suitable for short trailered, cartoppers and carry-ins. City ordinance bans gas motors and their use. Getting there: Drive out Samish Way from Interstate 5 for 2 miles. Parking lots are at the golf course (east) side of the park or opposite the tennis courts (northwest side).

2

Erie Lake over its history has been a serious contender for notoriety as the yielder of the biggest rainbow of the day. Its 111 acres on Skagit County’s Fidalgo Island are uniformly shallow but nutrient rich and have grown some beautiful trout, remarkably a few to 9 pounds. Get here early and plan to still-fish for a while before there’s trolling elbow room. Lake Erie Resort operates at the lake’s southeast shore, providing fishing tackle, ice and fee access to launch, but alas they don’t have boats anymore. Stocking and expected catches: 14,000 rainbows, cutthroat and kokanee from past year fed fry plants. Boat launching and use rules: The state owns the graveled ramp with shallow draft that accommodates small, trailered boats. Maneuvering room is limited on the access. Getting there: From I-5 at Burlington drive west on State Route 20 through Sharp’s Corner toward Whidbey Island. Take Lake Campbell Road west from Highway 20 about 2 miles. There’s limited off-road parking, with much spillover onto an adjacent county road, but park carefully or you could get a ticket.

3

Lake Ki is considered by veteran fishers to be one of the premier opening day trout waters in northwestern Snohomish County’s

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Lakewood cluster but getting onto it can be challenging. It gets one of the healthier doses of hatchery-reared rainbows, and last season it yielded a trove of 17-inch fish and a gross catch to take-home of 5.90 to 3.40 trout per angler. At 95 acres and what with the practical physical limitations on watercraft size, it can be readily trolled from the very start of the season. Fishing slows as its waters warm. Stocking and expected catches: 12,000 up to half-pound rainbows and some cutthroat and kokanee from past year fed fry plants. Boat launching and use rules: Short, shallow draft “no host” ramps at the north end along the state highway restrict the size of craft that can be launched. Parking is along the highway opposite the access. Do not block the private driveways there. Getting there: From I-5 at the Smokey Point interchange, drive west a short 4 miles on State Route 531. You can’t miss the lake on your left.

4

Silver Lake, though highly popular on the opener, also can accommodate a lot of anglers of all persuasions. Two accesses – one a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife site, the other a Whatcom County park – at opposite ends of its 173 acres offer a full suite of angling services and conveniences. Besides boat rentals and a walking bridge from which kids can fish, the county park’s opening day celebration has other one-stop fishing experience options including an early-morning fishing contest, the Rotary Club’s pancake breakfast and fishing supplies for sale for the unprepared. Stocking and expected catches: 16,000 half-pound rainbows and some cutthroat or eastern brook trout. Boat launching and use rules: The state’s shallow-draft north-end ramp accommodates small, trailered boats. At the south end, Silver Lake County Park access area is small-trailer capable, too. Motors are OK at all hours under county ordinances, but they mandate the whole lake’s an idle, no-wake zone from opening

PREOPENER OPTIONS Can’t wait until April’s fourth Saturday to wet a line for trout? No problem. There are a host of Northwest Washington waters open right now that will satisfy any urge. In Skagit County, Grandy, Clear, Pass and Cavanaugh Lakes are great waters to rehearse your opening day schtick. Lakes Terrell, Samish and Fazon in Whatcom County fill the bill for earlybird fishers. When in northwest Snohomish County, look to Lakes Goodwin, Gissberg Ponds, Stevens and Shoecraft for sooner angling opportunities. –DH day to May 20 for anglers. Getting there: On Mount Baker Highway drive east to Maple Falls, then north about 4 miles on Silver Lake Road. The county park access is at the lake’s south end and the state access is off a side road at the north end.

5

Lake McMurray is the roomiest of Skagit County’s hatchery-stocked waters. Its 155 acres attract a cosmopolitan crowd of anglers, including some King and Snohomish County rods, for both still-fishing and trolling out in its deeper middle section. The salmonid catch is going to consist of rainbow trout but a smattering of native cutthroat and perhaps a landlocked salmon or two, depending on how deep one trolls. On the warmwater side of the ledger, anglers will boat perch, black crappie and largemouth bass later in the spring. Stocking and expected catches: 13,500 up to half-pound rainbows and some cutthroat. Boat launching and use rules: WDFW owns a graveled ramp wide enough to launch two or three small, trailered boats side-by-side, depending on how cooperative and even-tempered their owners are. This access does get crowded. Skagit County ordinance sets the boat speed limit at 5 mph. Getting there: From Conway take State Route 534 east about 5 miles and down along the lake’s south end. The public access is on the lake’s south end, on Lake McMurray Lane. Parking spills over on to narrow access road almost out to highway.


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COLUMN

6

Armstrong Lake, though tucked out of the way in the forested rural environs north of Arlington, is still readily accessible with just an extra 25-minute drive off the freeway. In some years, the northern Snohomish County lake can be cool at the start, but last year its 30-acre expanse yielded a nearly 4.5-trout-per-angler catch rate. Anglers who wind-mooch or freedrift bait along the weedy bottom may be rewarded with pound-and-ahalf carryovers. Stocking and expected catches: 4,000 up to half-pound rainbows and some cutthroat. Boat launching and use rules: The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife owns a concrete ramp. Motorized propulsion is banned on this lake. Getting there: Drive east on State Route 530 from I-5 to Arlington, then north on Highway 9 to a right turn onto Armstrong Road. Drive east to the access road, taking a left-hand turn just before the pipeline.

7

Cain Lake is one of Whatcom County’s rural “retreat” waters and is lined with private “second” home backyards. At 72 acres it has an intimate feel for the locals who fish it. It could be the newer generations of rainbows or perhaps more conscientious fishers, but in recent years Cain has moved up on this area’s angler scoring roster. In 2016 it posted a nearly seventrout-per-rod gross catch rate. As its waters get warmer Cain’s population of smallish largemouth bass and companion perch will start biting. Stocking and expected catches: 6,000 half-pound rainbows and some kokanee. Boat launching and use rules: WDFW manages the only public access, a graveled ramp accommodating up to small, trailered boats. A Whatcom County ordinance bans gas motors and mandates no wake. Getting there: Head east from Bellingham on Lake Whatcom Boulevard through Sudden Valley or drive south on I-5 to Alger, then go east on Cain Lake Road

until it curves back into Whatcom County. Near Cain’s southeast turn left on Camp 2 Road drive about .2 mile to the access at outlet. Parking off road is limited.

8

Heart Lake is surrounded by the City of Anacortes’ forest lands but still has a fair amount of shore fishing space at the ramp and along the namesake road running along its eastern shore. Bank-borne fishers do almost as well as those in stationary boats since the opening day crowds all but rule out trolling. Two years ago anglers reported on inaugural morning releasing as many trout as they kept, perhaps high-grading for the 18-inch rainbows in the 63.6-acre Skagit County lake’s population. Stocking and expected catches: 8,000 half-pound rainbows and a few bluegills. Boat launching and use rules Anacortes’ parks department keeps the concrete puncheon ramp with shallow drop-off that accommodates small, trailered craft. City ordinances set the speed limit at 5 mph and no wake is to

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COLUMN be produced. Getting there: From Lake Erie (see above) drive north on Heart Lake Road, or drive south on Heart Lake Road from 11th Avenue in Anacortes. There is some off-road parking, but the crowd always spills over onto the county road.

9

Toad Lake, at 29 acres, still offers enough room for both still- and troll-fishing for its opening day faithful. One of Toad’s sneaky-good habits is its ability to produce an occasionally spectacular carryover. One year it was a 4-pound kokanee; more recently, a bank angler landed a 6-pound rainbow. A cautionary word about public access from the private Emerald Lake Estates development on the southwest shore down Pebble Beach Road: There is none, and trespassers are on notice they will be cited by Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies. Stocking and expected catches: 5,000

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half-pound rainbows and a few kokanee. Boat launching and use rules: WDFW owns and manages a seasonally opened gravel ramp suitable for cartoppers and small, trailered craft. There is limited maneuvering room here. A county ordinance bans gas motors and wakes. Getting there: Drive up from Academy Street off North Shore Drive to Toad Lake Road, passing the Bonneville powerlines and then into Toad’s only public access. The parking area fills quickly and latecomer vehicles spill over well up the narrow gravel entry road.

10

Lake Sixteen is the smallest of Skagit County’s big four hatchery lakes, but its 41 acres were the hottest opening day venue last year, reportedly serving up an astounding 11-plus fish per rod. Anglers paying attention will notice a few wild cutthroat turning up in their creels, usually the result of trolling up into the weeds along the shoreline.

Unfortunately, parking is limited, but under no circumstances should you leave your vehicle on the county road. Stocking and expected catches: 6,000 half-pound rainbows and some native cutthroat. Boat launching and use rules: WDFW owns a graveled ramp that handles up to small, trailered craft. County ordinance bans gas-powered motors and sets the lake speed limit at 5 mph. Getting there: Drive east from I-5 at Conway on State Route 534, turn left on Lake Sixteen Road and watch for the public fishing signs. Parking space fills quickly here but do not leave vehicles on the county road.

NEXT ISSUE: More on lower Skagit May cutthroat trout, area kokanee waters. NS Editor’s note: Doug Huddle lives in Bellingham, is retired from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and has written about hunting and fishing in the Northwest for more than 34 years.


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COLUMN

Float Your Trout Bait S

till-fishing d o u g h b a i t for trout is a popular and productive method. And BUZZ RAMSEY although this technique can be used from a boat, its popularity with those fishing from shore cannot be overstated. Also known as dead-sticking or plunking, it’s highly effective during this month when anglers hit mostly close-to-home lakes in search of fat trout. Catching trout requires a little know how, with quick limits likely for those having an understanding of their chosen fishing method – in this case the stillfishing of dough bait. When chasing trout, family, friends and I mostly troll or cast and retrieve lures, but we were reminded last season of just how effective still-fishing dough bait can be.

HERE’S OUR SUCCESS story: There we

There are many ways to load a stringer with trout on opening day, but this one was in danger of only being half filled for author Buzz Ramsey when the bite turned off last April at South-central Washington’s Rowland Lake. A look around and switch in tactics helped the Ramseys get the rest of the way. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

were on opening day last season, halfway to our trout limit when the fast plug bite we were enjoying fizzled. I mean, it was double hook-ups one minute and nothing the next. We noticed anglers plunking from shore were still catching an occasional trout, so we went there, switched to our still-fishing rods and cast out. The bite then resumed for us and

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COLUMN we quickly filled out our limit. Why the trolling bite died and the still-fishing one continued might have been due to the fish going deeper than our lures were reaching as the sun got brighter. What lesson this story might teach you is that while we were rigged similar to others plunking from shore, we had one advantage too few trout anglers employ. Our set-up included a singleegg-imitating Corky added to our leader,

which guaranteed our dough bait would float above bottom so cruising trout could quickly find it. And while the basics of fishing dough bait (described below) haven’t changed much since the prepared paste became more popular than worms for catching trout, this enhancement makes quick trout limits more likely than without.

