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FISHING • HUNTING • NEWS NWSPORTSMANMAG.COM

TIME FOR

TROUT! Great Lakes, Best Rigs & More!

Life & Times Of

BUZZ RAMSEY Part II of II

Northwest Spring Turkeyy Forecast + Experts On Calls, Decoys, Blinds

Where Does Your License Money Go? Hint: You May Be Sh Shocked! hocked! ALSO INSIDE

Oregon Surfperch

Columbia Springers

Yakima Smallmouth

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Northwest Sportsman 7


Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

Volume 10 • Issue 7

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

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ANNIVERSARY

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

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ON THE COVER Hood River’s Les Logsdon headed up to Spokane’s Clear Lake to catch this 5-pounder during the opening week of Washington’s 2017 trout season. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

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CONTENTS

VOLUME 10 • ISSUE 7 (JASON BROOKS)

FEATURES 47

SURF, PERCH, FAMILY FUN The Ichtertz clan heads for the Oregon Coast this time of year to catch delicious panfish – and let the kids be kids. Sara shares some good advice on how to make the most of a trip to the beach!

78

BASS UP THE YAK Spring brings smallmouth bass into this South-central Washington river that’s also flush with downstreammigrating salmon smolts. “Do you hear a dinner bell ringing?” asks Tri-Cities-based angler Wayne Heinz, who serves up a selection of baits and spots to try!

87

’BOWS BECKON TO BROWNS Pack up, Spokane trout hounds – we’re going on a road trip! Mike Wright leads us into Western Montana, to a shallow, buggy reservoir that grows three different strains of rainbows, some to very large proportions, and provides good fly fishing in spring and early summer.

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CUTT OUT TO PEND OREILLE CO. They just might have figured out how produce a good westslope cutthroat fishery in the southern Selkirk Mountains. Marshall and No Name Lakes will not only produce on this month’s opener in Northeast Washington but into June and July as well. Mike Wright previews the action.

137 DEMYSTIFYING TURKEY CALLING Confused about all this yelping and clucking, cuttin’ ’n struttin’? Step into Prof. MD Johnson’s outdoor classroom for a 201-level tutorial on when to call turkeys, and when to just tight and shut up. 147 APRIL TOMS ARE NO FOOLS Troy Rodakowski’s spent enough time in the Northwest’s spring turkey woods to know that just when you think you’ve got the birds figured out, they pull a new trick. That’s why he’s advising hunters to try these different tactics as April wears on. 153 LESSONS FROM THE TURKEY TRAIL Testing himself against gobblers has helped Tim Hovey grow not only as a tom fooler but also as an all-around hunter.

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2018 NORTHWEST GOBBLER FORECAST

How does the spring campaign look like it’s shaping up? Mikal Cline of the National Wild Turkey Foundation has the lowdown on prospects in Idaho – spoiler alert: “It’s going to be a great season” – but how about Oregon and Washington?

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 © 2018 Media Index Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be copied by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording by any information storage or retrieval system, without the express written permission of the publisher. Printed in U.S.A.

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Come and Join our 6th Annual Halibut Express!!

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


COLUMNS (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

109 BUZZ RAMSEY With the trout opener straight ahead, Buzz shares time-tested tips and tricks for catching more rainbows with dough bait. 55

THE KAYAK GUYS Looking for some advice for this spring’s Puget Sound shrimp season? You might say that Scott’s got some “spot” on stuff to share about Discovery Bay.

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WESTSIDER After early struggles with the fish, Buzz Ramsey had steelhead down by the 1980s, catching a line-classrecord 30-pounder. He relives that trip and two excursions to Russia, as well as looks ahead at what the future holds for Northwest salmon and steelhead fishing. Check out the second and final part of Terry’s interview with this iconic angler!

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CHEF IN THE WILD When Boise-based Chef Randy arrived in Seattle in late winter, he found himself quickly adding a few new words to his vocabulary: “blackmouth” and “mooching.” In turn, he came up with a delicious recipe for cooking up resident Chinook caught on jigged herring in Puget Sound.

117 NORTH SOUND Just pick a lake, any lake, this month and you’ll find trout, right? Not so fast – there’s more to consider. Doug breaks down the pluses and minuses of eight great North Sound April opener waters. 125 SOUTH SOUND Spring ops bloom anew for Tacoma and Olympia hunters and anglers. Jason shares some of the best opening-day lakes, offers up a solid springer spot, and has the details on where to go for gobblers. 159 GUN DOG Want to get the jump on bumper training? Scott has some great advice from professional dog trainer Jess Spradley. 163 ON TARGET As Northwest shooters turn their attention to spring pursuits, Dave’s heading for Dallas – he previews the big NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits, as well as spotlights new rifles and bullets for said shooters.


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(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

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THE BIG PIC: GIVING 110 PERCENT More of your hunting and fishing license dollars go to the Department of Fish and Wildlife than you might have heard.

DEPARTMENTS 17

THE EDITOR’S NOTE

19

SOCIAL SCENE Reader reactions to recent news

29

READER PHOTOS FROM THE FIELD Steelhead and spinyrays, ’Nooks and ’bows

35

PHOTO CONTEST WINNERS Browning, Yo-Zuri monthly prizes

39

THE DISHONOR ROLL Elk trafficker sentenced; Salem duo, others charged with poaching; Trapper fined; Jackass of the Month

41

DERBY WATCH WDFW trout derby; Oregon, Washington surfperch derbies; 26th Annual Spring Fishing Classic; Upcoming events

43

OUTDOOR CALENDAR Upcoming openers, events; 2018 Northwest boat and sportsmen’s show schedule

43

BIG FISH Record Northwest game fish caught this month

107 RIG OF THE MONTH Slip bobber set-up

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THEEDITOR’SNOTE

T

he next director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, whomever she or he might be, will lead the agency through a “transformative” period as budget pressures increase, requiring “clear vision, true leadership, and firm decisions” on their part. So says the eight-page help wanted ad WDFW posted in late winter after the resignation of Jim Unsworth. Indeed, the document provides a glimpse into what the Fish and Wildlife Commission and staffers feel will challenge WDFW in the years ahead.

IT FORECASTS A tightening fiscal picture as hunters and anglers, who essentially provide about one-third of the department’s funding through license sales and leveraged funds (see Big Pic, page 22), “age out” of pursuing fish and wildlife, and says that choices the agency faces in the future “make this a watershed time” for WDFW and the next director, who’s expected to be hired this summer. The position just might be one of if not the most demanding in the country, what with its cross-currents of state and tribal comanagement, Endangered Species Act listings, growing human population and loss of fish and wildlife habitat in the smallest state in the West, all performed under the glaring lamp of many disparate groups and in an increasingly polarized environment. “The Director will be asked to develop effective new approaches to conserving and recovering fisheries resources, while resolving long-standing and increasing conflicts among competing stakeholders,” reads a 10-point list of challenges in the job post. Nine more grenades to juggle – enforcement, budget, organizational issues, state lawmakers, non-consumptive users, among others – await whomever is ultimately hired. They’ll oversee a staff of 1,800, land base of 1,400 square miles and harness a $437 million two-year budget to hold and conserve fisheries and hunting opportunities and provide scientific rationale for what it’s doing.

THE JOB DESCRIPTION says this about the agency’s twin mandates: “The Director must be motivated by a strong conservation ethic: a determination to place the highest priority on the long-term interests of the resources and their habitat,” it reads. “The interests of the public and specific user-groups are important, but they cannot supersede the welfare of the fish and wildlife populations we are charged with managing. The Director should have a record of making the decisions that have led to the recovery of depleted resources.” While that suggests one of WDFW’s two main missions may now be more important than the other, when I inquired about that, an agency spokesman noted, “I think (the commission) would say that without conservation and species recovery, it would be pretty hard to deliver sustainable harvest opportunities.” What awaits the lucky candidate, besides heartburn? Well, a salary up to $170,000 and benefits said to equal 30 percent of that. A WDFW recruitment brochure touts Washington’s beauty and recreational opportunities, thriving economy, educational facilities, cultural highlights and the region’s values, but the best candidates will already be highly familiar with those attributes. –Andy Walgamott

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SOCIAL

SCENE

Comment from the www

By Andy Walgamott

ATLANTIC SALMON B.S. I can only take so much bullsh*t before I have to say something, and I reached that point in mid-February after the Wild Fish Conservancy sent out a hysterical – in the sense of crazed – press release on a nonproblem with farmed Atlantic salmon in Puget Sound. I honestly don’t care one way or the other if the fish stay or go (a bill phasing pens out sat on Governor Inslee’s desk at press time), but everything from the eclipse excuse to lawmakers and certain state agencies stumbling all over themselves to boot them out of Washington has been utterly embarrassing to me. So I blogged about it, and some folks liked it. “Good analysis, Andy,” noted Michael O’Leary. “Farm fish are an ugly crutch, but we need science to lead the way, not sensationalism.”

CHINOOK SALMON SIZE Federal and state researchers say that king-sized kings are mostly gone these days, with the most “rapid” decrease in salmon length coming in the past decade and a half. When we posted their story on Facebook, Bob Martinek, Jeff Holmes, Austin Bowen and Robert Hastings, among others, pointed to gillnetting and increasing marine mammal numbers. Beau Patterson took a wider view: “Orcas definitely preferentially select largest salmon, but orca pressure is probably far less effective on adult size than effects of reduced salmon run size, gillnet selection against the largest fish, and reduced growth rates due to depletion of ocean forage food base from commercial harvest of herring, sardines, shrimp, squid and others.”

DIP NOT: COWLITZ SMELT A NO GO Poor commercial test fishing results – just 122 pounds – led Washington smelt managers to skip holding a sport season on the Cowlitz River. The fact that WDFW uses net boats to estimate runsize abundance did not go over well with some Facebookers – “What a crock of dookie,” was how David Dalan put it. Smelt dipping is a long-held winter tradition, but has tailed off sharply and people are looking for answers. “Let’s be honest, there needs to be a 10-year moratorium on all smelt harvest, both commercial and sport,” said Kevin Aldrich. That won’t bring ’em back if the ocean’s not favorable, but at least we didn’t harvest on a low run.

MOST LIKED READER PIC WE HUNG UP ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE DURING THIS ISSUE’S PRODUCTION CYCLE Walleye pics we posted in February were big hits with readers, with this one of Ashley Stanley and her nice’n from Northcentral Washington getting the most likes. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

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Giving 110 Percent More of your hunting, fishing license dollars go to DFW than you may have heard. By Andy Walgamott

W

e Northwest hunters and anglers don’t all have the best grasp on where our license fees go. I readily admit to that myself – and here I’ve been watching our Departments of Fish and Wildlife fairly closely the past 15 years while editing hook-and-bullet mags! If we’re not claiming our combo license and deer tag dollars go straight into the state General Fund for schools and the slammer, we’re threatening to boycott ODFW and WDFW to starve them of money. That’ll learn ’em! It can’t be both, of course. Yet while some of us believe that our license dollars equal some degree of pull with the agencies, it’s also an increasingly strong

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perception among others that all or a large chunk of our money funnels straight into GF-S and gets spent on god only knows.

BACK IN FEBRUARY I posted a link on Facebook to a blog I did on a set of bills in Washington’s legislature that aimed to increase hunting and fishing participation. A deadline was dangerously close and WDFW and its allies were putting on a fullcourt press to get them out of committee. Getting more new sportsmen and -women in the field could help stem the loss from the rest of us “aging out” and prop up otherwise stagnant license sales and thus the agency’s budget. Ultimately, the bills failed to move, but in comments on my Facebook post, two people basically said Oh, well, because just 0 or 3 percent of

our fees actually go back to WDFW anyway. That seemed a bit on the low side, but it got me wondering how widespread that theory was, so I asked two acquaintances who’ve spent more than a few of their hard-earned dollars on licenses, tags and more over the decades what they thought the figure might be. “I would love to say 100 percent,” a friend texted back, “but I’m a realist and I’ll say 30 percent.” Responding to my pop quiz, one of my columnists first came back with 0, then 40 and finally 110 percent. I got the sense he might’ve been throwing darts or, possibly, being a smartass. To be fair, if I’d given myself the same test, I’d have said it was a fairly high percentage but couldn’t have given you an


PICTURE

How much of your deer tag dough goes back to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife? Theories abound online that it all ends up in the General Fund, but that’s not the case, thanks to 29 key words written in 1937. (ANDY WALGAMOTT) exact figure, which is kind of embarrassing. One of the gentlemen who commented on the aforementioned social media post – and who seemed pretty damned sure that his lowball figure was accurate – advised me to get my “pencil sharpened better. Do some investigation.” So I decided to do a bit more of that – and I thank Mr. 3-percenter for that nudge. I didn’t know some of what I learned.

PROWLING WDFW’S WEBSITE, as I’m wont to regularly do, I’d recently come across some figures that I thought might help out on this question, so I contacted Nate Pamplin. He is a high-ranking staffer – Policy Director is his official title – whose head has been buried in budgets and revenue sources and biennial spending and long-term funding problems since last fall. With the failure of the license-fee increase last year and a looming $30 million

to $35 million shortfall in the 2019-2021 budget, basically WDFW’s been directed by the legislature to “improve the department’s long-term financial stability and operational efficiency,” and Pamplin’s the point of the spear. So he’s been producing a blizzard of charts and tables and PowerPoint presentations and PDFs for both the Fish and Wildlife Commission and the agency’s new Budget and Policy Advisory Group, the latter of which includes Gabe Miller from our advertiser Sportco, plus representatives from RMEF, Puget Sound Anglers and others. (Without straying too far from the nut of this story, so far the review’s found WDFW is running a tighter ship and it needs to broaden its funding base to meet its mission and what the public expects of it – something to watch in the future.) While Pamplin’s info seemed straightforward enough for anyone to grasp, these days I know better than to underestimate

my ability to misinterpret things – ask me about my recent $500 car battery change! – so I emailed him to ask if what I was seeing was what I was seeing, which was that a whole lot of our money seemed to be going straight to WDFW’s piggy bank. Pamplin told me that indeed, our license fees go into WDFW’s State Wildlife Account, and most of it’s unrestricted – that is, the money can be used for just about anything under the agency’s purview (see the page 24 sidebar for what it’s spent on). So how much does WDFW rake in annually from us? Around $18 million in total hunting license sales and $26 million in fishing license sales, or $88 million every budget biennium, recent figures show. Unfortunately for Pamplin, his answer just led to another question from me: OK, so is WDFW the only state agency that can tap the State Wildlife Account? That is, when I buy that deer tag and when I buy that freshwater-saltwater license, Nate, can I be assured that the account’s not a secret conduit to the coffers of, say, the state Asparagus Commission or the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation? “By state and federal law, hunting and fishing license fees cannot be ‘diverted,’” Pamplin replied. “That is, it cannot be swept into the General Fund or used for purposes outside of fish and wildlife management.” When I posted an initial version of this story on Facebook, one of the last comments on it was, essentially, that’s all fine and dandy for Washington, but down here in Oregon, it all goes into the General Fund. So I asked ODFW’s Michelle Dennehy about where Oregonians’ fishing and hunting dollars go. “All license fees stay as dedicated funds to ODFW; none of these fees go to General Fund,” she replied simply.

TWENTY-NINE OF THE most important words in all of fish and wildlife management were penned way back in 1937. As the story goes, Absalom Willis Robertson, a former Virginia fish and wildlife commissioner and at that time chairman

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PICTURE

In Washington, the money you spend on a freshwater fishing license not only pays to produce hatchery coho, like this one Barry Dubnow caught last fall, but to manage fisheries. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Committee on Conservation of Wildlife Resources, was meeting with Carl Shoemaker, secretary of the National Wildlife Federation. Along with his lunch, Shoemaker had brought some draft language for a proposed federal program that would help fund wildlife work. When Robertson reviewed it, he came up with a clause that would prevent state legislatures from robbing hunter dollars for pet projects having nothing to do with deer, waterfowl or their habitat. Those 29 words are: “… and which shall include a prohibition against the diversion of license fees paid by hunters for any other purpose than the administration of said State fish and game department …” That language lies at the heart of today’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, sometimes known by its enabling legislation pieces, the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts. Those levy an excise tax on certain hunting and fishing gear purchases and pass the money back to the states using a formula based on how many fishing and hunting licenses that WDFW, ODFW and other agencies sell, as well as land size. Among the many charts that Pamplin has drummed up in recent months is one that shows that in the 2015-17 budget biennium, DJ and PR disbursals amounting to $44 million were kicked back to WDFW. As for Oregon, in 2016 alone, the program sent it check for $23,555,083, the most for any of the three Northwest states. It gets even sweeter. “States are required to provide (matching funds) at a 3:1 rate,” Pamplin points out. “For every $3 of fed funds from these grants, the state needs to provide a $1 match.” So, your deer tag and fishing license dollars not only go directly to ODFW and WDFW, but they also leverage additional federal and state money that flows to the agencies as well. All totaled, we sportsman provide a “significant contribution” to WDFW. “In discussions with hunters/anglers, 24 Northwest Sportsman

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WHAT YOUR LICENSE DOLLARS BUY

What do state fish and wildlife managers spend our license money on? Among Nate Pamplin’s plethora of PDFs is a three-pager that outlines what WDFW user fees paid for over the last two years. User fees are primarily our license dollars, but also include things like the Discovery Pass as well as now-lapsed hydraulic project approval permit fees. $37.5 million to manage fisheries; $20.5 million to manage hunting seasons; $20.2 million for business management obligations; $16.3 million to produce hatchery fish; $10.1 million to manage and acquire wildlife areas and water access sites; $8.4 million to preserve and restore water-based species and their habitat; $3.8 million to preserve and restore land-based species and their habitat; $3 million for nonconsumptive recreational opportunities. That’s a lot of money – around $118 million. It stacks up pretty well compared to WDFW’s other revenue sources. Including $44 million from the Dingell-Johnson and Pittman-Robertson Acts, federal funding tallying $118 million includes $24 million from Bonneville Power Administration and $14.2 million from Congress via the Mitchell Act for Columbia River salmon and steelhead production. State and local contracts – think electrical utilities paying WDFW to operate fish hatcheries as dam mitigation – contribute another $115 million. The General Fund kicks in around $90 million, state bonds roughly $38 million, special license plates around $7 million and something called the “revolving account” about $4 million. If you combine all those sources – user fees, federal, state and local, etc., etc. – this is how much WDFW spent in 2015-17 on the categories I mentioned above: $130 million to produce hatchery fish; $110 million to manage fisheries; $82 million to preserve and restore water-based species and their habitat; $62 million to manage and acquire wildlife areas and water access sites; $55 million for business management obligations; $45 million to manage hunting seasons; $25 million to preserve and restore land-based species and their habitat; $10 million for nonconsumptive recreational opportunities. Now, we can and should argue till Bossy comes home whether the $55 million for biz management is too much (or too little) and if individual line items in each category are ridiculous (or not). But, to be blunt, our fishing and hunting licenses – and their implied interest in the pursuit of game and fish and thus the need to manage for their longterm survival – not only pay the freight but leverage a helluva lot of dough towards managing our favorite pastimes. –AW


PICTURE we often mention that their license fees, leveraged with PR and DJ, account for about one-third of WDFW’s operating budget – a significant contribution,” says Pamplin. “Likewise, state and federal taxpayers and electricity ratepayers (of which hunter/ anglers also pay state/federal taxes and buy electricity) account for two-thirds of WDFW’s operating budget.” Maybe my writer’s final pop-quiz guess that 110 percent of our fishing and hunting dollars go back to Fish and Wildlife wasn’t so far off after all. NS Editor’s note: The next time someone tells you that your fishing and hunting license dollars go into your state’s general fund, point them towards this handy, succinct outline of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, also known as the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts: nctc.fws.gov/courses/ WSFR/INT/content/index.html.

