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FISHING • HUNTING • NEWS NWSPORTSMANMAG.COM

WESTSIDE

BASS Catch Trophy Spawners!

SALT TO TASTE!

Hells Canyon Flatheads

Washington Halibut

Vancouver Island Bottomfish

Last-gasp Turkeys

How To Avoid Seasickness

Morel Mushrooms Also Inside

Columbia Gorge Walleye

Oregon Cascades Kokanee, Lakers

Drano, Trib Springers

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Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

Volume 10 • Issue 8

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

70TH

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ANNIVERSARY

PUBLISHER James R. Baker EDITOR Andy Walgamott LEAD CONTRIBUT0R Andy Schneider THIS ISSUE’S CONTRIBUTORS Jason Brooks, Roger Davis, Scott Haugen, Doug Huddle, Sara Ichtertz, MD Johnson, Renee Johnson, Randy King, Rob Lyon, Dan Magneson, Buzz Ramsey, Troy Rodakowski, Dave Workman, Mark Yuasa 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 DESIGNERS Kayla Mehring, Sam Rockwell, Jake Weipert

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ALUMAWELD STRYKER

CORRECTION In March’s feature on fishing tailwaters for walleye, two images were incorrectly attributed. The color photos on pages 62 and 64 should have been credited to Geoff McMichael, not author Dennis Dauble.

DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and get daily updates at nwsportsmanmag.com.

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CONTENTS

VOLUME 10 • ISSUE 8

FEATURES 43

WESTSIDE TROPHY BASS It’s not so much the lure or the lake that’s most important, says lunker largemouth catcher and two-time cover boy Roger Davis. He’s got your guide to catching Northwest bass during spring’s spawn!

59

CATCH A ‘FRESHWATER FREIGHT TRAIN’ Dan Magneson spends his days growing coho, but for this Midwest transplant, when it’s time to fish, it’s all about flathead catfish. With the Snake River’s Brownlee and Oxbow Reservoirs the best spots in the Northwest to tussle with big whiskerfish, Magneson sets you up for a battle royale with the locomotive of the depths.

75

WASHINGTON HALIBUT Even with a slightly lower quota, expectations are still high for this popular fishery. Mark Yuasa has the scoop on seasons, top spots and best rigging!

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87

(SARA ICHTERTZ)

NO CHUMMING! As Oregon angler Renee Johnson knows all too well, seasickness can strike even in seemingly calmer seas, making outings for lingcod, rockfish, salmon and other species miserable. With ocean season in full swing, she shares how to do more fishing and less chumming. AN ISLET FOR ADVENTURE Vancouver Island’s wild west coast offers outstanding salmon and bottomfish action, whether fishing out of the well-known ports and resorts or paddling out to where ocean waves boom against barrier islands. Rob Lyon shares he and a friend’s exciting adventure – and a good hot-rock rockfish recipe!

111 BRYANNA’S ‘DISNEYLAND’

Some know Drano Lake’s west end by its not-so-savory nickname, but it’s all about perspective. For Bryanna Zimmerman, trolling the spring Chinook tributary is as fun a ride as any at an amusement park. Our Sara Ichtertz got a chance to hop aboard with her “tiny yet mighty” friend for a sizzling-good late May fishing weekend. 119 CASCADE LAKES BECKON, PART I With the lakes of Oregon’s Cascades providing great getaways and solid fishing as they melt out in spring, trout hound Troy Rodakowski shares this year’s prospects as well as sizes up the local campgrounds and resorts at Crescent, Cultus, Odell and Twin Lakes and Crane Prairie and Wickiup Reservoirs. 139 AVOID BEING THE GOBBLEE Spring brings out the nasties in the Northwest’s turkey woods, but MD Johnson has the guidebook

for avoiding mean-spirited little bugs, Shelob and her eight-legged friends, slithery serpents and poisonous plants while chasing that late-season tom. 147 LATE TURKEY TACTICS With turkey season running to the end of this month, we pressed Troy Rodakowski into doing double duty this issue. He shares tactics for putting a real feather in your cap – bagging the toughest game bird Idaho’s, Oregon’s and Washington’s woods hold, a May tom.

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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COLUMNS (AUSTIN BOWEN)

53 THE KAYAK GUYS

When the Columbia Gorge isn’t blowing, it can be a great place to troll for walleye from a kayak, and one of the best spots is off the mouth of the Deschutes River. Austin Bowen rigs up his ’crawler harnesses to give you an on-the-water tutorial! 103 BUZZ RAMSEY With springers sliding into their spawning tributaries this month, Buzz writes that it’s time to target them in the deep holes and offers two top set-ups for salmon success.

153 CHEF IN THE WILD With mushrooms ripe for the picking across the Northwest this month, Chef Randy’s here with a big sack of ’em and a recipe for ham, wild rice and morel mushroom soup!

127 NORTH SOUND Didn’t get a chance to go out for Skagit-Sauk steelhead last month but still want to fish this big North Cascades river system? Work your way well downstream for a chance at hooking bull trout and sea-run cutts in the forks.

157 GUN DOG Training your new pup to fetch may be one of the most important lessons you’ll ever teach it, but there are right and wrong ways. Scott details how to keep it positive and fun with your budding gun dog.

131 SOUTH SOUND “May is a month of adaptation and planning,” tips Jason Brooks as he recalibrates your trout and turkey tactics, and dives into how you should really look at this month’s special permit application period. 12 Northwest Sportsman

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161 ON TARGET Coincidence?!? No sooner had the feds disbursed Pitmann-Robertson Act money from special excise taxes on guns and ammo back to the states than a new round of rifles and cartridges came out to tempt shooters! Dave has the good news.


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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

THE BIG PIC: FAILURE TO LAUNCH

With wolves not spreading into the South Cascades – key for reaching recovery goals – Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission members want to know if 2011’s statewide wolf plan can be tweaked.

DEPARTMENTS 17

THE EDITOR’S NOTE Confessions of an armchair fisheries biologist

19

SOCIAL SCENE Reader reactions to recent news

29

READER PHOTOS FROM THE FIELD Walleye, saltwater catches, spring Chinook, a freakin’ huge cougar

33

PHOTO CONTEST WINNERS Browning, Yo-Zuri monthly prizes

43

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

37

THE DISHONOR ROLL Turn In Poachers program record payouts; Fish trafficker sentenced; Jackass of the Month

43

BIG FISH Record Northwest game fish caught this month

39

DERBY WATCH Baker County derbies; NSIA Spring Fishing Classic, other recent results; Ongoing and upcoming derbies

41

OUTDOOR CALENDAR Upcoming openers, new Anacortes boat and yacht show

41

BIG FISH Record Northwest game fish caught this month

51

RIG OF THE MONTH Spinnerbait stinger hook set-up

107 RIG OF THE MONTH Slip bobber set-up

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THEEDITOR’SNOTE

Covers of Patrick McManus’s beloved books, and the man himself. (EASTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY)

A

s we worked on this issue, fishing and hunting funnyman Patrick McManus passed away. He was 84. A true Northwest gem, McManus wrote for national magazines, and his works were compiled into beloved books. “This is the departure of a legend,” wrote Andrew McKean, former Outdoor Life editor. “As a writer, he was funny, irreverent, wickedly naughty, and his collection of characters will endure in our hunting camps and imaginations for generations. As a man he was kind, thoughtful, and unfailingly polite. One of my most memorable jobs upon joining OL was editing Pat’s words, and later working with him to deliver his annual holiday-season column after he ‘officially’ retired. RIP, PM” I owe a debt of gratitude too. As a lad, I poured over A Fine and Pleasant Misery, They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They? and others and used them as inspiration in trying my own hand at telling tales of times afield. Encouragement from family led me to write more, which pretty soon got out of control, and well, here we are today. McManus grew up in North Idaho surrounded by females, not unlike I did after my parents divorced and my sisters, mom, dog, cat and I moved in with one of my grandmothers. His youth provided the cast of characters that salted and spiced his stories, people like mentor Rancid Crabtree and friend Retch Sweeney. My favorite story was about his first deer, which he somehow lashed to his bicycle – only the buck wasn’t really dead yet. And I’ve seen my share of his kind of deer tracks, ones so fresh pine seedlings have sprouted in them. He may not have been a good hunter or angler, but over his lifetime, his books – which included a fictional series – reportedly sold more than 5 million copies. Along with a Distinguished Faculty Award from Eastern Washington University, where he taught, in 1986 he won the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s highest honor, the Excellence in Craft award. “Pat McManus is not a ‘funny writer.’ He is a highly intelligent craftsman who milks and molds a situation for the desired effect,”wrote Spokane outdoor writer Alan Liere in a 2009 perspective for OWAA on his mentor. “Each sentence is carefully crafted to this end. Each word is judged for potential effect. McManus can make anything humorous.” As I grew older and my reading tastes changed, so did my writing, but I’ve always tried to incorporate the style of humor I learned from him where appropriate. Liere’s piece is wrapped around a lunch he and McManus enjoyed, and he closes with this thought as they exit the restaurant: “Did I buy?” [McManus] grinned as he climbed in his car. “In that case, you owe me.” I closed the door and rapped a goodbye on the front fender. “Do I ever,” I thought. Indeed. –Andy Walgamott nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

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SOCIAL

SCENE

Comment from the www

By Andy Walgamott

SOUTH SELKIRK CARIBOU ALL BUT GONE At press time we were awaiting word on whether any of the last three South Selkirk caribou were pregnant, the only hope that this international-border-hopping herd might hold on. Their numbers declined from 12 last year, and reacting to our post on the news, readers Daniel Ward and Jon Molotte pointed their finger at wolves and other predators, with Bill Tucker adding that neither logging nor recreation “had much to do with any of the decline of the caribou.” Responded Mitch Friedman, “True, there are more cougar and wolves there now, and that has increased predation on caribou. Know why the predator population is up? Because of the cut blocks! The browse that grew in the clearcuts feed an increase in ungulates, (which) caused an increase in carnivores.”

LOSS OF A LEGEND Last month we lost Patrick McManus, an outdoor storyteller whose back-page pieces in Field & Stream and Outdoor Life were compiled into beloved books such as A Fine and Pleasant Misery, Never Sniff a Gift Fish and The Grasshopper Trap, staples in Northwest sportsmen’s bookshelves. Our Facebook readers expressed a range of emotions: “His stories made me laugh out loud way before lol,” wrote Kelly Grof. “I had to learn to stop reading his books on airplanes and in other public places,” said Doug Schmidt, who added, “People thought I was a psychopath due to the uncontrollable laughing to the point of tears.” Michael Wood noted, “I would think while reading the stories to say ‘I know someone like that if not myself included.” “Loved his story of the expandable gun safe!” recalled David Putnam. “His stories about life as a kid were wonderful. He will be missed,” Alan Andrews posted. Remembering reading McManus as bedtime stories and around dunes’ campfires, Neal Carlson pointed out, “Thank goodness his books didn’t die with him!”

FLY FOOLISHNESS Al Floorips was up to his old tricks early last month. Whether because this year April Fools fell on a far more sober day, Easter, or because Columbia River managers really were struggling trying to figure out how to hold fisheries on a lower return of fall Chinook, our Facebook post “Fly Fishing Only At Buoy 10?” got a lot of traction – Kevin John from Holiday Market up in Burlington, Washington, told us at North of Falcon he’d had to reassure a number of anglers it was a joke. Online, Scott Hensley, Jerry Brown, Jason Striker, Tim Meier, Stephen Craig, Shane Milburn and Michael O’Leary, among others, were also quickly on to that rascal Floorips’ hijinks.

MOST LIKED READER PIC WE HUNG UP ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE DURING THIS ISSUE’S PRODUCTION CYCLE Wally Sande’s big haul of big rainbows from a Western Washington lake sure turned some heads! He was running a fly behind a dodger that early spring day. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST) nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

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Failure To Launch?

With wolves apparently not making it into the South Cascades recovery region, delaying delisting, Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission wants to know if management plan can be tweaked. By Andy Walgamott

W

ashington Fish and Wildlife Commissioners want to take a look at whether the 2011 state wolf management plan is actually working in a key area and if it could be tweaked. Two somewhat unlikely commissioners

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– at least judging by conventional wisdom standards – led the charge too. They are Jay Kehne, the Conservation Northwest staffer based in Omak, and Kim Thorburn, the Spokane birder. They made their thoughts known during the Department of Fish and

Wildlife’s annual March briefing to the commission on the state of the state’s wolves. That showed that at the very least the Evergreen State had 122 in 22 packs, including 14 successful breeding pairs, at the end of 2017. Those are all increases over 2016 – but


For whatever reason(s), Washington’s wolves haven’t spread west and south down the Cascades from their northeastern corner stronghold very well. It’s suggestive that modeling assumptions made nearly 10 years ago may have been incorrect, a window for potentially revising recovery objectives. (WDFW)

lamented Thorburn. One wolf, a Smackout female, took a 1,700-mile trek the wrong direction entirely. It went from Stevens County southeast across North Idaho into Western Montana before cutting back southwest all the way to Riggins, Idaho, then south to Boise, east across the northern edge of the Snake River Plain to West Yellowstone, took a southeasterly bearing towards central Wyoming, then headed back towards the relative safety of the national park. Same thing with a Loup Loup wolf. It took a 540-mile hike through the Okanogan north into southern British Columbia, with a last ping recorded somewhere east of Kelowna. True, 2017 did see the first capture of a wolf in Western Washington in modern times, in eastern Skagit County, and three years before that the first roadkill west of the crest was recovered east of North Bend. So it’s highly likely that other wolves without GPS devices are lurking elsewhere in the Cascades, steadily moving from east to west, north to south, as WDFW often likes to say. But modeling and assumptions made as far back as nearly a decade ago during development and passage of the wolf management plan – not to mention a March 2014 prediction by then Director Phil Anderson that we could see recovery goals met as soon as 2021 – are now under scrutiny. “The plan is excellent. It was well done. It was based on science, based on input from stakeholders,” Kehne said during a phone interview. “However, it was a plan.”