STILL-FISHING DOUGH BAIT for trout is so easy: Cast out, allow your outfit to sink

GET SET UP For this rigging, you will need the following: 1) Spool of 4- or 6-pound-test monofilament or fluorocarbon leader material. Note that fluoro material is less visible to fish; 2) Size 4 and/or 6mm plastic beads; 3) Size 10 barrel swivels; 4) Selection of ¼-, 3⁄8- and ½-ounce “Oval Egg” free-sliding sinkers; 5) Selection of size 12 and 14 treble hooks; 6) And a selection of size 12 and 14 Lil’ Corky floating egg imitation/bait-floaters, the most popular colors being pink pearl, red, orange, pink, sherbet, clown, and (for night fishing, where legal) glow/luminous color combinations. –BR

to the bottom, wait for a bite, and set the hook when your rod tip dips toward the water. Be sure to leave some slack in your line, so trout can swim off with your bait and swallow it without feeling line resistance before pulling back on your rod to set the hook. There is more than one brand of prepared dough bait on the market these days, but the most recognized and productive – in my opinion – are the PowerBait or Gulp! products marketed under the Berkley label. When using it or other similar products you can greatly increase your success by using the right amount of dough in combination with a Lil’ Corky such that your bait will float above bottom so cruising trout can quickly see/find it. This is fundamental to success and often results in quick limits! The buoyancy of your single-egg imitation will take the guesswork out of how much dough bait is the right amount to float your baited hook above your sinker. When rigging a Corky/PowerBait

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COLUMN combination, use a ball of dough slightly larger than your Corky. We can tell you, based on testing and observation of underwater YouTube video footage shot by outdoorsman and fellow Northwest Sportsman columnist Scott Haugen, that you will catch far more fish if your Corky and PowerBait combination floats side-by-side in the water column. The right leader length is important too. After all, you want your bait floating at the depth the fish are cruising, which might be close to the bottom during times when the water is clear and sun bright, higher in the water column early and/or late in the day, or on overcast days. And while the average length should be 18 to 24 inches, a leader long enough to extend above bottomgrowing vegetation might be the ticket to success when trout are swimming just above the weed tops. To rig the terminal end of your gear, simply thread the end of your main line

The key is to match the size of your gob of dough bait – the author prefers PowerBait – with the size of the Lil’ Corky, which itself should match the size of the treble hook, size 12s with size 12s, size 14s with size 14s. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

through the hole in an oval egg sinker, add a small plastic bead, and tie your line end to a size 10 barrel swivel. Then attach your 18- to 24-inch leader, complete with Lil’ Corky threaded on above the hook, to the free end of your swivel end and mold a ball of dough bait around your hook. We’ve had the best success rigging a

size 12 treble in combination with a size 12 Corky, and size 14 treble with size 14 single-egg imitation. NS Editor’s note: The author is a brand manager and part of the management team at Yakima Bait. Like Buzz on Facebook.

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Tips For Catching More Of Today’s ‘In’ Fish – Kokanee

It’s the hot “new” fishery, and anglers across Washington are eager to learn how to catch more and bigger kokanee, including from American Lake near Tacoma, where this one was netted. (BILL HERZOG)

B

ack when I was a young teen, I can remember many weekends heading to Lake Sammamish and fishing for kokanee. WIESTSIDER By Terry Wiest There weren’t many other anglers, just me and Dad out enjoying time together and catching our limits of some of the best-eating fish on the planet. Kokanee, you see, are landlocked sockeye, which many fish connoisseurs say are the best of all salmon species on the table. Our gear back then was pretty simple. Ford Fender pop gear with a 16inch leader to a Wedding Ring spinner were must-haves, as was a rubber snubber, or you’d rarely land a fish. It was also imperative to tip the hooks with a live maggot or two; otherwise, forget about getting bit. Everything was good with this setup, except I really didn’t care for the maggot part. Dad would keep them in his lip, something he did back in his day and carried forward. That would be one tradition I would not carry on.

Things have changed over the last 40 years. For one, Sammamish still has kokanee, but unfortunately is not open for them. The gear has seen a revolution. Maggots, they’ll still work, but more effective baits are definitely available. Snubbers aren’t needed either, as we now have rods designed for kokanee that won’t rip the hook from their soft mouths. Indeed, today’s kokanee fishery is exploding with interest, and if you haven’t already, it’s time to jump in. With the help of some of my fishing buddies, I’ve compiled some information below that will get you on these delicious fish.

INGLIN’S INSTRUCTIONS Although many lakes are open yearround, late March to early April is when most anglers start targeting kokanee on Westside lakes. “It’s all based on water temperatures,” says kokanee expert and Pautzke bait guru Duane Inglin. “A week to 10 days of warm weather, full sun and mid-60sdegree days can be a game changer.” As surface water temperatures hover in the 52- to 53-degree range, kokanee

can be found right on top or just below the surface. As the temps continue to rise, the thermocline develops and those who can pinpoint this on their electronics have a huge advantage, as the fish will be right at or just below it. By late summer, when water temps are at their peak, fish tend to be much deeper, in the 50- to 75-foot range. Inglin notes there are a few other variables that will change the depth you find fish. “Kokanee have large eyes and are very light sensitive. Flat calm and full sun penetrating will send them down,” he tips. “Add a little wind chop and some clouds, and they are comfortable a little higher in the column. That being said, they will only come back up so much, as in until they hit water temps that they do not care for.” “They also tend to hang out where their food source can be found,” Inglin adds. “When you start marking large blobs of biomass – zooplankton, algae – on your electronics, look for the kokanee to be at that depth as well.”

HERZOG’S SET-UPS For gear, oh my do we have tons of choices these days! Bill Herzog shared some great

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COLUMN kokanee rigs with me. “Early season – late March through midMay – there are two rigs I really like,” says the well-known salmonid angler and writer. “Start with the dodger, of course. First, know that kokanee love gold. I start with a gold Half Fast Arrow Dodger, to that 14½ inches of 12-pound fluorocarbon leader, a No. 00 gold Pen Tac spinner blade/clevis, 2mm red bead on top of a Gold Star glo hot pink mini squid. Add enough 3mm red/glow (alternating) beads under the squid so the bend of the top hook is even with the bottom of the squid, leaving the trailer hook free of the squid. Hooks are dual No. 1 red Gamakatsu drop-shot hooks, tied on 50-pound Power Pro half an inch apart. I always tie some flash/glow onto the top hook using a fly-tying vise – a few strands of glow, a few strands of pink Flashabou and a few strands of pink Krystal Flash, trimmed even with top hook.” “The leader may seem long but during early season the water is colder, so you need less movement,” notes Herzog. “The other rigging is a 4.5-inch Rocky Mountain Sling Blade-style dodger with ‘moon jelly’ tape on both sides, and a greenor red-beaded Wedding Ring spinner, silverplated blade for maximum flash. Same hook configuration as the squids. Also, 12-pound fluorocarbon leader but a bit longer for spinners; approximately 18 to 20 inches is fine. Don’t want it moving more than a slight, 1- to 2-inch side-to-side,” he says, adding, “Cold water, remember?”

3 EASTSIDE GUYS WEIGH IN Yeah, this column’s called Westsider, but it’s not like Eastsiders don’t know how to catch kokanee. With two of Washington’s hottest fisheries – Chelan and Roosevelt – in mind, we looked across the Cascades for more advice. Guide Brad Wagner offered a couple of his favorite set-ups for kokanee. “My No. 1 set-up is a Freedrifter trolling fly in pink or orange tipped with Pautzke Fire Corn, 12 inches behind a Mack’s Lures/Shasta Tackle Sling Blade dodger.” “My other set-up I run is very simple. I will run three or four small beads in various colors, with a Shaker Wing blade on top from Money Maker Tackle. This is also tipped with Pautzke Fire Corn about 18 inches behind a Mack’s Lure Sling Blade Dodger, and also tied on 10-pound mono with tandem size 4 or 6 hooks, often colored.“ Lance Merz of Mack’s Lure Inc. chimed in with some thoughts. “Two hooks are always better than one, in my opinion. The Double Whammy Ringmaster and Mini Kokanee Pro are two viable options for kokanee fishing, as we have field tested these products with great success every time,” he says. Guide Austin Moser (509-668-0298), who has been doing well on Lake Roosevelt, has a very specific set-up for fishing near the surface. “We are catching these fish in the top 15 feet of the water column. I like to use side planers on my front rods, with my lure 100 to 150 feet back and the side planer let out another 80 feet. I use downriggers for my middle rods, set at depths ranging from 10 to 15 feet with 100 to 150 feet of line paid out. My back rods I run flat-lined out the back of the boat, and it is not uncommon to put them back as far as 200 to 220 feet. Most times you won’t see anything on the fish finder as they go around the boat and swing back into the food source behind it. This is why it’s important to get your lures back so far behind the boat. “I also teach repeatability in my seminars,” Moser says. “A quality linecounter can be a very important tool to repeating your success.” He adds one more piece of advice: “A long-handled net can be the difference between putting that fish in the boat and losing it 2 feet from the net.” –TW

SCENT SCHOOL Todd Daniels is another angler who remembers the days when Sammamish kicked out kokanee, but now fishes elsewhere for the species. The guide (206-437-8766) likes to use a small pink hoochie with a 6-inch Silver Horde dodger. “I’ll run this set-up 100 feet back off the downrigger in the top 25 feet of water and just coon the fish,” he says. “Twelve to 16 inches of 20-pound leader will give you the correct action they’re looking for, and they’ll also be looking for the hook to be tipped with Pautzke Fire Corn.” Inglin agrees. “Fire Corn is so versatile, you really shouldn’t fish without it. There are so many colors to choose from, and when you start adding scent to the individual jars, your scent and color combinations are endless. Pink, natural, yellow and red are a few of my favorites. 106 Northwest Sportsman

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Kokanee gear comes in a kaleidoscope of colors, but just as important as finishes, bait and leader length is boat speed and control, says one expert. (BILL HERZOG)


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COLUMN Use oil-based scents and pour it right into the jar. Let the corn soak in the oils and you have created a deadly combination. Tuna, garlic, anise, krill, squid, shrimp, scents all work. Mix and match, fish and document what works best and produces results.” Herzog loves the bait and scent as well. “Bait and scent for early season are very important. Early-season scents should be shrimp-based, perhaps some anise combo,” he says. “Always place some Smelly Jelly or the like on the base of your dodgers, usually squid or shrimp is fine. For bait, soak your white shoepeg corn in shrimp flavors in one container, shrimp/anise in another. Let the fish tell you what they want. Put two kernels on each hook.”

SET-UP SWITCH UP “Now, when kokanee season gets full steam – mid-May through early July – we change just a wee. The dodgers stay the same, but we change the terminals,” says Herzog. “The first and favorite is 11 inches

of 12-pound fluorocarbon to a No. 00 gold-plated Pen Tac spinner blade, clevis, 2mm red bead on top of a pink/clear UV Gold Star squid, 3mm gold beads or soft white glow beads under the squid to the two-hook/flash tied-in base. “The other is my real killer, The Rasticle. It’s the tandem-hook rig, 11 inches of 12-pound fluorocarbon, then four 3mm beads, alternating hot pink/glow. On top slide either a 1.1-inch pink or moon jelly Smile Blade or a No. 12 pink mylarwinged/UV-bodied Spin-N-Glo. This lure has less profile; when the water is warmer, this is my No. 1 go-to rig.” “Bait and scent change also,” Herzog adds. “For scent, stay with squid/shrimp Smelly Jelly on the dodger. But bait, we switch to tuna/garlic. Nothing works better than tuna/garlic for peak-season kokanee. Soak your corn in this or, my favorite, soak white Gulp maggots in tuna/garlic. I believe the Gulp works better in mid- to late season, especially when kokanee start to mature. Place two Gulp maggots on each hook.”