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Some of your license money, along with federal, state and local dollars, go to managing wildlife areas, like the 4-O Ranch Unit in Southeast Washington. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

LICENSE CAVEATS While there aren’t limitations on what WDFW can spend two-thirds of our fishing and hunting license dollars on, some money does go directly into dedicated accounts. For instance, the Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsement is for managing salmon and steelhead

fisheries there – but not walleye. And when you buy a Discover Pass, that revenue is divvied 84-8-8 between State Parks, WDFW and DNR. WDFW’s Nate Pamplin allows that certain endorsements we pay do go to other agencies, though I’d add they ultimately help our cause. “One example is the biotoxin fee on shellfish licenses, which goes to the Department of Health and University of Washington for toxicity testing,” he says. No tox tests, no clam digging or crabbing. –AW


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READER PHOTOS

Punched river? So what! Paula Corcoran wasn’t going to let a little high water stop her from steelheading, but she did brighten up her Spin-N-Glo with a little Hyper-Vis+ tape and plunked it closed to the bank. “It was about 10 minutes in before she had me running for the net,” reported husband Kelly Corcoran of the Olympia area. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Kyle Carlson shows off a beaut of a walleye, caught in the John Day Dam tailrace in midwinter. He was drifting a worm on bottom with buddy Seth Nickell and guide Allan “Touché” Clark, and after the pic, Carlson happily released his fish to carry on its spawning duties. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Marvin Holder shows of a very solid hatchery winter steelhead he caught while bobber dogging eggs on a Western Washington river. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Nome’s found a home in the drift boat – and elk and deer camps – of Rick Smith. He rescued the Lab as a pup from an abusive owner and named her after where he dredges for gold in Alaska. They primarily fish Washington’s Skykomish River but also tried their luck on south Olympic Peninsula waters this past winter, when this pic was taken. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Rosanna Lehman’s copcar-pattern spoon behind a green flasher was too much for this hungry 12-plus-pound Puget Sound blackmouth to resist. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

For your shot at winning great fishing and hunting products from Yo-Zuri and Browning, send your full-resolution, original images with all the pertinent details – who’s in the pic and their hometown; when and where they were; what they caught their fish on/weapon they used to bag the game; and any other details you’d like to reveal (the more, the merrier!) – to awalgamott@media-inc.com or Northwest Sportsman, PO Box 24365, Seattle, WA, 98124-0365. By sending us photos, you affirm you have the right to distribute them for use in our print and Internet publications. nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2018

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READER PHOTOS

Forks is practically a second home for Darrel Smith, and one of its rivers yielded this 22-pound wild buck. He was fishing with local guide Mike Zavadlov and they also caught a 20-pound hen. (MIKE Z’S PHOTOGRAPHY)

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Late winter saw some challenging conditions to fish in, but dudding up for the weather allowed Bill Stanley to get the better of this stickbait-munching Lake Rufus Woods rainbow. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The 2017-18 hatchery winter steelhead season wasn’t very old when Hunter Shelton scored this pair of jig-biting West End chromers in midNovember. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)


Oregon Big Game 2018

RAFFLE HUNTS Winners get:

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

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

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


READER PHOTOS

Hand-drilling a bunch of holes for four kiddos left Jerry Han with sore arms and considering the purchase of a gas-powered ice auger, but Curlew Lake’s ice was nice for son Corbin, nephew Kellan and daughter Lexi, who caught feisty rainbows, fat perch and some largemouth during a February trip. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

32 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com


34 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com


PHOTO CONTEST

WINNERS!

Paul Young is the winner of our monthly YoZuri Photo Contest! He caught this nice striper on California’s San Joaquin Delta this past winter, and his pic scores him gear from the company that makes some of the world’s best fishing lures and lines!

Randy Harbolt is our monthly Browning Photo Contest winner, thanks to this shot of his wife Haley and her Northeast Washington bull elk. It wins him a Browning hat!

Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

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

Northwest Sportsman 35


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41-year-old Wapato, Washington, man was sentenced to spend 30 days in jail after pleading guilty to five counts of felony wildlife trafficking. According to state fish and wildlife officers, Oscar Finley sold them two elk and five deer out of the back of his pickup for a total of $790 over an 11-day period in November 2013. The three sales occurred in the parking lot of the Yakima Kmart. (Of note, no members of the public reported any suspicious behavior.) Finley was charged with the crimes in Yakima County Superior Court in late 2016,

which also was not long after he was cited by the Oregon State Police for his part in the alleged killing of a trophy mule deer buck near Fossil in October of that year. When in late February of this year Washington wardens posted news of Finley’s plea deal on Facebook, there was rage about his sentence – a year in jail but with 334 days suspended. Still, officers were glad that overworked county prosecutors had taken the politically fraught case up and gotten a result. They say that, unfortunately, unlawful trafficking of venison, jerky and other game meat is common.

By Andy Walgamott

A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife image shows a pair of bull elk sold by Oscar Finley to an undercover officer at the Yakima Kmart in November 2013. (WDFW)

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dead trophy mule deer buck found during a winter range patrol north of Fort Rock, Oregon, last fall led to a number of charges, including felonies, filed against a Salem couple and others. According to the state police, G.W. Todd Fulfer, 40, and Samantha German-Fulfer, 27, are suspected of poaching multiple deer in five counties in Central and Western Oregon last year. They were also cited for felon in possession of a firearm. A search warrant served on their home as well as subsequent investigation led to the house of Scott A. Harris, 55, of Albany and ultimately the seizure of “several”

Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division troopers out of Klamath Falls and Salem seized evidence of unlawfully killed deer and elk while investigating the case against a Salem couple and two others. (OSP) trophy racks. Officers also came into contact with Jacen T. Fulfer, 19, of Lebanon. According to troopers, the quartet were

JACKASS OF THE MONTH

F

irst he violated the fishing rules, then renovated his house, then took the waste material plus some of his mail down to the river and dumped it. When a state lands biologist discovered the crap and an address label with the joker’s name on it at a river access site in Walla Walla County, it didn’t take long for Officer Ryan John to get a confession from his old customer, who was then cited for littering. Serves you right, jackass.

cited on various charges to include felony take/possession of buck deer, wastage and hunting by prohibited method.

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avid M. Sanders Jr., 58, of Elgin pled guilty early last month to using an unbranded trap as part of a plea deal that saw a charge of killing a wolf dropped (March issue). He was sentenced to pay a $7,500 fine, lost his hunting and trapping privileges for three years and is on probation for 24 months, according to a report on mycolumbiabasin.com. According to the media outlet, Sanders was “emphatic” that he’d only been trying to trap bobcats, and it appears that the county prosecutor agreed it was not an attempt on his part to kill a wolf. Still, Sanders was admonished for not immediately calling state officials when he found the wolf in his trap.

nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2018

Northwest Sportsman 39


Closest seaport to Portland, OR!

The Port of Garibaldi encompasses three coastal towns, including Bay City, Garibaldi and Rockaway Beach. Besides housing RV parks and lodging, restaurants, seafood processing, a lumber mill, and commercial and charter fishing, the Port’s harbor has moorage for 277 vessels. The Port’s property also features the Lion’s Club Lumbermen’s Park and an antique train display. A walking path is also a popular draw for locals as well as visitors to Garibaldi.

Follow us for updates! www.portofgaribaldi.org | 503-322-3292

40 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com


NSIA Fundraiser On April 7

By Andy Walgamott

More Fish, More Prizes For WDFW Trout Derby

A

pril 28 not only marks the lowland lakes trout opener in Washington but also the start of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s third annual statewide trout derby. This year’s features nearly $40,000 in prizes from 120 companies for those who catch any of the 1,000 specially tagged rainbows stocked in more than 100 lakes. Those figures are up from

2017 and well above the first derby. Some of the biggest prizes are being supplied by Dick Nite Spoons, Mack’s Lures, Offut Lake Resort and Verle’s. The derby runs through October 31. There’s no fee to enter, but you do need a freshwater fishing license to get in on the action. For more information, see fishhunt .dfw.wa.gov/Home/FishingDerby.

Two Surf Perch Derbies Coming Up

T

ake a gander at Sara Ichtertz’s article this issue on surfperch fishing, head on down to the beach to practice up and then enter two May derbies held on Oregon’s and Washington’s coasts. First up is the monthlong Surf Perch Fishing Derby held out of Tony’s Crab Shack and Port O’Call bait and tackle in Bandon, with fishing from Humbug Mountain north to Horsfall Beach. Entry is $5. For more information, see

tonyscrabshack.com/perch-derby. Then, on Saturday, May 19, the 17th Annual Surf Perch Derby will be held on Long Beach. It features cash prizes for biggest haul for individuals ($200 for first) and three-person teams ($300 for first), plus $50 for the heaviest surfperch. Cost is $30 to preregister, or $35 if you sign up that Saturday at organizers’ booth at the Bolstad Approach. For more, go to surfperchderby.com.

A

brand-new 17-foot drift boat along with a trailer and two seats for it will be raffled off at this month’s 26th Annual Spring Fishing Classic. Put on as a fundraiser by the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, $500 will also go to whomever weighs in the largest fish during the Saturday, April 7, event held on the Columbia, Willamette and other rivers for hatchery spring Chinook and hatchery steelhead. Team prizes are also awarded. According to NSIA, proceeds go towards “opening new fisheries, growing existing fisheries, and representing the voice of sportfishing in government.” Sponsors include Stevens Marine, Clackacraft, Scotty, Northwest Sportsman and others. For more, check out the events page at nsiafishing.org.

Bill Monroe Jr. (second from left) and crew smile after winning 2017’s Spring Fishing Classic with a boat total of 30.80 pounds of Chinook. (NSIA)

2018 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES  July 13-15: Bellingham Salmon Derby

 Nov. 3-4: Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Salmon Derby

 July 25-29: The Big One (Lake Couer d’Alene) Salmon Derby

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

 Aug. 3-5: Brewster Salmon Derby  Aug. 4: South King County PSA Salmon Derby  Aug. 11: Gig Harbor PSA Salmon Derby  Aug. 18-19: Vancouver (BC) Chinook Classic  Sept. 8: Edmonds Coho Derby  Sept. 8: Columbia River Fall Salmon Derby  Sept. 22-23: Everett Coho Derby

ONGOING, UPCOMING EVENTS  March 10 through the end of season: Westport Charterboat Association Weekly Lingcod Derby; charterwestport.com  April 28-May 6: Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club 71st Annual Spring Derby; lpoic.org

nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2018

Northwest Sportsman 41


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OUTDOOR

Brought to you by:

CALENDAR APRIL 1

New Washington fishing, hunting licenses required; Opening day for specialpermit bear hunts in select Oregon and Washington units 3 North of Falcon public meeting to present state-tribal negotiations results, preliminary fishery proposals, Lynnwood Embassy Suites – info: wdfw.wa.gov/ fishing/northfalcon 5 North of Falcon discussion on preliminary ocean, Columbia River options, WDFW Region 5 office, Ridgefield – info: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon 6-11 Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting setting Oregon, Washington ocean, Sound salmon seasons, Sacramento – info: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon 7 Last scheduled day of Lower Columbia spring Chinook fishery before run update; Family Fishing Events, Row River Nature Park and Canby Pond in Cottage Grove and Canby – info: odfwcalendar.com 7-8 Oregon, Washington youth turkey hunting weekend 8-14 Idaho youth turkey hunting week 14 Family Fishing Events, Shorty’s Pond and McNary Channel Pond in Molalla and Hermiston – info: odfwcalendar.com 15 General spring turkey season opener in Idaho, Oregon and Washington; Opening day of Washington and many Oregon special-permit bear hunts 16 Washington Marine Area 4 lingcod opener 21 Family Fishing Events, Hebo Lake and St. Louis Pond near Hebo and Gervais – info: odfwcalendar.com 22 Fishing opener or bait opener on select Oregon waters including Crane Prairie and Wickiup Reservoirs, Odell Lake, and Sprague and Wood Rivers 28 Opening day of lowland lake fishing season in Washington; Family Fishing Events, Empire Lakes, Trojan Pond and Devils Lake near Coos Bay, Rainier and Lincoln City – info: odfwcalendar.com; Shotgun & Archery Youth Day ($, registration), Canby Rod & Gun Club near Canby – info: odfwcalendar.com 30 Last day for steelheading on Idaho’s Clearwater system, lower and upper Salmon, and Snake up to Hells Canyon Dam

Going Fishing Guide Service Fishing Walleye, Spring and Fall Salmon, Chinook Salmon, Steelhead and Sturgeon on Mid Colombia River. 86&*DQG:$OLFHQVHGLQVXUHG )LUVW$LGDQG&35FHUWLÂżHG

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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 3 Tentative start of Washington Marine Area 1 halibut season (open Thurs., Fri., Sun.) 10-11, 24-26 Proposed Oregon Central Coast all-depth halibut weekends 11, 13 Tentatiave Areas 2-10 halibut openers 15 Oregon fall controlled big game hunt permit purchase application deadline

UPCOMING BOAT AND SPORTSMEN’S SHOWS

April 19-22 Mid-Columbia Boat Show, Columbia Point Park & Marina, Richland, Wash.; midcolumbiaboatshow.com April 20-22 The Monroe Sportsman Show, Evergreen State Fairgrounds, Monroe, Wash.; monroesportsmanshow.com RECORD NORTHWEST GAME FISH CAUGHT THIS MONTH Date Species Lbs. (-Oz.) Water Angler 4-9-04 Northern pike 34.06 Long L. (WA) Bryan McMannis 4-12-13 Lake whitefish 6.81 Rufus Woods L. (WA) Tony Martin 4-14-80 Winter steelhead 32.75 EF Lewis R. (WA) Gene Maygra 4-15-89 Yelloweye rockfish 27.75 Dallas Bk. (WA) Jan Tavis 4-22-89 White catfish 15-0 Tualatin R. (OR) Wayne Welch 4-23-61 Bull trout 22.50 Tieton R. (WA) Louis Schott 4-23-66 Smallmouth bass 8.75 Columbia R. (WA) Ray Wonacott 4-24-04 Burbot 17.37 Bead L. (WA) Mike Campbell 4-25-91 Green sunfish 0-11 Umpqua R. (OR) John Baker 4-30-70 Bonneville cutthroat 18-15 Bear L. (ID) Roger Grunig nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2018

Northwest Sportsman 43


44 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com


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FISHING

Spring Means Surfperch The Ichtertz clan heads for the Oregon Coast this time of year to catch delicious panfish, and let the kids be kids.

When Sara and Leroy Ichtertz first started taking their kids fishing for surfperch, they needed to cast the set-ups for them, but these days Nate can handle the job himself. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

By Sara Ichtertz

S

omehow in the blink of an eye my winter-run hunting is yet again behind me. I am not going to lie: This time of year isn’t easy. I love the challenge steelhead fishing as a whole brings into my personal life with the river. I love those sweetest victories in the beauty of nature that I earn with each bone-chilling run. But I realize it isn’t always about me. I am a mother and if I plan to continue to help my babes to love

the rivers like they do, I can’t always be hardcore. I must also think of what their little hearts’ desire as well. The happiness that floods their faces when they step foot onto the beach is truly undeniable. The fact that we have found a beautiful little fish just waiting for us in the surf each spring is a blessing, helping me confirm this is where we belong. These fish are family-friendly and truly are the perfect way to introduce angling into your children’s lives – or anyone else, for that matter – if something more than trout is

desired. Not only are they fun, they bite like they mean it as your rigging tumbles around in the surf. There are bunches of these tiny beauties in the waves and once you find them tucked in the crotches and knolls of the beaches, the fishing can be action packed! Surfperch are very eager to chomp on whatever you fling into the surf, but they do have soft mouths. You’re guaranteed a good fight but not always a fish (I tend to lose as many as I land). Yet I believe that finding eager fish is crucial when nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2018

Northwest Sportsman 47


FISHING sharing my passion of fishing with children, as they thrive on results. They stay highly motivated when the fish cooperate, so surfperch are perfect for helping my children’s angling skills and love for fisheries as a whole grow. So as we welcome the sunshine of spring and say goodbye to winter, I find that for us, the beach is the place to be. Planning our adventure around the tides we head out on our surfperch fishing adventure, and I know for certain my babes do not dread anything about it.