POINTING TO ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT of Columbia River salmon fisheries, what Kehne says he’s asking for is a check-up on whether the wolf plan is working the

PICTURE way commissioners and WDFW staffers thought it would when it was put together way back in 2008, ’09, ’10 and approved in early December 2011. With very little information about where wolves would actually settle in in Washington, data from other sources was used to create maps of where colonization was most likely to occur and thus the three recovery zones – Eastern Washington, North Cascades and South Cascades/ Northwest Coast. One hundred years from now it might be a different story, but so far Canis lupus has done fantastically well in some of the toughest possible habitat to wear a wolf suit, and very poorly in some of the best. The Teanaway wolves live a valley away from the northern edge of the state’s largest elk herd and yet the pack’s progeny doesn’t appear to give two howls about it. Their one-time neighbors amongst the Colockum’s wapiti, the Wenatchee Pack, disappeared. Despite living amongst the state’s strongest mule deer herd, the Lookouts and Loup Loups haven’t done much of late, numbering as few as five at the end of 2017. Meanwhile, their cousins over in Colville are all but snuggling up with northeastern ranchers’ stock. Kehne pointed to page 67 of the management plan, which notes that “The expectation is that over time, as wolves recolonize Washington, WDFW will be able to collect data from within the state to determine whether the model assumptions are appropriate.” The thought continues on page 68: “If future data reveal that the population

none did diddly squat for reaching state delisting goals.

KEHNE THEN THORBURN spoke up right after WDFW staffers displayed a map showing the 2017 dispersal paths of seven telemetry-collared Washington wolves – animals that went every which way but in the one direction that’s actually needed to help meet current recovery benchmarks. “They’re not dispersing south,”

A Teanaway Pack male captured in 2013. (BEN MALETZKE, WDFW) nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

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PICTURE dynamics of wolves in Washington are significantly different from those used in the model, these conclusions will need to be reevaluated. Incorporating wolf demographic data specific to Washington will allow WDFW to update predictions of population persistence during wolf recovery phases and to revise the recovery objectives, if needed.” I’m no mathematician, but I do pay attention to probabilities (which I use to collect more than my share of fivers from coworkers during the NFL season) and I now think the odds of having four successful breeding pairs in the South Cascades – where there currently are no known wolves – for three straight years as

required for delisting by the end of 2021 are very long at best. I wouldn’t put much more money on four there plus four in the North Cascades and 10 elsewhere in any single year – the recovery shortcut – by 2021 either. But if I’m wrong, hell, feed me to ’em.

MEANWHILE, WOLF NUMBERS in Washington’s upper righthand corner – where no less than 75 percent of the state’s population, 16 of its packs and 12 of the breeding pairs occur – continue to grow. “We’ve been hearing from Northeast Washington for years now, ‘We’re overrun with wolves,’” said Kehne during that March commission meeting. “At first we thought, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, they’re just new there and they’re not used to them.’ But they are overrun with wolves. Southeast Washington will be sooner or later full up

on their quota of wolf packs.” “We’re there,” Commissioner Jay Holzmiller of Anatone interrupted him briefly to say. Kehne, who is a hunter and retired from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, said that with state legislators having granted WDFW $183,000 to look into the State Environmental Policy Act process for translocating wolves around Washington, staffers should also tack on doing so for making a couple “simple changes” to recovery map boundaries. “I guess what I feel now is, we’re at recovery, we just don’t meet it by definition that we established seven years ago,” he said during the commission meeting. “And that bothers me because there’s people that come to these meetings, you know, and tell us their stories about losing livestock. And that’s all part of wolf

CRY ‘HICCUP!’ AND LET SLIP THE DOGS OF SPOOR Dr. Samuel Wasser and his dung-detection dogs are set to begin searching for wolves in Washington’s South Cascades, where the number of public wolf reports is growing but no packs let alone breeding pairs are known to exist. The University of Washington researcher heads up Conservation Canines, which received $172,000 from state lawmakers earlier this year to survey a 2,000-square-mile patch of countryside between I-90 and the Columbia River. Since 1997, Wasser and his rescue dogs have been deployed around the world to help monitor other species, collecting poop the pups find for labs to analyze. Sending handlers and their canine companions into the woods and meadows around Mts. Rainier, Adams and St. Helens should produce results faster than leaving it to wildlife biologists chasing down intriguing leads or hoping to cut tracks in winter’s snows. “Our goal is to maximize coverage of the study area, sampling all areas around the same time, within and between seasons to maximize comparison,” explains Wasser. “Currently, the plan is for a fall and spring sampling, the latter being important to sample for pregnant females. We are still gathering data to identify the best sampling areas. Cost permitting, we hope to have four teams.” Wasser has 17 dogs, including Hiccup, who’s also trained to find moose doots. Which ones are deployed to the recesses of the Gifford Pinchot and south ends of the OkanoganWenatchee and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests hasn’t been determined yet, but he’s confident in his pack’s abilities. “If there are wolves south of I-90, the odds of the dogs locating them should be quite high,” Wasser says. “Colonizing wolves range widely, our dogs can cover huge areas, and their ability to detect samples if present is extraordinary.” Under the state’s wolf delisting scenarios, there must be at 24 Northwest Sportsman

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Conservation Canines field technician Jennifer Hartman and dog Scooby collect a sample during carnivore research in Northeast Washington’s Colville National Forest. (JAYMI HEIMBUCH) least four breeding pairs here to meet the management plan’s current recovery goals. If wolves are found, that might decrease the need to translocate packs here from elsewhere in Washington, notably the northeast corner where most territories are full and conflicts with livestock occur annually. State wildlife managers haven’t been inclined to move wolves around, despite that tool in the plan, but earlier this year Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) successfully kick-started efforts to at least consider it. Legislators also asked Wasser to gather data on the effect any wolves in the region might be having on predator-prey dynamics, and if they’re not, establish base-line data for when they arrive. –AW


Destination Alaska


PICTURE recovery, but I’m really hearing that and it’s bothering me at this stage of the game that we can’t make, at least look into, could we make an adjustment, not be afraid of it, if it made sense?” Commissioner Thorburn thought so. “Getting back to the initial modeling assumptions, everybody involved in the plan development says, ‘We didn’t expect this pileup in Northeast Washington. We expected the dispersal to be a little more spread out.’ And it really has created that social pressure, despite all of the outstanding work by (WDFW) staff,” she said. Commission Vice Chair Larry Carpenter of Mount Vernon said he was on board with having a report prepared for the citizen oversight panel. However, Barbara Baker of Olympia, who as chief clerk of the state House of Representatives before retiring and being named to the commission had

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seen legislators struggle in their attempts to tweak the wolf plan, cautioned that opening it was a “can of worms” and called for more information on how much money has been spent managing wolves. As the meeting came to a close, a “blue sheet” request from Kehne was put to a vote. It asked WDFW to prepare a briefing on “administrative options for conserving wolves including (not limited to):

updating the 2011 wolf conservation and management plan; targeted narrow change to wolf conservation and management plan recovery boundaries and names to better reflect current recolonization in our state; translocation and postdelisting management plan.” It passed 8-1, with Baker voting against it, and is expected to be ready by the commission’s August meeting. NS

KEHNE AND CNW Jay Kehne and Conservation Northwest have become inextricably linked over the past decade, and Kehne endured a trying 2012 state Senate commission confirmation hearing because of that relationship. But a spokesman for the now-Seattle-based organization said that while Kehne is an employee, he has not been involved in its wolf work since late 2017 and instead is focusing his efforts on a Columbia Basin sagelands initiative. “His role on the commission is entirely independent of his work at CNW and he has every right to express opinions that are not reflective of his employer’s positions,” said Chase Gunnell. A statement Conservation Northwest also posted online after the meeting defended the existing wolf plan and said it “is better left as is until recovery goals are achieved.” It also said that WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group, which it is heavily engaged in, will begin discussing what comes after delisting goals are met “and will be advising the Department on how to incorporate new science as well as how to design a fair and inclusive public process for future wolf conservation and management.” –AW


Destination D estination A Alaska laska


Destination Alaska


READER PHOTOS

The ladies were getting it done on the Northwest walleye front in early spring! This is Janielle Paul with a 30-plusincher she caught and released at Banks Lake. “We were trolling a nightcrawler on a Slow Death Hook topped with a couple of red beads and a green sparkle Smile Blade,” reported husband Paul. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

With her springer boat in for repairs, Myra Miller found herself bankbound but still itching to fish. Here she holds a pretty nice-sized walleye she scored from the shores of the Columbia. The Land of Enchantment native is finding that Northwest ’eyes and winter steelhead are making living in the land of rain A-OK! (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Talan Lovelady made it two in a row with this Okanogan County gobbler! The 10-year-old bagged a tom during 2017’s youth hunt too. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Wyatt Lundquist pulled a double play on the Washington Begorrah, now isn’t that a fine-looking fish! Cousins Bryce Stubblefield and Max Valenta show off Max’s Coast, here with a pair of surf perch he caught after digging eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca male kelp greenling, caught on St. Patty’s Day. His mom Jessica says the boys a limit of razor clams in mid-March. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST) are hooked on fishing the salt. (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 | MAY 2018

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READER PHOTOS

This year’s spring Chinook run got off to a slow start, but it still provided lots of great fights and dinners. Fishing with friend Josh Weinheimer, Charlie and Thomas Cooper of Kalama show off one they caught on a moist early April day. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST) We don’t do a whole lot of catch-and-release big game pics in these pages, but we’ll make an exception when it’s a 197-pound cougar! Tribal and state wildlife biologists Bart George and Brian Kertson pose with the huge tom they caught north of Colville to collar for predator-prey study. “He looked big in the tree. But it wasn’t until we had him on the ground that we were gobsmacked,” Kertson told Spokane Spokesman-Review outdoor reporter Eli Francovich. (BRIAN KERTSON, WDFW)

Since putting down his deer rifle and scattergun, Vancouver’s Chad Zoller has been having a lot of fun taking photos of wildlife at nearby Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge, including this close-up of a pair of Canada geese in flight. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

A nice canary rockfish for Brad Mosier, caught off Westport in March. This year’s sublimit was recently raised to two a day in these waters and off Ilwaco. He and friend Gary also limited on lingcod and other rockfish that day. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST) 30 Northwest Sportsman

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Well, somebody had to catch a perch! That’s Dave Anderson behind the yellowbelly, caught during a pretty productive walleye trip on the Mid-Columbia with his father and friends. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)


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Seth Nickell is the winner of our monthly Yo-Zuri Photo Contest! His buddy Kyle Carlson caught and released this beautiful John Day Dam tailrace walleye last winter, and Seth’s pic scores him gear from the company that makes some of the world’s best fishing lures and lines!

NWSPORTSMANMAG.COM

WINNERS!

VISIT US AT

PHOTO CONTEST

Tyler Robinson is our monthly Browning Photo Contest winner, thanks to this shot of his daughter Alika and her Central Washington cow elk, harvested at 100 yards with her muzzleloader last fall. 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 | MAY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 33


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MIXED BAG

Tipsters Paid Record Amount

N

early $24,000 was paid last year to tipsters who helped Oregon fish and wildlife troopers in their neverending hunt for poachers. The record amount “eclipsed” every other year in the 32 years that the Oregon Hunters Association has been running the Turn In Poachers program and is linked to increased reward amounts that took effect in 2017. According to OHA, the fund paid out for 50 cases, whereas previous years saw between 20 and 35 and an average of $10,000. “Obviously increasing the amounts of each reward will result in a greater total paid for the year, but the jump in the number of TIP cases – where a caller requests the reward – suggests there’s more going on,” OHA State Coordinator Duane Dungannon

said in a press release. “The rewards offered are included in news releases published in local media when a poaching case occurs and police are looking for leads, so members of the public can see that we’re offering them some sizable sums to do the right thing.” Oregon State Police Lieutenant Craig Heuberger of the Fish and Wildlife Division credited getting word out about the TIP program and its successes via social media as well as internal streamlining that helps troopers spread the news faster. Reward amounts range from $1,000 for information on bighorn sheep, mountain goat and moose poaching, $500 for elk, deer and pronghorn, and $300 for bear, cougar and wolf that leads to a citation, According to OHA, the program is “largely self-sustaining as the result of

By Andy Walgamott courts ordering convicted violators to pay restitution to the fund.” If you have info on an open case, contact (800) 452-7888, *OSP or TIP@state.or.us.

Oregon’s Turn In Poachers program paid out a record amount last year for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who illegally kill the state’s mule deer and other species. (NICK MYATT, ODFW)

)LVK7UDIÀFNHU6HQWHQFHG

A

nother wild game trafficker has been sentenced in Southcentral Washington. Donnell Frank, 46, must serve four months in prison and pay a $1,050 fine for unlawfully selling sturgeon and Chinook following his guilty plea to three felony counts of fish trafficking. The case against the Portland man began in 2015 when Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials

received a tip that an acquaintance of Frank’s was selling game. Eventually it was discovered that Frank had sold five sturgeon, one of which was undersized, and two wild Chinook. According to WDFW, Frank caught the seven fish during subsistence fisheries, when it’s illegal for tribal members to sell commercially. The agency says the sales mostly occurred out of his pickup truck and involved as much as $500 a deal.

“Black-market activities like these tend to increase poaching and undermine efforts to recover endangered stocks,” said WDFW Captain Jeff Wickersham. Frank was prosecuted in Klickitat County Superior Court and sentenced by Judge Randall Krog. His case follows the guilty plea of Oscar Finley on five counts of felony wildlife trafficking in Yakima County Superior Court earlier this year.

JACKASS OF THE MONTH

J

ust a day after being sentenced in U.S. District Court to spend a month in jail for chopping down a maple tree on federal land in the Elwha River watershed in 2013, Michael D. Welches found himself in trouble yet again. The 63-year-old Port Angeles resident was arrested on the banks of the Quillayute River by state game wardens after allegedly admitting to illegally retaining a 10-plus-pound wild steelhead. A WDFW report stated that Welches, his girlfriend, and his son Richard were also in possession of five rods, all “equipped with unlawful fishing gear” that January day. While the junior Welches has since copped

WDFW Officer Bryan Davidson poses with the two wild steelhead seized from the Welches on the Quillayute River this past January. (WDFW) to unlawfully taking a wild steelhead that day, the senior Welches is fighting the three misdemeanor counts filed against him in Clallam County District Court. He had a late April court date, according to the Peninsula Daily News.

nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 37


1st PRIZE

$1500

King Of The Pool

Sockeye Derby

$2000

(WDFW Permitting)

ALL YOUTH

PRIZE

$250

9-14 1st PRIZE

$550

13 3 th Annual ual

KING ING SALMON DERBY August 3rd, 4th, 5th, 2018

Presented By USI Insurance Services / VIP Insurance Agency North 40 Outfitters

Skipper Meeting Youth 9-14 / $20 Adults 15&up / $50 8&under / Free

/ August 2nd

Daily Side Pots and Raffles All Weekend Long

Tickets are limited, so register early at brewstersalmonderby.com nderby.com

38 Northwest Sportsman

MAY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com

Registration Closes July 30th For more information and official rules please visit our website

Visit us on Facebook!