HOW SLOW TO GO That’s a whole lot of information on rigging and bait, but for one guide, it’s only half – maybe even less – of the kokanee equation. “I believe that boat control and boat speed play as important or more important a part in catching these silver bullets than anything else,” says Brad Wagner (509-670-3095). “Most troll for most techniques 1.0 to 1.7 miles per hour, with 1.3 to 1.5 being a favorite of mine probably. “ “Slow in the early season, 0.8 to 1.2 mph,” adds Herzog, “then when water warms, bump it up to 1.3 to 1.7. Watch your fish finder, place your gear 5 feet above the schools and brace yourself.” 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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Okanogan’s Top Koke Lakes W

hen it comes t o kokanee in Washington, what lakes come to PRO’S CORNER mind? Roosevelt, By Jerrod Gibbons and Chelan, American and Merwin? Want to get away from the crowds and relax? Okanogan County has the lakes for you and your family to enjoy. Here are some alternatives to put on your radar!

CONCONULLY LAKE, LOCATED 15 miles northwest of Omak, is a lake of many options. Driving into the town of Conconully, the lake is on your left. Though it seems large to some locals, it’s very friendly to boaters in terms of access and getting out of weather, should storms appear. This is a general opener lake, and its kokanee will run in the 10- to 12-inch range. Fish the southwest corner, where the West Fork Salmon Creek comes into the lake, at depths of 10 to 20 feet down. You don’t need downriggers to be successful; ½- to 1-ounce inline weights should get you in the right zone. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife boat launch is on the east side of the lake, and there’s a private put-in at Liars Cove Resort. This is a great place to stay, with RV and campsites open to the public. Another great place to stay is Shady Pines, located on the west shore and offering RV, tent and some cabins available for the public.

AROUND THE CORNER is Conconully Reservoir, providing families a great opportunity to fish two beautiful lakes in

The Okanogan’s known for its deer hunting and trout fishing, but the kokanee action’s pretty good too. Several smaller lakes offer the species, including Conconully Reservoir, where Matt Featherly, author Jerrod Gibbons, Tanner Way and Josh Uncer put a few in the boat. (OKANOGANVALLEYGUIDESERVICE.COM) one location. It’s also a fourth April Saturday opener, and its boat launch and dock is located at midlake, off of the north side’s Sinlahekin Road. A fee is required to use the ramp, and be sure to have a state pass on your dash. Both are available at the launch. Locations to fish would be to the east, just past the cabins. The lake is narrow here. Fish right down the middle, and from 30 to 45 feet down to get the kokanee. You must fish below the trout, which are much shallower, and this might be a situation to use downriggers. Sometimes the kokes are deeper than 50 feet, so be prepared to go down for them. Trust your electronics. Fish size seems to be a bit bigger in the reservoir compared to the lower lake, ranging from 12 inches, with some in the 16- to 17-inch range.

Places to stay include North Fork Lodge, located off Salmon Creek in town and featuring cozy cabins, and the state park as you come into town. The latter has an abundance of tent and RV sites available, with a few cabins now to offer. Whichever Conconully lake you plan to stay at, be sure to contact the resorts and state park for availability, as they fill fast.

BONAPARTE LAKE IS for the traveler who wants to get away. There’s no cell service, just the beauty of calm mornings and loons talking. Located 26 miles east of Tonasket and just north of Highway 20, the lake is small and quiet, with not a lot of boat activity. Fishing can be great. The launch is at the U.S. Forest Service’s Bonaparte Lake Campground, and it’s big enough to launch

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Dodgers, spinners and squid, as well as scents and corn from Rocky Mountain Tackle Company, Money Maker Fishing and the Jolly Green Giant are a good combination for Okanogan kokanee. (OKANOGANVALLEYGUIDESERVICE.COM)

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a full-size boat. There’s no dock at the ramp, but it’s easy to pull around to one of those at Bonaparte Lake Resort. Fishing hot spots are located on the west end across from the resort and trolling north. Look for deeper water; the fish should be located from 25 to 35 feet down. Again, you’ll need to get below the rainbows to where the kokanee are hanging. Those here are very chunky, healthy and hard fighters! Bonaparte is a lead-restriction fishery, one of a dozen across Washington, so use downriggers or banana weights that are larger than 1.5 inches. Anything smaller and the protected loons could swallow them and die. The place to stay would be at the Bonaparte Lake Resort. They have cabins, RV and tent locations. There’s a little grocery store with a great restaurant located inside. Make sure to call ahead for the dining, as it is a popular place with great food.

EVERYONE HAS FAVORITE rigs to use for kokanee or trout, but here are a few new ones that just might make fish jump in the boat a lot quicker! Using a 5.5-inch dodger from Rocky Moutain Tackle, run a 14-inch leader to a pink Liminator from Money Maker Fishing, or an Assassin or Hornet spinner or Super Squid from Rocky Mountain Tackle. This dodger is a go-to in all my fishing locations and tough to beat with the enhanced UV paint, while the company’s lures are quick to just tie on and go. Liminators are a squid pattern enhanced with UV tinsel skirt and Shaker Wing in front to make the lure shake from side to side. As for scent, Super Dipping Sauce is a true fish slayer featuring 100 percent pure fish oils with no substitution. It comes in nine different flavors, with key scents being Kokanee/Sockeye, Krill, Krill/Anise and Garlic. Take the cap off, dip your favorite lure in and toss overboard. For bait, I like white shoepeg corn. Use it right out of the can or mix it with your favorite brine, giving it a quick fix the night before with krill-powered Super Dipping Sauce to get another great smell in the water. How to fish the rig from a downrigger:


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PALMER MAY BE CALMER

Palmer Lake, 22 miles northwest of Tonasket in the north end of the Sinlahekin Valley, is a big, beautiful lake offering a wide variety of fishing opportunities. Unfortunately, if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re after kokanee, you may have to scratch it from your list. Last season the fish started to die and it became obvious to biologists they were suffering from parasitic copepods, better known as gill lice. No spawning kokanee turned up for broodstock collection. If you go, biologists want to get word out to all anglers to keep an eye out for gill lice in your fish. They say it does not harm the meat and the fish are still good to eat, but please report it to your regional office with pictures and samples if you can. The infestation doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t seem to have hurt the other species in Palmer. It has great smallmouth, largemouth and crappie fishing. â&#x20AC;&#x201C;JG

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Make sure to put 25 to 30 feet of line back behind the ball. Run the set-up down to the desired depth, 2 to 3 feet above where you are marking fish on your finder â&#x20AC;&#x201C; remember, fish look up, not down. As for trolling speed, try 1.2 to 1.5 mph, but know that some days fish like it slower, some days a bit faster. Make sure to keep note of what speed they like or change it up before you swap out your gear. It could be as simple as adjusting .2 mph to get bit. How to fish the rig without a downrigger: With a ½- to 2-ounce inline banana weight, let out the desired amount of line, making sure to watch your angle. If you are at a 45-degree angle with 70 feet of line out, you will be fishing 35 feet down. Use this math in all of your inline weights. Another thing to look for is a nice pulsing action in your rod when trolling. Keep track of how fast your rod tip is working and let the fish tell you what they like that day! NS Editorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s note: Jerrod Gibbons operates Okanogan Valley Guide Service, okanoganvalleyguideservice.com. If you are interested about learning more about or fishing these lakes, give him a call at (509) 429-1714.


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FISHING Early spring/late winter is one of the two best times of the year to catch big smallmouth on the Columbia, according to 24 years of fishing records collected on the river in the Tri-Cities area by author Wayne Heinz. Jeff Knotts, one of his fishing partners, landed this 5.3-pounder in early April on a jig. (WAYNE HEINZ)

Columbia Bass By The Numbers Keep a fishing diary? You might begin one after seeing what it can tell you. By Wayne Heinz

I

f you target smallmouth bass in the Columbia, you might wonder: When do river bass bite best? What methods work best? Which seasons offer the biggest bass? What does an 18-inch smallie weigh? A daily fishing log, multiplied by many days, provides answers. For 24 years, I’ve logged smallmouth bass that partners

and I caught in the Columbia River and tribs – over 1,700 trips, over 11,000 bass. The logs reveal fish length/weight ratios, effective baits, best months, lunker tips. If you chase bass around the Tri-Cities area, you might find this data useful.

LOGS KEEP US HONEST Too often, time passes, fish gain weight. Our memory of lunkers overshadows our recall of dinks. Logs lessen our bragging. Bass we do weigh make us honest braggarts. What are your chances of catching a big bass? If you fish for river bass, you already know the truth. Even nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

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FISHING amidst a large year-class of 3-pounders, most smallies weigh a pound or two. The logs tell the tale: 55 percent of the smallmouth we catch in the Columbia weigh over 1 pound; 38 percent of the bass weigh 1 to 2 pounds. A big bass may see our bait. But so many smaller bass swim nearby, a 1-pounder wins the race. But, chin up. Our logs reveal enough big bass do grace a net to keep things interesting.

How Many Bass Might You Catch Weight range Less than 1 pound 1 to 1.99 pounds 2 to 2.99 pounds 3 to 3.99 pounds 4 to 4.99 pounds 5 to 5.99 pounds 6 to 6.99 pounds

Bass caught 5,232 4,443 1,776 209 75 28 6

Percent of total bass caught 45% 38% 15% ~ 2% < 1% < 1% < 1%

Big Bass Landed Month March April May June July September October November December Total:

Bass over 4 pounds 31 33 11 10 1 3 13 23 1 126 big bass

Percent of total big bass 25% 26% 9% 8% <1% 2% 10% 18% <1% 100%

CHANCES ARE … What are your chances to catch a big smallmouth in the Columbia? Pretty good, if you spend enough time on the water. Big bass don’t come cheap. We pay for them in hours. In 2016, on 87 trips, I spent 334 hours to catch 986 bass. How many weighed over 3 pounds? Exactly 31. Over 4 pounds? Three. Partners’ success? About the same.

Here’s what two dozen years’ worth of bass logs look like. Heinz says mining the data helps show patterns for where, when and how to fish – and it also “keeps us honest.” (WAYNE HEINZ, BOTH)

The above data is from the Columbia, Snake and Yakima Rivers, from 1993 to 2016. Of 11,769 bass landed, we weighed 1,107 bass (about 10 percent). We weighed all bass caught over 3 pounds (318 bass). We weighed about 8 percent of bass caught less than 3 pounds (789 bass).

BIG BASS BY THE SEASONS Would you like to smile for the camera, hefting a big smallmouth? Four pounds to 7 pounds? Tip the odds in your favor. Fish early in the year and late in the year. We catch 44 percent of our big bass in weather where you can see your breath. March and November – lunker months. And fish deep. Most of these big bass hit as we drift 40 to 55 feet deep, dragging soft plastics along the bottom, or blade-baiting. In the fall, a few hogs hit as we troll big-lipped ¾-ounce plugs – like Luhr Jensen’s Hot Lips Xpress – 30 to 40 feet deep. 118 Northwest Sportsman

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CATCH A CAMERA-WORTHY BASS Data based on landed fish in the logs, March through November, provide the following probabilities: To catch a bass over 1 pound you have ~ 50/50 chance. To catch a bass over 2 pounds you have ~ 1 chance in 6. To catch a bass over 3 pounds you have ~ 1 chance in 37. To catch a bass over 4 pounds you have ~ 1 chance in 108. To catch a bass over 5 pounds you have ~ 1 chance in 346. To catch a bass over 6 pounds you have ~ 1 chance in 1,961. Look at the numbers with a smiling eye. About 18 percent of bass you’ll catch will weigh over 2 pounds. That’s roughly one out of five. If you catch 37 bass, one will weigh over 3. A 3-pound smallmouth is a goodlooking fish.