THE NECESSITIES VARY from family to family, I am sure. The gear is relatively simple and so are the riggings I use. Here is a little gander at what I take: I can’t leave home without a 5-gallon bucket, and preferably two. Pyramid weights. Leaders with a shrimp fly on top and a dropper or

As eager to bite as rainbow trout in a lake this time of year, surfperch can be caught on simple multihook dropper rigs baited with meaty offerings or faux lures such as shrimp flies and Berkley Gulp! products. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

two with size 2 Gamakatsu hooks. I use a shrimp fly knot to create droppers on a roughly 5-foot-long leader. Off the naked hooks I run small red Berkley Big Gulp! worms, which are stinky – and the perch cannot resist them. Other baits I use include sand crabs I find in the surf, and I like to bring along a dozen or so sand shrimp as well. Sometimes creating a buffet to start off with helps to figure out what it is they are after that day. I want the leader to be strong enough to hold onto the weight I fling (usually from 2 to 4 ounces), and 15-pound mono seems to work great. (Trial and error has helped me in finding the proper leader weight and I’m sure it will help you as well.) I tie the pyramid weight to the very end of my rather long leader. I prefer to bring the largest of my spinning setups for my babes to fish with because they are quite simple to operate. In the beginning, we would cast out for them, as it takes a mighty 48 Northwest Sportsman

APRIL 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com


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Shady Cove, OR Grieve’s Guide Service has been a family owned and operated business since the early 60’s – We offer 4-day lodge to lodge fishing trips for Salmon and Steelhead on the e Wild & Scenic section of the Rogue River and Salmon and Steelhead day trips on the Umpqua, Rogue, Elk, Sixes and Chetco rivers. 800-645-1624 / 541-878-2004 www.grievesfishing.com info@grievesfishing.com

Redtail surfperch are plentiful and with a generous daily limit, can provide a good haul for anglers like Ava Ichtertz, her parents and other Northwest anglers. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

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fling to get a set-up out there at times, but last spring our son Nate began to heave his own rigging. Those are the moments I love to see in his advancements and his ability. Giving him the opportunity to see what he is made of will not only help him as a fisherman but in life. Today’s children need positive, hands-on direction. They need to believe in themselves as much as they need us to believe in them. I whole-heartedly feel that the best way I can help my own children do that is by embracing nature with them through hiking, foraging and, most of all, fishing. Allowing them to get dirty, to get lost in nature stimulates them in a way no game console ever could. My babes do love nature. They are fully unplugged from the digital world that the vast majority of today’s children live in, with all the phones, handheld devices, video games and things of that nature. Admittedly, sometimes they retaliate against my ways, though I do keep them plenty busy. Hunting for agates, flying kites, building sand castles, exploring tide pools, running from the waves, and fighting mass amounts of perch from the beach is winning as a parent. Someday I believe they will thank me.

A DAY TRIP to the coast is so doable for so many Northwest residents, and surfperch are our favorite beach-front event. The fact we have found these delicious fish – best tacos going! – to chase, all while the kids frolic and make believe on the sand makes for a wholesome day. That is something that matters to me – allowing my children to be children. That’s my job. It’s my motherly duty to help them embrace nature and one another, in hopes that they will become great people with a true grasp on what it is that’s most important in this life. That sure as heck isn’t something you hold in your hand and plug in at night. Rather, sharing moments with those who matter most, doing activities that you love – these moments are


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Our coast is a magical place built for exploring (just watch out for sneaker waves!), beachcombing, building sand and drip castles, and just taking a barefoot sunset walk. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

what ultimately will live on in our hearts forever. As a mother, I think I have a bit clearer understanding of how to truly fish and have happy campers in the demeanor of my little ones, so I am happy to share this with you. I believe that bank fishing – no matter the bank – is the best route to go when bringing angling into a child’s life. There is no confinement on the bank. There’s room for forts and just enough space that they can pretend, as children should. They can fish when their hearts want to fish and play when their hearts want to play. The beach. Surfperch. Photographing these beautiful little fish in the one-of-a-kind setting you find them is without a doubt worth it and feeds my fire in life. These little fish help pry my river-loving soul from the banks each spring, which is saying a lot, because my heart is on the river and I couldn’t change it. Even if I tried. NS Editor’s note: For more on Sara’s adventures, see For The Love Of The Tug on Facebook.


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COLUMN

Kayaker Bobby Poff shows off some spot shrimp pulled out of the depths of Discovery Bay. (SCOTT BRENNEMAN)

Spot On Advice For Shrimping

N

e p t u n e ’ s g r e m l i n s seem to have infiltrated our electric shrimp pot puller. It THE KAYAK GUYS works fine at the dock By Scott By Sco cott tt Brenneman Bre renn nnem eman but doesn’t cooperate when h it comes time to retrieve our pots. As a result, the last couple of seasons I have been able to experience the joy of manually pulling pots from the depths of Puget Sound and Hood Canal. Pulling 350 feet of rope multiple times until our limits are reached can be a chore, but with a slow and steady pace it isn’t that bad. Also, it sparked my interest in giving spot shrimping from a kayak a try.

I EMBARK ON a search for the best place to shrimp from a kayak. Shrimping season is limited and I choose not to deal with the crowds in Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2, 9 and 10. Instead, I direct my focus to the Olympic Peninsula; with more opening days available, the crowds tend to be smaller. After crossing the Hood Canal Bridge on my way to an initial spot I’ve identified,

I decide to head further north to try a new-to-me area instead. I have never tried shrimping in Discovery Bay and today is as good a day as any to give it a go. I pull up to the Gardiner boat ramp just after 7 a.m. There is neither anyone directing traffic nor a long line of boaters waiting to use the ramp. Looking across to Beckett Point there are boats shrimping but not in the numbers that I am used to seeing. I pause briefly to second guess my decision to try a new area before finally deciding to launch. Paddling out I mark some shrimp on the fish finder in 150 feet of water, but an exploratory drop doesn’t yield any results. I continue to move to the small cluster of boats in the distance. As I head towards the point (a milelong paddle from the launch), the bay starts to deepen. I see plumes of shrimp on the finder, so I drop my Ladner pot to the bottom. This depression off Beckett Point is between 180 and 200 feet deep. The bulk of shrimping activity takes place within this area. The strap that holds the bottom tight

on my pot came loose on my second pull, resulting in another shrimpless haul. Unlike other areas open for spot shrimping, the current in Discovery Bay is minimal. After noticing this, I cut the zip ties and remove the extra weight from my pot before dropping it down again. I paddle around to pass the time while my pot soaks. Doing so, I notice another kayaker out shrimping, so I paddle over to see how he is doing. As I approach, he is pulling his pot with good results. Bobby has been shrimping out of his kayak for a couple of seasons and has the process dialed in. He is using two pots, which is much more efficient and cuts down on the waiting time between pulls. On my third pull there is shrimp in my pot, though not in great numbers. Spots aren’t that large, so others may be slipping through the nylon mesh of the pot while I am retrieving it. After multiple soaks, though, I am slowly getting closer to my limit of 80, but then I run out of bait. Bobby, who has quickly reached his limit, is kind enough to let me use some of his. A transplant from the Midwest, he adapted

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COLUMN

Among the lessons author Scott Brenneman learned on Disco Bay is that it takes awhile to pull a limit of shrimp with only one pot. He’ll be bringing two when this year’s season opens in May. (SCOTT BRENNEMAN) a catfish bait recipe for shrimping and it noticeably outfishes what I am using. Thanks to the generosity of a fellow kayak fisherman, I am able to eventually get my

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limit of spot shrimp by noon.

THE DISCOVERY BAY Shrimp District is the ideal place to shrimp from a kayak

because it is relatively shallow compared to other areas. When manually pulling pots the effort involved is significantly less while shrimping in 150 to 200 feet of


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Northwest Sportsman 57


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With little space for a bait bucket in his kayak, Brenneman made a custom dispenser out of vinyl fabric to funnel the shrimp mojo he stores in freezer bags until needed. (SCOTT BRENNEMAN) water when compared to 250 to 350 feet. Not having to add weights to pots makes this place very kayak-friendly. With shrimp season just around the corner here are some more helpful tips for kayak shrimping: Bring two pots if possible for quicker limits and not as much down time. I was hoping the stackable Ladner pots would work, but fewer shrimp escape in metal pots when pulling by hand, so I will stick to the metal shrimp pots in the future. Even though they take up more deck space, I prefer round or octagon over square pots. Managing 200 to 350 feet of rope can be a challenge on a kayak. Quarter-inch lead rope is a good choice, since 200 to 300 feet can fit on an electric extension cord reel. An Archimedean screw isn’t necessary; however, pulling is a lot easier if you have a lever with a roller on the end. Scotty manual pot pullers work really well for pulling pots from kayaks. Not having one, I borrowed a Dierks pulley from my drift boat. I attached it to a Scotty extension arm and it worked great for pulling up rope. Give yourself enough room from others so that when you pull your pots, you can leave the rope in the water and not have to worry about conflicting with other boat traffic. When pulling, you will want to leave all your rope in the water to avoid becoming entangled with the rope when retrieving your pots. Rather than scooping bait out of a plastic container with a big spoon, try using freezer bags instead. It is still messy but saves space on a kayak. I made a container out of vinyl fabric with a 1½-inch-diameter threaded cap that works really well. NS


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COLUMN

Buzz On Giant Fish, Future Of Angling

Part 2 of 2

L

ast issue, in part one of this series, iconic Northwest salmon and steelhead angler Buzz Ramsey talked about how WIESTSIDER he got into fishing, By Terry Wiest his early struggles with winter-runs, hiring into the tackle industry and eventually fishing with noted personalities of the era such as Eric Clapton and John Denver. As we continue with the second and final part, Buzz relives his record catches, where he thinks the Northwest fishing world is headed and details an exciting new product walleye anglers might just be interested in too.

Buzz Ramsey had been making a name for himself in the Northwest fishing world, but stepped to the forefront in 1984 when he caught a then line-class-record 30-pound, 5-ounce British Columbia steelhead. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Terry Wiest: You’ve obviously tested many different lures and employed every fishing method used for salmon and steelhead. What is your favorite technique for catching steelhead in rivers? Buzz Ramsey: Well, I don’t favor one fishing method over any other as I’m into using the technique or techniques I believe will perform best based on river conditions and what the fish are biting best. For example, and as you likely know, my go-to method when rivers are high and off color is drift fishing or suspending a drift outfit under a 1-ounce float. When rivers are running medium to clear, virtually every fishing technique works, although some may work better than other depending on the character of the particular spot. The methods that excel when the water is clear as gin include fishing a jig under a float or back-trolling a plug. I might add there is no better method for fishing current edges – where slack and running water meet – than suspending a jig or other bait under a float. To quickly switch from one fishing method to another means carrying sets of prerigged rods. When bank fishing, this

might mean a drift and a float rod. From a boat, I might take along four or more sets.

TW: OK, let’s hear it. I want to know about your mammoth 30-pound steelhead. BR: Oh wow, what an experience that was.

We were on a business trip in Canada but took the time to visit the Thompson River in British Columbia, but only had time to fish one evening and morning. Dave Davis, son of (tackle maker) Les Davis, was with me and landed a handsome

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COLUMN Before the Soviet Union collapsed, Ramsey was lucky enough to make two trips there, fishing for Atlantic salmon on a Barents Sea river in 1990 and taimen on the other side of the sprawling country the year before with Larry Schoenborn (left) for three Fishing the West shows. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

steelhead during our evening adventure. The next morning, I hooked and landed a gorgeous 25-pound, 13-ounce fish that was the largest steelhead I’d ever landed up till then. What was unique about that fish was its girth. Although the fish was only 39 inches long, it had a 25½-inch girth. As you might know, 39 inches is the threshold where a steelhead might weigh 20 pounds but doing so requires it to be a fat one. Keep in mind this was back in 1984 when it was legal to keep wild fish. Realizing I’d likely never catch a larger specimen I took it with me back to the states to have mounted. A couple weeks later, coworker John Thomas along with outdoor writer friend John Chamberlain and I decided to visit the Thompson River again, but this time taking my boat along. Although we tried different fishing methods, we soon discovered back-trolling plugs was what produced best. We ended up landing 25 steelhead during our four-day adventure. The steelhead we caught and released averaged 12 to 16 pounds, with some nearing or perhaps reaching the 20-pound mark. This was an estimate as we didn’t weigh them. 62 Northwest Sportsman

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It was on the second day of our adventure that I hooked and landed a truly giant steelhead. I’ve got to say that that steelhead fought longer and harder than any steelhead I’d landed up to that time, or since. It ran, it jumped out of the water like a rocket, ran again, melting 100 yards of line from my reel. It then ran, jumped and cart-wheeled time and again until it finally tired. I’m certain I would not have landed that steelhead if not for the fact that we were fishing from a boat. We had no net since we didn’t plan on keeping any fish anyway. When the fish finally tired, I had the boat pulled into shore with a goal of getting a quick photo and releasing the giant. What a pig! As I reached down to release the fish, Thomas, who had been exposed to more giant steelhead than me, kept insisting that the fish would top 30 pounds. I resisted his suggestion, as I already had a 25-pound 13-ounce steelhead being mounted that I really couldn’t afford. What changed my mind was when I finally bowed to his pressure and decided to measure the fish. As it turned out, my buddy was correct. We had the fish weighed on a certified scale and it came in at 30 pounds, 5 ounces,

a new IGFA line-class record. It measured 43½ inches and had a 27½-inch girth. Just like humans, it’s all about the girth. Even though I was using 17-pound Trilene Big Game, when IGFA tested the line’s breaking strength it broke at just over 20 pounds, which bumped me up to the 30-pound line-class category. My IGFA line-class record stood for nine years until an angler trolling the south end of Lake Michigan caught a larger steelhead.

TW: Wow, I didn’t know they had steelhead that big in the Great Lakes. Have you ever fished the Great Lakes? BR: Oh yes, starting in the late 1970s when working for Luhr Jensen. I managed their Great Lakes pro staff and as such made many trips to that region.

TW: Now, I also heard a rumor you fished in New York. Do they even have anything to fish for in New York? BR: You’d be surprised how good the fishing is in New York State. When you mention New York most people think of New York City, but the upper state and Lake Ontario offer some dynamite fishing for salmon, steelhead, trophy brown and lake trout.


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Ramsey takes great pride in his photography, one of his passions when he’s off the water. He’s also a big game hunter who likes to load his own bullets, as loyal readers of his column in these pages know. He bagged this good mule deer buck in Wyoming a couple seasons back. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

I remember attending the first Rochester Salmon Derby back in 1976. I later had my drift boat shipped to Detroit and remember towing it to New York where we drifted the Salmon River near Pulaski and limited out on steelhead. That was back in 1980.

TW: Where else stands out as a cool place you’ve traveled to fish? BR: Russia! What a fascinating experience it was. I was among what may have been the first group of Americans given permission to fish and film in eastern Russia. It was in 1989 that the late Larry Schoenborn and I, along with the Fishing the West film crew, traveled there to document our experiences. We ended up filming three half-hour shows and I was very fortunate to land an 80-pound taimen on one of the rivers there. The taimen is a giant troutlike fish, also known as “the river tiger,” that feeds on other fish and sometimes animals that fall in or attempt to cross rivers.

It was the very next year, thanks in large part to Gary Loomis, that I was able to revisit the Soviet Union, this time traveling to the west side of the continent on the Kola Peninsula’s Ponoi River. We caught and released Atlantic salmon and filmed an hour-long episode for The American Fisherman.

TW: Given all your experiences in the fishing world, what do you do when you’re not fishing? BR: First of all, I love fishing and have centered my life and career around the sport, especially as related to salmon, steelhead and trout. There was a time when all I could think about was fish and fishing but I’ve made it a point – forced myself, really – to make my life about more than fishing. Photographing my outdoor adventures is what got me into photography, and sharing those experiences – particularly related to the how-to end of it – is what got me into writing about it. Big game hunting and reloading is another passion of mine, as I love that sport too; after all, it gives me a break from only thinking about things related to fish and fishing. My family is extremely important to me, so I always, as much as I can, make time for my wife Maggie and our two sons Blake and Wade. Other than that, my life is pretty much centered around fishing. I’ve devoted so much time and effort into this great sport and my biggest reward is when someone thanks me for helping them achieve fishing success.

TW: Speaking of putting in your time, you’re the past president of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association? BR: Yes, and although no longer president of NSIA, I still serve on the board of 64 Northwest Sportsman

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COLUMN directors, along with 19 others. As you know there are many challenges facing the future of the fish we all love and the industry that serves it.