NSIA Fundraiser ‘A Huge Success’

By Andy Walgamott

Middle Snake Reservoirs Hosting 3 Spring Derbies

B

aker County plays host to not one, not two but three fishing derbies in the coming weeks, with anglers out to catch big catfish and panfish. First up is the Brownlee Crappie Shootout Kayak Fishing Tournament on May 19. It will be held on Brownlee and Oxbow Reservoirs and is headquartered at Richland’s Hewitt Holcomb Park. Entry is $30 with funds going to local nonprofits – this year’s include a veterans rehabilitation outfit and Court Appointed Special Advocates of Eastern Oregon – while top fishermen can expect to win some great prizes. For more, try jaredkrivera@yahoo.com, call (808) 348-1762 or get on Facebook and message Brownlee Crappie Shootout. Next on the list is the Huntington Catfish Derby, put on by the local Lions Club. This year’s 30th annual edition of the event is set for May 26-28 and features daily prizes and $500 for largest overall fish. Also, on Saturday the 26th is the Hookers & Cookers Catfish Cook Off. For more, go to Visit Huntington Oregon Chamber Of Commerce’s Facebook page. And then in early June and in conjuction

with Oregon’s free fishing days comes the Annual Richland Brownlee Panfish Fishing Tournament. Anglers target crappie, bluegill and perch, and fishing is allowed from shore, dock and boat. Organizers award cash for top fish in adults and kids division. Sponsored by Creating Memories for Disabled Children, call (541) 540-9999 for more information. As a pair of lads look on, an angler brings in a flathead during 2013’s Huntington Catfish Derby. Held over Memorial Day Weekend, the shindig also includes a catfish cookoff as well as other food and events. (BASECAMPBAKER.COM)

T

he weather sure put the “spring” in the 26th Annual Spring Fishing Classic, but the early April derby was still “a huge success,” raising more than $34,000 for sportfishing causes, according to organizers. The biggest fish that was caught during the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association-hosted event was Darrell Ehl’s 12.15-pound spring Chinook, good for $500. In the team category, first place went to Jerry Spiess, Sky Masters and Dave Haukeli who put 34.70 pounds in the fish box, a pound and a half more than Marshall Strutz, Ehl and Joel Owen. Masters and Haukeli were also on 2015’s top team, with four fish weighing 48.65 pounds. And Jeff Skogstad’s name was drawn for the brand-new 17-foot Willie drift boat, trailer and seats. Sponsors include Pure Fishing, Scotty, this magazine and others. NSIA says the money will go to “enhance sportfishing opportunities, defend hatcheries, and promote fish conservation measures.” For more, see nsiafishing.org

RECENT RESULTS  Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby, Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, March 9-11:

First place (tie): Micah Hanley of Mount Vernon and Kyle Madison of Port Angeles, 16.85-pound kings ($10,000, $2,000; the top-prize tiebreaker was determined by the order the fish were weighed in)  Everett Blackmouth Derby, Areas 8, March 17-18: First place, Sam Shephard, 11.82 pounds ($4,000); second: Ryan Kies, 11.53 pounds

UPCOMING EVENTS 2018 NORTHWEST SALMON ONGOING,  Through the end of season: Westport Charterboat Association Weekly Lingcod Derby – charterwestport.com DERBY SERIES  July 13-15: Bellingham Salmon Derby

 May 1-31: Surf Perch Fishing Derby, Humbug Mountain

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

to Horsfall Beach – Tony’s Crab Shack and Port O’Call, tonyscrabshack.com/perch-derby  May 5-6: Spring Walleye Classic, Potholes Reservoir – mardonresort.com  May 18-20: The Detroit Lake Fishing Derby, Detroit Lake – detroitlakeoregon.org  May 19: 17th Annual Surf Perch Derby, Long Beach Peninsula – surfperchderby.com  June 23-24 2017: Salmon Enhancement Derby, Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island – nootkamarineadventures.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  Nov. 3-4: Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Salmon Derby

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

nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 39


40 Northwest Sportsman

MAY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com


OUTDOOR

Brought to you by:

CALENDAR UPCOMING BOAT AND SPORTSMEN’S SHOWS May 17-20 Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show, Cap Sante Marina, Anacortes, Wash.; anacortesboatandyachtshow.com

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 10-11, 24-26 Proposed Oregon Central Coast all-depth halibut weekends 11, 13, 25, 27 Areas 2-10 halibut openers 12 Family Fishing Event at Camp Baldwin (free), Women’s Fly Fishing Workshop at Camp Sherman ($, registration) – odfwcalendar.com; Youth fishing events in Auburn, Everett, Seattle, Vancouver, Whidbey Island – wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/kids/events.html 15 Oregon fall controlled big game hunt permit purchase application deadline 18 Special needs students fishing event at Carrie Blake Park Pond, Sequim – wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/kids/events.html 19 Roseburg Rod and Gun Club Youth Outdoor Day (free), Family Fishing Events at Middle Fork, McNary Channel and Powers Ponds, Eckman Lake (free), Steelhead Fishing 101 at Troutdale ($, registration), Young Oregon Hunter Day at Denman Wildlife Area (free) – odfwcalendar.com; Youth fishing events in Lakewood, Kent, Marysville, Sequim – wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/kids/events.html 22 Fishing opener on numerous Oregon waters 23 Washington special permit hunting applications due 25 Last day to hunt turkeys in Idaho 26 Idaho quality trout waters opener; Family Fishing Event at Mt. Hood Pond (free) – odfwcalendar.com; Fishing opens on select Washington streams 31 Last day to hunt turkeys in Washington, Oregon

JUNE 1

Proposed Central Oregon Coast nearshore halibut opener; Fishing opens on select Washington waters 2 Fishing opens on numerous Washington streams; Youth fishing events in Anacortes, Federal Way, Kenmore, Renton, Seattle, Sumas – wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/kids/ events.html 2-3 Oregon Free Fishing Weekend 7-9, 21-23 Proposed Oregon Central Coast all-depth halibut weekends 9 Idaho Free Fishing Day; Kids Fishing Derby, Lynden – wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/ kids/events.html 9-10 Washington Free Fishing Weekend

RECORD NW GAME FISH CAUGHT THIS MONTH Date

Species

5-1-78 5-6-15 5-10-05 5-12-81 5-12-06 5-22-65 5-22-67 5-25-86 5-27-99

Black crappie Tiger trout (image) Smallmouth bass Bluegill Splake 1 Brown trout White crappie Bullhead catfish Big skate

Lbs. (-Oz.)

4.0 18.49 8-1.76 2-5.5 0.78 22.0 4-12 3.88 130.0

(WDFW)

Water

Angler

Lost R. (OR) Bonaparte L. (WA) Henry Hagg L. (OR) Crook Co. pd. (OR) Ririe Res. (ID) Sullivan L. (WA) Gerber Res. (OR) Brownlee Res. (ID) Double Bluff (WA)

Billy Biggs Kelly Flaherty Nick Rubeo Wayne Elmore Brian Allison R.L. Henry Jim Duckett James Winter Dan Cartwright nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 41


FISHING North Sound big bass catcher Roger Davis is partial to bluegillpattern swimbaits this time of year, but admits it’s “about presentation more than lure selection.” (ROGER DAVIS)

Spring Cleaning Your guide to catching trophy Northwest largemouth bass during the spawn. By Roger Davis

I

t’s that time of year here in the Northwest. Flowers blooming, trees blossoming, birds chirping, bees buzzing, and bass – big bass – spawning. While the hunt and

unpredictability of the prespawn is exciting, there’s nothing like fooling a giant female largemouth into biting an artificial lure while you watch. Knowing you’ve tricked one of the smartest fish in freshwater brings a real sense of accomplishment not many anglers have experienced. My

goal by the time you finish reading this article is to help you become a more accomplished angler for bass this time of year.

PICKING THE RIGHT WATER Spawning season allows you to locate and hook up on bigger fish nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 43


FISHING in lakes that you might normally have an extremely difficult time catching bass at. I like to pick out clear waters that are stocked with rainbow trout. They’re deeper, which makes finding and catching bass harder, but the lakes are also easier to scout for bass that are spawning in the shallows. A good pair of polarized glasses is crucial. I recommend those without reflective properties on the front of the lenses. This allows you to spot the fish from a safe distance without spooking them. Stealth is key whenever scouting spawning grounds for bass. The shallower, weedier, murky lakes are less of a reward because you can’t see the fish as well and they can hide easier. Take note of that and spend your time on more productive waters.

STRIKE WHEN THE IRON’S HOT!

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on the water during the times you will strike gold is critical if you want to land a trophy bass on the spawn. As a general rule of thumb in these parts, May’s full moon (this year’s is on the 29th) provides the greatest opportunity to spot and sight fish a giant bass. The full moon generally needs to coincide with sunny conditions or warm weather. We’re looking for 60-plus-degree water and plenty of visibility. When these conditions come together, you better be on the water or you’re going to miss out on your best opportunity for the bass of a lifetime.

SEARCH AND DESTROY Now that we’re on the right water, at the right time, it’s time to locate these obese pregnant bass. My goto search lures are usually bluegillpatterned swimbaits and crawdadstyle jigs. For wide spawning

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flats with wood or rock, those are Hiroshima Customs Godzilla and the Mattlures Bluegill. I alternate these during long casts over spawning flats, coves and points. For targets like

MAY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com

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There’s no one secret lake, says the author, as most Northwest waters will have trophy-sized largemouth. Rather, catching them boils down to observation and persistence. (ROGER DAVIS)


REGION’S NEWEST BOAT SHOW HELD IN ANACORTES THIS MONTH ANACORTES– Spring is blooming for boaters to hop onboard the new Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show May 17-20 at the Port of Anacortes’ Cap Sante Marina that is projected to have nearly 300 boats on display. The Northwest Marine Trade Association and Anacortes Chamber of Commerce have come together for this show set in one of region’s most popular boating areas. Attendees can soak in the sights of in-water and shore-side boats ranging from trailer-sized to a 68-foot Prestige from Sundance Yachts. Boats for sale include new and brokerage types in the water at the marina, and at nearby boatyards – Banana Belt Boats and North Harbor Diesel – located just south of the marina with free bus shuttle service. In the marina parking area there will be a large display of boats on trailers, and a huge shoreside tent filled with accessories and electronics. “Teaming with the producers of the Seattle Boat Show to bring their expertise to our beautiful waterfront community and the gem of all marinas – Cap Sante Marina – is yet another way to offer our guests an opportunity to experience Anacortes – our island getaway,” said Stephanie Hamilton, chamber president. Anacortes is conveniently located off I-5 between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. For details, go to anacortesboatandyachtshow.com. Tickets Cost is $10 for adults; $15 for unlimited pass; youth 17-and-under are free; 50 percent off for veterans every day of show; and Yacht Club Members get in free on Thursday and Friday. E-tickets went on sale April 2 and include a 12-month subscription to Sea Magazine and/or Boating World. Hotel, Shopping, Dining Attendees who stay at participating businesses will receive two free tickets to the show for each nights’ stay. Accommodations are available for all price ranges. For details, go to anacortes.org. anacortesboatandyachtshow.com • anacortes.org

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Northwest Sportsman 45


FISHING docks and laydowns, I rely on a KGM King Craw on a 1-ounce football-head jig, or a Huddle Bug on light line and a ¼-ounce football-head jig. If I don’t get bit but have a follower, I observe where the fish is located and take note. I usually don’t persist in trying to catch the fish, as spooking it spells death as far as catching it. I recommend leaving it be for at least 30 minutes before returning to try and catch it. Once you know where a trophy is posted up, that’s when the real battle begins. After locating some big girls, the first thing you’re going to want to do is pretend you’re a stealth bomber. Come in nice and quiet with minimal electric motor use. Anchor or power pole to a position within comfortable pitching/casting distance. Next, you’re going to want to remember

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not to set the hook on a smaller and more aggressive male bass that might be guarding the nest. Lastly, think big. Large lures and targets tend to intimidate smaller males, but infuriate larger females.

PERSISTENCE, PERSISTENCE, PERSISTENCE If at first you don’t succeed, try again and again and again. This is the motto for coaxing large female bass on the spawn. It is imperative you maintain a stealth approach, but after that it all depends on the individual bass’s mood and/or demeanor as far as what lure will work and how you’re going to get it to bite. I’ve had giant bass that wanted jigs shaken for minutes to hours on end in the middle of the nest. But more often than not, my biggest female bass react to lures that are big and are worked aggressively. As out of the norm as it may seem, large lures worked

aggressively have the biggest reaction and impact on large female bass as far as inducing a strike. I can’t tell you how many bass over 8 pounds I’ve caught using giant swimbaits on nests that got stuck to the bottom or debris – as soon as I popped them free in an erratic motion, the giant female bass comes and strikes with a force you wouldn’t believe. There are no magic lures once you’ve found a big spawning female bass. Take everything in your tackle box and fish every aggressive way you know how. In this case, it’s about presentation more than lure selection. And don’t be afraid to think outside of the tackle box and try something different. I have caught giants spawning by aggressively fishing topwater lures that were my grandfather’s from back in the ’60s. Keep that in mind, and don’t be afraid to try everything in your arsenal.


nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 47


BAIT & TACKLE BE PREPARED

Model: SA348R/C Left Handed is Available

I grew up in Boy Scouts. One of the things that stuck with me was their motto – be prepared. If you’re not prepared for a giant fish, you probably aren’t going to catch it. You need the right gear. Don’t skimp on rods, reels, line and terminal tackle. Simple as that. Whatever lure you are throwing – from big swimbaits to light dropshot gear – use the appropriate rods, reels and line based upon what you are using. Going cheap usually means losing a fish. Change line often and check your guides for cracks and line for nicks. It will mean the difference between landing a giant and “the one that got away.”