WEIGH YOUR BASS WITH A TAPE MEASURE Left your Berkley scale at home? No problem. Our logs


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FISHING provide length/weight tables to estimate how brag-worthy your smallie really is. Prespawn? Add a few ounces. Postspawn, subtract a few.

What Does Your Smallmouth Weigh? Length 13-inch bass 15-inch bass 18-inch bass 19.5-inch bass 20.5-inch bass 22-inch bass

Weight over 1 pound over 2 pounds over 3 pounds over 4 pounds over 5 pounds over 6 pounds

We compiled this table from 1,107 bass, all caught in the Columbia, March through December. On the water, are you persnickety? Want to estimate your bass’s weight more exactly? Use a detailed table:

Smallmouth Bass Length/Weights Average length 11.5 inches 12 inches 12.5 inches 13 inches 13.5 inches 14 inches 14.5 inches 15 inches 15.5 inches 16 inches 16.5 inches 17 inches 17.5 inches 18 inches 18.5 inches 19 inches 19.5 inches 20 inches 20.5 inches 21 inches 21.5 inches 22 inches

Weight 0.9 pound 0.9 pound 1.0 pound 1.3 pounds 1.4 pounds 1.6 pounds 1.7 pounds 2.0 pounds 2.3 pounds 2.5 pounds 2.6 pounds 2.8 pounds 3.0 pounds 3.3 pounds 3.7 pounds 4.0 pounds 4.4 pounds 4.8 pounds 5.1 pounds 5.2 pounds 5.2 pounds 6.3 pounds

Weight Number range weighed 0.7 to 1.1 pounds 4 0.8 to 1.0 pound 8 0.6 to 1.3 pound 9 1.0 to 1.5 pounds 18 1.3 to 1.8 pounds 23 1.1 to 2.1 pounds 69 1.3 to 2.3 pounds 65 1.3 to 2.8 pounds 108 1.4 to 2.8 pounds 70 1.8 to 3.0 pounds 123 2.0 to 3.2 pounds 79 2.2 to 3.6 pounds 152 2.4 to 3.8 pounds 77 3.0 to 4.0 pounds 142 3.0 to 4.4 pounds 44 3.0 to 4.8 pounds 40 4.0 to 5.3 pounds 28 4.0 to 5.5 pounds 31 4.9 to 5.7 pounds 8 5.2 to 5.6 pounds 4 5.2 to 5.2 pounds 1 6.0 to 6.8 pounds 6

We caught most of these bass in the Columbia River between Wanapum and John Day Dams. Data includes spawning-run bass (in the Yakima River below Horn Rapids Dam, and in the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam). Time span: 1,744 trips, over 24 years, March 1993 to December 2016. We released 98.6 percent of our bass. We weigh bass with Berkley and Rapala electronic scales, with an accuracy of plus or minus 2 ounces. To compile weights, we removed statistical outliers. Columbia River smallmouth length/weights are about 120 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com

One thing the author’s found is that spider jigs catch big bass in April, and this happens to be that month. (WAYNE HEINZ)

the same as Midwest bass (In-Fisherman, May 2016). On average ours weigh 13 percent more than smallies in New York and Wisconsin (state fish and wildlife agency studies). Our logs show postspawn smallmouth rapidly regain weight. By late June, we see no significant difference between pre- and postspawn smallie length/weights. By early October, most bass are fatter than they were in March.

COLUMBIA RIVER SMALLIES GROW FAST Smallies have been swimming in the Columbia for over 90 years. In 1925, game warden N. E. Palmer stocked 5,000 in a tributary – the Yakima River. If you fish the Yakima, Columbia or Snake today, you know how successful that plant was. Over the ensuing 92 years, bass numbers have exploded. Thanks to abundant juvenile northern pikeminnows, whitefish, and suckers, fat crawdads, sculpins, millions of salmon smolts, and gadzillions of shad fry, 5,000 bass have become millions. And they grow at a good rate. The Columbia Basin’s long, hot summers speed metabolism. Biologists at University of Washington’s School of Aquatic & Fisheries Science studied Columbia River smallmouth. Some conclusions: Male and female bass grow at the same rate. Female bass live longer than male bass. Smallies begin to spawn when shallows reach 53 degrees to 60 degrees. These bass can spawn when they are 3 to 4 years old, or 10 to 12 inches.


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Northwest Sportsman 121


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Average length 4 inches 7 inches 10 inches 12 inches 14 inches 15 inches 16 inches 17 inches 18 inches 19 inches 20 inches

Average age in Years 1 2 to 2.5 3 3 to 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 > 11

From the biggest ones – Wade Ralston’s 8.5-pounder – to midsized bass to, er, “future lunkers,” Heinz puts many smallies to the tape to figure out typical weight ranges and ages. Ralston’s smallie was likely a dozen years old or more. (WAYNE HEINZ, TOP TWO; WADE RALSTON)

The above data comes from UW studies. Comparing it with other studies, Columbia smallies grow at the same rate as Missouri and New Jersey smallies. They grow a year or two slower than smallies in Tennessee. If Columbia River smallies live long enough, they grow big. In 1966, Ray Wonacott, fly fishing a Wooly Worm in the Hanford Reach near the old ferry landing, caught the standing state-record smallie, 8.75 pounds. It was 25 inches long. In 2008, Wade Ralston, fishing the Columbia near the Tri-Cities, caught an 8.5-pounder. Will you land a lunker? Our logs say: Yes, if you spend enough days on the water, and many of those days are in March and November. NS Editor’s notes: Improve your fish-finding skills. Read Wayne Heinz’s latest book, Depthfinders – A Guide To Finding And Catching More Fish, Amato Publications, Portland, (800) 5419498. Also available at Amazon.com. For a first-hand report of bassin’ with Wayne, see Dennis Dauble’s Back Page article.


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FISHING Guide Brian Bell shows off a perfect eater-sized walleye from the Columbia River. Fish like this are gathering for the spring spawn and can be caught trolling plugs. (BRIAN ROBERTSON)

Bell’s Dinner Bell Tri-Cities guide likes plugs for Columbia River walleye.

By Brian Robertson

I

love eating walleye, more so than salmon or steelhead by far. My mouth waters just thinking about their tender, flakey-meated sides. Ask me what my favorite walleye meal is and I’ll break into a Bubba-inspired scene from Forrest Gump. There is beer-battered walleye, sautéed walleye, walleye soup, walleye tacos, barbequed walleye … But before you can prepare the plethora of walleye recipes, you have to first put walleye in the boat. There

are few anglers who can think like a walleye as well as Bryan Bell, owner of Big Rods Guide Service (509-4306330) in Kennewick and an account manager for Pure Fishing. Bell not only guides for walleye on the Columbia system but fishes tournaments for them too. A trip out of Umatilla Marina Park below McNary Dam early last month with him proved to be a great day. We boated several eatersized fish and released a few big males and females to repopulate.

BELL’S A SUCKER for a plug bite, just

like me. There is something magical about watching a plug get bitten. Even the sometimes-doggie-fighting walleye still manage enough oomph to knock the snot out of a plug rod. River walleye are ambush-style predators lying in wait for their prey to come by. They’re well adapted to the task, thanks to large, topforward-set eyes that are perfect for spotting prey in dim and turbid waters. “These fish lay in ambush in the slack water on the first current edge,” states Bell. “They sit there and nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

Northwest Sportsman 127


FISHING hammer the bait that comes by.” Most of the year walleye feed like crazy and can be found where the food is, but low water temperatures of late winter and early spring and their preoccupation with the upcoming spawn can make the bite a bit slow. But like any good wouldbe parent, they don’t pass up a good meal. They flat-out bash plugs. Bell likes to look for the first current line out from the bank in 10 to 30 feet of water. “These fish start showing up in numbers at and around their spawning areas this time of year,” says Bell. “They will actively feed right up to the spawn, and this time of year they eat plugs well.” A walleye’s lay-in-wait style of feeding will often put them on the edge of current lines, the front edge of a depth change on the outer edge of a point. The key is finding them. Good if not excellent electronics are

Whatever your favorite plug is – Bell’s is a Flicker Shad in size 9 or 11 – the key is to keep it close to the bottom, either with the aid of a bottom walker or leaded line strung off a linecounter reel. (BRIAN ROBERTSON)

a must. Seeing the fish, structure, bait and the ability to return to those exact locations is essential. I watched Bell artfully locate fish, lock the location on his electronics, then put us back on that spot time and time

again. It really helped produce bites. On this day it was a submerged point that broke from 15 to 25 feet. We saw fish on this point on every pass. Once you’ve found them, stay with them. Change your color and presentation speed until you figure out the sweet spot.

KEEPING YOUR PLUG close to the bottom is key. Bell’s favorite, a Flicker Minnow in size 9 and 11, dives 18 to 23 feet. Depending on the depth you locate fish, some extra depth assistance may be needed. Bell uses a bottom walker or, more often, leaded line to get the extra depth he needs. No matter what your preferred method of weight is, keeping your plug within 3 to 5 feet of the river bed is paramount. “This time of year the fish are on the bottom,” stresses Bell. Slow is the name of the game. Water temperature the day we fished was a chilly 39 degrees. Bell suggests 1 mph or less ground speed. We found ourselves ever so slowly working our plugs uphill, but depending on the current and location, a downhill troll may be appropriate. A medium to medium-heavy plug rod is recommended. We used Fenwick HMXs paired with Penn 128 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com


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APRIL 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com

Author Brian Robertson loves him some walleye, and his favorite meal is fish tacos with mango salsa. (BRIAN ROBERTSON)

Warfare reels and leaded line, a wellsuited combo for the job. Make sure you match your rod weight to the amount of weight you will need to run to get your plug down to the desired depth.

IT’S NO SECRET the mid-Columbia River is full of walleye, and many feel the next world record will come out of the system. Without a doubt that fish will be a prespawn female. That’s because prior to the spawn hens are toting around the weight of up 400,000 eggs. The closer you get to the spawn, the bigger and heavier these big pregnant mamas get. This makes early spring and late winter a very exciting time to fish for walleye. Who doesn’t want a crack at a world record? “If a fish is over 7 pounds, we let them go. That size and up are our spawning stock. If we keep them, there won’t be a sustainable fishery,” says Bell. Releasing the breeding stock is good conservation and preserves our walleye fishery for years to come. So unless you think you have a new world record, let the big fish go. After our very successful day I was happy to head for home and prepare my favorite dinner, walleye tacos with fresh mango salsa. A quick search on the Internet can land you a variety of recipes for it; my favorite is found on WildernessNorth.com. NS


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The author’s brother Ty Cary used trail cameras to identify and locate this 400-pound boar during Idaho’s spring hunt last year. He took it with archery tackle. (STANDING BUCK PRODUCTIONS, LLC)

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E

very spring more hunters are taking to the woods to try and fill their black bear tag. Northwest states enjoy stable or increasing bruin populations, yet success rates remain low on average. I have listened to many a story from people who struggle to find bears

during the season. There is usually a common denominator when it comes to a hunter’s inability to harvest a bear: They worry about where a bear is at rather than where a bear should be. My advice is that you should not expect to see one if you really want to kill one. It may sound contradictory but the point is that you must focus

on the sign and allow it to put you in position for an opportunity. Throughout the Northwest, different hunting methods and tactics may be employed, depending on the state or terrain you are hunting. Whether glassing openfaced canyons, baiting in the timber or checking clearcuts and swamps in our coastal rain forests, the bears are no different in their needs than any other animal. They need food, water and shelter, and generally prefer them to be in nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

Northwest Sportsman 135


HUNTING

The size of a bear’s scat can indicate its general size and what it’s been eating. (STANDING BUCK PRODUCTIONS, LLC)

the same vicinity. Find those three things and you will be off to a good start. Now let us look at scouting and the sign you can look for to give you confidence that an area will produce.