TW: Diving deeper into that thought, what do you see as the future of sportfishing for salmon and steelhead? BR: Well, I must admit I’m more than a little concerned about the long-term future of salmon and steelhead, say, 50 years from now. We’re experiencing the beginnings of some new phenomena, like the oceanic warmwater blob and our marine waters becoming more acidic, that are a little unnerving. Keep in mind that salmon and steelhead go through normal cycles that affect abundance, which is likely a key reason they have survived over the eons. What biologists are telling us is that if these new phenomena continue, we are likely to see more frequent ups and downs in future generations of fish. As anglers and business owners

“As anglers and business owners dependent on this infinitely renewable resource it’s our job – obligation, really – to do everything we can to ensure these fish survive and prosper,” says Ramsey, who has served as president and is a current board member of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. (NSIA) dependent on this infinitely renewable resource it’s our job – obligation, really – to do everything we can to ensure these fish survive and prosper. Whether that means joining NSIA or one of the many sportfishing groups doing good things for fish is up to the individual. But I would encourage every avid angler out there to be a part of something.

TW: Before I let you go, I hear you have a special lure you’re about to release. BR: Oh yes! It’s the new 2.0 size Mag Lip from Yakima Bait Company. This plug was added to the line up with trout, panfish, walleye and – perhaps – low-water steelhead in mind. Like all Mag Lip, the 2.0 is deep diving,

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An inveterate tackle tinkerer, Buzz has his name on a line of Berkley rods and his mug – or at least a drawing of it – on Owner steelhead hook packages. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

features skip-beat action, will handle current speeds up to 3 miles per hour, and swims straight right out of the package. The 2.0 completes the Mag Lip size line-up, as with its introduction Mag Lip is available in sizes ranging all the way up to 5 inches.

TW: Walleye? What the heck? Actually, I hear you were spotted last year fishing for them. BR: As many anglers know, walleye fishing on the Columbia last year was off-thechart good. Guide Cody Herman of Day One Outdoor TV fame invited coworker Jarod Higginbotham and I to film a TV episode with him and, you know, how could we say no? Fishing is fishing no matter what you’re chasing, so that walleye trip was a lot of fun and, boy, are they good eating. TW: I want to thank you for taking the time to share some of your life with me and the readers. You’re one hell of a guy and I want to thank you for everything you’ve done in the fishing industry. BR: Thank you, Terry. I’ve been truly fortunate to have made a living by following my passion for fishing. Although I’m not the only one, I feel as though I’ve had an influence on the sport that will last for many years to come. My future goal is to not only keep enjoying the sport myself but continue to share my knowledge with fellow anglers and advance the interests of the company I work for, Yakima Bait, through new, innovative lure products and finishes that help anglers catch more and bigger fish. 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. 68 Northwest Sportsman

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COLUMN

Mooching means something else in Boise, where author Randy King hails from, but the Puget Sound Chinook fishing technique involving a banana sinker and cut-plug herring (left) yielded a blackmouth that just barely squeaked over the 22-inch minimum size for him on a day off during a business trip to Seattle last month. (RANDY KING)

Playing Hooky To Mooch I do not condone playing hooky from work. But I will give it certain considerations – CHEF IN THE WILD most notably any By Randy King time in the months of September, October and November. Also, Thursdays in turkey season. Anytime the stoneflies hatch. And, apparently, blackmouth salmon season when I am in Seattle. It was at a bar in the University District that my coworker mentioned in passing, “Thursday looks all cleared up.”

Not sure what that meant, I inquired. “No appointments on Thursday, dude, you can go home early …” At this point I was in a conundrum. Fly home early for a $200 change fee, or fish for just about the same amount? If I fished, I would still be back in time to have dinner with my family in Boise, and maybe even supply the meal. Honestly, it was a no-brainer. I had not caught a salmon in over a year, so I needed to find a boat and head out on Puget Sound. So on Wednesday afternoon I was working the phone between sales calls. Eventually I connected with a captain

who could take me out. Justin Wong at Cut Plug Charters (seattlesalmonfishing .com) was free on Thursday and was willing to do the “winter fishing special” of $180 per person for a six-hour trip. The goal was to catch a blackmouth. Before I fished for these creatures I had no idea that they existed. Quick and dirty history lesson: Blackmouth are also known as feeder kings or resident Chinook. They represent, essentially, a manufactured salmon fishery. Biologists hold the young Chinook longer than normal at the hatchery, then release them into the rivers. The fish head for

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COLUMN Puget Sound but lack the desire to continue on to the North Pacific. Instead, they just hang out off Seattle, Tacoma and Everett and in the San Juan Islands and Strait of Juan de Fuca, getting fat and getting caught. It is a great way to fish for salmon in the off season, when they’re otherwise not running locally. They’re most popular from October through April. Brown butter blackmouth with capers, lemon and olives. (RANDY KING)

WITH AN ADDRESS and directions that included the words “look for the giant Viking statue,” my coworker Denise and I met Justin on Dock H at Shilshole Bay Marina. His boat was immaculately clean and had none of that “you might sink and die” vibe I have gotten on other charters. We were soon headed out of the harbor, past a wrought iron skeleton and rusted dragon on the jetty. I was expecting to troll for the fish, as this seems to be the way that most people fish on Puget Sound for salmon. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there was a style of fishing called “mooching,” and we would be doing that instead. The history of the mooch, according to Justin, traces back to Japanese fishermen on Elliott Bay, along Seattle’s waterfront. They noticed that the salmon they gutted often had been feeding on baitfish. It was a quick conclusion, then, to use an injured baitfish to attract the salmon. The concept quickly caught on and became very popular with anglers outside of Asian fishing communities too. Then, like all trends, it fell off as the preferred method. But hold-outs remain. Curious, I asked Justin why he doesn’t troll like all the others. He shrugged. “Trolling is kinda boring,” he said. “I would rather be doing something when I fish besides stare at the end of a rod. With mooching you get to be active.” True dat. Our first fishing stop was near Point No Point, along what appeared to be a seemingly random stretch of the Sound. Apparently mooching is often conducted on current “edges” or anywhere that baitfish can be seen 72 Northwest Sportsman

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SIMPLE SALMON, SOUPED UP After my fishing trip, I texted Justin and asked him what his favorite way to cook salmon was. “I like it simple – a little butter, some garlic and a squeeze of lemon,” he replied. This recipe is for you, Captain Wong. Brown Butter Salmon with Capers, Lemon and Olives 2 4-ounce salmon portions 1 tablespoon canola oil Salt and pepper 2 tablespoon butter, divided 1 clove garlic, minced 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed 2 tablespoons chopped Kalamata olives 1 teaspoon flour 1 lemon, zested and juiced (1 tablespoon juice for this recipe) 1 tablespoon white wine 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley Heat a heavy-bottomed sauté pan on medium for four minutes. Pat the salmon portions dry with a paper towel. Add the canola oil to the pan; it should be almost smoking. Place the salmon portions in the skillet, skin side up, and cook them until golden brown and crispy. This could take four minutes. Do not “scrape” the fish off the bottom of the pan. If the fish does not cleanly come off the bottom of the pan, it is not ready to come off. Remove finished fish from the pan to a plate, crispy side up. Next add the butter to the pan. Heat until the butter begins to brown and smell nutty. Add the garlic, capers and olives to the pan. Cook in the oil for 30 seconds. Do not let the garlic turn black, but deep brown is OK. Next sprinkle in the flour. It should disappear quickly into the fat. Next add the lemon juice and white wine. Remove pan from heat. Place the fish back in the pan, crispy side up. Cover and let stand for three minutes. Next remove the fish to the serving dish. Add the remaining butter and parsley to the pan. Stir butter to incorporate. Spoon the sauce over the fish. Serve hot. For more wild game and fish recipes, see chefrandyking.com. –RK with the fish finder. This particular location had a clear shelf and was full of baitfish on the incoming tide. Where there is bait, there are salmon. But just because there are salmon does not

mean they will bite. We drifted the edge for several hours with the tide, dropping our banana-leadweighted line to the bottom, retrieving slowly to about 80 feet and dropping


COLUMN again. Justin explained a few things about mooching to us. “First off,” he said, “when you get a bite, tighten the line until you feel pressure, then set the hook.” I was baffled – when a fish strikes my line, I almost reflexively set the hook. “You want to reel until you feel the fish at the end of the line. With this mono line and the depth we are fishing means you can’t just set the hook. Feel pressure, then set the hook and keep the tip of your rod up. Don’t ever let off the pressure,” Justin tipped. I could already feel the pressure, and it wasn’t from a salmon. The instructions were clear: Don’t. Mess. This. Part. Up!

WHILE WE MOOCHED I began to wonder about my decision to go. There were exactly zero other commercial guides on the water that day. In my experience, fish reside in specific locations, so guides tend to be within sight of one another. No guides means no fish.

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Also, we could only see two other fishing boats on the water. One was skippered by an elderly gentleman who was trolling solo. The other was the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s boat, and the job of the crew aboard was to catch salmon. The longer the bite drought stretched, the more of a skeptic I became. But Justin was not going to let us down. When the tide changed, so did our fishing location. Soon we traveled back toward Shilshole, stopping at another “ledge” in the water. “It’s funny,” said Justin, “sometimes you catch fish when you never even see them on the sounder.” I looked over at the screen and it was all blue. Not a fish to be seen. I was getting very skeptical. I’d had a single “maybe” to this point. As if on cue, the tip of my rod began to bounce, but very, very lightly. I quickly reeled until I could feel pressure – more than the normal drag from my line – and then set the hook. “Fish on!” I yelped, my voice cracking

a little. I was as giddy as a school girl while fighting that fish. When I saw the flash of its side, I began to get waves of adrenaline through my body. It was a surreal combination of focus, euphoria and stupor. I was trying not to shake. My mind raced. I had to land this fish. Luckily Justin was there and he netted it quickly. The blackmouth was small. I could see that. I was worried it was too small. So I waited and watched as Justin measured the fish – twice. “Twenty-two-point-five!” he exclaimed. “The minimum size is 22!” Thank God, a keeper. Back at the dock I wrapped the salmon in trash bags, then in ice packs, then in sweat pants. I placed the package in the center of my carry-on bag and headed to Sea-Tac. Frankly, I was lucky that the TSA folks probably see a lot of salmon in bags come through security. They didn’t even bat an eye. Playing hooky never felt so good, even if I don’t condone it. NS


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Northwest Sportsman 77


BASS UP THE YAK Spring draws smallies into this Central Washington river that’s also flush with downstream-migrating salmon smolts.

(LUCIE FRITZ; USFWS)

By Wayne Heinz

I

n the next 60 days, tribal hatcheries will release 3,820,000 salmon smolts (inset) to drift down the Yakima River. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates 19,000 smallmouth bass will swim upriver to spawn. Do you hear a dinner bell ringing? I do, and I heed it each spring. It’s a great chance to catch good numbers of bass, and some nice-sized ones too. This one went 4½ pounds and I caught it a couple Aprils back.

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No, we haven’t turned into Better Homes & Gardens, but blooming dogwoods and goslings taking to the water are two environmental cues to watch for. When they appear, it’s time to put down the rake and binoculars and get your tackle because smolts are on a collision course with smallies, making for good fishing. (WAYNE HEINZ, BOTH)

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Northwest Sportsman 79


Young Chinook, coho and other salmonids make up 50 percent of a smallie’s (top) spring diet. To imitate them, use silver and gray 5-inch Zoom flukes drifted on Carolina rigs. But with the lower Yakima 9 degrees warmer on average than the Columbia this time of year, crawdads (bottom) are also out and about, and they represent the other 50 percent of a bass’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. Drag a twin curl-tailed soft plastic grub on a stand-up jig to mimic them.

(WAYNE HEINZ, BOTH)

(USFWS, BOTH)

One good place to fish is the Yakima Delta mudline, where dirtier water from the warming tributary meets the cooler, clearer Columbia. Lucie Fritz (bottom) pulled her 4.8-pound smallmouth out of a 12-foot-deep hole while casting a Carolina-rigged white fluke in late April. Another good spot is around the railroad bridge just above Highway 240, where the 3-pounder at top grabbed a brown tube on a ½-ounce jig, drifted 17 feet deep.


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(WAYNE HEINZ, BOTH)

Another prime spot is around Bateman Island, in the Yakima Delta. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s where Bob Loper (top) hooked his pair of 4-pounders while casting plugs along a gravel dropoff, and Reggie Williams caught his 6-4 on a jig in 14 feet of water. NS

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FISHING Browns Lake, a 500-acre reservoir an hour outside Missoula, fishes well in winter and from ice-out in March or April into early summer and then again in late summer and fall. It has a good boat ramp and campground on its southern side. (MIKE WRIGHT)

’Bows Beckon At Browns Well-stocked shallow, buggy western Montana lake grows some large trout and provides good fly fishing. By Mike Wright

A

s winter loosens its icy grip on the Northern Rockies, bears and devoted open-water trout fishermen begin to awaken from their long, self-imposed hibernation. For the bears, their first priority is to find some food. For the anglers, the primary goal is to find an early season hot spot, hopefully not in the same territory as the bears. In Western Montana, one of the most popular spring fisheries is Browns Lake, northeast of Missoula. However, at these higher altitudes (4,300 feet), the term early

is somewhat relative. There are years when ice-out doesn’t occur until late April, sometimes even into May. But in most years, the ice is off the lake between the end of March and mid-April.

BROWNS LAKE IS located in the center of the Blackfoot River Valley, near Ovando. Although high timbered mountains are within a relatively short distance, the area around the lake is comprised of treeless, sagebrush-covered rolling hills. Only one small, shallow feeder stream enters the lake, and even though Ward Creek does not

contribute a large volume of water to the impoundment, numerous springs usually keep its level fairly consistent. Since this 500-acre impoundment is relatively shallow, it tends to warm up rapidly. And with the rise in water temperature, there is a corresponding increase in fish feeding activity. This is especially true around the drop-offs and reeds along the southeast shore. Lush aquatic vegetation covers the lake bottom, providing an excellent environment for huge volumes of insects. There is a particularly heavy concentration of scuds, or freshwater shrimp, which nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2018

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FISHING Three strains of rainbow call the lake home, Arlees, Eagle Lakes and “Snyders,” a cross between the first and Gerrards, a testament to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks making an extra effort to maintain Browns as one of Western Montana’s top fisheries. (DAVID SCHMETTERLING, MONTANA FISH, WILDLIFE AND PARKS)

are a favorite food source for the trout. This smorgasbord of aquatic life helps the resident fish grow rapidly, sometimes up to 10 pounds. Indeed, the fine dining available to the trout in Browns has in turn made them highly desirable table fare for humans. The orange meat and excellent taste stems from their high diet of scuds and has led to a decline in the catch-andrelease philosophy.

THERE’S SOME NATURAL reproduction in the lake, but successful rainbow spawning is extremely limited. This is probably due to a lack of suitable habitat for egg incubation and the rapid dewatering of Ward Creek after spring runoff. So in order for Browns to be a viable fishery, the Montana 88 Northwest Sportsman

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Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks annually stocks 45,000 to 55,000 rainbow trout, once in spring and again in fall. In addition, a few (very few) brook trout can be found in the lake, probably migrating in from Ward Creek. Records dating back to the 1930s indicate the lake has been stocked with cutthroat trout, coho, Chinook and kokanee salmon in the past, but each was discontinued for various reasons and in recent decades only rainbows have been placed in the lake. Currently, three strains of ’bows are stocked. One is the Arlee strain, which grows faster, maintains high body condition (plumpness), matures earlier and is more gullible, meaning a better success rate for the angler. The second is the Eagle Lake rainbow,

characterized by a slightly slower growth rate, lower body condition (thinner) and later maturity. They are also far less susceptible to anglers’ offerings; the vast majority of rainbows reaching 20 inches or more are the Eagle fish. The third rainbow is what state fisheries management biologist Ladd Knotek terms the “Snyder” strain, a cross between the venerable Arlees and Gerrards originating in southeast British Columbia. A Gerrard is very similar to the Kamloops strain, which was replaced by the Eagle Lake rainbow over 20 years ago. The “Snyder” strain is being tested, so there is not a great deal of information available at present. However, since Gerrards mature later while Arlees have a faster growth rate,


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FISHING it is hoped that the new strain will grow fast and maintain the weight through a later spawning process. There is a great deal of optimism that this new strain will add to the overall fishing quality in Browns. “There has been a lot of effort invested in this fishery over the past eight years,” states Knotek. “The focus of management has been on maintaining high quality and improving the consistency of the fishery, primarily through refinements in the stocking program.” In addition to the diversification of rainbows planted, the method of stocking has also been refined. In 2008, FWP began distributing new plants by boat throughout the entire lake instead of by truck in only a few locations along the west and south shorelines. This wider distribution has helped survival rates by reducing bird predation and makes for better use of the food

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resources available. Brown is a very popular yearround fishery that supports 10,000 to 15,000 angler-days a year, based on mailed fishing surveys. FWP considers it to be the No. 2 lakebased trout fishery in the region, just behind Georgetown Lake (Northwest Sportsman, July 2016). It is probably one of the worst kept secrets in the entire Northwest, so consequently there has been increasing fishing pressure over the past few years. Regulations allow for the harvest of five fish per day, only one of which can exceed 22 inches in length. “The biggest challenge right now is maintaining/improving the trophy component of the lake,” says Knotek about Browns’ rising popularity. “This would likely require a regulation change that limits the harvest of larger fish, but there are no plans to propose anything at this point. People are generally very happy with the fishery.”