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT Model: DOGA104M2 / DOGA106MH2

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You may think I’m being a bit vague, but on the contrary. Many anglers think there’s a secret lake with all the whoppers, or one lure that will catch all the giant fish, but that simply isn’t true. I’ve caught all my giant spawning bass experimenting with eight to 10 rods rigged up with different presentations. It’s the one time of year I carry all my rods and most of my tackle. Why? Because I believe every spawning bass is catchable. And yes, if you have the time to put in, try everything in your arsenal, and present it every way you know how. You will land a trophy sooner or later. Persistence is key. Observation is key. Remember, most giant bass aren’t easy to entice, but they’re not impossible either. And when fishing for spawning bass, always remember that catch and release is critical for the conservation and preservation of future trophy fish. Hopefully with this mindset you can approach this spawning season to catch the bass of your dreams. Tight lines! NS


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2/0 Gamakatsu Siwash Open → Eye hook Big Game Bait Buttons

Few lures generate more violent strikes than spinnerbaits do. Unfortunately, hits don’t always translate directly into fish in the boat. Bass are notorious for short-striking spinnerbaits. The solution? Add a trailer hook. I like to employ a free-swinging siwash. First, I add a single Big Game Bait Button to the bend in the hook. Next I’ll slip and close a 2/0 Gamakatsu Siwash Open Eye hook over the shank of the spinnerbait’s hook, with the point facing the same direction as the lure’s. Finally, I add a second Bait Button to keep the trailer hook in position. -Mark Fong

Spinnerbaits →

(MARK FONG)

nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 51


BAIT & TACKLE


COLUMN

When the Columbia Gorge isn’t blowing, it can be a great place to troll for walleye from a kayak, and one of the best spots is off the mouth of the Deschutes River. (AUSTIN BOWEN)

Prime Time For Gorge ’Eyes

W

hen most of us venture into the kayak fishing realm, we have a few target species in THE KAYAK GUYS mind. Our quarry relates By Austin By Aus usti tinn Bowm ti BBowmen owmen en in some way to what we grew up fishing for as kids. Mine naturally were trout and salmon. Little did I know, however, that there was a tasty Midwest transplant readily available from my kayak, right under my nose. Illegally introduced in the 1950s to Washington’s Upper Columbia, walleye have spread to the lowest reaches of the river and its tributaries. Whichever side of the salmon v. walleye debate you’re on, two things are certain: They are here to stay, and they taste so dang good! So why not chase them?

APRIL THROUGH JULY is a great time to chase walleye in the Columbia Gorge. Though there are several good areas to

launch a kayak from between The Dalles and Rufus, one stands above the rest. It’s that kayak angler’s paradise known as the mouth of the Deschutes. Whether you’re launching a day trip from Heritage

Landing State Park or pushing off from your campsite at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area, it’s a short paddle/pedal under the bridges to the fishing grounds. The areas above and below the mouth

Walleye have been numerous for decades in the Columbia, but it seems that since 2015’s warm water year a sizeable year-class has come online, yielding lots of tasty eater-sized fish like this one. (AUSTIN BOWEN) nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 53


COLUMN

According to author Austin Bowen, nightcrawlers resemble juvenile lamprey. When rigging them in a worm harness, make sure there’s no “kink” between the hooks. (AUSTIN BOWEN) of the Deschutes are tailor-made for trolling. When fishing below the mouth, focus on the half mile below the marker. Above the mouth, the entire stretch to the Biggs Bridge is fair game. Should you choose to fish the south shore of Miller Island, a good starting place is just downstream of the boulders on the east end, trolling downstream along the length of the island. If you need help identifying productive water, watch the guide boats. As for water depths to target, like salmon, walleye often move deeper as

the sun gets higher. That said, it’s not a set rule and I have caught many while fishing shallow at midday. You just have to find where the fish are holding. Start your day trolling in 15 to 25 feet of water. If that’s not paying off, go shallower or zigzag your way as deep as 40 feet. By covering a greater area, you’re more likely to find the depth where fish are most abundant. When using worm harnesses always troll with the current. Switch to crankbaits for trolling upstream. This is not finesse fishing. You will want a rod that is capable of pulling a 3-ounce bottom bouncer without being maxed out. You don’t need a high-dollar rod and reel to catch walleye. In fact, I hooked my first walleye from a kayak on a 7-foot-9 dropshot spinning rod with 2 ounces of lead. You can use what you’ve got and still bring home plenty of tasty white fillets. Though there are walleye-specific rods, most fast-action bass and steelhead casting rods from 6-foot-6 to 8-foot-6 will work. The main thing is, don’t use a broom stick. Your rod’s tip needs to be sensitive enough to read the bottom and transmit the take.

RIGGING IS FAIRLY simple. Attach your mainline to a bottom bouncer, then clip your harness leader to the bouncer. I take it one step further, though, using a sliding bouncer. I feel it gives me a more direct connection to the fish. I have a firm belief

Thief, stopped! Though the target species is smaller and not known for its fight, the author still advises running 20-pound-test braided mainline lest you hook a Chinook, steelhead, carp or other species. (AUSTIN BOWEN)

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“Don’t overcomplicate blade and bead colors,” says Bowen. “The standard gold/red, silver/red, chartreuse/chartreuse or chartreuse/green will all catch fish on any given day.” (AUSTIN BOWEN) that I lose far fewer fish and get better hook-sets. It also allows me to feed line to a fish that doesn’t commit to the bait. You don’t need to buy special bottom bouncers for this. I simply modify a run-of-the-mill bouncer. I cut off the swivel, then align both eyes so my line passes through. After adding a bumper bead and a snap swivel I’m in business. Choosing the right weight for the depth I’m fishing is straight forward. I use 1 ounce for every 10 feet of depth, though I’ve found that 2½ ounces can work as an all-around size from 15 to 40 feet, depending on current. Your worm harness can be as simple or as elaborate as your mind can dream up. Store bought or homemade, the sky’s the limit. There is nothing wrong with most factory harnesses, except for the hooks. Unless you know the manufacturer uses quality hooks, swap them for high-quality hooks. I use homemade harnesses because there’s something satisfying about catching fish on something I’ve built. I start with 4 feet of 12-pound fluorocarbon and add two size 2 or 4 Gamakatsu Big River Bait or Wide Gap Finesse hooks at the end, 2 inches apart. To that I add six 5mm or 6mm beads, and a Mack’s Lure Smile Blade. I leave my leaders long and cut to length on the river, typically to around 3 feet. The final piece of the worm harness puzzle is the nightcrawler. You’re imitating juvenile lamprey eels migrating to the ocean. Nose hook the worm either across


BAIT & TACKLE the head almost to the tip or insert the top hook into the worm straight in and a quarter inch out. The bottom hook should go into the worm cross ways below the band. Hook placement will depend on worm length and hook spacing. The key is to have your worm lay straight when going through the water. A little spin is fine but you want zero kink in the worm between the hooks. You may have to sacrifice a few before you get it right, but it’s worth it. If rigged correctly, your worm should be straight with a small bit of slack line between the hooks.

NOW IT’S TIME to drop your gear into the zone. It’s important to control the descent of the set-up while moving forward. At trolling speed you’ll want your line at around 45 degrees. Adjust your weight accordingly. When you get a bite, the fish will tell you what it wants. If using a rod holder, leave it in till there’s a solid bend on your rod, then pick it up and reel. Walleye will hang themselves most of the time. If you’re holding your rod, don’t set the hook like a bass pro. Wait till there is weight on the rod and sweep forward to set the hook. A word of warning about this fishery: Along with walleye, you may end up with a bass, sturgeon, carp, salmon or steelhead on your line, giving you one heck of a ride. Because of this, I’ve grown fond of 20-pound braid. With the equivalent diameter of 8-pound mono it cuts through the water easily yet translates the bottom structure better because it has no stretch. Forget something at home? Don’t worry. Gorge Outfitters Supply (541739-2222) in Rufus has most anything you may have forgotten. Whether you’re chasing salmon, bass, walleye, sturgeon or just need a current fishing report, stop in and get stocked up. The new owners have done an awesome job stuffing the building with species-specific gear. Finally, don’t forget to be safe on the water. This is the Columbia Gorge and the wind can catch you off guard, so check the weather before you go. Be prepared with a PFD and the proper immersion gear for the conditions. Tight lines, be safe, and see you on the water! NS


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Northwest Sportsman 57


FISHING

Hook A ‘Freshwater Freight Train’ Snake’s Brownlee, Oxbow Reservoirs best spots in Northwest to plunk fresh bait for big flathead catfish. By Dan Magneson

T

hey are the aquatic version of Count Dracula, quietly resting in the same dark, hidden location by day and then prowling for living prey by night. And like a vampire, they are legendary for both their great physical strength and ability to achieve a ripe old age. These “freshwater freight trains” require use of fishing tackle usually reserved for stout saltwater species, and they can live up to 30 years of age. The flathead catfish, Pylodictis olivaris, is known by other names, most notably yellow catfish or mud catfish. Owing to a broad, flattened head that seemingly comprises half their slender bodies, other common nicknames include shovelhead or shoehead catfish. They are fascinating in a way that is inversely proportional to their looks. According to Dakota Sioux legend, a tribe of catfish plotted to ambush and eat a moose as he waded into a lake. The attack ultimately failed, and the moose was so angered that he retaliated and trampled all the

Author Dan Magneson works at an Olympic Peninsula coho hatchery, but says there’s no species he’d rather cast a line for than flathead catfish. “I love sitting out under the stars, and love the sound of that clicker even more” as line peels off the reel, he says. (DAN MAGNESON)

catfish’s heads flat. To this day, the catfish have flat heads as a result of the war the moose waged upon their grandfathers. Formally described to science by Rafinesque in 1818, Pylodictis is Greek for “mud fish” and olivaris is Latin for “olive-colored.” Flatheads are

the only species in their genus, and appear unchanged from the middle Miocene epoch 15 million years ago. They have a protruding lower jaw and in all but the very largest specimens, there is a pale whitish or cream-colored tip on the upper lobe of their tails. nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

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FISHING The flathead is native to Gulf of Mexico drainages, from the Mobile River basin over to the vast Mississippi River basin thence to the Rio Grande and from there well south into eastern Mexico. Thus the flathead catfish is not native to waters west of the Continental Divide, but they have been introduced to both the Colorado and Snake Rivers.

IN THE NORTHWEST, just exactly how the flathead catfish came to inhabit the Snake and some of its tributaries is something of a mystery, but it has been suspected that earlier shipments of blue catfish subsequently planted into the river may have mistakenly included flathead catfish. The lower Snake in general may be populated with at least

some flathead catfish, but Oxbow Reservoir contains good flathead fishing, and Brownlee Reservoir is commonly regarded as being great. Yet the Northwest’s absolute premier flathead fishery is regarded by many as being more in the middle stretch of the Snake, from Brownlee upstream to the town of Nyssa, Oregon, along with possibly those adjacent lower reaches of the larger tributary streams such as the Powder, Burnt, Weiser, Payette, Malheur, Owyhee and Boise Rivers. As an apex predator, flathead catfish are the schoolyard bullies within the waters they inhabit. Live fish are their favorite prey, with smaller catfishes and sunfishes seeming to turn up in their bellies at especially frequent rates. And unlike other catfish species which readily scavenge, the predatory flathead

prefers to consume its meal while it’s still kicking and screaming. Depending on the latitude, spawning begins in late spring or early summer as water temperatures warm into the mid-70s. A cavity is chosen in a hollow log, a hole in a riverbank, within riprap or sometimes even inside submerged cars and metal drums. After depositing her eggs, the female is then driven away and the male very aggressively guards the nest, fanning the egg mass with his fins. Even after the eggs hatch, he continues his watch over the dense school of fry as they absorb their yolk sacs over the course of the next few days, after which they begin dispersing to lead independent lives. Young flatheads up to 4 inches long are found among sandy, cobblestrewn riffle areas, consuming aquatic insect larvae. From about 4

The center of flathead fishing in the Northwest is the Snake River’s Brownlee Reservoir, which is also home to a derby at the end of this month. The species occurs upstream to Swan Falls Dam, and well downstream in the Columbia’s John Day Pool. (BAKER COUNTY TOURISM, VIA FLICKR) 60 Northwest Sportsman

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FISHING to 12 inches in length, they are more generally dispersed throughout the stream environment, with crayfish and fish becoming an increasingly important part of the diet. From about 12 to 16 inches, the fish are associated with cover at intermediate depths. By the time they surpass 16 inches, flatheads feed almost entirely upon other fishes and are very strongly associated with extensive cover such as logjams, downed trees, rootwads and jumbles of boulders found in deep pools with a slow to moderate current over a firm substrate. The flathead is also something of a lone wolf. A single clump of cover will often yield only one, or at best just a few large individuals; the only exception is during the frigid water temperatures of winter, when dozens of large individuals may congregate and hold among sheltered bottoms of deep pools. And the word “large” really

does apply: Flatheads rank among our biggest freshwater fish of any species, and are hot on the heels of the blue as our largest species of catfish, with a current rod-andreel record of 123 pounds. (The Idaho record flathead weighed 58½ pounds, Oregon’s 42; both were caught in the Snake system in 1994.) But where blues are decidedly a bigwater fish of major rivers and huge reservoirs, the flathead can also be found in smaller streams, and so for many anglers represent a more readily available trophy fish that is closer to their doorsteps.

A CHALLENGING QUARRY due to their sheer size, strength, and reclusive nature, add those to their proclivity for live prey, strong homing instincts and chiefly nocturnal activity, and those elite anglers who can consistently land trophy-sized flatheads belong to a very select and skilled fraternity.

Some folks feel that flatheads have a regular “milk run” of favored feeding routes, so they strategize their fishing in a manner much like a hunter plotting an ambush upon a wily trophy mule deer buck or bull elk. The long intervals between bites can stretch from hours to nights. But to a flathead fanatic, patience finally pays off when setting the hook on what first seems to be a log only to be quickly followed by an adrenaline rush and pounding heart when the “log” suddenly comes to life, turns and bulldozes away through the depths, rod bent to within a whisper of breaking and line tearing off the reel. With a giant flathead, a successful battle is often fought to nearly a draw, with both fish and angler vanquished when the fish is finally beached. Few freshwater fish can rival a gigantic flathead when it comes to leaving the muscles in both arms, both legs and back strained and aching as you grunt and sweat to finally land them, and to a dedicated flathead angler this experience is simply euphoric. The “Achilles heel” for this species is the vulnerability of the male while guarding the nest. In a technique known as “noodling,” the male is wrestled by hand onto the adjacent shore, which in turn dooms the eggs he had been guarding. Set lines are yet another method that can have an outsized impact on trophy flatheads. Using circle-style hooks and encouraging catch-and-release can help to conserve populations of trophy flatheads. As a further incentive not to kill and consume large ones, this long-lived and fish-eating species can accumulate contaminants in its flesh at greater levels than shorter-lived fish that feed lower in the food chain.