SCOUTING DURING SEASON With most hunting, I would advise against waiting until the start of a season to do your scouting. Bear hunting is the exception. In this part of the country, it can still be cold with snow or heavy rainfall as spring comes around, and this will reduce activity. On the other hand, milder winters with warmer temperatures will get the bears moving, making hunting the early part of the season worthwhile. This past winter was largely colder and snowier. Pick a few areas to target and then start exploring for sign. Getting away from the roads and main trails will yield the best results. Bears can be active at any time of the day, so go to where they live. Creek bottoms, older grassy roads and dense timber patches adjacent to clearings are all good places to hunt and to look for 136 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com

signs of recent activity. Utilizing trail cameras may let you know where a bear is spending time and even its travel times, allowing you to sense a pattern and choose an optimal time to hunt. A big bear may not come through the same spot for several days, but patience will help you prevail. Knowing he is there is half the battle. My family trusts Stealth Cam to give us the reliable scouting information we seek on animal movement. Their new wireless series sends photos to your phone or email and will work well for bear hunting. You can leave it in those remote areas without having to disturb the area on a regular basis just to check your pictures. Last year, my brother Ty Cary harvested a nearly 400-pound Idaho boar with a 19½-inch skull and squaring out at almost 7 feet. The trail cameras told the story of two large boars frequenting the area and he was able to capitalize. Many hunters fail when they become solely dependent on glassing

a bear from a distance, hoping one will feed out while they are there. If they do not see one, chances are those hunters will leave discouraged and not return to that particular location again that season. When you choose to rely on glassing exclusively, it can eventually prove effective; however, it will burn up a tremendous amount of time. Unless you have done the work and know that a bear is living there based on sign, you may be wasting your time. If you can figure out where they are hanging out when they are not out on the hillsides, you can give yourself more daylight hours to find a shooter. When you slow down and decide to deliberately look for particular evidence of an animal’s presence, it is amazing how much you can see. So, what are you looking for? There are several types of sign that a bear hunter can search out. Here are a few of the most important to look for during the spring.

FOOD SOURCES The old adage states, “Find the food and you’ll find the animal.” This may be true for some species, but a bear hunter must be more specific. A bear’s diet and behaviors during spring differ slightly from fall. A black bear is carnivorous, yet they function primarily as herbivores, making them omnivores. Myth would have you believe that bears are killing the calves and fawns. They are opportunistic eaters and will take advantage when nearby if hungry enough. However, the fact is that 85 percent of a bear’s diet is plant-based and the remainder is made up of animal protein. Throughout spring, your best bet is to look for areas with fresh green vegetation and edible plant life. Bears have a difficult time digesting firmer plant cellulose, so they will eat the new shoots of grasses, leaf buds, skunk cabbage, wild onion bulbs or anything else that sprouts up in your hunting area.


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HUNTING When a bear is hanging out in an area, it will tear open old logs and stumps it comes across looking for insects, such as ants or termites. These are telltale signs for a hunter to pick out while glassing. The bark or trunk will usually have the appearance of a single piece pulled off and the inside will be a brighter hue compared to that of the outside, which was probably faded by the sun and weather. Stumps will likely be worn on the downhill side where the most surface area is accessible to the bear. This past spring I found a clearcut with several torn-up stumps. I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see a bear in that spot until the third trip, but the sign told me one was living there. Often I come across where a bear has dug for rodents or underground beehives searching for grubs. These are opportunity feedings as they passed through,

so I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t worry about focusing on that particular area. Most of the meat in their diet comes from carrion, so checking in on any known carcasses could pay off. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve had success with predator calling to simulate a prey species living in my hunting area, but it is dependent on certain factors. If the terrain is easily navigable and the bear is reasonably close, they may come charging in. I have also tried calling to bears across a canyon only to watch them turn and leave the county. The drier environments where forest ďŹ&#x201A;oors are bare, providing fewer food sources, can be excellent places to replicate an injured rabbit or bird. The bears may have to travel farther on a daily basis to ďŹ nd food so they could be more responsive to a seemingly fresh meal. I recommend using a partner when calling â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and remember, any predator may respond to a call, so be prepared.

SCAT AND TRACKS Probably the most noticeable sign of bears are their scat and tracks. As you navigate roads and walk down trails, they are both easy to recognize. Tracks will tell you that a bear has been in the area; scat will tell us why. Scat is simply the bearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s droppings after digesting food. The shape, size and quantity can tell how big a bear might be, but deďŹ nitely what it has been eating. If there are several piles in a small area, it is probably worth spending some time there. Tracks will also tell you about what kind of bear(s) are living in the area. I like to check moist areas around creek banks and mud puddles for the most pronounced tracks. Anywhere the ground is soft enough for an impression and debris is cleared away is a great place to see tracks. They will consist of a large pad with ďŹ ve toe marks and small claw indentations. Rear pads

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HUNTING are rectangular and appear longer than the front. A bear generally walks with an over step, where their rear tracks land ahead of their front tracks. Measuring the width of the front track pad will give a hunter a good indication of a bear’s size. Any track measuring 5 inches or better will be from a good-sized bear.

MARKING TREES Locating a marking tree can be more difficult and requires a keen eye. Used mainly by boars for communicating to other bears, they are found along access routes such as trails and abandoned roads. I often find them behind gated roads where vehicle traffic is reduced or nonexistent. Several reasons exist for marking behavior. Boars like to show their dominance over a territory by marking trees for other bears to see. Larger trees, such as aspens or alders, will feature claw marks or rubs. Upon closer

inspection, you may find hairs stuck in the bark. Males mark during the mating season of late spring. Females primarily mark during the fall. Aggressive markings are found often on smaller saplings and younger trees like Douglas fir or cedar. Bears will chew and bite the tree until the top either falls over or falls off completely. A boar may have a series of marker trees over an area of several square miles or keep them limited to a smaller geographic area. I have found several trees marked within sight of one another, a clear indication that a boar was living nearby. You can get an idea for how big the culprit is by the height of these broken tops. Every marker tree created is a chance for the bear to spread its scent. When you see a video of a bear “scratching” its back on a tree, you are witnessing it marking and leaving its scent behind. This serves as a notice to the sows and a warning

to the smaller boars. I have found where the bear bit off the tops of small trees and pushed the trunk over, finishing with what is called straddling, where it walks over the length of the tree so the branches catch its scent, before moving on.

HUNTING AROUND SOWS WITH CUBS Many spring seasons last through the end of May and into June. This time happens to coincide with the black bear rut. If you find a sow with cubs at any time during the season, you should make a point to continue to hunt that spot. A boar, or multiple boars, may be found in the same area checking on the sow and trying to kill or chase off the cubs as the rut progresses. If you return to find that the sow has less cubs than you previously spotted, chances are good that a boar killed one or more and may still be around. Be patient and spend at least an hour glassing at every spot. Bears are not usually in a hurry. A hunter should give a boar time to show itself.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TIMING There is no replacement for hard work and effort. To consistently harvest a bear, you need to read the sign. You cannot expect to get lucky all of the time. When it is all said and done, it really comes down to timing. The goal is to place yourself in a position to be successful. The more time you spend in the woods, the greater your chances of finding a bear to harvest. Pay attention to the sign, continue to monitor those areas, and do not worry if you are not physically seeing a bear every time. Bear movement continues to increase as the season winds on. Have faith in the evidence you find and let the sign lead you to success in the bear woods this spring. NS Editor’s note: Brinton Cary is an outdoor writer living in Springfield. He is the creator of Hunt-blog.com and can be found on Instagram @brintoncary. 140 Northwest Sportsman

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HUNTING

Wrongs Can Make Right

Making mistakes comes with the territory of hunting a wiser bird than a pea-sized brain might suggest, but by learning from them you’ll become a better spring gobbler hunter. (JULIA JOHNSON)

Over 27 seasons gobbler hunter MD Johnson has made every mistake in the book, making for valuable lessons learned. By M.D. Johnson

I

killed my first spring gobbler in southeastern Ohio in 1990. I moved to Washington state in ’93, and began keeping what I call turkey hunting records in the spring of ’94. Since that time, my wife, Julie, and I have killed 109 gobblers, with another 15 or 20 taken during the fall seasons in several different states. Bragging? Not at all. I mention this number – 109 – to convey the statement that during the time frame from 1994 to The Present, I have made every turkey hunting mistake one can possibly make. If it’s possible to do it wrong, I’ve done it wrong. The list, my good people, of my gobbler failings, per se, is so long –

well, let’s just say it’s long. But in the 27 years since my first longbeard tipped over, I’ve learned quite a bit by making these mistakes. And chances are, if you’ve spent even one spring in the woods, you’ve made your fair share of them. If you’re new to the sport, rest assured the proverbial Clown Show will present itself from time to time. However, my friends, I’ve taken it upon myself this spring to, hopefully, limit your pain and suffering, thanks to the pain and suffering I’ve endured over the past quarter century. Today, I’m going to hit the highpoints: the mistakes most turkey hunters, nimrod and veteran alike, make over the course of one season or many. This is by no

means a complete and final list of potential wrong-doings, mind you. Oh, I’m sure you’ll come up with some novel way to masterfully foul your line, as my Old Man used to say, this spring when doing battle with Old Mister Longbeard. Don’t feel bad; I will, too.

SCOUTING The most common reason people don’t hear turkeys, let alone kill one, is due to the fact they’re not hunting where the turkeys live. Sure, there might be one or two birds scattered here and over yonder, but the chances of finding one, well, they’re not all that good. Of all the turkey hunting wrongs I can mention, inadequate scouting can and usually does top the list. Yes, we – nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

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HUNTING and I mean me, too – get complacent, going back to Spot A and Spot B year after year because we killed birds there in the past. And yes, sometimes it works. And works well. But turkeys, especially the Rio Grandes and Merriam’s here in strength in Washington are roamers. They’re notoriously nomadic; here today and w-a-y over there tomorrow. So it’s important to hunt where the turkeys are. It’s equally important to hunt those birds when they’re where you think they’re going to be. And third, it’s vital to know, once a bird has made his presence known, how to get from Point A to Point B 1) quickly, 2) quietly, and 3) without being seen by said gobbler. Scouting, and I mean in-depth scouting, will provide answers to all of these and more. Scout while you’re deer hunting. While you’re elk hunting. While you’re fishing. While you’re on your computer at lunchbreak. Walk the property you’re going to hunt well in

advance, if possible, of the season. Where do the birds prefer to roost? Do they head for water first rattle of out of the box? If so, where is that water, and where can you hide yourself between the roost and the water? Is there a hidden meadow – doesn’t have to be big – where the gobblers like to strut? The better you know the property you’ve chosen to hunt, the more effective you’re going to be.