SINCE BROWNS LAKE is relatively shallow and has an abundance of submerged vegetation there will be some winter kill. The amount of fish lost would be considerably greater if it were not for the numerous springs throughout the lake. These springs provide the critical higher oxygen levels needed in the winter, as well as act as cold-water refuges during the heat of summer. Fishery biologists monitor the trout population closely and vary the stocking in order to ensure optimum harvest quality and year-to-year angler success. Even though FWP has worked very hard to maximize the fishing opportunity on Browns, timing is critical. For the first few months after ice-out the fishing is excellent. For the fly fisherman, midges begin to make their way to the surface almost as soon as the ice disappears. Although there is not a great deal of dry fly action, chironomids work very well. Black and red are usually


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FISHING the most productive, along with the zebra and candy cane patterns. The strike indicator strategy is very popular, but using an intermediate sinking line with a slow retrieve is also effective. Since there is such a vast amount of natural scuds in the water, a rollover pattern may be needed. Leeches in black, brown or olive are also good choices, along with Prince Nymphs, Zug Bugs, various soft hackles and olive scuds. Using a nymph as a dropper with the leech as the lead fly is always an effective approach. As season progresses callibaetis mayflies and damsels become a major food source. During this period marabou damsels, Kauffman Mini Leeches, Sheep Creeks, goldribbed Hare’s Ears, Pheasant Tails and Halfbacks become the preferred fly patterns. There is a strong caddisfly hatch

A good selection of flies for Browns Lake would include chironomids, damselfly nymphs, black and brown leeches, Copper Johns, Pheasant Tails, beadhead Prince Nymphs, Hare’s Ears, Griffith Gnats, Adams, scuds, caddis imitations and Soft Hackle Peacocks. (MIKE WRIGHT)

that usually takes place around the end of June. A Green Caddis Larva and a Peeking Caddis are good nymph patterns, along with an olive

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Elk Hair Caddis dry in the evenings. By the end of July and through August most fly anglers abandon the lake. The water temperature has usually risen to the point where fish feeding activity has slowed down considerably. Probably more importantly, by this time the jet and water skiers are out in force. While the vast majority of these recreationists are courteous and careful, there are times when a watercraft will come close enough to an angler that afterwards, the sanitary cleanliness of their underwear may be in question. As Labor Day fades into the proverbial rearview mirror, most of the jet and water ski enthusiasts have put away their equipment and gone on to other pursuits. Early in the fall callibaetis mayflies are still present, making a Parachute Adams, a Purple Haze or a fall spinner wise choices for dry flies, with goldribbed Hare’s Ears, Pheasant Tails and Prince Nymphs still good bets for subsurface action. Black, brown and olive leeches continue to produce fish, but later in the fall Bunny Leeches become more effective, as does a black and red Soft Hackle Mini Leech.


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Terrestrials such as grasshoppers are also common around Browns, and since strong winds frequent the area, often blowing feed onto the surface, a Joe’s Hopper can be very effective. Some caddis adults may also be found throughout September, so you may want to include some Elk Hair Caddis patterns in your fly box. Although it can get a little cold at times, fall is an excellent time to fish the lake. Browns’ bottom is very uneven, with several mounds in the center section, where water depths drops off rapidly from 8 to 20 feet. There are usually good concentrations of fish around these mounds, and they are an especially popular spot for boats trolling lures. Panther Martins, gold Mepps, Thomas Cyclones and Rapalas are all popular choices. Nightcrawlers, PowerBait, corn and marshmallows are preferred by bait anglers. As Browns is also popular during the ice fishing season, the use of maggots is the preferred bait in winter.

TO FISH BROWNS, take I-90 to exit 109 just east of Missoula and head east on Highway 200. At the town of Ovando, follow the Browns Lake Road for approximately 15 minutes and then turn onto the campground road, which is clearly marked. If you prefer less gravel travel, bypass Ovando and continue on Highway 200 and turn right at the sign to the lake. Besides the campground there are several camping and launch areas along the eastern shoreline, but for larger boats this area is too shallow. Although there are a number of more scenic lakes in the general vicinity – Coopers, for example – they pale in comparison to the fishing opportunities available at Browns. In addition, it’s far less likely you’ll end up up close and personal with a hungry grizzly come spring. Browns Lake is a great fishery and definitely worth consideration for an angling excursion. NS 94 Northwest Sportsman

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FISHING

Cutt Out To Pend Oreille Co. For Opener

Tucked into the southern end of Washington’s Selkirk Mountains, Marshall (top) and No Name Lakes offer good trout fishing in spring, early summer and fall. (MIKE WRIGHT)

Marshall, No Name Lakes provide good fishing for westslope cutthroat trout. By Mike Wright

T

wo dates are indelibly etched in the minds of avid Eastern Washington lake fishermen: March 1, and the fourth Saturday of April. The former is the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s early spring opener, and mostly centers around ponds in the heart of the Columbia Basin and up the Tucannon Valley. These lakes experience ice-out earlier and provide anglers an opportunity to get out and enjoy their sport after the long winter layoff.

As for the latter date, it is the opening day of lowland lakes season, including several at higher elevation, and the weather is, for the most part, much warmer. March 1 is often uncomfortably cold, but

by the end of this month, conditions are usually far more comfortable and the insect hatches are usually more prolific, enticing the fish to be more active in all but the highest mountain lakes. nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2018

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FISHING NORTH OF NEWPORT are a number of waters that open on April 28 this year and which have proven to be highly productive. One of the more noteworthy is Marshall Lake, a 194-acre body of water. Just 6½ miles north of Newport by way of the Le Clerc and Bead Lake Roads, the lake is stocked annually with fingerling cutthroat. Although there is only a moderate growth rate, the stocking numbers are liberal enough to promote a fairly sizable number of carryover fish in the 11- to 14-inch range. Additionally, there have been some changes in the stocking program that may have helped increase the size of the fish. Last year was especially gratifying, what with a large number of cutthroat over 12 inches and a fair number reaching 18 inches and more. Thirty- to 50fish days were quite common, and many anglers left Marshall with broad smiles on their faces. Access to Marshall is somewhat limited because of the structure of the lake, which sits behind a glacial terrace that plugged up two steep-walled creek valleys. Its two, northern arms are in the Colville National Forest, but no public roads lead to them. There are campsites, but they’re only accessible by boat. Marshall Lake Resort (509-4474158), which has boat rentals, RV sites and a campground, comprises much of the south end of the lake. The one public access and boat launch is located next to the resort, and it’s the only easily accessible spot for shore fishermen. Because of this, there are times when the area can get somewhat crowded. The shoreline here is comprised of gravel and small rocks, with considerably fewer weeds, making it ideal for bait and lure fishing. Fly fishing can also be very good, but trees and brush along the outer edges of the public area make the backcast a little tricky. There’s also a rapid dropoff, making it difficult 100 Northwest Sportsman

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State fishery biologists are only stocking westslope cutthroat in the two Pend Oreille County lakes, and the species does pretty well in them, with some specimens taping to 18-plus inches. (MIKE WRIGHT)

to wade out far enough to prevent your fly from becoming part of the local flora. Because of that, the vast majority of fishing on Marshall is done out of a boat or other flotation device. Although the upper ends of the lake’s arms are shallow and can be easily fished with floating fly line or monofilament with light lures, the middle part of the lake drops off rapidly to a depth of 90 feet. The bottom is rather consistent, making trolling with weighted lines the preferred strategy. For lure fishermen, a Wedding Ring supplemented with a worm is a very popular set-up. For fly fishermen, Prince Nymphs, Flashback Pheasant Tails, Zug Bugs, and black, brown or olive Woolly Buggers have proven to be highly effective. Marshall is also an excellent dry fly lake, particularly in the evenings. Elk Hair Caddis, Griffith Gnats and Renegades can all productive, with ’hopper patterns working well early in the fall.

MARSHALL LAKE HAS undergone

a number of fish management changes over the years. In the late 1980s,

grayling were stocked, but when the lake was rehabilitated in the late 1990s, no trace of them was found and no further release of the species was attempted. Burbot were also planted, but were killed off during the rehab, which essentially ended the program. At different times rainbows were also stocked, and bucket biologists brought in bass and bluegill. However, today only westslope cutthroat are used in the stocking program. Changes have also been made in the stocking process. According to Bill Baker, the state fisheries biologist for Northeast Washington, the spring fingerling release has been augmented by a fall stocking, which includes year-old fish. “We find that in planting this ageclass of fish there is a better survival rate, which may help provide larger fish for the next fishing season,” says Baker. I have been told that a number of years ago, the Marshall stocking also made Idaho fishermen very happy. The lake is situated a mile and a half west of the state line, and just on the other side of it is Freeman Lake.


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Northwest Sportsman 101


FISHING To get to either lake from Newport, you actually drive into Idaho then head north on Le Clerc Road before making a right turn uphill. One year, some inexperienced hatchery personnel inadvertently placed a load of cutthroat destined for Marshall into Freeman, much to the delight of the Gem State anglers, who benefited not only from Idaho’s rainbow release but Washington’s cutthroat stocking as well. There are now clearly visible signs pointing the way to Marshall Lake. The optimum time to fish it is from opening day until the first part of July. The lake tends to taper off as summer temperatures increase. Fishing improves again by early fall, as the trout migrate back into the shallower water.

ELSEWHERE IN THE general vicinity is another lake that can provide excellent fishing but in a smaller,

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more intimate setting. No Name Lake, an 18-acre impoundment, is located in a narrow canyon off the unpaved portion of the Bead Lake Road, 9.2 miles from Newport. A Forest Service campground with six sites is located at the lake’s east end, but unfortunately, due to budgetary constraints it is usually closed. Still, there is room to park at the gate and hike into the lake. The road and trail into No Name essentially limit access to shore fishing, small boats, float tubes, kayaks or pontoons. Bead Lake Road parallels the lake’s south shore, providing a second route to the water, but it’s very steep, making it very difficult to launch anything heavier than a float tube from this area. Unless an individual is in very good shape or doesn’t mind risking a hernia, the longer, more gradual campground approach would be the wiser decision if using heavier watercraft. The south shore is also the location

of what is often referred to as the “the adolescent playground.” In this section, someone has tied a rope onto an overhanging branch, which serves as a swing for a number of recreationalists to take turns playing Tarzan and cannonballing into the lake. This looks like it would be great fun, although it can be rather disconcerting to hardcore anglers. Considering the fishing rewards, however, this seems like a minimal price to pay. In 2015, No Name was rehabilitated to rid the lake of illegally introduced brown bullheads, which were negatively impacting the cutthroat population. The rehab worked very well and the fishing this past season was outstanding. Numbers weren’t as spectacular as Marshall, but the average size of the fish was even better. These cutthroat were averaging 13 to 15 inches with a considerable number topping out at 18 inches. In addition, they were all shaped like fully inflated footballs and put up a Smokin’ Joe-type battle. WDFW’s Baker believes this was due, in part, to the fact that an older age-class of fish was used in the rehabilitation, and that without the competition for food from the bullheads, the trout grew faster. Since it is located in a canyon, No Name has some very rapid dropoffs along its east and west sides. There is some very good fishing along these edges and out toward the deeper water. They’re a favorite spot for bait fishermen. For fly fishermen, intermediate or type 2 fast-sink lines would probably be the best choices. There are excellent damsel and callibaetis mayfly hatches at various times, but it is not a particularly good dry fly lake. By far the best technique is to use nymphs and streamers close to the bottom. Damselfly nymphs, Pheasant Tails, Hare’s Ears, and olive or black leeches can all be productive, depending on the type of hatch that is coming off. The combination of


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BAIT & TACKLE Leeches and nymphs are good patterns at Marshall and No Name. (MIKE WRIGHT)

a damsel or olive leech pattern, with a Pheasant Tail, Hare’s Ear or Prince Nymph dropper is also highly productive. A size two gold Mepps spinner, Panther Martin or Rooster Tail will all catch fish, with worms or PowerBait being the best choices for the bait fishermen. As with Marshall, the ideal time to fish No Name is opening day until the first part of July and again in early fall. However, the lake is not nearly as pristine as Marshall, with considerably greater weed growth. This in turn produces excellent insect hatches, which keeps the trout fat and happy, but can contribute to surface slime during the hottest days of summer, making the fishing somewhat less than enjoyable. Although conditions and fishery policies can change from year to year, judging from how successful of a season 2017 was and with an additional 7,000 cutthroat fry stocked in No Name last fall, along with a fall plant in Marshall, these two lakes are worth considering as opener destinations. Hopefully the number and size of the fish will continue to improve, making the fourth Saturday in April a muchanticipated date in southern Pend Oreille County for years to come. NS


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SLIP BOBBER RIG NOTES All anglers should have the slip bobber rig in their bag of tricks. It’s very effective for presenting bait to suspended fish. Where a fixed bobber can be cumbersome to cast if the leader is longer than a few feet, a slip bobber slides freely, allowing you to vary how deep you can fish your bait. The slip bobber rig is effective on a wide variety of species, from black bass to trout to panfish. It can be used in saltwater as well – just adjust the float, hook size and leader length to your target species and how deep they’re holding. To build the basic rig, start by inserting a pretied bobber stop, bead and slip bobber on 6-pound-test monofilament mainline. Next, tie a No. 8 Gamakatsu Baitholder hook to the end of the line. To adjust the length of the leader, simply slide the bobber stop to the desired position. Finally, pinch a small lead split-shot weight to the line about 6 inches above the hook. Bait up and you are ready to fish. -Mark Fong

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COLUMN

Just as it has for decades, this year’s spring trout opener is sure to serve up plenty of smiles for anglers. Jason and Zayn Resser and Maggie Ramsey show off their limits from last April’s big day on Rowland Lake, in the eastern Columbia Gorge. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Dough Bait Tips, Tricks For Trout

G

enerally speaking, trout are pretty easy to catch compared to salmon and BUZZ steelhead. Much RAMSEY of this is thanks to state fish and wildlife agencies that stock millions of hungry rainbows into literally hundreds of lakes. For example, in 2017 the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife planted over 2 million catchable-size trout into stillwaters and reservoirs, and

expects to release a similar number in 2018. And while the majority of these trout average 10 inches, WDFW will add over 100,000 fish averaging 14 inches or larger into the mix this season. Idaho and Oregon have similar trout programs, including trophy trout, which provide a steady stream of fat trout for anglers, like you, to take advantage of. Unlike a salmon fishing trip that might be planned around the charting of ocean tides, river temperatures or clarity and online fishing reports, all you need to do for trout is check out the stocking schedule for a lake near

you and posted on your state’s fish and wildlife website. Those are dfw.state. or.us, idfg.idaho.gov and wdfw.wa.gov. As you might guess, on lakes open year-round, the trout will be “running” shortly after the hatchery truck arrives. You’ll have to wait for opening day on lakes where a start date applies. Keep in mind that opening day can offer quick limits as fish haven’t yet been hit with a barrage of bait and lures and, depending on the timing of your trip, might be more plentiful. To determine what’s legal or not means finding your lake in a current copy of your state’s angling reg-

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COLUMN ulation pamphlet, either in print, online or as an app.

FOR TROUT, ALL you need besides a current fishing license is a 5- to 7-foot light-action spinning rod and reel filled with 6-pound-test monofilament fishing line. And although a 5-foot rod will do the job, I prefer a 7- or 7½-footer when casting for trout, as the longer length provides the leverage needed to facilitate long casts. And while this same outfit will work from a boat, realize some boat anglers, like me, employ even longer rods when trolling. That helps spread the lines out wider, allowing you to cover more water, and has the added benefit of keeping lines apart, resulting in fewer line tangles. What many bank and boat anglers do is plunk (that means still-fish) PowerBait, sometime referred to as dough or trout bait. As you might know, PowerBait is a prepared bait formula developed by scientists working with real fish. It comes in jars and feels a lot like play dough, so using it might bring back some childhood memories. And while there are similar products available, in my opinion none are as effective as those marketed under the Berkley label. For example, PowerBait is so popular and effective it outsells even lively worms as the most popular bait used for trout. To rig for still-fishing with trout bait, simply thread your main line (extending from your rod tip) through the hole of an oval egg sinker (say, a 3/8- or ½-ounce size), add a small plastic bead, and tie your main line to one end of a size 10 barrel swivel. Then attach your leader (18 to 24 inches), complete with size 12 treble hook, to the free end of your swivel and mold a dime-sized ball of dough around your hook. A fundamental to finding success with this method is to use enough of the bait to float your hook above bottom so cruising trout can quickly find it. This is much more effective than less buoyant bait lying on the bottom that might take fish an hour or more to find. While still-fishing means just what it 110 Northwest Sportsman

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Whether fishing from the bank or double-anchored up in a boat, one of the best ways to catch stocker trout is by still-fishing PowerBait off bottom. Author Buzz Ramsey has taken to adding a Lil’ Corky for the extra floatation it provides off the lakebed. (BUZZ RAMSEY) implies – cast out and allow your outfit to sink to the bottom and wait until a fish bites before you set the hook by pulling back on your rod tip – a few tips and tricks can up your odds of success:

SLACK LINE It’s important to leave some slack in your line after casting into the lake so trout can swallow your bait and swim off without feeling line resistance before you set the hook. What you should do is wait until the slack in your line ahead of your rod tip begins to disappear into the lake before you yank. Doing this will up your hook-toland ratio and is the reason why you’re using a free-sliding oval egg sinker on your mainline. CASTING DISTANCE One question often asked by anglers is how far to cast, which might vary depending on where

fish are holding or how bright the sun is. For example, trout may be found fairly close to shore during low-light conditions, like early or late in the day or when the sky is overcast. So during these times you might only cast out a short distance from shore, say, 30 yards. As the sun becomes more intense, try casting further into the lake. This is important because the way fish regulate the amount of light coming into their eyes is by changing their location; after all, they have no eyelids. Employing a larger/heavier egg sinker and/or longer fishing rod can help extend your casting range during times when fish are holding in deep water. Another factor in determining how far to cast is bottom-growing vegetation. On most lakes the water depth increases the farther away from shore you get. What this means is that moss and


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COLUMN other water vegetation begins growing near shore first and extends its range away from shore as the water warms in spring and summer. And while weeds and whatnot might not be much of a factor this month, it’s likely to become more of an issue as summer approaches. And while trout can be found cruising above the weed tops – a time when fishing bait under a bobber or casting and retrieving a spoon or spinner might work – one strategy is to cast your still-fishing outfit into deeper water, beyond the weeds, where the bottom is free of the green stuff. Another way to get away from sometimes bothersome weeds or moss is to fish an area of the lake where the bottom gets deep close to shore, where weeds or moss doesn’t grow due to a lack of light penetration.