SEEING A FLATHEAD’S broad head and massive mouth emerging from the water and into the beam of a flashlight has a profound effect on the angler: their appearance seems to be not of this Earth, like some alien 62 Northwest Sportsman

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FISHING

Flatheads have a big mouth and a big appetite, so use large baits to attract their attention, and don’t worry too much about the fish being line-shy. Magneson uses 200-pound-test braid tied to a 9/0 hook. (DAN MAGNESON)

creature straight out of a science fiction flick. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, because those in the know realize that one of the coolest and most fascinating fishes in North America is at the end of their fishing line. Sitting around a midnight campfire and gazing at the lazy swirls of murky current while pondering these mysterious creatures lurking

somewhere below, and imagining instead oneself as the aquatic quarry of their nocturnal hunts, then the specter of a marauding predator cloaked by darkness represents a true living nightmare. It’s an ancient anxiety conjured up from somewhere deep within – both primitive and palpable, of an apparition suddenly looming out of the blackness and devouring

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oneself – that makes the firelight and the flickering faces of family and friends all the more comforting in the wee hours of the night. Patience is more than a virtue when fishing for flatheads; it’s an absolute necessity. While the muskellunge is known as “the fish of 10,000 casts” I have heard the flathead termed “the fish of 10,000 minutes.” Autumn fishing for flatheads can be quite good, as the fish are feeding heavily as they bulk up their stored body reserves in preparation for the coming winter. Springtime before the spawn also offers great fishing. Summer is another excellent time, and I especially like to fish during the Perseid meteor shower each August, with 60 or more shooting stars an hour being generated by debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle. Indeed, flatheads seem to be strongly nocturnal and do the great majority of their roaming and foraging then. Radio-tagging studies show so little movement during the day that you would think the flathead had died, but if you check at night, that fish may be as much as a mile away from its daytime lair. A friend of a friend who frequently fishes the Missouri River made the observation, “Flatheads are a 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning sort of fish,” and from my own experience, that statement is pretty much spot on. Consulting my fishing diary, my earliest flathead action came at 12:53 a.m., and the latest at 4:13 a.m. Overall, my best flathead fishing seemed to occur from approximately 1:30 to 3:45 a.m. Since flatheads are so strongly nocturnal in their travels, I avoid use of light as much as possible, and doubly so in shallow and clear water conditions. A lantern sitting close to the water shining bright light down into the water column is bad enough, but I think some of the more powerful headlamps are even worse since your body movements make the light move around. Building a fire near the water


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FISHING likewise probably isn’t a good idea either, and especially a big bright beach-type bonfire. None of this is even remotely natural to a prowling flathead. I simply position the rod tip against the sky and observe the silhouette from the seat of my lightweight and lowslung lawn chair that I pack along. Your eyes will adjust to the darkness surprisingly well if you let them, and flathead tackle is large enough that you can handle it in minimal light conditions with little difficulty. Use only a tiny light, and use that only when kneeling low, with your back to the river to block most of the light. Note that white light draws insects till Hell won’t have it, so try instead to use a yellow light. If you can only find white, take a Brach’s butterscotch candy wrapper and tape it over the lens. And remember to tiptoe very lightly around your

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fishing spot, like you would in an infant’s bedroom so as not to wake the sleeping baby.

WHATEVER HOUR YOU head out at, be sure to carefully check the fishing regulations for what may be legally used for bait and which types are prohibited. Live bait is illegal in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, but if you fish somewhere it’s OK to use, think large and very, very writhing and wiggly. Across the nation, green sunfish are widely regarded as the best possible flathead bait, and bluegills, bullhead catfish and carp are also excellent choices due to their overall hardiness and ability to remain alive on the hook. Insert the hook into your bait in a manner that precludes hitting vital organs and also the spine. I like to see my rod tip really dancing around, indicating the bait is really raising a ruckus underwater and putting out a lot of throbbing vibration to

help attract the attention of a big, hungry flathead. All this commotion also signals to you that your bait is still alive, which is absolutely critical when fishing for big flatheads, which among the catfish clan are uniquely 100 percent pure predators and have an especially keen affinity for fresh fish. Unlike other catfishes, which will scavenge, bait that has been dead for a long while just won’t work. Big gobs of worms and crayfish may also be effective flathead baits. Bloody cut bait from a killed fish may also be successfully used, but it must absolutely be very fresh – say, leftovers after filleting your bluegills and crappies. Flatheads may be caught during the daytime if you concentrate on the gnarly snarls they hole up in. They can be enticed into grabbing an easy meal dangled right in front of their mouths. Probing the pocket areas by dangling and jigging a large


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FISHING bait can be a successful method. And within reservoirs, artificial lures such as large, deep-diving crankbaits and swimbaits fished near the bottom may also be effective. Color in typically turbid waters is less important than choosing a lure that really stirs up a storm underwater as you retrieve it. And if you are not getting snagged very often, you likely are not fishing in the types of places most likely to hold big flatheads.

THERE ARE TWO types of fishing for flathead. First you must fish for your bait, and after catching that you get to fish for the big cats. To catch bait, I use a small, bare jig coupled with a piece of nightcrawler fished with light tackle. This works well for then hooking the bait in just the lip area, preventing it from being more deeply swallowed, which in turns causes greater traumatic damage and probably eventual premature death

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Kids check out flathead (golden) and channel (gray) whiskerfish caught during the Huntington Catfish Derby, put on by the local Lions Club. This year’s 30th annual edition of the event is set for May 26-28 and features a top prize of $500 for largest overall fish. (BAKER COUNTY TOURISM, VIA FLICKR)


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of the baitfish. Don’t worry about being able to distinguish the difference between the action of the bait versus a bite from a flathead. While flatheads can vary in their manner of taking the bait, they often strike savagely and tend to really slap around and beat up on the bait. You’ll know it when a flathead has located your bait. The fish don’t seem to be particularly tackle-shy, so don’t be too concerned about concealing the sharp point of the hook. They commonly eat fish with sharp spines and so encountering the point of the hook is all in a night’s work for them. Flatheads are strong and tenacious, which dictates the coupling of secure knots with sturdy fishing tackle: a rod with plenty of backbone, a beefy and tough high-capacity reel, and high-quality and high-test fishing line attached to a hook that has been well-honed to a very sharp point. I use a Shakespeare Ugly Stik Tiger rod, an Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 7001i reel (I’m a southpaw) spooled with 100-pound-test PowerPro braid. I attach a 3-ounce slip-style bell sinker above a saltwater ball-bearing barrel swivel. From there, I use 3 to 4 feet of 200-pound-test PowerPro braid for leader material, and attach a size 9/0 Gamakatsu Live Bait HeavyDuty Saltwater hook. I like to thread the hook through the baitfish in a manner that throws it off balance, so that it is constantly struggling to right itself. Again, remember that live bait isn’t allowed in the Northwest. Here’s a very handy tip: Try to select a fishing reel with a “clicker” mechanism, which provides an audible alarm that line is being pulled off the reel. I also prefer fishing rods of single-piece construction, as I regard them as being stronger than two-piece, take-down rods. All else being equal, I favor white fishing rods at night because they show up better in faint light.

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charters & Guides precious resource. Flatheads can take many years to achieve large trophy size, so practice “CPR” and catch, photograph and release them. While brutish flatheads put up a bruising battle that only intensifies as you bring them to shore, I find conversely that they are remarkably calm, docile and gentle to handle once vanquished. When fishing along a shallow enough shoreline, I wear knee-high rubber boots and enter the shallow water with a tailor’s flexible measuring tape to take length and girth measurements to later convert to pounds via online conversion charts. This avoids removing the fish from the water, which is hard on both you and the fish. Everything that comes into contact with a flathead should be wetted first to better preserve the fish’s protective slime layer, which will in turn further enhance post-release survival. Exhibit class and common courtesy toward other anglers, and pack out all of your trash, and if necessary, even that left by others. Always leave your fishing spot in better condition than you found it. And surprises while flathead fishing are never in short supply. I know of a fisherman whose flathead turned out to be something else entirely: His clicker indicated line paying out, but the line was going into the willows away from the river itself. It turned out a raccoon had waded out and scooped up the bait and was in the process of having it as a midnight snack! Warning: Flathead fishing is highly addictive and most definitely habit-forming and also may interfere with your established circadian rhythms and normal sleeping patterns. NS Editor’s note: Author Dan Magneson is a supervising fishery biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Quilcene National Fish Hatchery on Washington’s Hood Canal. He wrote November’s tribute to Hungarian partridge.

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FISHING

Halibut Season’s Here! Despite a slightly lower Washington quota, expectations are still high for popular fishery. By Mark Yuasa

T

hose who venture out to pursue halibut know the rewards of a catch come not only with the fight but as one of the best darn tasting fish to hit the dinner table. It’s a sure bet that when May’s openers roll around thousands of frenzied anglers will converge at coastal ports and boat ramps clear into open areas of Puget Sound to pursue these hard battlers of the deep. “We’ve heard really positive things about halibut fishing success in all marine areas in 2017, and we’ll see what the upcoming season has in store for anglers,” said Heather Reed, Washington’s flatsider policy coordinator.

THE ENTIRE COAST’S catch quota for sport, tribal and non-tribal commercial halibut fisheries is 1.19 million pounds, compared to 1.33 million in 2017 and 1.14 million in 2016. The total Washington sport catch quota this season is 225,366 pounds, which is down slightly from 237,762 in 2017 although up from 214,110 in 2016, 2015 and 2014. Breaking it down, there’s 11,182 pounds available for the all-depth fishery off Ilwaco (Marine Area 1), with another 500 pounds set aside for a near-shore fishery. At Westport (Area 2), it is 44,341 pounds for the primary season and 2,000 pounds for a near-shore fishery. At Neah Bay and La Push (Areas 3

Hangin’ loose on the Badger, Ben Lolkema poses for a moment with a Neah Bay halibut caught in June 2016. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

and 4), the quota is 111,632 pounds. In the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound (Areas 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10), the season total is 60,995 pounds. Halibut fishing dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport and Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound are May 11 and 13, and May 25 and 27. Other potential dates, depending on harvest totals, are June 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, 28 and 30. The Westport near-shore fishery will open the first Saturday after the closure of the primary fishery

and be open daily until the quota is projected to be taken. The opening date at Ilwaco is May 3 for the all-depth fishery. Fishing will be open Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays only, and closes Sept. 30 or when the quota is achieved, whichever comes first. The Ilwaco near-shore season opens May 7, and fishing is allowed Mondays through Wednesdays only. In all areas the daily limit is one halibut with no minimum size limit. nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

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FISHING

The sun can set fast on Washington’s halibut season – the quota is often gobbled up quickly, though bad weather helped extend last year’s fishery off the North Coast. Dave Anderson snapped this shot at La Push during a 2017 fishing trip there for flatties, lingcod and rockfish. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

A CHANGE IN how fishing seasons were structured occurred in 2017 to avoid exceeding catch quotas in Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound waterways. “It is fantastic news when we can stay within our sport allocations, which we haven’t done for several years, and that was definitely regarded as a success,” Reed said. “The 2017 fishing season was good, and people preferred our new management approach to keep the consistent season dates.”

Reed said last year’s average size of halibut at Neah Bay and La Push was 18 pounds; Ilwaco, 14 pounds; Westport, 16 pounds; and Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound, 24 pounds. It isn’t uncommon for several halibut exceeding the century mark and up to 200-plus pounds to hit the docks each season.

WASHINGTON’S HALIBUT FISHERIES started to take off in the 1980s, and as salmon and other opportunities began to

$5 HALIBUT CATCH CARD COMING Better inseason monitoring and possibly expanded angling opportunities will come through a new $5 catch card for Washington’s hardcore halibut fishermen. Though the legislation authorizing the fee technically takes effect in early June, state Department of Fish and Wildlife halibut manager Heather Reed says it won’t begin until the 2019 season. She says WDFW has prepared a fact sheet on Senate Bill 6127, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, a Democrat representing the Olympic Peninsula, and signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee, and it will be out this month as flattie seasons begin. Next year, halibut catch cards will still be free for those who buy a one-, two- or three-day saltwater license, a charter stamp or are youth anglers. –NWS 76 Northwest Sportsman

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decline in the 1990s, interest for these bottom-dwellers began to ramp up. Many claim the unofficial birthplace of this fishery likely started off the northern coast at Swiftsure Bank – a huge underwater shelf located 10 to 14 miles west of Cape Flattery. Coordinates for its west end are 48 degrees 29.60 minutes north, 124 degrees 58.40 minutes west, and its east end is 48 degrees 29.60 minutes, 124 degrees 54.30 minutes. In fact, the state record 288-pounder was caught here by Vic Stevens way back on September 9, 1989. As the Neah Bay fishery evolved, anglers started to explore further offshore, areas like Blue Dot (48 degrees 16.40 minutes, 125 degrees 20.16 minutes), 72 Square (48 degrees 19 minutes, 125 degrees 33 minutes), Table Top, the Prairie and Umatilla Reef. More close-toport places include Koitlah Point, better known as the Garbage Dump, Waadah Island and Duncan Rock. Further inside the Strait try off the


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FISHING mouths of Bowman Creek and the Sekiu and Hoko Rivers; Eagle Bay; Clallam Bay; Slip Point; Deep Creek; the mouths of Salt and Whiskey Creeks; Freshwater Bay; Green Point east of Port Angeles; and Rock Pile north of Ediz Hook. The banks of the eastern Strait are popular places and have produced larger-sized flatties in the 150- to 200-plus range of late. They include Coyote, Hein, Middle, Eastern and Partridge Banks. In northern Puget Sound, the goto places are Mutiny Bank, Bombing Range, Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend, and Admiralty and Useless Bays along Whidbey Island.

More kayak anglers are heading out for halibut – Jeff Anderson caught this 50-pounder off the North Coast last season. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

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WHEN CHOOSING A rod-and-reel setup for halibut think heavy duty, although I’ve incidentally caught my fair share of fish on basic saltwater salmon tackle. Make sure your reels are loaded up with 80-pound braided line with the least amount of stretch to get your weight and bait down to the bottom. Most mainlines are attached with a spreader bar to a 20- to 30-ounce lead ball for a dropper and a tandemhook rig if you’re not using a jig or soft plastic scampi- or squid-type lures. White lures or jigs are the go-to colors, especially when you’re down 200- to 300-plus feet in pitch-black water. Think scent trail when fishing for halibut. A horse herring works well with added scents like herring, anise and shrimp oil or jelly. Others will use chunks of a salmon carcass, octopus or whole squids. If you start to hit the dogfish, switch to an artificial bait. Otherwise, you’ll constantly be reeling up these pesky fish from very deep water, resulting in sore wrists and an aching back. Those seeking a barndoor-sized specimen would be wise to tote along a durable gaff, hand-held billy club or bat, heavy-duty rope and a firearm to subdue them. Never bring a bigger, live fish into the boat, as they’ve been known to break a few legs or badly injure anglers. NS


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FISHING

No Chumming Allowed

Prevention’s the best medicine to keep from being seasick while fishing the Pacific.