PATTERNING The days of picking up the ol’ Model 870, a handful of assorted rolling-around-the-dresser-drawer shotshells, and going turkey hunting are over, folks. Can you (possibly) kill a bird with this set up? Yes. Do you need a dedicated 21st Century turkey gun and magic bullets to kill a gobbler? No. Is it important to know how your shotgun performs with the ammunition and choke combination you’ve chosen each and every time you pull the trigger, and at the distances you’ve learned to estimate

accurately while in the field? (Long, deep inhaled breath.) Absolutely. My point? Get a full or extra full choke and some quality ammunition, preferably in shot sizes 5 or 6. Maybe your eyes need a low-power scope. Or a Red Dot. Or Williams iron sights. Then, spend an afternoon at the range shooting turkey targets – note: You can make your own by tracing your forearmand-fist on a piece of 8½-by-11-inch notebook paper – until you know, without question, what that shotgun does every time you pull the trigger. Trust me; a lot of people don’t.

CALLING Do you have to win turkey calling contests to call a wild turkey gobbler? No, sir; however, it does help, and helps a lot, to know what a wild turkey hen sounds like. Turkey calling is a rhythm. A cadence. A natural ebb ’n flow of sound. My suggestion here is to find a turkey call you’re comfortable with, be it a diaphragm call, a slate call, a box call,

BEST NORTHWEST TURKEY TROTS Hard to say what impact the long, cold snowy winter had on turkeys across Idaho, Oregon and Washington for this month’s seasons, but it’s probable that those birds at the ragged edges of their range were probably hit the hardest by the harshest conditions in 20 years in places. “Areas where turkeys are existing on the edge of suitable habitat, particularly high elevations without some good open valleys down low, will be most impacted by long periods of cold and deep snow,” says Mikal Moore, the National Wild Turkey Federation’s regional biologist. While the Northwest didn’t get the snowpack that California did, large swaths of Oregon’s best turkey country as well as Central Idaho were above average. Washington’s top gobbler grounds were covered in white for months upon months, as well as bitterly cold, but the northeast corner didn’t see the depth of snows as elsewhere. “I think we are all holding our breath 144 Northwest Sportsman

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to see what spring brings,” says Moore. “It is likely that winter mortality was up due to less available forage in deep snow, higher energetic requirements in cold temperatures, and increased vulnerability to predation for all of these reasons.” She says it’s likely young turkeys would have suffered the most, which could mean fewer jakes, but that it’s also possible winter-weakened hens may be less productive this spring. It remains to be seen whether harvest will be impacted like it was coming out of winter 2007-08, when a quarter of the kill was summarily lopped off in the Evergreen State. But your best bet will be to focus on the birds’ core ranges and work upwards with the snow. In Idaho, that means along and above the Clearwater and Snake Rivers and around Dworshak Reservoir, and the lower elevations and valleys of the northern panhandle. Oregon’s best units remain those surrounding Medford, on the east side of Mt. Hood, the foothills of the Willamette

Valley and those out of La Grande. Conditions were rougher in that last area, but perhaps not as bad as in the Northside Unit, which had seen steadily increasing harvest through last year. Washington’s gobbler bastions – the Klickitat, Blues and Colville and Pend Oreille Valleys – all saw their share of snow, particular those in the state’s southern reaches. Early winter surveys in the northeast showed similar numbers to the same point as the year before, but lingering harsh conditions may have led to some mortality. “The good news is that the spring season is only open for gobblers, or bearded turkeys, and if the late spring hatch is decent, it’s reasonable to expect a large injection of juvenile birds back into the population,” says biologist Dana Base. Moore is also optimistic, long term. “Wild turkeys are remarkably hardy, so I don’t see this winter as being a setback by any means,” she says. “Wildlife populations are adapted to endure fluctuations.” –NWS


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HUNTING CAMOUFLAGE or two soup cans and a 24-inch piece of binder twine. What the call is doesn’t much matter. What matters is that you sound realistic; rather, you sound like a real live Mama turkey. Don’t know what a real live Mama turkey sounds like? One word – YouTube. Or is that two words? Anyway, go online and listen to what wild turkey hens sound like. Then it’s simply a matter of mimicry. If you can realistically yelp, cluck and purr, well, that’s all the menu needs to say. Oh, and the most important thing about turkey calling? Knowing when to shut up. Put the damn thing down. Just because it cost $20 doesn’t mean you have to get $20 worth of entertainment out of it every time you pick it up. Make that gobbler hunt you. Play hard to get. If you call and he gobbles, he’s heard you. And he knows exactly where you are.

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Years ago in southern Iowa, I watched a young man – a former footballer and wrestler who was built like a cinder-block wall and about the same size – put his back up against a T-post – note: That’s a 2-inch T-post – slide his shotgun to his shoulder, call a longbeard to within 15 steps, and shoot that old bird smack in the lips, all out in the Great Wide Open. How did he do it? One, he was a fantastic turkey hunter. And two, he believed in the effectiveness of his camouflage. And again years ago, Brad Harris, the mastermind behind Lohman Game Calls, looked at me as we set up on a hard-gobbling bird in southern Missouri, and said – and none too nicely – “Put that thing away, will ya?” That thing was a 2-inch-square piece of Ziplock sandwich bag that was sticking out of my pocket, a reminder of a late morning in-thefield snack. Harris, it seemed, was

concerned our gobbler was going to see my sandwich bag, get scared, and run off before we had a chance to kill him. So I hid the bag, sat down, and shot the tom at 20 steps a few minutes later. Head-to-toe camo. Complete. Soles of your boots. Belt buckles. Wrists, watches, rings, facial piercings, and that Joe Dirt mullet. If it’s not covered, cover it up with camouflage. Try a ghillie suit. I’m partial to today’s three-dimensional Leafy Wear. Whatever you decide to drape upon your body, you have to believe in it. You have to be damn near invisible, and then believe you’re invisible. Or the illusion doesn’t work.

PATIENCE AND SELF-DISCIPLINE You’ve given him an hour. Oh, he’s gobbled 50 times, and he likes what you’re laying down; however, he hasn’t moved more than 10 feet in the past 60 minutes. Here’s where the Cardinal Rules


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HUNTING of Turkey Hunting come into play: Patience, Persistence, and SelfDiscipline. If you can sit for another 30 minutes while not playing with your turkey call (or phone!) and keeping your eyes peeled for that sneaky old SOB to slip in silent, do it. Remember, you’re operating on his time schedule, not yours. If you’re looking at your watch while he’s gobbling – well, why don’t you just head on home and save yourself the hassle? If you can, hunt in the morning. Hunt in the evening. And hunt at noon. Stick a small portable blind in front of your ugly mug, get yourself comfortable, unpack a PBJ, and read a book. Call every 15 minutes with quiet clucks and shortrun yelps and whines. Bird-watch. Listen to Mother Nature. Will he catch you unaware? With your camo britches down? Probably, but it’s all part of the game. He’s playing for keeps. You’re just recreating. NS

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The “Cardinal Rules of Turkey Hunting,” as author MD Johnson (right) knows them, boil down to patience, persistence and self-discipline. If you want to be successful, pay attention to those, scout out birdy locations, have that shotgun patterned, wear camo and know the right calls to make when and when to just be quiet. (JULIA JOHNSON)


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HUNTING

Bag That First Turkey

Taking a newby out for gobblers this spring? An Oregon hunter shares tips for success. By Troy Rodakowski

I

Taking your first turkey is a very happy moment, as is putting a new hunter into that bird. Author Troy Rodakowski was blessed to make it happen for friend Jacqueline S. last spring in the Willamette Valley. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

love to see the excitement in people’s eyes when they fall in love with hunting. The feeling is beyond words and I cannot do it any justice even with a plethora of adjectives. It’s great to take someone out into the Northwest’s hills and have them become a part of nature’s beauty. There is a transformation that takes place when people become one with the forest and animals that call it home. In these moments we all come to realize how spectacular the wild truly is. That first elk bugle, turkey gobble, redtail hawk screech or grouse drumming session become unforgettable memories etched into our minds forever. Last spring it was my great privilege to take a good friend, Jacqueline S., on her first successful turkey hunt. She had never heard a gobble up close or felt the adrenaline rush as a bird slowly approached. Along with my dad, we headed for the grassy oak woods just above the Willamette Valley. After working some good toms off the roost we hunted for a few more hours, took a break, had a snack and regrouped. It was midmorning when we suddenly found ourselves in an odd predicament. Walking a trail we spotted a good group of birds feeding directly towards us. Jacqueline and I dropped to the ground on our bellies and I quickly slammed two turkey fan decoys into the ground on both sides of us,

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HUNTING while telling my friend not to move and to be ready. I purred lightly and threw in a couple light yelps for good measure with my mouth call. The first bird in the flock, a hefty jake, appeared through the tall grass, pecking at the seed heads and collecting insects. I’m certain he was wondering where the hen was hiding when he spotted my homemade fans protruding above the tall grass. The turkey craned his neck and paused for a moment, and I quietly whispered, “Shoot him now.” Without hesitation Jacqueline’s shotgun sounded off and the bird dropped. My friend jumped into my arms excitedly and we celebrated with a nice photo session and conversation reliving the moment. It’s that way for many first-time gobbler gunners. “I remember my first deer and my first duck. But I’ll never forget the heart-pounding suspense

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and subsequent feeling of accomplishment that came with my first gobbler,” says Brian Lovett of Oshkosh, Wis. “What’s even better is that excitement and elation doesn’t dim as time passes, no matter if you’ve killed 20 birds or 200. Turkey and turkey hunting infect you in a way like nothing else.”

INCREASE YOUR ODDS If you are a first-timer or haven’t had much success hunting turkeys, I suggest going with a guide or friend who has. By doing this, you are not only increasing your odds but gaining valuable knowledge and experience that you can eventually use on your own. It’s oftentimes the little things that will push a hunter over the peak toward success. “Watch as many online tutorials as possible,” tips Lovett. “However, realize that much of the skills you will need to harvest your first turkey comes from time spent in the woods with turkeys.”

LISTEN TO THE LANGUAGE It’s funny how we all for the most part believe that the noises we make with our mouth, slate and box calls actually sound good. Some of us even kill turkeys producing sounds that echo throughout the woods like a sick hen with laryngitis. Over time we learn to sound more and more like an actual turkey. It takes practice and time in the outdoors. Being able to mimic their calls will only help to increase your odds. Also knowing what each call actually means is a vital ingredient for consistent harvests. “You will make plenty of mistakes, so use these as learning tools rather than setbacks,” Lovett notes, a point stressed in another turkey-hunting article this issue.

BE PATIENT I have shot a lot of turkeys over the years, and with most of them I can say that patience paid off. There are those times that a run-and-gun style


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HUNTING A pair of the author’s homemade turkey fans stuck in the ground near Jacqueline’s shooting position in the tall grass held the attention of a jake long enough for her to thump the bird. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

is needed or becoming more aggressive works, but patience is a key ingredient to success. In fact, the nicest bird I was able to harvest last year took some serious time to pattern and wait out. He wasn’t that vocal, so it required me to wait him out along a travel route he frequented. “Remember not to overcall birds. This is one of the biggest mistakes first time hunters make,” says guide Jody Smith (jodysmithguideservice.com) of Elkton, Ore.

LEARN WHAT TURKEYS LIKE Take time to smell the wildflowers. Really, I’m being serious here, as the birds love creeping buttercup, dandelions, clovers, grasses and various other sprouts/ blossoms. If you find flowers and creek drainages with plenty of sign such as feathers, scat and tracks, you are in prime habitat. Focus on these places and learn what the birds are dining on. But know that feeding patterns change throughout the season. Early on birds will be gorging on insects, aquatic life and

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fresh sprouts. Later they will seek out buttercup, dandelions and seeds.