SEARCHING FOR FISH Some trout may see and follow your bait as it sinks to the bottom after the cast, or spot your stationary bait suspended above bottom

as they cruise around the lake. But if no trout are near your offering or they are not moving, you should try moving your bait around by repositioning it or casting in a different direction. What I often do is cast far and wait 10 minutes before moving my bait toward me 10 to 15 cranks of the reel handle and then wait another 10 minutes before moving it again. If I don’t get bit after a cast or two in the same direction, I will try casting in a different direction or move in 50-yard increments along the lake until we find fish.

FLOATING YOUR BAIT To ensure your bait is floating above bottom and/or bottom-growing vegetation, what many anglers do (including me), besides using enough dough bait, is to add a Lil’ Corky single-egg imitation onto my leader above the hook. What has worked for me is to rig a size 12 treble hook in combination with a size 12 Corky. For smaller, perhaps clear-water presentations, you could rig the same outfit using a size 14 treble in combination with a size 14 Corky.

TRY DIFFERENT BAIT/COLOR COMBOS It’s amazing how the color of your offering can make all the difference in your success. One way to determine what color is producing best is to watch what other anglers are using. If the guy or gal using green trout bait is catching all the fish, you might want to copy their success. Providing you’re fishing with friends or family, another way to determine the best producing color is to place a different color on each line and let the trout tell you what they like, which they will quickly do with head-shaking approval. Some of the popular trout bait colors include rainbow, Captain America, chartreuse, yellow, orange, pink, green, and red. Many of these same principles apply to casting spoons or spinners or when trolling from boats, which are trout methods I’ll be touching on in future issues of this magazine. NS Editor’s note: The author is a brand manager and part of the management team at Yakima Bait. Like Buzz on Facebook.

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COLUMN

Rating North Sound’s Big 8 Opening Lakes A

s the calendar turns to April, trout angler By Doug Huddle anticipation and preparation focuses on the fourth Saturday start of the spring-summer lake fishing season. Eight waters in Whatcom and Skagit Counties – Padden, Silver, Toad and Cain in the former, McMurray, Erie, Heart and Sixteen in the latter – headline the list of hatchery-supplemented waters. So to help you zero in on an opening day destination or prioritize your spring trout lake tour, our annual rundown takes a different tack – comparative attributes – in discussing these waters.

NORTH SOUND

RECENT PERFORMANCE In the past three years, cozy Cain Lake in Whatcom County has risen to the top of the catch-per-angler list. Its 7.4and 5.7-landed-trout-per-rod averages in 2015 and 2017 gave many anglers leeway to pick and choose their frying pan selections. Historically, Lake Padden and occasionally Toad Lake also have taken turns as the best inaugural producers in Whatcom County. A trio of different Skagit County waters each took their place at the head of the opening day performance list in the past three years, with out-of-theway Lake Sixteen yielding the most – 5.4 – trout per angler in 2017. In the longer term of modern angling starts, though,

Whatcom County’s Silver Lake is a favorite late April destination for North Sound anglers, and it just might be where you see Corrin Campion again on this month’s fourth Saturday. She, her sister Kaitlyn and dad Mike trolled up some nice rainbows there using an Olympic Tackle hoochie with a small action disk on 2017’s opener. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST) nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2018

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COLUMN Fidalgo Island’s Lake Erie without doubt holds a warm place in angler hearts for its opening day yields.

AMENITIES (SHORE, RAMPS, DOCKS, ETC.) Headlining this category in Whatcom County certainly has to be Bellingham’s Padden. Its entire shoreline is in the public domain as a city-run park. Two fishing docks, a revetment wall for disabled fishers and a decent smallboat launch ramp are its key draws. A circumnavigating footpath, ample parking on three sides and convenient hourly bus service enhance its allure among spring anglers. Second on the Whatcom list would have to be Silver Lake, with its south end county-run park, boat launches at either end (state ramp on the north shore and the park’s walk-up craft launch in the south), plus a fishing bridge also at the public park. Adding to this, an opening morning pancake feed, a smattering of terminal tackle for

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sale and watercraft rentals – all at the park – serve to burnish Silver’s luster. Toad Lake also has a small floating finger dock for boatless fishers. In Skagit County, Heart Lake, in the center of the City of Anacortes’ community forest, has both a decent hardened launch for small trailered boat roll-offs, plus launch room along the road and around into the woods for shore-sitting fishers. Lake McMurray’s boat ramp, located on its southeast side, accommodates side-by-side roll-off/roll-on craft, and the local fire department occasionally hosts a pancake feed fundraiser for early-risers.

WEATHER WORRIES All angling venues in Western Washington are subject to the vagaries and fickleness of spring weather. Having said that, Padden perhaps has the best option for hasty retreats – almost anywhere on its shore – should a squall pass over. It also has a leeshore,

again towards the southeast shore for prevailing breezy weather. On clear days, Silver has a reputation for chilliness at dawn. Be prepared to angle in the cool morning shadow of Black Mountain before the sun climbs high enough to peer in and warm things. For refuge on a rainy, breezy morning in Skagit County, the tuck of McMurray’s northern shoreline offers some quiet water if the day starts wet and wild. The wooded surroundings at Heart offer shelter from the breezes, but block the morning sun’s warmth.

RELATIVE ROOMINESS Silver leads Whatcom County’s “Big Four” waters in expansiveness at 172 acres, though the aforementioned twin accesses plus myriad lakeshore homes bump up the fishing pressure to near its boat-borne carrying capacity. Padden, at 152 acres, is the second most spacious lake, allowing trollers to actually stretch lines without tangling.


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COLUMN Cain comes in at 72 acres and tiny Toad has only 30 acres of boating elbow room. The biggest by far of Skagit’s hatchery supplemented seasonal waters is 160-acre McMurray. Erie, with its small access, has 111 acres of boating room, while nearby Heart drops to 61 acres of surface area and Sixteen squeezes its fishers into a diminutive 42 acres of open water.

NORTH SOUND STEELIES As of the writing of this column early last month, a go/no-go decision had not come down from the National Marine Fisheries Service on the proposed Skagit-Sauk catch-and-release fishery for native steelhead. When last was heard March 8, Washington was still awaiting a thumbs up or down from regional administrator Barry Thom on a permit for a recreational fishery that could stay open as late as April 15 on the Skagit between The Dalles Bridge and Marblemount and the lower Sauk from its mouth upstream to Darrington. If you have your heart set on tangling with these bruisers, when you read this, check the websites of Northwest Sportsman Magazine (nwsportsmanmag.com) and the Department of Fish and Wildlife (wdfw.wa.gov) for season status. –DH

FISH SELECTION It must be said first that, though most of these lakes are managed for coldwater fish (i.e. trout species) and at one time would have been periodically rotenoned to rid them of all others, many now have a finny menagerie. The mix certainly includes largemouth bass, yellow perch and one or another species from the sunfish family (pumpkinseed, bluegill and crappie). The chief input providing the harvest in all eight lakes are hatchery-reared rainbow trout from Kendall Creek or

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Arlington hatcheries, both well-water facilities. These annual releases are the angling equivalent of NCAA Final Four “one-and-doners” – in their watery digs there for the spring, summer and fall, with most, if not creeled, succumbing the following winter. But a few robust, carryover rainbows occasionally are caught in each, most often by still-fishers plunking bait. These survivors are highly territorial and generally aren’t taken by surface trollers. Kokanee make opening day catch

appearances in Padden and Cain, and are the descendants of naturally spawning parents in small creeks associated with those waters. Exquisitely sculpted natural-origin (not from a hatchery) coastal cutthroat, perhaps of sea-run persuasion, though on the smallish side, are occasionally caught in Sixteen and now McMurray.

STOCKING RATES From most to fewest inputs in Whatcom County’s featured four, Padden gets


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COLUMN 20,000-plus rainbows before the opener, Silver, the second most heavily fished lake here, receives 16,000 ’bows, while Cain and Toad get 9,000 and 6,000, respectively, for the opener. Skagit’s top to bottom stocking hierarchy is led by Erie with 14,000 rainbows, while larger McMurray gets 13,000. Heart and Sixteen receive 8,000 and 6,000, respectively.

GETTING THERE Path to Padden: Drive south out Samish Way from I-5 in Bellingham 2 miles. Parking lots are at the golf course (east) side of the city park or opposite the tennis courts (northwest side). Trail to Toad: Drive up from Academy Street off North Shore Drive to Toad Lake Road, passing the Bonneville powerlines, and then head into Toad’s only public access. The parking area fills quickly and latecomer vehicles spill over well up the narrow gravel entry road. Course to Cain: East from Bellingham,

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drive out 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 end turn left on Camp 2 Road and drive about .2 mile to the access at the outlet. Parking off road is limited. Street to Silver: 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 WDFW access is off a side road at the north end. Avenue to Erie: 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 spill-over onto the adjacent county road, but park carefully because you could get a ticket. Highway to Heart: From Lake Erie drive north on Heart Lake Road or 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. Shortcut to Sixteen: 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. Meander to McMurray: 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 onto the narrow access road almost out to highway.

NEXT ISSUE Estuary trout (Skagit/Stilly) and spring bass lakes. NS Editor’s note: Doug Huddle lives in Bellingham, is retired from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and has written about hunting and fishing in the Northwest for more than 35 years.


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COLUMN

South Sound anglers try their luck during the lowland trout opener on a local lake. Along with rainbows, there are also kokanee to be caught at many waters, plus largemouth bass. (JASON BROOKS)

Fish, Hunt Ops Multiply In April A

pril is a month of total rejoice for South Sound sportsmen. If you like to fish, this is your SOUTH SOUND month. And for those By Jason Brooks who are itching to get out to the foothills and do some hunting, April also offers an opportunity to do just that with the opening of turkey season. Yes, spring can be a bit of a weather rollercoaster in the Pacific Northwest, but from spring Chinook to trout and kokanee, there are plenty of opportunities to get out on the water – just don’t expect it to be all sunny all the time.

APRIL’S REALLY MOSTLY about fishing our lakes, as the general lowland opener occurs on the fourth Saturday of the month. Trout and kokanee are becoming ever more popular, what with scandals

surrounding recent years’ North of Falcon salmon seasons, the warmwater blob and its lingering effects in the North Pacific, Canadian commercial fishing taking a high toll on fall fish, and river boundary disputes. A recent Facebook post from a friend simply said, “It’s time to make fishing fun again.” Trout serve this purpose. South Sound anglers should look to the hundreds of lakes in our region and be sure to double check the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s planting schedule (wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly). You could literally fish a different lake each weekend and never be on the same water twice before season closes on Halloween. For the April opener you will probably find me on my favorite South Sound lake, Clear, near Mt. Rainier. This 155-acre Pierce County lake offers both rainbow trout and kokanee. It’s located just off Highway 161 and has a state ramp. Another great place to fish in April

is Thurston County’s Summit Lake, just south of Olympia. This 512-acre lake has a WDFW boat launch and parking area, and is a very popular place to fish. It receives plants of nearly 40,000 rainbows and 225,000 kokanee fry. Largemouth bass are also available here. Getting to Summit is fairly easy: Take Highway 101 west from I-5, then continue west on Highway 8. A few miles later, take Summit Lake Road on the north side of the highway (the road is a loop that connects back to Highway 8 a few miles to the west). Summit Lake Shore Road leads to the state boat launch. Another lake to try is Spencer in Mason County, about 7 miles from Shelton. This 220-acre lake is open year-round but receives enough stocker trout through the seasons to make it one of the most popular places to fish in the area. March and April see the heaviest plantings, with around 14,000 trout and another 4,000

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COLUMN added in the fall. For bank-bound anglers, there is a fishing dock at the north end’s Spencer Lake Bar and Grill and RV Park, as well as at the WDFW access and a boat launch on the lake’s southwestern corner. Nearby 112-acre Phillips Lake also offers great trout fishing, thanks to nearly 9,000 planted annually. It too has a state access and boat launch.

AS FOR TACTICS for trout and kokanee, they’re not difficult fish to catch, though koke anglers tend to be a bit more technical as the fish can be temperamental to daylight. If filling a stringer of trout for a panfry is your goal, then fish PowerBait off of the bottom, or some single salmon eggs. Buzz Ramsey introduced us to a little “trick” he likes to use to float baits and that is using a small size 14 or 12 Lil’ Corky on your leader and a size 6 baitholder hook. A variation of this rig is to use a rubber bobberstop to keep the Lil’ Corky about half an inch from the hook, which allows the fish to grab the bait easier. Trolling is another mainstay for trout as well as kokanee. When I’m looking for the landlocked salmon, I prefer to use a searching technique. I use a Flash Lites multiblade gang troll by Mack’s Lure, followed by a Double Whammy, which is a variation of the Wenatchee company’s famed Wedding Ring spinner and which has a Mylar Smile Blade and tandem single-point hooks. Put a piece of worm on

A brined cut-plug herring behind a flasher and trolled close to the deck is a favorite of Columbia River spring Chinook anglers. (JASON BROOKS) the hooks and two shoe-peg corn kernels that have soaked overnight in some ProCure Bloody Tuna super gel. One rod will have a 1-ounce banana weight at the front of the Flash Lites and the other rod will have a ½-ounce banana weight. Once I start to catch fish on either rod, I then match them to increase the catch rate. If it’s kokanee that are biting, then make sure to do a figure-eight or a circle pattern when trolling, as they are a schooling fish.

SPRING CHINOOK FISHING can be very unpredictable, even though WDFW and its Oregon counterpart try and predict the returns so we can plan out our attempts at catching the tasty salmon. This year 248,500 are expected to enter the mouth of the Columbia. Depending on seasons, emergency closures and openings, there are a few places that are consistent enough that you should give them a try. If the mainstem Columbia is open in the Kalama area, be sure to head to this small town about two hours south of Olympia for some good fishing. The Port of Kalama has a state-of-the-

When Puyallup-based author Jason Brooks and son Ryan headed for Northeast Washington to hunt spring turkeys last year, they found that Benny’s Colville Inn caters to sportsmen . (JASON BROOKS) 126 Northwest Sportsman

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art launch, which basically means decent docks, parking and a multilane boat ramp, along with a daily fee, of course. It is close to the fishing grounds too, and as long as the weather is decent, a smaller 14-foot boat will work. Keep an eye on the winds that create waves. Otherwise, a 16foot boat or larger works just fine in most weather that April throws at us. This is a trolling game, especially on the incoming, slack and start of the outgoing tide. You can continue to troll on the outgoing or choose to anchor up and put out the plug rods. For trolling, most use an inline flasher, such as a Big Al’s from Yakima Bait Company, in a bright yellow, chartreuse or red trailed by a cut-plug herring that’s brined in ProCure’s Brine-n-Bite and dyed with some Bad Azz chartreuse bait dye. Use a 12- to 16-ounce dropper weight on a short 8- to 10-inch dropper and make sure it’s close to the bottom. Get in line and troll with the other boats just outside of casting distance of the plunkers on Sand Island.

TURKEY SEASON STARTS in mid-April and after last spring, when I went on my first turkey hunt, I must say that this is one of the most exciting adventures a Northwest sportsman can experience. The birds in the far northeastern corner of the state are plentiful, so make sure you take the two tags you are allowed for that region if you make the drive. Colville is “turkey central” and Benny’s Inn (colvilleinn.com) comes highly recommended by my son Ryan and I. They have an indoor pool, if the family is going, and they cater to the hunter, which you’ll notice as you check in at the front desk. There is plenty of public land in the area and, as you drive towards the small town, it’s hard to spot a field without


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COLUMN turkeys in it. Some landowners donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t like the birds and allow hunting, but most private lands are already spoken for well before the season starts. If you want to stay close to the South Sound, try to locate a few of the flocks of eastern turkeys that are in Southwest Washington. Look to the Cowlitz and Skookumchuck Wildlife Areas. Your best bet is to do some research on WDFWâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s website (wdfw.wa.gov) and contact the regional biologist. A bit further afield are the flocks of the Columbia River Gorge. Head up the Klickitat and Wind River drainages, where youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll have a chance at a Rio Grande or a Merriamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s well worth the drive, as the Wind and Drano Lake will be open for springers too, providing a chance to pull off a springtime cast and blast. April is the best springtime month for Northwest sportsmen. Grab the fishing rod or the shotgun and head outdoors. Spring is finally here and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time to catch some fish and maybe bag a turkey. NS

With limited turkey hunting opportunities in Western Washington, South Sound gobbler gunners are advised to instead head to Klickitat County, the Blues, or the stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s northeast corner. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s where Ryan Brooks bagged his bird last season. (JASON BROOKS)

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HUNTING

Spring Turkey Forecast Prospects look good in Oregon, Washington. By Mikal Cline

O

regon’s wild turkeys continue to thrive, despite some mortality during the winter of 2016-17. We may notice a missing cohort of 2-year-old toms in the field this year, but in general the populations are quite healthy. Oregon primarily offers Rio Grande wild turkey hunting, though some Merriam’s still persist in the Cascades. Oregon’s core populations exist in the southwest portion of the state, in the vicinity of Roseburg and Medford. The scattered oak savannas and transitional pine forests offer excellent habitat. Mild winters and early springs contribute to high survival and productivity. Take advantage of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Access & Habitat Program (dfw.state.or.us/lands/AH) if you are struggling to find good hunting access in this area. The Jackson Travel Management Area near Shady Cove is a personal favorite. Wild turkeys also thrive on Forest Service land from the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, in the northeast corner of the state, over to the Ochocos. The Malheur National Forest is one of my favorite spots to hunt turkeys in Central Oregon, thanks to healthy populations and excellent public access. Wild turkey density starts to thin out in the Central Cascades, but the White River area continues to be a big producer. ODFW made a concerted effort to trap and transplant overstocked birds this past winter. I believe we can expect some emerging opportunities

The harsh winter of 2016-17 may have lingering effects on how many turkeys spring hunters see in some parts of the Northwest, but overall prospects are good. Rich and Matt Oakley of Vancouver bagged their first ever gobblers in Klickitat County on the second day of last year’s hunt. Friend Greg Ellyson sent the pic. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

in South-central Oregon (think Klamath to Lakeview), thanks to this effort. The Ochocos and White River Wildlife Management Unit populations will also benefit from ODFW’s efforts. The south Willamette Valley, particularly Lane County, is another emerging opportunity for wild turkey hunters, should they be able to secure hunting access.