Seasickness can strike even in seemingly calmer seas, making outings for lingcod, bottomfish, salmon and other species miserable unless preventative measures are taken before the trip. (FACEBOOK)

By Renee Johnson

S

easickness – most anglers will end up out on the ocean at some point in their lifetime, whether it be a day trip with friends or a longer open-water outing. When I hear people talking about making that first trip out, they usually say “I will be fine” or “I will just see how I do.” Afterwards, I’ll hear a story or two about someone getting sick and regretting not having taken any

medication for motion sickness. As a child, my parents took us on vacations that usually involved a glass-bottom boat ride. I dreaded these trips. After the first few times I chummed, my mother found Sea-Bands. She read the instructions and carefully put them on me. Unfortunately for myself and everyone else onboard, they didn’t work. As an adult, things did not improve and I found myself suffering from motion sickness

standing on surfaces as benign as a dock on a lake. I knew that I had to find a solution or reconsider my love of fishing. I talked to my doctor and was given a prescription for scopolamine patches. My first trip out on the ocean with the patch was successful. I caught my first tuna and didn’t get sick! True, the side effects were annoying – I didn’t like feeling drowsy and dehydrated – but these were nothing compared to the misery of seasickness. nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

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After many successful trips out on the ocean in some big seas, I wondered what other people were doing to combat seasickness. After asking many friends what they do I took my question to social media to get as many remedies as possible. Many of the answers were common medications such as Dramamine, meclizine, Gravol, Bonine, Zofran, and scopolamine. Many people recommended no alcohol the night before the trip, and there were different food recommendations too. Plain peanut butter sandwiches, crackers and Hershey’s chocolate were some of the foods people found to be helpful. But I found that ginger was the most recommended. Ginger ale is a great beverage to keep in the boat, in addition to ginger candy or even ginger root. There are a few products on the market that are worn to prevent seasickness. Sea Bands help some people, though personally, they didn’t do a thing for my seasickness problems except give me a false sense of security. The very intriguing Relief Band uses gentle pulses on your wrist that travel to your brain and then to your stomach. The manufacturer’s website claims it restores normal gastric rhythm within minutes. It is the most expensive of the options for seasickness, but some people swear by it. When planning ocean adventures, I encourage you to try your method of choice before your trip. This will give you the chance to see if the side effects are tolerable. If not, talk to your doctor about other options. The ideal trial for me is a short ocean trip where I have the time to judge if the medication is working. The most important thing when preparing to go out in the ocean is to take the medication according to the instructions. A patch or tablets only work if they are on or in you. These medications do not work when they are in your pocket. NS 82 Northwest Sportsman

MAY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com


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FISHING

An Islet For Adventure

Kayak fishing the remote waters off northwest Vancouver Island. By Rob Lyon

W

e loaded the big Tundra with two kayaks on the roof rack, along with motors, spare batteries and recharging solar panels, paddles, fishing and photographic equipment, food and the rest of what we might need for a week on a tiny island – an islet, actually – on the remote and wild west coast of British Columbia in mid-September. By noon the next day we were unloading it all into a water taxi sent out from Rugged Point Lodge, then we sped out of a deep inlet on the northwest side of Vancouver Island. An hour after that, under light wind and deep blue sky we slipped over the gunnels of the boat into the cold, waist-

Vancouver Island’s wild west coast offers outstanding salmon and bottomfish action, whether fishing out of the well-known ports and resorts, or paddling out to where North Pacific waves boom against barrier islands, like author Rob Lyon and friend Steve Thomsen (above) did last summer. (ROB LYON)

deep water of a shallow cove in the middle of what seemed like absolutely nowhere and began schlepping our boats and supplies ashore. We set to work pitching tents, making sense of our pile of gear and setting up a kitchen in a calm nook at the base of a tall slab of rock. Then I burrowed into the surrounding salal jungle to set up a simple privy.

The salal was well over my head and I tunneled between the thin, pliable light brown stalks and nibbled on the tasty blueberries. I was about 20 feet in when I stopped, looking down. Bear scat. I turned and cupped my hands and shouted: “Dude!” “Yeah?” “Bear scat here.” nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

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FISHING

A sheltered cove on an islet provided a good base camp for the anglers as they worked the kelp beds for a mix of coho, lings and other species. (ROB LYON)

I poked it with a stick and looked more closely. By then, fishing partner Steve Thomsen was behind me. “Not too fresh,” I told him. Steve bent down and checked it out. “Fresh enough,” he said. We looked around in silence. The island was the size of a football field. It wouldn’t do to share it with a bear. “Wonder if he’s still around,” Steve said. “Can you imagine trying to move all our stuff somewhere else?” “Can you imagine a good night’s sleep if he’s here?” “Want to take a look around?” I said. “You bet.”

We found no sign of Mister Bear; however, I did find a green glass ball the size of an apple nestled in the sweet pea along a bit of beach. We roughed out a quick driftwood privy on the way back to camp and filled an empty dry bag with sand to set beside it. But it was getting late in the day by then and catching something for dinner was the next order of business.

AT THE TOP of the list were the lovely silvers that pass through the area in large numbers throughout late summer and fall and school off the river mouths. We hoped for salmon, but the next fish up in their absence would be the sporty black rock bass or the large, toothsome lingcod,

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO Boaters and fishermen planning on visiting the area described in this story should be aware of the Checleset Bay Ecological Reserve bordering Big Bunsby Island Marine Park to the west and north. For more, see env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/ big_bunsby/. –RL 88 Northwest Sportsman

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depending on whether we were looking for fun or looking for trouble. That night we were looking for dinner and blacks were our fish du jour. While I bucktailed at the surface to test for coho, Steve boated into calmer waters behind our island, looking for bass. The sea there was calmer. Large beds of giant kelp swayed in the current beside shallow rocky shoals and it was a fine place to fly fish for black rockfish. We were on the horn with each other an hour later exchanging notes. I had seen nothing by way of salmon. Steve had our dinner in the bag and was playing tug of war with a school of 4-pounders. We built a little fire below the high tide line that night. I heated up a flat rock in the coals while we watched the sun set in a blaze of glory. The weather for the foreseeable future was predicted to be high pressure, sunny and warm. I pulled our cooking rock from


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FISHING Black rockfish abound in these rich waters and several were cooked up “old school” style, on a flat, preheated rock pulled from the evening campfire. (ROB LYON)

the fire, blew off the ash and slapped down one whole, scaled, field-dressed bass. We were cooking old school: 10-minute sizzle on one side, flip, another ten, liberally salt and pepper. Serve steaming hot, flakey white meat on plates and follow with a sluice of beer and foam to irrigate the mustache.

As we ate our meal it occurred to me how quickly the fishing traction kicked in out here. No, we had not seen sign of salmon as yet, and that would be the pinnacle. But time spent living along this wilderness seashore is intrinsically exciting and vibrant. This fringe ecology, a razorthin strip of littoral sand and rock and

the booming sea that hammers home, intrigues me like no other. I once spent over a hundred consecutive days camped around the perimeter of the island as I circled it, alone. Rarely did I ever venture inland. We caught ling that week that had blue flesh and ling that had white. As I understand it, the distinction is a result of a bile pigment – biliverdin, it’s called – much like how robin eggs are blue. When we tired of panfried ling fillets with garlic and salt, we cooked more whole black bass slabs on the hot rock. We discussed making ceviche but never did. We were up with the sun each morning (and early to bed as well). My bright-gold North Face tent heated up like an oven, so there was nothing for it anyway. We took our coffee sitting wild haired in the sand, leaning against a big cedar log and gazing out over the North Pacific. After breakfast and morning ablutions, taken at a leisurely pace, we were off again messing about in boats.

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we had brought along something different by way of kayaks this time, namely a couple of the Wilderness Systems new line of boats with pedal, paddle and motor options. Ours had German-engineered Torqeedo electric motors – the Helix MD Motor Drive, they call it. We’d brought along a spare lithium-ion battery for each boat and a couple of solar panels to keep them charged. We got nearly an hour of flat-out run time at 6 miles an hour, a full day of trolling going slower. I stood eagerly in the shallow water of the cove a little later, breakfast over and sufficiently caffeinated, and plugged the little 15-pound powerhouse into a port in the kayak. I hopped aboard and paddled out through the reef and kelp forest. When I was in the clear I placed my magnetic “key” onto the console. It perked right up as it searched for satellites. The throttle has a GPS built in to calibrate salient metrics: speed,


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FISHING remaining range and run time. When it was good to go I pushed the throttle forward an inch or two. There was the hum of an electric motor coming online and the boat began to move through the water. When I slid the lever all the way forward the boat fairly leaped ahead! After all the years I’d spent powering kayaks with my body it was a revelation to sit back and enjoy the ride. We tested out the new-fangled boats for the week and they were pretty darned sweet.

ONE MORNING LATE in the week, I woke to the sound of wind huffing noisily in the trees surrounding camp. I peeked my head outside the tent door and looked out onto a steely gray sea flecked with white that stretched across the horizon to the southeast. The sky was crowding dark and ominous. I turned on the VHF to get the

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latest weather prediction from Environment Canada. Storm-force winds, they were calling for. I’d been on this very isle 20 years earlier when hurricane-force winds blew through. I’d come through fine, but my buddy had his $700 Swedish tent blown up. We threw up a tarp shelter over a small, driftwood stockade to sit under and enjoy the atmospherics. Otherwise, we pulled the boats up in the driftwood, guyed out our tents and waited for the show to start. Strong winds battered the island and bent the trees throughout the day, but we managed to stay a step ahead of any damage. At the storm’s peak we retreated to a big dome tent and played Magic, the Gathering until nightfall.

I MENTIONED EATING locally earlier; well, we were drinking locally as well. In the spirit of local spirits, we decided to sample out two acclaimed local island products on our way north. First stop once we’d ferried across the Strait

of Georgia to Vancouver Island was the family-run Mount Arrowsmith Brewery to meet Dan Farrington, coowner of the brewery and guide and co-owner of a north country lodge in the summer. We chatted up shared passions as we sampled the brews and left with our crate of Klean Kanteen growlers filled to the max. An hour north of Arrowsmith we pulled into a palatial estate at Oyster Creek and met up with Patrick Evans, owner of Shelter Point Distillery. I knew Oyster Creek because I came ashore here to cast to jumping salmon when I circled Vancouver Island in 1995. At the time it was an agricultural station for the University of British Columbia. I returned a second time only a few years ago to fish the Oyster and as we walked the beach trail to the river, an old friend of mine, Rory Glennie, mentioned the distillery recently installed on the other side of the fence. Patrick had a wild-child side to his


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FISHING A tussle with a big ling a day after a big windstorm capped off the anglers’ adventure. “Time spent living along this wilderness seashore is intrinsically exciting and vibrant,” writes the author. “This fringe ecology, a razor-thin strip of littoral sand and rock and the booming sea that hammers home, intrigues me like no other.” (ROB LYON)

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MAY 2018 | nwsportsmanmag.com

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FISHING fine artisanal single-malt whiskey. Before we left Patrick gifted us a bottle for our journey and for which we toasted him repeatedly in the tent during that storm.

THE DAY AFTER the blow, shafts of pure sunlight pierced a ragged darkgray cloud cover that streamed by overhead. The swell we could see to the north looked to be running 8 to 12 feet but was smooth as silk and there was no wind down low. We loitered in camp a bit, then suited up and motored out across the inlet to the north looking for salmon. Steve hooked up half way across but lost it. After several hours of trolling it was all we had to show for our effort. There was an ancient village site just around the point that we knew of, so we decided to go ashore and look in the sand for trade beads. It seemed politically correct enough to

us. The beads are from back in the days of tall ships and explorers and will be ground to sand before very much longer. I was lucky to find two large blue beads and I gave them to Steve to give to his wife. Steve wanted to fish for ling. It’s very much a mano un pescador type of thing from a kayak, and he’s a wrestling champ from high school days, so I think he harkened back. We motored into the broad mouth of the inlet and picked up the swell, aftermath of the big storm and rolling up the inlet on the flood tide like a convoy of big semis. We made for the reef fronting the north side of our island and big bull kelp beds that were absolutely filthy with fish. As we neared, we could see explosions of white foam and hear the cannon-like report of waves smashing against rock! It was daunting to want to get too close to the mix but we’d be safe enough; it was just unnerving to be so close to

such raw power. Swells rolled under our boats, built up and smacked home, then sent refracting waves from the collision back out to meet us. It was a bit chaotic and you had to stay on your toes to stay out of trouble. It was way too lumpy to lasso a bull kelp bulb to use as anchor but with an easy flick of the throttle we could jockey around to stay clear of the break. And without a paddle in hand we could fish while we did. These motor units, I decided then and there, have a place in the bigger scheme of things. Steve clipped a big metal jig on the end of his fly line and lowered her down. Stripping line off a fly reel is a jig tech of its own and Steve was only halfway down when something big climbed aboard. His favorite steelhead rod was being drug in the dirt. Whoom, whoom, whoom, tip disappearing under water up to the middle ferrule, reel slipping great hanks of line.

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“Whoa!” I could hear Steve but the fish couldn’t; it was swimming like hell for the kelp. Steve tightened up, held on and turned it. It dove straight down below the boat and hung there, shaking its heavy head. Steve pumped it slowly to the surface. I’d been taking pictures up till this point, then offered to help and motored closer. I could see the fish coming up right beside my boat. I realized I hadn’t brought my net when it popped to the surface right beside me. “I got it.” It was a big ling and lay calmly on its side. Ling are like living time bombs, laying deathly still until they explode suddenly into living mayhem. I had my paddling glove on. Ling are not easy to tail and it’s not a good idea, anyway, but I was feeling the zen and so reached down and grabbed the tail with one hand and the jig with the other and swing it deftly onto my lap. And the bomb went off. I couldn’t think of anything better to do so I leaned forward in a kind of ling sandwich, pressing the fish against my lap to subdue it. I felt stupid. Not to mention incapable of doing anything else hunched up like that. I should have used Steve’s net. Steve was laughing hard. “Dude,” I said, “give me a hand.” “You should have used a net.” I glared in his direction. “Here.” Steve swung the business end of the net over to me. I straightened up and quickly dropped in the ling. “Thanks.” It was a beautiful fish and it was our dinner. “Sure. That’s a big fish; think we can eat it all?” “I do.” NS Editor’s note: Rob Lyon lives on Lopez Island, in Washington’s San Juans, and operates Lyon Expeditions.