PLAN AHEAD Organize your gear and make sure you have what you need prior to heading into the field. “One of the biggest mistakes I see hunters make is shooting without a turkey choke,” says Smith. Have a back-up plan if your original does not work out and know the locations you plan to hunt. Dress appropriately and make sure to layer your clothing. Young hunters and first-timers need to be comfortable, or it’s very likely they won’t be making a return trip. Our region saw a lot of snow this past winter, but lower elevations a bit less, which may help some hunters in finding birds this spring. Still, amazingly enough, turkeys will find their way upslope even 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 their winter ranges. Mature gobblers will seek out locations where they are able to find hens, sun, strut and dust themselves. Cattle trails provide great locations to search, especially those that intersect or parallel small creeks. Make sure to scout any private land you have permission to hunt because just showing up doesn’t guarantee a thing. And keep in mind that success is not always measured by the size or expectation of a trophy tom, but by the satisfaction of the moments and what nature provides. I was reminded that day with Jacqueline and my dad of why we do what we do, and why we all love it so much. Our “firsts” in life are very special; they are the moments that inspire and motivate us. These moments create a lifetime of stories, memories that we share with family, friends and loved ones in which inseparable bonds are formed for generations to come. NS


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Filming A Hunt Not So Easy Peasy Author Randy King scans his “grandmother’s” Eastern Oregon ranch for a good spot to set up his middle son, Cameron, for a shot at a spring turkey. Instead of a shotgun Randy toted a camera tripod to film the hunt. (DREW ALLEN, PEPPER SHOCK MEDIA)

I

t was a slow morning in the Russian olive trees on my quasi-grandma’s CHEF IN THE WILD property. Located By Randy King in Oregon near the Snake River, the turkey population here remains relatively unmolested yearround and provides an easy-to-access hunting location for my boys. The birds are also generally stupid, which is a great thing for my turkey-hunting skills. My favorite part of the hunt is that Oregon has a very liberal youth hunting program for turkeys. Effectively, an outof-state kid under 12 pays $12.50 for their turkey license and tag (those from 12 to 17 pay $22.50). An adult with a hunting license must also accompany the youth. But seriously, 12 and a half bucks for a turkey? That is cheaper than our Idaho instate hunting license-and-tag combo. It was with this tag and on the family property that we’d decided to try our

hand at “filming a hunt.” The commitment was low. The hunts are only about half a day long, and the film company is located in the same town. I had watched enough “Jethro in the Hardwoods” hunting shows to feel comfortable with the attempt. So I convinced my buddy Drew, owner of Pepper Shock Media, to grab his camera and his camo and follow me and my 11-year-old son, Cameron, whom we call Middle Man, on our turkey hunt.

THE RANCH HAS a special place in my family. My father lived here as a child, choosing to leave his home at a very young age to escape domestic hardships. He chose life on a ranch over a life of fear. The big-hearted family took in a young, skinny child for nothing more than a little help around the property. While they are not blood, they are family. The ranch has three distinct areas to it. First are the agricultural fields; second is the cattle-grazed hillside; and third is the creek bottom that the turkeys love.

As my son and I rounded the corner to the creekbed, we could see the birds silhouetted in the trees from the truck. We found our parking spot and the cattle saluted us with an earful of “where the hell is breakfast” mooing. The birds, thankfully, started sounding off in the trees. They have an incredibly predictable roost location, right on the other side of a “no trespassing” sign and just off the ranch property. Grabbing the cameras, we set off into the brushy hillsides. Historically, this flock is one happy family. They run in a group of about 20 birds on the property, and around mating season one big male tends to take over and kick the rest of the smaller toms and jakes to the curb. This is good and bad. It is good because the jakes and toms will certainly respond to our calls, but it is bad because they live in fear of the Super Tom that kicks their ass every other day. I have given up on separating the Super Tom from his harem, and the younger birds tend to come in

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Mole For Gob Thighs M

ole sauce is a strangely ubiquitous term in the cooking world. I like to equate it to gravy. With origins in southern Mexico, mole (pronounced “molay”) can be green, red, brown or black, with all sorts of shades of “Grandma’s favorites” (los favoritos de la abuela) tossed in. Mole is usually a mix of chilies pureed with onion, garlic and corn. Endless varieties exist, per the flavors and norms of certain regions. Oaxacan mole is nearly black. Many describe mole as the “peanut butter and chocolate” sauce, and that is sometimes true. The sauce has a huge flavor and adds a depth to quite a few dishes. Not being of Mexican/Spanish heritage I tend to make white-guy mole at home. I have no grandma recipe to work with here. In fact, my grandma would never have eaten this, being an Oklahoma “meat and ’tatoes” woman. So, to make mole, I cheat. Why? Because I do not regularly have the necessary ingredients on hand to make a traditional mole. Nevertheless, I do usually have the items to make a faux mole. I start with enchilada sauce, the red stuff in a can. It provides a solid base of flavors that I can add onto quickly. Next, I add a few other items in a blender and puree. The sauce is ready to use almost immediately. I like to sear my meat – generally turkey or chicken legs – while I make the sauce. By the time the meat is brown in the pan, the mole can be poured over the top. Turkey 1 tablespoon canola oil 2 wild turkey thighs, deboned Salt and pepper Mole 1 16-ounce can enchilada sauce 1 tablespoon cumin

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Simmered in a mole sauce, turkey thighs make for a good enchilada base. (RANDY KING) 1 teaspoon cinnamon ¼ cup cocoa powder 1⁄8 cup peanut butter 2 tablespoon honey 1 tablespoon chili powder 2 each corn tortillas, 6 inch Heat a heavy-bottomed 10-inch saucepan on medium. Add the canola oil to the pan, and season the turkey thighs with salt and pepper. Next add the turkey thighs to the pan and brown on both sides, about four minutes per side. The darker the brown, the better. While the meat is browning, add the remaining ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth. The sauce will be darker and thick now. Turn the pan with

the turkey legs to low. Add the sauce to the pan with the turkey legs. Cover pan with lid and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until fork-tender (an hour for a jake, maybe two for an old tom). Add water a quarter cup at a time as needed with older birds if the sauce starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. When tender, shred the meat with a fork in the pan. At this point you can serve the turkey mole with corn or flour tortillas and the “traditional” accompaniments of onions, peppers, cabbage and rice. For added flavor I like to grill my onions, peppers and tortilla shells for my mole. For more wild game recipes, see chefrandyking.com. –RK


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COLUMN quiet – no gobbles on the approach, just curious eyes and red heads. Middle Man and I set out the decoy in an alfalfa field and hid behind a row of sagebrush, a GoPro strapped to the 16-gauge double that he was shooting. Drew crouched behind us with the tripod set to the hopeful location of the birds. As I let out a few clucks into the chill air, a couple gobbles came from down the valley. Big washes separated it from the fields above. We set ourselves on the lip between the creek and fields, a band of thick sagebrush that the birds like to use for cover, to feed in and strut about on. A few more clucks and the birds yelled back from the trees below. Unfortunately, as soon as the birds left the roost, they stopped talking.

SO WE WAITED, called, waited, and called. It was an achingly slow-paced morning of peeling off ticks and swatting at mosquitoes. Eventually I broke free to look into the washes below, checking to see if

the birds would be on their way to us. I caught a glimpse of a bobbing red head wandering up a wash. Crap! I dropped to my chest and crawled back to our blind. Right as I got back to our makeshift blind, I rolled over and made direct eye contact with a 2-year-old gobbler. “You got that all on film?” I asked Drew, in a whisper. “Oh, yeah,” he said. I’m sure there was a mischievous grin under his facemask. As I looked back at the bird, I could see a sincere sense of skepticism on his red face. Behind his eyes a true struggle was occurring – on one hand, there was a hen in the field about 20 yards away, and on the other, there was this camouflagecovered thing crawling around at 40 yards. What to do? Run, or seek out what males have dangerously sought from the beginning of time? Being a male, he sought out the hen. I had lucked out and the bird cautiously crept forward toward the decoy, with a little help from some box call purrs. I told Middle Man to get ready to shoot, as the

bird reached just under 30 yards away in full strut mode. But when the tip of the barrel shifted, the bird suddenly stopped strutting and tilted its head like a lost puppy. Then it abruptly turned to walk off, having had enough of the weird-looking shapes moving in the sage. I quickly hit my box call with a full cluck, stopping the gobbler in his tracks. “Shoot!” I exclaimed. Bang! Blessed are the meat makers.

BACK HOME ON the computer looking over the film, I noticed a few things. For starters, interesting hunting shows are hard to make. Two, filming with a GoPro requires turning it on. And three, with most of the “action” of the entire hunt being a curse-word-infused (as in the kind that would make a sailor blush) crawl and a single shot, a compelling story this hunt was not. Lessons learned for next year. Jethro in the Hardwoods was doing a better, and harder, job than I ever realized. NS

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COLUMN

Antler Introduction

By Scott Haugen

Dogs can be a valuable tool when it comes to finding deer and elk sheds. Here, author Scott Haugen’s dog Echo, a Pudelpointer, catches her breath during a blacktail shed hunt in Western Oregon. Properly taught, it’s amazing how many sheds a dog is capable of finding. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

H

unting for shed antlers is one of the fastest-growing pastimes of deer and elk hunters. If looking to take your shed hunting success to another level, train your dog to search for them. While picking up antlers, or any bones, comes natural to GUN DOGGIN’ 101 most breeds, there are things to teach a pup that will help it By Scott Haugen

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COLUMN become more productive in finding sheds. Following is a program I’ve used to help teach my dogs the “rules” of shed hunting.

WHEN YOUR PUP’S eight or nine weeks old, give it an antler. Saw off a piece of an antler to initially explore. Avoid giving the pup a big shed with multiple points, eye guards and burrs, as you don’t want it to get poked and have a bad experience. Introduce the antler while the pup is laying down, so it’s not walking with it, where it can possibly trip on it or drop it, then get poked. Lay down with your pup, get it excited and let it mouth the antler. As the pup chews the antler – taking in its smells and feeling the hard texture – rub its ears, back and neck and offer words of support. Encourage it to bite, lick and chew on the antler. This will get it excited and know that it’s OK to behave in this way. After a minute or two, take the antler away. If the pup starts to lose interest sooner, take the antler and move it around, getting the pup excited about it, then take the antler away. The goal is to take the antler away from the pup when it’s excited and wanting more. This will help build a desire. A few days later, repeat the session, making sure to lay with the dog, not letting it run off with the antler. The idea is to get the pup excited about the shed, not running off with it and taking possessive ownership of it. Again, take the antler away after only a minute or two, while the pup is wanting more. AFTER A COUPLE months, introduce larger sheds to the pup. If your pup is sensitive, you may want to saw off the tips of the antlers so the pup doesn’t get poked. At this time, before the pup’s baby teeth start falling out, it’s good to encourage the pup to pick up a shed, rather than handing it to the dog. Carry the pup and place an antler on the ground, with the tines pointing down. Back up 5 feet, put the pup down and give a command to go to the shed. The pup will likely run to the shed, which is why placing it with the tines down is important, so it doesn’t get poked. As the pup gets used to the larger 166 Northwest Sportsman

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As a pup matures, progress from giving it a chunk of antler, to an antler with the tips cut off, to a small antler with tips and burrs on it. This will allow the pup to gradually get used to mouthing an antler, and ensure it doesn’t get poked and shy away from picking one up. (SCOTT HAUGEN) shed, give it a shed with the tines fully intact. Even a shed with burrs around the bases and eye guards can be introduced. Some pups are ready for this at three months, some at six or seven months. Some pups, as their baby teeth start falling out, may quit picking up a shed for a couple months, which is OK. To keep them excited, give them a fake shed – rubber or plastic – so they retain sight recognition, then reintroduce the real shed at six or seven months of age, when their adult teeth are firm. Throughout this whole process, never let the puppy chew on the shed for more than two minutes. Always take the shed away when the pup is fully engaged, making certain to praise the pup. This will let the pup know it’s doing the right thing, and keep it wanting more. If you want your dog to retrieve sheds, refrain from buying any of the antler chew toys on the market; they can be used to train with, but don’t use them as chew toys.

recognize the antler by its natural smell, not your odors which are transferred to the antler when handling it with bare hands. Roughing it up with abrasive paper will help freshen the antler’s scent. Now hide the shed in the yard, taking the pup on a lead, and guiding it to the area where the shed was placed, approaching from downwind. Get the pup close enough to smell the shed, and when it does, offer encouragement. Get it excited to find the shed, let the pup pick it up, walk a few steps with it, then take it away. The purpose is to let the dog know their job will be to find and give you the shed they find in the woods, not lay down and chew on it or run off with it. As in all training, be positive with your pup. This is all new to them and they have to be taught what’s good, bad, right and wrong. With a little time, consistent training and positive feedback, the innate ability of dogs to locate sheds can be greatly accentuated, taking their level of success to an impressive level. NS

ONCE PUP’S COMFORTABLE walking around with the shed in its mouth, maybe even fetching it, wash the shed of any human odor, handling it only with rubber gloves from that point. You want the dog to

Editor’s note: To watch some basic dog training video tips by Scott Haugen, check out his Facebook page, or visit the blog at talltimberpudelpointers.com.