WASHINGTON’S

EASTSIDE

TURKEY

populations are robust, prompting

the Department of Fish and Wildlife to propose more liberal fall seasons in some locations. The core population of Washington’s turkeys occurs in the northeast corner of the state, consisting primarily of the Merriam’s subspecies. Colville is the epicenter of spring turkey hunting in Washington, boasting high hunter success rates and a turkey harvest that is an order of magnitude greater than any other turkey management unit in the state. nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2018

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HUNTING We are seeing increased nuisance and damage complaints coming from the suburban fringes of Spokane and Cheney, but hunter access remains a constraint. We are also seeing increasing hybridization between Rio Grande and Merriam’s in this area. The foothills of the Blue Mountains in Southeast Washington are also a world-class destination, with the towns of Dayton, Pomeroy and Walla Walla serving as gateways for excellent Rio Grande turkey hunting. The Klickitat River watershed offers the best turkey hunting closer to the west side of the state. Check with WDFW for access opportunities on wildlife areas and industrial timberlands in the area. Turkey hunting in Southwest Washington for the eastern subspecies continues to be a challenge. These flocks have never thrived, but do

IDAHO BUMPS BAG Spring turkey hunters in the Gem State can now take two bearded birds a day, thanks to a rule change from the Fish and Game Commission earlier this year. It’s yet another sign that gobblers are doing well in much of their range across Idaho. Commissioners also increased fall hunting opportunities in the Panhandle, Clearwater and Southwest regions, and added youth spring and fall controlled hunts in the Salmon district. However, the general spring turkey season was closed in Unit 70, in Southeast Idaho. The annual limit is still two bearded turkeys per spring. –NWS

persist in certain areas, including Lewis County. Tapping into local knowledge is the best way to complete your Washington turkey slam, but you will have to work for it. From Goldendale to the Methow, the east slope of the Cascades continues to hold pockets of wild turkeys, which do seem to be increasing, though there are not rigorous surveys in this area. Again, local knowledge from your district wildlife biologist will help you locate these birds.

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On an interesting note, we have heard evidence that wild turkeys have crossed Snoqualmie Pass and have been seen around North Bend. Also, WDFW is in the process of updating its wild turkey management plan, including the trap and transplant operational guidelines. Until the plan is approved, T&T operations are on hold. NS Editor’s note: Mikal Cline is the National Wild Turkey Federation (nwtf.org) biologist for the Northwest.

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HUNTING

Demystifying Turkey Calling Step into Prof. Johnson’s outdoor classroom for a 201-level tutorial on when to cluck and yelp, and when to just shut up. By MD Johnson

To call, or not to call, that is the question turkey hunters across the Northwest will face this month as the youth then general seasons open. A wise old caller once told author MD Johnson that calling is just 5 percent of the hunt, but knowing what to do when is the key. (JULIA JOHNSON)

Y

ou want the truth? Well, here’s the truth. Books have been written solely about calling wild turkeys. Some years ago, I myself wrote a book in which I devoted an entire chapter specifically to turkey calling. There are turkey calling contests, turkey calling conventions, and more turkey calls than Carter has little liver pills. And if you recognize that last one, welcome to the backside of 50, sir. My point? When it comes to wild turkeys and turkey calling, I think David Hale, one-half of the legendary Knight & Hale turkey call-making team, said it best when he told me – and I quote – “Son,” he said in his slow Kentucky drawl, “only about 5 percent of turkey hunting is turkey calling. The rest,” he continued, “is knowing what to do before the turkey shows up, and then being able to kill ’im once he does show up.” And that, Northwest turkey hunters, is the size and shape of this whole turkey-calling mystery. Anyone can call a wild turkey. Or at least get him to gobble. Most of the time. If you can cluck and purr and yelp, then you already have every sound you’re ever going to need in your auditory arsenal. However – and didn’t you just know there was going to be a however in here somewhere? – there are times when being just a bit more fluent in wild turkey can spell the difference between going home empty-handed, and giving an ol’ gobbler a ride in the back of the pickup. Pardon the cliché, but it’s not rocket science. When I say a little more fluent, I mean just that: a bit more proficient with the call. And,

what’s more, knowing what to do with that call other than use it. Huh? You’ll see.

LEARN HOW TO SHUT UP Ordinarily, I’d save the best for last, but I’m going to make an exception and start with the best advice I can give someone who’s wondering what sort of sound to make on their turkey

call. Ready? Nothing. Set it down. Take the diaphragm call out of your mouth. Sit on your hands, if necessary. Throw your striker away. Essentially, shut up. But hey! Didn’t I spend $26.95 on this Kill’R Turkey Gett’R™? Shouldn’t I be getting my $26.95 out of the call every time I go into the nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2018

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field? No, not really. Here’s how it works. You call. He gobbles and struts. That strutting takes time. So you call again. He gobbles and struts. More delay. And so you call and call and call and call. And he gobbles and gobbles and gobbles. Until finally, he doesn’t gobble anymore. Why? One of two things just happened. Either 1) you called so often, you nasty ol’ Mama Turkey, you, that he decided to stop, strut and wait for this morally casual girlturkey he’s been hearing to come to him. Or 2) he’s fixing to come in silent, at which point he’ll see you before you see him, if you see him at all, and he’ll slink away into the underbrush, disappointed. So shut up. Is it tough to stay quiet when he’s gobbling like a banshee? Absolutely, it is; however, it’s often your best move to be silent. Make him hunt you. Get him to thinking, if gobblers do indeed think, just what happened to that hen? Where did she go? Stay quiet long enough, and he’ll come looking. But you better be ready. Gun up, head down, eyes and ears open. Don’t be moving around like a monkey on a stick. He’s going to come in silent. No gobbling. Maybe a spit ’n drum. Or a gobbler cluck. This has just gotten serious. But back to calling. It’s true. Sometimes shutting up is the best thing you can do when confronted with a particularly stubborn gobbler. Again, and I can’t emphasize this enough, get comfortable. Get ready. Put the call on the ground, and make him hunt you. It’s as intense and as challenging a hunting scenario as you’re going to find anywhere. Guaranteed. But we’re turkey hunters. We have turkey calls. And we want to use these turkey calls. I know I do. So let’s look at a few situations where knowing more than your basic yelp ’n cluck might prove to be a longbeard’s undoing. It’s worthwhile to note here that we’re still yelping and clucking under these circumstances. Yelps and 138 Northwest Sportsman

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Just because you bought a fancy-pants new call doesn’t mean you have to use it every second you’re afield. Part of turkey hunting is actually getting the gobbler to hunt you, and being quiet after a few initial calls will help your cause. (JULIA JOHNSON)

clucks are the foundation of turkey vocabulary; you simply can’t, and you really shouldn’t stray from those. Here, it’s more what to do with the sounds – with the call or calls – rather than what sounds to actually make. Read on; it will make sense.

THE FEISTY HEN You’ve got a gobbler, maybe two, roaming with a pack of hens. Conventional wisdom says – or at the very least, the turkey hunting professionals tell you – to call calmly and quietly to the hens. Your goal is to make them curious. Bring them closer, and in doing so, drag the boys along with them. Have I had it work? On occasion. However, more often than not, what you get is a front-row seat to an unmerciful shunning. That is, the girls look. The toms gobble. And then they move off en masse to another part of the forest or field. Turkeys are fickle that way. Often. My thought here is that I really have nothing to lose, so I get extremely aggressive. I may start


HUNTING

When in a high turkey traffic area, Johnson advises yelping every 10 to 15 minutes, and once he gets a response, puts the call down until the tom calls three or four more times. (JULIA JOHNSON)

with a series of high-volume yelps. Not plaintive or wanting, but angry. Think angry. This gives way to sharpedged cutt’n – bap … bap … bap-bap … bap-bap … bap-bap … bap … bap! Really pop that striker against the top of that pot-and-peg call. Hard. Your objective is to create the scenario where the Mama Turkey on the block has stepped out, seen her minions carousing with the gobblers, and has taken great offense at the entire scene. Ideally, one of the hens in the bunch will start cutt’n back. Good; that’s what you want. Now, every time she opens her beak, cut her off. Fire right back. Note for note, but don’t let her finish. Every time she calls, you jump on it. And I mean all over it. Chances are you’ll hear a whole lot of gobbling as the toms get cranked up, too. Don’t stop; keep it up until your hand cramps and carpal tunnel sets in. For you diaphragm users, go until the roof of your mouth gets raw and your tongue hurts. Better yet, run a friction call and a mouth call simultaneously. It’s a ruckus, plain and simple. In a utopian world, sooner or later, the distant hen will turn and start in your direction, cuttin’ the entire way. Keep it up. Let her drag the entire group right up to your decoy. Then make it count.

ANGRY BIRDS Playing the pissed-off tom works well early to midseason, when a pattern of dominance is being exercised or established. In the late season, gobbler aggression is often not as effective, as the birds are or can be tired after 30 straight days of fighting, breeding, no sleep, and marginal nutrition. It’s a lot like college, only with feathered turkeys. Often, I’ll use this tactic on a gobbler I’m familiar with. I’ve hunted him two or three or more times, and he just doesn’t seem all that interested in the girl-talk I’m handing out. Knowing this, I’ll carry a pair of half-strut jake decoys with me, something überrealistic like Freddie Zink’s Avian-X half-strut jake. And a hen. 140 Northwest Sportsman

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HUNTING I’ll stake the trio out in an area I know this bird to frequent, get comfortable, and then launch into a full-fledged gobbler fight. Fighting purrs, angry gobbler clucks. A lot of aggressive purring. To make it sound even more realistic, I’ll slap my hat or hand on a leg. Really whomp! it hard to sound like those old gobblers beating one another with their wings. Are you also a deer hunter? Think rattling. Same principle. Few, gobblers included, can resist a good fight.

THE SIT ’N WAIT No, I’m not one to take the advice of the writer or seminar speaker who advises to sit down and call once every hour. Oh, and cluck and purr only. Let’s face it; that’s boring. Sure, I can take a nap, but calling once every 60 minutes isn’t taking a nap. That’s a coma. Still, the sit-and-wait strategy can be very effective – if you’re capable of sitting and waiting.

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Becoming more fluent in turkey talk will result in more notched tags. (JULIA JOHNSON)

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to 15 minutes or so, I’ll send out the most natural-sounding series of yelps I can produce. Nothing aggressive; just yelps. Moderate volume if it’s quiet; high volume if I’m working with wind. Sixty minutes in, and I get a gobble. I’ll call again. If he responds, I’ll put the call down and let him gobble three or four more times before I make another sound. Think hard to get.

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Over the years, I’ve been asked a thousand times about using a gobble call. And I always answer the same way. Do I carry one? Typically, yes. Do I use it? Typically, or almost always, no. For one, and since my first gobbler in 1990, I’ve never – not once – called a bird to the gun with a gobble call. I’ve had them gobble back at a gobble call. However, I’ve also had birds gobble at my rendition of an irritated Mama Cow, and once, in Texas, I listened to a tom gobble enthusiastically at professional turkey caller Alex Rutledge’s version of a mad chicken. They’ll gobble at a lot of things. Or nothing. A couple other things about using a gobble call. One, it’s not uncommon for a gobbler upon hearing another gobbler to up and run away. It’s an intimidation thing. So how well do you know the bird you’re dealing with? Is he the dominant tom, one that might be incensed by hearing another bird gobble? Or is he a subordinate bird and more likely to run away? And finally, there’s the safety aspect of using a gobble call. That’s the sound we want to hear, and I’ll admit, some of these tubes sound pretty realistic. Add distance, terrain, and a little wind, and I might start in the direction of someone standing on a ridge shaking a tube. I’m not going to say not to use one, only to use a gobble tube with the utmost caution. That, and be careful out there this spring. Scout. Pattern. Scout. Practice. And get to know turkeys like you do blacktails, whitetails, elk and bears. Treat ’em like the big game animals they are, and you’ll go afield better prepared. Much better prepared. NS


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HUNTING Gobblers will be sounding off throughout April across the Northwest, with the peak of the “turkey rut” during the second half of the month. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

April’s Turkeys Are No Fools

Northwest spring hunters should change tactics as the month wears on. By Troy Rodakowski

A

red bobbing head was moving through the brush and I could see the turkey would be in range within seconds. “Gobble-obble-obble,” he sounded off behind the brush. I slid my finger to the safety and clicked it into the firing position. Just

a few more steps and he would be mine. Another gobble and some more drumming came from behind the brushy cover. My heart raced as the bird finally stepped into the opening: His head was bright red and he had a nice snood, though I couldn’t see his chest to check beard length. I had no time to wait, though, as he was about to disappear, so I fired. My shot was

true and the bird flopped about crazily as I jumped the creek and blew through poison oak to step on his neck. Every spring, these feelings and rushes of emotion are chased by turkey hunters across this great country. I’ve found that no matter how much you think you know about these magnificent birds, they always have a trick or two under their wing to nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2018

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HUNTING prove you wrong. They’re smart, and just when I think that maybe I have them figured out, they make me look like a fool. However, I eagerly accept the challenge season after season.

EARLY APRIL The spring turkey opener can be tricky. There have been years when it’s been 29 degrees and snowing, and others when temps were in the 70s or higher, with mosquitoes and ticks trying to latch on as you creep through the woods. This year I suspect we’ll see a potpourri of weather throughout the Northwest. Regardless, early in the season birds will be eager to find lonely hens when and where they’re available. Many gobblers will be “henned up,” so to speak. These birds are tough to hunt and present a big challenge. When I have found myself in this situation there are a few things I have done to find success. First of all, make sure to make those hens mad. You are going to steal their gorgeous hunk of strut. Mimic a hen and get her fired up. You are the new gal on the block and she doesn’t know you. Chances are Mr. Wonderful will follow her right into range. Next, make sure to keep an eye on the birds. If you can’t set a dialogue with the hen, then wait them out. She will eventually go to nest or feed off. When she does, you need to make the best of the situation and intercept the gobbler. He will be looking for another lady once she disappears. Playing your cards right is the key to finding an opportunity at a great bird.

Beard length is big with many spring hunters, but a good set of spurs is another sign that you’ve bagged a mature tom. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

Find new places and isolated meadows where gobblers will set up strut zones and seek out hens. These places, particularly in mountainous areas, will be where birds will hang for a great portion of the spring breeding season.

MID-APRIL Birds have likely been breeding since late March. Gobblers are starting to get desperate to find receptive hens. This is when hunters can take advantage of the conditions. I think mid-April is one of the best times to hunt turkey. Gobblers are on the hunt and breeding is usually at its peak during this time frame. Good calling is essential, but make sure not to overcall. By the third week of the month gobblers become very wary,

DRESS FOR SUCCESS While turkey hunting in April in Oregon, I’ve had the weather go from sunny and 80 degrees to pouring down rain, hailing and a 25- to 30-degree temperature drop within a matter of 45 minutes. There have also been mornings that it’s snowed, so I strongly recommend wearing clothing for warm-weather hunting as well as cool, winter-like conditions. Also, when going on extended morning or afternoon hunts, I like to take an extra undershirt for added warmth or to replace a sweated-out shirt. Keeping your feet from sweating or getting too cold is also important. Make sure to take a light pair of hiking shoes, along with a good insulated pair of boots to leave in the rig just in case. Also, a good bottle of bug spray will keep the mosquitoes and ticks off. They both can be very bad at times. –TR 148 Northwest Sportsman

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so keeping the calling to a minimum will help. Light yelps and clucks mixed with some purring will likely work best during this time frame. Box and slate calls are also very effective in many instances. Learning the basic yelp, cluck, purr and some cutting will increase your chances. Sometimes it is necessary to use a hen and jake decoy to get birds to commit. Of course, I have also seen turkeys spook when they see faux birds. Usually, this is the result of heavy hunting pressure, so make sure to assess every situation before throwing the decoys out of your vest. Try to use gentle calling when you are able to locate birds, especially later in the season. Whatever part of the season we’re in – pre, early, middle, late – patterning is essential if you wish to increase your chances, so make sure to start now.