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COLUMN

Try For Springers

In The Tribs T

his is the month spring Chinook surge into coastal rivers, tributaries of the Willamette and CoBUZZ lumbia, as well as RAMSEY the Snake and its Idaho feeder streams. It’s a time when anglers target salmon in the deep holes the fish often hold in as rivers narrow. The type of streams we are discussing here might include Oregon’s upper Rogue, Umpqua, Nestucca and Sandy; Washington’s Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, Sol Duc and Yakima; and Idaho’s Clearwater and Salmon. And while spring salmon will make their big move this month, exactly when during this time frame the migration will peak is often determined by a combination of water temperature and rainfall. In my experience, and that of many, it’s when mainstems reach 52 degrees that the fish make their move up and into tribs. In addition to water temps, rainfall can inspire the salmon to migrate toward their home waters. These two factors not only often determine when the salmon will move upstream but when they might bite best. For example, early in the season, rains can warm streams, which might draw fish into the system and cause them to bite. Rains that occur later in the season can lower river temps, causing the salmon to bite better than when flows might have been warmer than the fish prefer. Where you will find Chinook is often determined by what they are doing. For example, you might find salmon spread throughout the river and in pretty much every drift and tailout when they are migrating, like early or late in the day or after a rainstorm. However, as conditions stabilize they will seek out the deeper holes where the water is 10 feet deep and deeper.

Back-trolling plugs is a good way to get into hatchery spring Chinook as they head up tributaries this month. Guide Jack Glass and a client show off one from Oregon’s Sandy River. (HOOKUPGUIDESERVICE.COM) nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

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COLUMN BACK-TROLLING A BAIT-WRAPPED salmon plug is a top method when fishing from a boat, while suspending a large egg cluster under a float can be performed from bank or boat. Either way, if your goal is to catch a fat springer, these are fishing tactics you won’t want to leave home without. Medium-diving plugs like FlatFish and Kwikfish can be fished on a flat line and reach depths of 10 feet or so when backtrolled on a flat line – that is, with no additional weight added. A Mag Lip, thanks to its ability to dive deep, can reach depths of 20 feet on a flat line, providing the current is straight running. The exact diving depth will depend on line diameter, current speed, size plug and amount of line you let out. To get your salmon-size plug down near the bottom of a deep hole, and especially one without a lot of current, will mean rigging it in combination with a sinker. What many anglers do is rig their high-action plug on a 60-inch leader in

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Adding a bait to the underside of a plug provides a meaty attraction that salmon can find hard to resist. (VIA BUZZ RAMSEY) conjunction with a 12-inch weight-dropper line to a sinker and back-bounce this outfit out and away from their boat before back-trolling it through a place where salmon hold. Back-bouncing your sinker and salm-

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on-size plug out away from your boat can be especially effective in deep (even roily) salmon holes that lack enough current to take a plug near bottom on its own. The technique is much like back-bouncing bait, with the difference being to hold your rod steady once it’s back-bounced away from your craft. It’s also important to wait until the fish has pulled your rod down three or four times before setting the hook. What many anglers do to transform their salmon plug into a top producer is to add a fillet of sardine and/or other bait to its belly. Doing this can persuade even stubborn fish into biting when conditions are less than ideal. And while sardine is the most popular, adding a little tuna or other bait to the mix can be what it takes to turn even ornery fish into biters.

WHETHER FISHING FROM bank or boat, suspending bait under a bobber and drifting it through a deep hole can produce surprising results. The trick here is to run your bait at the level the fish are holding, which is usually near bottom. This can require you to rig your bobber so it slides freely on your line, while using an adjustable bobber stop to position your bait at any depth. The most popular bobber stopper is fashioned from a short length of braided Dacron line, which is attached on your main line above your bobber.


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If you find yourself out of pretied bobber stoppers, here’s how to tie one: 1) Start with an 18-inch length of 20-pound-test braided Dacron. 2) Make a closed loop with the opposite ends of your Dacron paralleling your main line. 3) Wrap one of the Dacron ends inside the loop (and around your main line) five times and pull the loop closed. 4) Trim the excess line from your bobber stopper; however, leave a few inches on each side of the knot will allow you to tighten your stopper knot if it loosens. 5) Make sure your stopper is snug enough to hold your bobber in position, but loose enough to adjust it up and down your main line when changing depths. 6) Add at least one plastic bead to your main line, between your bobber and bobber stopper, to prevent your stopper from sliding through your bobber. This type of bobber stopper is small enough to be reeled through your rod guides, which makes casting your outfit a lot easier than if your bobber were fixed on your line, since with a sliding bobber you can reel your float, sinker and bait close to your rod tip. Bobbers come in different shapes and sizes. Pencil-shaped bobbers are popular because they will tip with the slightest drag and better signal what’s happening with your bait than a round one. Although bobbers capable of floating a 1-ounce weight are top sellers, I like 3-ounce floats because using one means I can get down in areas where river currents might otherwise sweep my bait up and away from the mostly bottom-hugging salmon. Your leader, from swivel to hook, should be 18 to 24 inches in length. A single hook, like those made by Owner in a 4/0 or 5/0 size, is what most anglers use. You’ll want to attach your weight at your swivel. The preferred bait when bobber fishing for spring Chinook is a salmon egg cluster but additions can sometimes make all the difference. If the fish refuse to bite, try adding a shrimp, worm, crawfish tail, fillet of sardine, or tuna ball to your bait offering. 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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FISHING

Bryanna’s Disneyland Sara jumps aboard fellow fisherwoman’s boat and learns a whole new way to catch spring Chinook. By Sara Ichtertz

A

s the runs swim by faster and faster each year, it’s time to chase the fish we so sadly say goodbye to. In prior years, all my love and adventure for these finicky spring salmon could be found right out my backdoor. When the dogwoods begin to bloom in the woods, I know what adventure awaits me on the bluffs of the river. In some ways, I honestly dread the love-hate I feel for these fish. They do not come easy. These fish and I do not think alike. They are not a steelhead and you do not target them as if they were, at least if you plan to catch one. And the bluffs honestly scare me in this crazy way. Knowing the intensity of it all and the way the upriver springer season leaves me feeling, I decided to step away from my waters for one holiday weekend to embrace something new. I decided it was time to expand my horizons as a Chinook fisherman and broaden my adventures as a person. Thanks to a couple of incredible invites I realized it was OK to leave my big backyard, and so I did.

TRAVELING ACROSS OREGON, I made my way to the Columbia River Gorge. I hadn’t seen the gorge since 6th grade, but I remembered why I loved going to Grandma’s out of Hood River like I did. Feeling ever so excited for the adventure that was upon me, I reached my destination. Just across the border of Washington I would get to hunt for salmon in an entirely

Drano Lake is Bryanna Zimmerman’s happy place, one she shared with Sara Ichtertz during a wildly productive multiday May 2017 spring Chinook fishing trip on the Columbia River tributary. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

new way! I got my fishing license, my tag, and one quart of beautifully brined coon shrimp. Pondering the massive body of water in front of me, I eagerly awaited my 2017 Memorial Day fishing mates. I had previously gotten my feet wet stepping foot onto a sled and landing my first ever Columbia River fish, a beautiful springer caught on anchor and running a 4.5 Mag Lip with guide David Johnson. I had never experienced trolling, however, but that was just what I was going to do with the very fishy Bryanna and Jeff. I have to say it probably ruined me. Getting to watch, learn and play with them during their yearly Drano Lake spring Chinook tradition was good

for my soul and I will never forget it. I see very clearly why my tiny yet mighty friend Bryanna Zimmerman calls this place “my Disneyland!” The joy and excitement she possessed the night before we hit the water was fitting of a kid anticipating the best day of their life, without a doubt. Getting on the water just as the sun began to rise, oh goodness! My water-calling, tug-loving, Mother Nature-addicted heart had to agree with Bryanna. We fished out of a Willie Boat like I had never seen in my life! Our six G.Loomis SAMR 1265-C and 1474-C rods paired with Shimano Tekota 300LC reels were loaded with 65-pound PowerPro Maxcuatro. They clearly were sexy weapons of mass nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

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FISHING salmon destruction and I couldn’t wait to see them in action. With all the laughter and those cotton candy sunrise skies, I have to say it did feel a lot like a fishy type of Disneyland to this Southern Oregon bank-fishing woman. I was intrigued as I watched Bryanna and her “buddy” Jeff work together in getting things just right. As they dialed in the bait, the flashers and the boat, I thought, “Wow, I am a very long way from home.” But teamwork makes their dream work; no matter how corny that may sound, it is true. As day one’s sun began to set, the relaxation they find here was clear. They share a love not only for each other but also for the creature they are in pursuit of. Their hearts were happy because they were away from the city, hunting for their Drano Lake spring salmon. Still, the day’s one takedown and one fish left Jeff to believe we may have had too much fun! As we pulled into the shade we gave that beauty and their weapons of mass destruction a Joy scrub down from top to bottom and called it a day.

I’M NOT SAYING that the Joy made all the difference in the world, but I am saying this: Whatever we washed away from the boat that night made for the most incredible displays of trolling takedowns I had ever seen. I mean, just watching them run blew me away! The salmon fishing I know is nothing like this. When I saw my first ever take … take ... takedown! in the Toilet Bowl, my eyes lit up. We waited (for what felt like an eternity) for the salmon to fully eat the tasty morsel Bry and Jeff had presented to him and hammer the 1265-C all the way down! It may as well have been Disneyland! And the day had only just begun. We paid closer attention to the scents they were hitting, checked and changed baits and Jeff found the speed that the fish wanted to bite at. Jeff and Bryanna were in the zone, and the springers wanted to play! Never had I honestly felt so irresponsible 112 Northwest Sportsman

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“Fighting these salmon on rods damn near double her height, Bryanna showed those fish who was in charge – she was!” writes the author. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

for catching “my” salmon in my life. It was not at all the game I am used to, though it was fun – bunches of it! All that crazy intensity and pressure I feel upriver each year was hundreds of miles away and I was living in this moment, amazed by the takedowns! I watched in total awe how incredible it was to watch that Maxcuatro peel off those reels like butter, the Loomis rods pinned down hard with beauties on the line! It was tough to take, I tell you!

Everything about fighting salmon from the boat was so foreign to me. That huge Pro-Troll flasher had me wondering if I had lost the fish. The crazy thing was, I never stopped fighting the fish even though I wasn’t sure if it was still there at all! Sure, enough they would go back to tugging their hearts out, trying to elude me but never knowing I thought they were gone. The adrenaline of the new was amazing! The people I shared it


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FISHING

As sunrise brightens up the sky east of Drano Lake, Jeff Eklund rigs a rod for springers. Ichtertz was impressed how he and Bryanna worked together so well, and in the process loaded the boat with great-tasting salmon. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

with are fishers through and through. I very much could tell their hearts are on the river and I loved that. Feeling that allowed me to embrace this adventure to its fullest! With killer riggings from Bryanna and great guidance from Jeff I didn’t lose a single fish. My tiny yet mighty

friend didn’t either. Fighting these salmon on rods damn near double her height, Bryanna showed those fish who was in charge – she was! We fished strong that weekend, the boat going 10 for 10. I feel like my best was good enough coming into something so new, and I feel thankful

they asked me to join them on a trip that is so very special to them. It was something I will never forget. Astonished by the salmon in our boat, the fishtographer in me wanted pictures of all of them, together perfectly! Oh my, I had never had so many limits of salmon in my presence to get shots of. But having been welcomed into someone else’s world, the control freak inside of me stayed hidden and no such shots were taken. Since then I realize and honestly already knew that some moments aren’t always meant to be captured behind a camera. They are captured in our hearts for a reason. Before we knew it, it was time for Andrew’s amazing teriyaki chicken, cooked up on the Willie, and the evening bite was underway. Finishing off the day was a sunset I will never forget. Between the twilight and limits of salmon, I found I loved springers in a whole new way! It was a whole new fishery, with new fishy friends. Silliness and laughter were abundant, and so were the fish.

ON DAY THREE, we caught the morning bite before we parted ways. It was back to life we would go, where it was so patiently waiting for us. That morning, Bryanna and I shared more than a couple biters. I think we realized the fun was all but over and the words we shared 114 Northwest Sportsman

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on the water that morning have not gone forgotten but are still with us. I know that she and I walked away from our adventure with a better understanding of who we are and who we aren’t, and in doing so left with a friendship worth building, and I am thankful. We bonded through time together on the river. No matter the exterior package, a fisherman is a soul, and it lives inside a heart. She and I, we are fishermen who happen to be ladies as well. That time together, hunting those salmon is something to treasure, and I do. The large amount of fresh meat I brought home to my family was most definitely a win. But what I also gained as a woman and a mother was important as well. This was the weekend I set my fear of traveling alone to destinations semiunknown aside. I believed in myself just enough to get there. That might seem silly to some, yet very real to others. At the end of the day I realize this is our one life, so shall we say yes even though fear at times would rather we say no? Will I be telling my grandchildren that their Grammie chased the fish with all of her heart? Each time I have said yes to myself and embraced something new I not only have experienced some of the greatest fisheries the Northwest has to offer, I have grown so much as an individual. There is great power in believing in ourselves enough to see if we shall sink or swim. Funny thing is, you’ll never know if you don’t dive in. As life swims by faster and faster I realize there has never been a dive into the river of life that hasn’t been worth it when it comes to the fish. What I continue to learn about myself as I learn about the fish is something words fall short of when trying to describe. The one thing I do know for sure, though, is that 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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FISHING

Cascade Lakes Beckon

The lakes of Oregon’s Cascades provide great getaways and solid fishing as they melt out in late spring. Downriggers can be very helpful for targeting their large lake trout and abundant kokanee. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

Oregon’s mountain waters offer good fishing, lodging for those looking to get away from it all. By Troy Rodakowski

I

remember as a young kid making the drive with my grandpa and father up Oregon’s Highway 58 to the high lakes in late spring. We always woke up early and cranked the heater while pulling that yellow-and-white boat to the crest of the Cascade Mountains. Sometimes we would stop in Crescent to grab some snacks, drinks and other items for the cooler before we headed to the boat launch.

As we neared the lake of the day, we’d always make sure to pull over, scrape off the crusty top layer of melting snow with a small shovel, and scoop some fresh, clean white stuff straight into our cooler. By the end of the day, the cooler sometimes would be filled with limits, and others just a few fish for a nice dinner. Those days and trips have made memories that have lasted a lifetime, and I still look forward to returning every year once the snow releases its hold on Oregon’s high lakes.

This issue and next we are going to preview the best Cascade waters, with an eye towards what species they hold, this season’s expectations, local accommodations and more.