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Tribute To The ‘Double Deuce’

G

enerations of hunters a n d recreational shooters got their first scent of burnt powder with a .22-caliber ON TARGET firearm, whether a By Dave Workman rifle or pistol, and springtime is definitely the best time of year to introduce more new people, especially youngsters, to the flat “plam” of a rimfire cartridge going off and sending a bullet downrange. As if to underscore this simple fact, Federal Premium recently announced the introduction of a 275-round bulk pack. Whatever else one calls it, the new bulk pack is a box of fun. One can purchase a bulk pack with either range or field loads, which deliver

nearly identical ballistics. The 38-grain field load is a copper-plated hollowpoint that clocks 1,260 feet per second, while the 40-grain lead round-nose range load leaves the muzzle at a reported 1,240 fps. Some time ago, I did an evaluation of various .22 ammunition loads that ranged in velocity from just under 1,000 fps to about 1,700 fps, and over the years, I’ve used up more .22-caliber ammunition than I’d ever want to estimate. Suffice to say I’ve gone through many cases of the stuff since hunting raccoons as a teen. I’ve shot ringtails, rabbits, grouse, rodents and bottle caps, tin cans, wood kitchen matches and paper targets. In a survival situation, a well-placed .22-caliber bullet will kill a deer, and I read a story out of Alaska where a guy killed a black bear that had him up a tree, with a shot from a .22-caliber revolver, though I

Author Dave Workman readily admits he may have more than one .22, and here’s photographic proof. He’s used his Ruger 10/22 to pop cottontail rabbits and says the Takedown model has spit out millions (billions?) of rounds of .22 Long Rifle, terms the Ruger Mark IV pistol he acquired last year to be a “great trail gun,” and says there’s not a Western grouse hunter who hasn’t tried to head-shoot a blue grouse with a .22 pistol, which he’s done more than once. (DAVE WORKMAN, ALL) nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

Northwest Sportsman 169


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BROWNING OUT WITH NEW LOADS Browning has announced a new line of predator and varmint loads, the BVX series, just in time for spring varmint hunting. The new lineup includes a .22 Hornet with a 35-grain bullet that leaves the muzzle at 3,100 fps; a .223 Remington with a 50-grain bullet clocking 3,400 fps; a .22-250 Remington with the same 50-grain bullet warping out at 3,800 fps and a .243 Winchester pushing a 65-grain bullet at 3,400 fps. The cartridge has a nickel-plated case and polymer-tipped bullet designed for rapid expansion. They come packaged in 20-round boxes. –DW wouldn’t recommend it. The cartridge was introduced back in 1887, according to a short history found online. Variants include the .22 Short and .22 Long, plus the more potent .22 Winchester Rimfire (called the .22 Special by old-timers) and the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire. This isn’t Federal’s first rodeo when it comes to bulk packaging. I still have an unopened tin “Fresh Fire Pack” with 325 rounds of 36-grain copper-plated hollowpoints, and that is a fraction of the .22

Browning has introduced a new family of predator and varmint loads. The BVX series has arrived just in time for spring and summer long range hunters. (BROWNING)

Long Rifle ammunition I keep handy. Best part of all, I didn’t “panic purchase” any of it.

WINCHESTER

AND REMINGTON have also offered bulk supplies, and with the introduction of 100-round plastic boxes several years ago, shooting the little rimfires became even more attractive. I keep one of those in my truck console. Over the past few years there have been shortages of rimfire ammo that, frankly, might have been at least partly created by people who heard rumors

of shortages, so they rushed out to the nearest sporting goods store and bought every box they could. I would sometimes watch people waiting at the doors of a store for them to open up so they could rush in and stock up. Subsequently they would complain that there was no rimfire ammunition available. Well, duh! When people walk out of a gun show with cases of .22-caliber ammo that they bought at shortage prices, they create the supply shortage they fear is coming. I own, well, more than one .22-caliber firearm. The Ruger 10/22 with a 1.5-4x Bushnell scope is a nail-punching “lead hose” through which one could easily run 500 rounds without realizing it because it’s just a fun rifle. It’s also a game killer that has filled the stew pot more than once. Last year I acquired a new Ruger Mark IV semiauto pistol with a target barrel that is also marvelously accurate. I plan to spend a lot of time at the range with that pistol this spring because in September, I’m going to use it to conk grouse on the trail.

THERE ARE SEVERAL advantages to owning and mastering a .22-caliber handgun or rifle, and no disadvantages I can think of. • Ammunition is relatively inexpensive, which encourages shooting practice; • Lots of ammo choices are available, from the warp-speed 31-grain loads to the traditional 40-grain field and target rounds that have been available for generations; • One can carry lots of ammunition without weighing one’s self down; • The .22 Long Rifle is a flat-shooting, extremely accurate cartridge that has 170 Northwest Sportsman

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KICK-EEZ® Brought To You By:

Just in time for spring plinking and varmint hunting, Federal has introduced a new bulk pack with a choice of 38-grain field loads or 40-grain range ammunition. (FEDERAL) been used over the years for virtually every function a firearm can fulfill, from teaching to self-defense. With a steady hand, you can pop grouse or rabbits in the head and not waste any meat. Every major ammunition company produces .22 Long Rifle ammunition. My personal stores include all the expected brand names, including Remington, Winchester, Federal, CCI and their budget labels. I think every major firearms manufacturer offers at least one gun in this caliber, and typically more than that. Marlin built part of its reputation on .22-caliber rifles and they are enjoyed by millions of people. Ditto Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Winchester, Remington, Colt, Browning, Taurus, Sig Sauer, Walther and Savage; they all have produced .22-caliber models. The guns and cartridges produce literally no recoil. That’s why this gun/ cartridge combo is perfect for teaching new shooters. The Boy Scouts have taught millions of youngsters to shoot, and back when my dad was a youngster, it was not unusual to see kids riding bikes down country roads with a .22-caliber rifle across the handlebars, looking for a rabbit along the ditch. The bullet design features a “heel” that fits inside the case, while the bullet’s bearing surface is .223 to .2255 inch in diameter. The cartridge is rimmed, and the primer compound is in this rim, thus the “rimfire” designation. The .22 Long Rifle will be around for a long time. Its place among hunters, recreational shooters and smallbore competitors is carved in stone. NS 172 Northwest Sportsman

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Bassin’ With A Diarist By Dennis Dauble

W

ayne called to see if you could go fishing,” my wife said sweetly, before switching to a more reproving tone. “You’re not going, though.” “What are you talking about?” I replied. “Last time you didn’t get home until midnight,” Nancy said. The terse exchange reminded me that bass fishing with Wayne means returning after pillow-talk time and smelling like fish, conduct that does not bode well in my household. As partial explanation, Wayne’s schedule is dictated by what’s contained in his bass diary (see story, page 117). And according to years and years of data, action doesn’t usually get fast and furious until dusk approaches. “Bass like to load up on food before it gets dark,” Wayne says. “They don’t eat again until the next morning, after which they digest until light begins to fade.” As a consequence of this welldocumented behavior, Wayne doesn’t start fishing until early afternoon, which suits me fine because I am not a morning person. However, whether due to my attention deficit or a life-long proclivity for trout, I’m ready to go home after half a dozen bass. But it never works out that way because for Wayne, bass fishing is more than an avocation. It’s an obsession. If fishing is slow, he is driven to stay on the water until he figures out why. If fishing is good, he can’t stop casting until the bite is off. His idea of a romantic dinner is a dried-out sandwich eaten by the light of the setting sun. I take that back. Bass might still be biting. Dinner is consumed in the dark;

174 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com

Author Dennis Dauble started out strong that November day last fall, catching the first two bass while out on the Columbia River with Wayne Heinz. But Heinz’s fishing diary would show he ultimately ended up one smallie behind at the end of the day. (WAYNE HEINZ)

by the side of the road. After the boat is secured on the trailer. Some days I think Wayne would toss jigs with the aid of a headlamp if he thought doing so would lead to one more bass in his diary. Which leads to the next topic, how many data points on a personal chart of when, where and how does a person reallhy need? I was too interested in catching a bass of my own to pay attention to Wayne’s consummate record keeping the first time we fished together. I did notice, however, that he did most of the catching while I did most of the netting. I don’t mind being the net man. It’s a worthwhile skill to hone. There are days, however, when you sense manipulation by your fishing partner. How many “great net job!” comments do you need to hear before

you sense that you suck as an angler? The most impressive part of Wayne’s approach is that he writes down pertinent facts about every bass brought to the side of the boat: location, size of fish, lure, time of day, troll speed, river discharge, weather. You could say he is particular in a very organized way. After watching him write facts on scraps of paper stored in a ziplock bag, I got the bright idea of plunking down $15.50 for a hardbound “Rite in the Rain” notebook as a gift between friends. I figured he was worth it, given all the soft baits I had “borrowed” over the years. Imagine my surprise when he ripped pages out of the notebook to scribble on. It seems old habits are hard to break. I am obligated to mention I caught the first two bass when Wayne took me fishing in early November last year, something that has never happened before. He’d offered me a choice of biglipped, crawfish-colored plugs neatly lined up in his 50-gallon-size tackle box, but I tied on one of my own, a gaudy chartreuse-and-orange plug I found floating down the river a year or so back. I couldn’t help notice him scrambling to find something similar after he netted my second 3-pound smallie. Unfortunately, his diary showed that he eventually caught up and passed me in total fish landed (i.e., 13 to 12) by the end of the day. But, hey, who’s counting? When you’re fishing for bass with Wayne, that’s who. NS Editor’s note: Dennis Dauble is author of the natural history guidebook, Fishes of the Columbia Basin, and two shortstory collections: The Barbless Hook and One More Last Cast. When not bassin’ with Wayne, he may be contacted at DennisDaubleBooks.com.


nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2017

Northwest Sportsman 175


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