LATE APRIL This is when it gets fun and very challenging for turkey hunters. Birds are now wise to calling and decoys, and have retreated to places with less pressure. It’s time to tighten your bootlaces. Hitting ridge tops and yelping loudly or cutting can sometimes entice a gobble. A loud crow call can


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HUNTING also get a bird to shock gobble from a long distance. Oftentimes, I’ve found myself much closer to a bird than anticipated after making initial contact. Depending on direction, try to stay upslope above the bird and always make sure to have some clear shooting lanes, as gobblers can approach from any direction. These birds are quite wary and many times will make their way toward you silently and from an angle that you initially may not have anticipated. Of course, not every set-up is perfect or goes as planned, but doing your best to mentally prepare yourself prior to pursuing a bird you can increase your chances. Small evergreens, downed logs, sagebrush and rocks will become your best friend for blinding up or as backdrops. Sneaking slowly through the woods and using locator calls will be the best bet prior to making contact with a bird. NS

Packing a big tom out of the woods in April is a great reward for hunters willing to put in their time and adapt their tactics to the different parts of the month. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

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HUNTING

Lessons From The Turkey Trail Author Tim Hovey has hunted many different species, and after each outing, he takes stock of the experience to consider lessons learned that may pay off the next time. He says spring turkeys test his learning curve like no other. (TIM E. HOVEY)

Testing himself against gobblers has helped hone the hunting skills of one sportsman. By Tim E. Hovey

I

n my small hunting circle we have a running joke. After each trip and in the most condescending voice imaginable, one of us will ask the others, “What have we learned?” It’s usually stated after one of us has goofed up or done something that has negatively impacted our success. It’s something I used to say to myself after solo trips to evaluate my trip and to become a better hunter. And despite it being used now as kind of a joke, I still use it to better myself. Over my hunting career, I’ve consistently evaluated my outdoor experiences. I carefully examine the highs and lows to better my chances at success. After every trip, I ask myself, “What would I do differently?” No species has tested this learning curve more than the wild turkey.

I TOOK MY first gobbler hunt in 1999,

and after reading up on the birds and getting advice from veterans, I noticed a theme. Everyone stated turkeys have incredible eyesight. The biologist in me knew that most birds do, but the hunter in me wondered how well they could actually see. That first hunt would answer all my turkey vision questions. Set up with my buddy Darren in the shade of an oak, we started calling towards a creek bed covered in turkey tracks and droppings. We didn’t have a decoy, but dressed in camo and tucked in the shadows, we figured we were plenty hidden. After 30 minutes of calling, Darren spotted a jake slowly walking in our direction 200 yards across a small open field almost directly in front of us. Excited about the sighting and a little out of position, I scooted to my left while moving only my legs. Instantly, the turkey turned around and began trotting away. Even

though I was deep in the shadow of the tree and had only moved my legs 8 inches, the approaching jake had detected something off and was gone. Darren stated what I already knew: “He spotted you moving.” Lesson: Listen to those who have hunted before you. I can’t say for sure that the jake would’ve eventually come into range; I only know that I was the reason he left. On ensuing hunts, I would sit stone still and avoid any movement. Using a diaphragm call and a facemask I could call and search the area only moving my head slightly. In those early days, the area we hunted was heavily pressured, and while I did get plenty of practice calling and remaining motionless, we did not kill a bird. That would come after more lessons.

I HAD BEEN helping the owner of a piece of property with predator control and to show her appreciation, nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2018

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HUNTING she asked if I wanted to hunt it on opening day of turkey season. I had seen turkeys there plenty of times, but as soon as they saw my truck, they’d head for cover. I remember one time I parked the truck out of sight at the edge of a field. I sneaked up to a huge oak and stayed hidden in the shadows. I was glassing for coyotes when I noticed movement across the field almost 300 yards from us. A flock of about a dozen turkeys were quickly trotting back to the brush as if they were being chased. I was confident that I had stayed hidden during my approach, but when I went back to the truck and lined up their line of sight, I noticed that they could see about 2 feet of my front bumper. A shiny reflection at the edge of a field 300 yards away was all it took to send them packing. On opening morning, I sat in the dark shadows of a low oak with my friend Chris. We had parked over a

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half-mile away and hiked in before light. The evening before, I had watched the birds roost in a tree a few hundred yards from where we were set up. We were completely covered in camo, and with a camo fence placed in front of us, any slight movement we made would be obscured. We also placed a lone hen decoy 15 yards in front of us to complete our ensemble. As the morning unfolded, we started to notice a flaw in our setup. I would use the slate call and get the attention of birds, but once they spotted our decoy, mature toms would act aggressive and begin to fight out beyond shotgun range. We watched this happen over a dozen times with different groups of birds. They’d hear the soft chirps of the call, spot the hen decoy and just start battling. After chasing each other around for a few minutes and dusting up the area, they’d always move off and out of sight. Two hours in, Chris slowly

turned to me and shrugged. While I was confident in our camo, I knew exactly what our set-up was missing; a jake decoy. Mature toms will fight other mature male birds for their chance to breed with available hens. That’s exactly what we were seeing. However, if they spotted a jake in close proximity to a hen, they wouldn’t tolerate it. I’ve personally witnessed a tom turkey beat on a jake so severely that the young male limped away with a broken wing. During a lull in the action, I eased out from behind the fence and moved the hen decoy further up the drainage. Thirty minutes later, Chris and I harvested two toms that moved into range with the new placement of the decoy. Lesson: Don’t be afraid to adjust to changing field behaviors. Without a jake decoy, Chris and I likely wouldn’t have bagged our birds if we hadn’t relocated our decoy to draw tom turkeys closer.


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HUNTING LAST YEAR MY DAUGHTER Alyssa and I were invited to hunt turkeys with my friend Casey. He had suggested we arrive a day early so we could watch our target flock roost. From our hidden position we observed the 20 birds feed across an open field. A large tom displayed near the edge of the group as he looked to impress a harem of hens. The first few times he did this, he appeared to be the dominant bird in the group. Then we noticed something. If the tom got into the middle of the flock and tried to display, three very aggressive jakes would chase him out and away from the hens. For over an hour we watched the jakes harass the tom as they moved towards their roosting area. Casey mentioned that this behavior was strange and it might be tough to get the big tom close enough for a shot. With the birds now in the trees, we quietly set up a large portable blind

near the edge of the field. The next day we hiked back to the field in the dark and got set up. We climbed in the blind and Casey put out one single hen decoy so that the group would have to move in front of us to investigate. Then we waited. One by one, the birds left their roost as the sun started to peak over the horizon. Before they came into view, Casey, who’s hunted turkeys for over 20 years, looked over at Alyssa and told her that she needed to kill the tom the first chance she got. He was convinced the aggressive jakes wouldn’t let him get very close and if we were to be successful, she should shoot when he told her to. With one set of clucks on the mouth call from Casey, the birds started to move our way. I could hear the jakes again harassing the tom out of view. Alyssa’s gun was already up when Casey leaned over and told her to take the shot. When I leaned over to see the tom

he was out around 40 yards and at the edge of the effective range of Alyssa’s shotgun. I almost said something but decided not to. Alyssa took aim, fired and knocked the tom down. He got back up, and after some searching we ended up finding him. Thanks to Casey, my daughter had killed her first turkey. Lesson: Never guide the guide. Casey knew exactly what he was talking about as far as the strange behavior. He knew that the jakes would keep the tom away from the new hen and out at distance. The only reason Alyssa was able to kill her first turkey was because she listened to Casey and I kept quiet. It doesn’t matter how much you think you know, there’s always room to learn more. I’m thankful that I’m not only comfortable with this outdoor mantra, but that I thirst to evaluate and examine the highs and lows after every trip so that I can be the best outdoorsman I can be. For me, that will never change. NS

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Get The Jump On Bumper Training

COLUMN

Bumpers come in a variety of sizes, colors and textures, and knowing which ones to use when and where is key to successful gun dog training. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

T

he instant Echo launched from the elevated platform, I could tell she’d lost her mark. The bumper had already hit the water, GUN DOGGIN’ 101 but the surface looked By Scott Haugen like a mirror, and she was looking directly into the glare. The current was swift, and it was too late to pull her back, so I used a whistle and hand signals to direct her downstream. Then I moved her back so she could smell the bumper as it neared. It worked; she got the bumper, though not the way I’d planned. As I learned that day, my bumper choice was not a good one based on the lighting in both the sky and on the water. I often train in this place but this was the first time I’d been there so late in the day, under clear conditions. I didn’t have a black-and-white bumper

or an all-black bumper, so we moved our training session to another location with less glare.

WHEN IT COMES to bumpers, they are colored for a reason. Pick what’s best for the dog, in the range of conditions you’ll be training, then it will be perfectly clear what your bumper choice should be. Because dogs have dichromatic color perception (yellow and blue), they are not totally colorblind. But they can distinguish various colors based on brightness, or contrast, and that’s where your bumper selection can start. “Dogs won’t necessarily see the orange color of a bumper, but they’ll see the object,” notes professional trainer and pudelpointer breeder Jess Spradley of Cabin Creek Gundogs (cabincreekgundogs.com, 541-219-2526) in Lakeview. “Orange bumpers are good for blind retrieve training because the dog can’t see them like they do a white

bumper, but they can smell ’em. Once you handle a bumper, the dog can detect your scent on it, and they can pick up on the plastic smell. The first time they grab it, they’re getting their slobber and scent on it, and these are how they smell it even though they can’t see it.” Orange bumpers are more commonly hidden than thrown, as this encourages the dog to use its nose to locate the object. “You’ll be amazed how far away a dog will smell hidden bumpers,” emphasizes Spradley. When training against a dark backdrop, a white bumper is a good choice. “Hillsides, trees and embankments are all good places to use a white bumper,” Spradley continues. “When tossing against a brighter sky, black-and-whitecolored bumpers offer good contrast that makes it easier for the dog to see.” If it’s really bright outside, and if you’re training on water that has a lot of

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COLUMN glare, an all-black bumper will be easier for the dog to mark. Bumpers come in a variety of textures and sizes. “Some dogs simply don’t like the plastic feel of certain bumpers, for whatever reason, be it harder or softer than their preferred bumper,” Spradley points out. “Try different brands of bumpers to see what most excites your dog.” “Canvas bumpers can be really good, for a couple reasons,” he adds. “First, when a pup is losing their teeth in that 4- to 6-month age range, a canvas bumper can help keep them interested in bumpers, as it’s softer and more comfortable to their mouth than hard plastic. Second, scent can be added to canvas, and this can help a dog associate certain odors with a retrieve. For instance, putting duck scent on a canvas bumper will help in training your dog to retrieve ducks.”

AS PUP GROWS and you know you’ll be hunting ducks and geese, even grouse

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and pheasants, introduce them to large bumpers. “When the pup is about 6 months old, introduce them to bigger bumpers,” Spradley concludes. “As soon as the pup’s adult teeth start coming in, and they’re comfortable picking up larger bumpers, stick with that. This will make it easier for them when it comes time to retrieve larger birds.” You can also add weight to a bumper. I started by adding 2 pounds of sand inside a bumper, then 5 pounds, and increased it to 10 pounds using heavier items. When it came time for my dogs to pick up big geese in the 12- to 14-pound range, they could both handle it. And my bigger dog, a tall, lanky male, had no problem retrieving a turkey last fall that tipped the scales to 18 pounds. When it comes time to start training your dog with bumpers, get a variety and try them all. Now that you know what colors and sizes to get, and why, and what texture can influence a dog’s drive, you’re on your way to more efficient training.

Bumpers are great training tools when it comes to teaching your dog water retrieves, blind retrieves and more. Gradually adding weight to the thick plastic products will prepare your pup for bringing back heavier game birds such as geese. (SCOTT HAUGEN) Used properly – don’t let them become a chew toy – bumpers will greatly expedite training sessions, and help you in building the ideal gun dog. NS Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is host of The Hunt, on Netflix. To watch some of his basic puppy training videos, visit scotthaugen. com. Follow Scott on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


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COLUMN

Members of the National RiďŹ&#x201A;e Association and Second Amendment supporters will gather in Dallas, Texas, early next month for the organizationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 147th annual meetings. (DAVE WORKMAN)

15$6KRZ1HZ5LĂ H Bullets Highlight Spring A lot of local outdoorsmen and -women are getting ready for spring turkey hunting or early varmint hunting in April, while ON TARGET By Dave Workman tens of thousands of hardcore firearms aficionados and Second Amendment activists will use the month to prepare for an event looming on the first weekend of May. The National Rifle Association will gather for the 147th annual membersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; meetings and exhibits in Dallas, Texas, in downtownâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Everybody who is anybody in the gun rights movement typically shows up for this mammoth convention. Some estimates go as high as 80,000, and a

lot of Northwesterners and Californians, some folks from Alaska and you can bet a lot of people from Idaho will be heading to the Lone Star State, me included. There is already a controversy brewing, because Dallas Mayor protem Dwaine Caraway has asked the association to stay away. His argument is that the NRAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s convention â&#x20AC;&#x153;is not appropriate in Dallasâ&#x20AC;? after the tragic high school shooting in Florida in February. But the annual meeting is required by the NRA bylaws, and the location was picked probably two years ago. As for asking the NRA to not come, I recall the late Charlton Heston, then NRA president, telling another official in another city that didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want the association to gather, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re already here.â&#x20AC;? With 5 million members, and

Texas being a very Second Amendmentfriendly state, it would be delusional to think there arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t any members in and around Dallas, Fort Worth and other parts of the state.

THINGS KICK OFF on the evening of May 3 with the annual NRA Foundation Banquet and Auction. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a major fundraiser for Foundation activities, and the doors swing open at 5 p.m. Things really crank up on Friday, the 4th, when the exhibit hall opens at 9 a.m. with some 800-plus exhibitors. All the guns and gear you can imagine will be on display, and a few years ago thenNRA Secretary Jim Land explained that there are actually very few facilities in the entire country that are big enough to handle this event. The last time the NRA came to nwsportsmanmag.com | APRIL 2018

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COLUMN

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Savage Arms’ new Model 110 Engage Hunter XP comes in 16 calibers, from 243 Winchester to .338 Winchester Magnum. (SAVAGE ARMS)

the Northwest was in 1997 and the Washington State Convention Center was barely big enough to handle it all. Exhibit Hall hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, and the Sunday hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Two events occur Friday that are worth noting. There’s the NRA Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon and

Auction starting at 10 a.m., and that evening will see the NRA Country Jam kick off at 7:30 p.m. This year’s entertainment features the Randy Rogers Band. On Saturday, the actual members’ meeting convenes at 10 a.m. with reports from NRA President Pete Brownell, Executive Vice President

Wayne LaPierre, and Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action. That evening starting at 7 p.m., a major event will honor country music legend Charlie Daniels. Joining him will be Travis Tritt and other special guests, according to the NRA website. Daniels will be recognized for his charitable activities, particularly his work for U.S. servicemen and -women. Things wrap up on Sunday with the 5th annual NRA Women’s New Energy Breakfast. And, of course, the NRA store will be open all three days.

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Arms, now part of the Vista Outdoors empire, and that outfit recently announced another in its tradition of rifle-scope combos for hunters. This year it’s the Model 110 Engage Hunter XP, featuring the time-tested Model 110 bolt-action rifle topped by a Bushnell Engage 3-9x40mm scope with a drop-compensating reticle. The package includes a set of Weaver Grand Slam rings and bases, which just happen to be among my favorite mounting systems. I’ve never had a problem with Weaver mounts, and I’ve been using them for a lot of years – plenty of opportunity for something to go wrong. The Model 110 has an adjustable length of pull, the proven AccuTrigger, a detachable box magazine and black


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Brought To You By:

KICK-EEZ synthetic stock. The barrel and receiver are blued and barrel length depends upon the caliber, and there are a bunch of choices, 16 in all, ranging from .243 Winchester to .338 Winchester Magnum. I killed my first buck with a Model 99 Savage lever action in .300 Savage. I still own that rifle – it was Grandpa’s gun that he gave to me upon graduation from high school a very long time ago – along with a Savage All American in .308 Win. Both of them are deadbang accurate, and the bolt gun was what I used a few years back to anchor possibly the biggest Washington buck I’ve ever tagged, a four-by-five muley, over on the breaks of the Snake River. I’ve never seen a Savage rifle that wasn’t accurate. I’ve hunted with them in various calibers over the years, and none of them ever let me down. I still handload for both the .300 and .308, using boattail bullets from Speer or Nosler ahead of IMR4895, which is a very consistent propellant for these calibers, in my opinion. I use a 150-grain pill in the .300 Savage and prefer a 165-grainer in the .308 Win.

WHILE I RELOAD my own, for those who don’t, today’s factory ammunition is undoubtedly the best ever, thanks to constant research and development of new bullets and propellants. As I noted earlier, April is often the time of year when riflemen start gearing up for varmint hunting, and Sig Sauer has recently announced its new Varmint & Predator Elite Performance line of cartridges. Offered in .223 Remington/40-grain, .22-250 Remington/40-grain, and .243 Winchester/55-grain presentations, this stuff sizzles. In .223 Rem., it leaves the muzzle at a reported 3,650 feet per second, and the .22-250 Rem. warps out at a reported 3,975 fps. The .243 Win. 55-grainer clocks at a reported 3,880 fps. All three of these projectiles will cross a couple hundred yards in less time than it takes to blink. Prairie dogs, rockchucks and coyotes cannot outrun one of these bullets. Too bad. NS 166 Northwest Sportsman

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