CRESCENT LAKE IS open all year but access can be limited by snowfall and snowpack at the boat launches and campgrounds. The daily limit on lake trout is one per day, with a 24-inch minimum. These char are amazing and fight like no other. Target them with downriggers and nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

Northwest Sportsman 119


FISHING hammer the deeper portions of the lake. “Fish tend to follow the kokanee, so keep that in mind when fishing,” says Erik Moberly, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist for the Deschutes District (541-388-6145). Lake and brown trout fishing has been good in recent years. Browns are found along the edges and trolling slowly through these sections usually works great. Kokanee have been smaller the last few years, but ODFW is reducing the annual stocking to try and grow bigger fish. According to state biologists there are just too many mouths to feed. Amenities: Crescent Lake Resort has a nice restaurant, campsites and other facilities. Anglers can rent dock space and moor their boats. Guests are able to rent boats, kayaks, bikes, paddle boards. Cabins are available and you can have

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While the upper Deschutes reservoirs are popular for rainbow trout, higher up in the cool waters near the crest of the mountain range, Mackinaw thrive. This laker was caught on Crescent Lake and released unharmed. Double check the regulations as some waters have a daily limit of one and 2-foot minimum length restriction to protect the trophy fisheries. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

dinner at the Pine Bar Grill. For reservations and additional info, see crescentlakeresort.com or call (541) 433-2505.

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April 22 to October 31. Anglers have reported improving rainbow trout fishing over the years due to a significant reduction in the illegally introduced three-spined stickleback population, which competed for


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FISHING food with juvenile trout. Although some longtime anglers complain that the very large ’bows are now gone, the highest Deschutes River impoundment still offers anglers big numbers of 16- to 20-plus-inchers and is a favorite of those who like to chase good-sized trout (wild rainbows must be released). In addition, Crane Prairie offers good fishing for large kokanee and brook trout if you know what you

are doing. In fact, many anglers specifically are targeting kokes and having some very good success. Amenities: Crane Prairie Resort has RV spaces, cabins, boat rentals and additional campsites available for the many guests. There are many hiking trails, a general store, showers and beach access. Many camping spaces have full RV hook-ups. There is also a playground and basketball court. For more info, see crane-prairieresort.com or call (541) 383-3939.

JUST DOWNSTREAM OF Crane Prairie is Wickiup Reservoir, which is open during the same timeframe but has different limits and, unfortunately, a series of problems. “Due to poor water years over the past few years and recent water management changes, fish populations in Wickiup Reservoir have been negatively impacted,” says

ODFW’s Moberly. One problem is that during low water levels, which are occurring more often these days, fish are drawn to the deepest part of the lake, next to Wickiup’s unscreened outlet. “Past data showed that during low reservoir levels, fish (mainly juvenile kokanee) were being entrained through the unscreened diversion” Moberly notes. Wickiup isn’t stocked, so that affects the overall kokanee population. New for 2018, ODFW has reduced the “bonus bag limit” on the species from 25 to five. That said, while it seems like there are a lot less kokanee these days, it is very likely the remaining fish should be very large this year. Wickiup is 4,388 feet above sea level with an average depth of 20 feet, so keep an eye on water temperatures to determine the depth

When it comes to the lakes’ tastiest offering, it’s a close call between the meals served up at the numerous resorts and kokanee like these author Troy Rodakowski caught in the Cascades. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

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FISHING to focus your efforts. Amenities: The resort at nearby Twin Lakes (both of which are scheduled to be stocked throughout the season) has a nice tackle shop with rentals and great advice for fishing the area, as well as a small restaurant. At Wickiup there’s a nice campground on the west side of the lake, with the main boat launch located on the northern shore. Day-use areas are very well maintained and this is a great lake to escape the larger crowds of people. For more info, check out the Twin Lakes Resort website (twinlakesresort.net) or call (541) 382-6432.

CULTUS LAKE IS open all year but access can be limited with snowfall. Lake trout fishing has been decent over the last few seasons, with a 25.4-pounder winning a fishing derby here in 2013, but Cultus is more of a kayaking, waterskiing, wakeboarding and

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surfing lake these days. ODFW does stock rainbow trout here (releases this summer are scheduled for early July and late August). Amenities: Cultus Lake Resort has a variety of watercraft and 23 rustic cabins to rent, along with a small restaurant and other services beginning May 11 with limited hours. For more information, check out cultuslakeresort.com or call (541) 408-1560.

AND FINALLY, ODELL Lake remains one of the top destinations for anglers to visit across the West. Kokanee fishing has been good over the last few years, with fish running in the 10- to 12inch range. Anglers also have been successful in catching very large lake trout (Odell is of course the home of the state record 40½-pounder, caught in 1984). “It is really amazing that there is such a large population of kokaneeeating lake trout coexisting with

a very large fishery of kokanee, and still the lake is chock-full of kokanee,” notes Moberly. These fish are wild and spawn naturally. There is also a very small population of federally listed bull trout, which must be released unharmed. Odell is open from April 22 to October 31 with a daily limit of one lake trout (24-inch minimum) and 25 kokanee. Amenities: You can stay in a cabin or camp along the shores of this massive lake. There are several campgrounds to choose from and Odell Lake Resort’s restaurant and lounge are top notch for the Cascades – many enjoy dining and relaxing here after a day of fun. The lake also offers guided fishing adventures – I recommend booking one if you have never fished here before – and in early June comes the 10th Annual Mackinaw Fishing Derby. For more info, go to odelllakeresort.com or call (541) 433-2540. NS


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COLUMN

Danica Denham and Josh Etringer show off a May bull trout caught while trolling on the lower Skagit River. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Bull Market On Lower Skagit

B

esides river volume and its tidal ups and downs, the third By Doug Huddle watery challenge facing bull trout and cutthroat anglers fishing the Skagit Delta is water clarity. With May’s arrival, this transitional fishery sees murkier greenish spring flows, precipitated by melting snowpack, that with regularity fade to a dense brown from additions of glacial flour from several North Cascade volcanoes during late-spring heat waves. In the past, lack of clarity wasn’t a great deterrent to angling success for those seekers of cutts and bulls. Anglers simply changed the locations and depths in the water column of their presentations. Also, they added scents, increased bait or lure sizes and kept fishing. But the rules now governing the resumption of spring fishing here prohibit

NORTH SOUND

those adjustments. Since the selectivegear rule bans baits and scents, as well as certain hook configurations, the period of experimentation continues. Those hardcore fishers choosing to still ply these waters are switching to slender plug-type hardware replacements from meaty herring-strip offerings for bull trout and are changing to topwater dry fly patterns and tried-and-true spoons from ace-in-the-hole nightcrawlers for the cutthroat. Postspawn, recuperating bulls find these delta transition waters a great place to intercept downstream-migrating smolts each spring and a crippled herring imitation slowly spinning in a downstream direction was and is irresistible to them. In the open main channel (to avoid obvious wood embedded in the channel), native char seekers found that pulling their offering downstream a smidge faster than the current would entice more

strikes than trolling the same offering upstream against the current. These presentations were held down with lead on a dropper or a slip sinker and offered on a leader of at least 8 feet in length so the terminal tackle would rise off the bottom a little. A second Skagit River delta bull trout haunt where the opposite – pulling upstream against the current – is an option is in the narrow salt-marsh distributary sloughs. The voracious piscivores like to take cover in these confines, especially in the hollows along an undercut bank where they wait to ambush hapless – and even healthy – smolts. The challenge for char seekers now is perfecting the use of diving Rapalas or larger Kwikfish modified to carry a debarbed single-point hook (with a gap less than half an inch) that should trail directly off the end of the lure or under its belly.

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COLUMN CUTTHROAT TROUT FISHERS welcomed a return to these waters and many who weren’t before are successfully shifting to hackle or heavy metal. Selective-gear verbiage allows for use of multiple patterns (up to three with single, barbless hooks) per line. Many stick to a single, end-of-tippet offering and match floating, sinking or sink-tip lines to the type of pattern they’ll use depending on water clarity. To cover the options, some fly fishers now rig a combo with a terrestrial dry pattern on a dropper high on the tippet and a nymph or annelid (red worm) pattern with a little lead wire stitched in at line’s end. Another pattern type that works in these waters at dawn or dusk is an eyed alevin or streamer look-a-like. For hardware flingers, any tackle box or set of fishing vest pockets should contain a varied assortment (by size and paint scheme) of Dick Nites. Also essential for experimentation are a selection of Panther Martin and Rooster Tail spinners

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as small as you can find. While anglers who troll for bull trout avoid wood like the plague, cutthroat fishers are drawn to it like moths to a flame, not to mention bank sections with overhanging vegetation. That’s why the South Fork Skagit’s confines are particularly popular among them. These are pricey offerings, so it’s suggested that you proof each casting arc for snags with the cheapest spoons you have before tying on more expensive terminal tackle.

SUMMER STREAM FISHING seasons on some waters open on this month’s last Saturday. I’m looking to the upper reaches of the Nooksack system – the North Fork above Nooksack Falls, the Middle Fork above the City of Bellingham’s diversion and the South Fork above Wanlick Creek – for a Memorial Day Weekend outing. Most all other stream opportunities are slated to come on line the first Saturday in June. With the North Cascades sitting at

124 percent of average snowpack, expect spring run-off to be up, and there’s a chance that forest roads at higher elevations may be under snow (the Wanlick Pass gate doesn’t open until July 1). Based on the 2018 preseason forecast of 3,439 clipped Chinook returning – the highest prediction state managers have ever put out – the upper Skagit’s hatchery spring king fishery is a certainty. When it opens June 1, plug-pulling and egg-floating anglers will focus on the Rockport-to-Marblemount section, which has great sled accesses at both ends but not a lot of bank options. Walk-in fishers have the lower Cascade’s reaches to ply. These waters can also get wickedly high if June rains add to the snowmelt run-off and the resultant zero visibility can be daunting. NS Editor’s note: Doug Huddle lives in Bellingham, is retired from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and has written about hunting and fishing in the Northwest for more than 34 years.


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COLUMN

May Ops:

Toms, Trout, Tags

M

ay is a month of adaptation and planning. First, turkey hunters and trout anglers need to SOUTH SOUND change their tactics By Jason Brooks to be successful as spring heats up and summer nears. For big game hunters, it’s a month for figuring out which special permits to apply for and plan out fall outings. No matter whether you chase turkeys, troll for trout or scour the hunting regulations and figure out point differentials for permits, all of them take strategy to be prosperous. About this time last year, my son Ryan and I set up in a ground blind before daylight. Turkeys were in the roost and as the horizon started to light up, the birds became very vocal. Gobbles and cackles erupted amidst the ponderosas as the birds made their way down to the ground and out to the fields. We had a hen decoy deployed to draw in any toms, but in reality it probably wasn’t needed. Setting up on a travel route from the roost to the morning scratching areas where the big birds were going to be feeding is always a good way to hunt turkeys. As the season starts to dwindle towards the end of May, setting up an ambush is your best bet to bag a lastminute bird. Look for sign in areas that turkeys frequent. Obviously the more sign you find, the more likely the birds will be returning to this area, as it is well used. Set up a ground blind or, if possible, use natural materials to make one. Last year I stood in a thicket at the base of a pine. Leaning against the ponderosa while wearing camouflage clothing and face net, the birds didn’t even hesitate to enter the field.

Still got a turkey tag in your pocket? With the peak of the breeding season past, it will pay to change your tactics and try to intercept a tom on the way to feeding areas or carefully stalk a late-blooming gobbler down. (JASON BROOKS) Outside of three counties on the eastern slope of the Cascades, you can take two males during the spring season in Eastern Washington, including around Colville, the turkey capital of the Evergreen State. This means that if you were successful last month during the height of the breeding season, when gobbling toms and clucking hens made

for an exciting hunt, you can still get out for another go at them. Stalking birds is just as exciting. Listen for the gobbles and make a game plan. Be sure to know your target, as other hunters might still be calling, even in late May. Once you narrow down where the tom is, slowly creep to the bird, using all available cover. This is a very exciting stalk

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COLUMN It’ll take a little more effort to put together a stringer this month, but trout releases continue in May at South Sound and other lakes. Ryan Brooks and his dad Jason put together this nice haul. (JASON BROOKS)

even if the quarry is a bird – a sharp-eyed one, at that. South Sound hunters looking for a close-to-home option can give a try for the eastern variety in pockets in Thurston and Lewis Counties, but be forewarned, this is the hardest of the three species in Washington to harvest.

TROUT ANGLERS HAVE been out fishing for planter trout since the fourth Saturday in April. But those easy early limits aren’t so forthcoming as May folds into June. But it is just as rewarding to load the boat and head to the lake. One bonus that May offers is that kokanee fishing usually picks up as lake temperatures warm. Try fishing a bit deeper and use a gang troll or Pop Gear such as a Ford Fender, Flash Lite or Rooster Troll UV. Run a Wedding Ring spinner, Dick Nite spoon or a Spin-N-Glo Kokanee Rig behind the blades. Tip the hooks with white shoepeg corn that has had a good soak in Anise Super Gel by Pro-Cure. As it gets warmer and brighter, trout and kokanee will move down in the water column and the thermocline will stabilize in deep lakes such as American, Alder, Merwin and Yale. If you are 132 Northwest Sportsman

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looking to fish in a nice setting that isn’t too far away, give Summit Lake a try. This gem had an algae bloom last year that didn’t affect the fish, but it was closed to boating and angling most of spring and summer. This means that as long as the bloom stays away this season, the fishing should be excellent, with a lot of larger holdover trout. Summit is 523 acres and features a state boat launch with ample parking. There is little bank access, though, so this is really a boater’s lake. Mostly managed for the kokanee, as the lake is fairly deep, it received 225,000 fry last year. This spring it also had an additional 3,500 rainbow trout planted, with 500 of those being jumbos. Two poles are allowed on this lake with the endorsement, but make sure you have a Discover Pass or your Department of Fish and Wildlife access pass visible in your vehicle, as Summit is very popular and patrolled regularly. Bank-bound South Sound trout anglers should give Hicks Lake in Thurston County a try. This lake is 160 acres and receives very hefty plants in April and May, including 11,245 planter rainbows, 2,700 jumbos and some brown trout. WDFW times additional plantings with Memorial Day weekend.

Wanschers Community Park is 16 acres and provides good bank access to Hicks. The park also has hiking trails, play areas, barbecue pits and picnic tables. This is a great place to take the family for a day outing and do a little fishing as well as some other family activities. The lake is in the city of Lacey and boasts a view of Mt. Rainier. Try a few different techniques. Watch Hicks’ planting schedule and if you get there within a few days of a release, stay close to the boat ramp and throw spinners such as Rooster Tails. If you prefer to sit back in a lawn chair and fish bait, be sure to use a longer leader, one that’s about 36 inches long, tied to a size 6 Gamakatsu baitholder hook. For baits give PowerBait eggs a try or, better yet, use a bait injector and float a nightcrawler with air and some scents such as Pro-Cure’s water soluble shrimp. Add a marshmallow to help keep the worm afloat as the scent leaks out and attracts the fish. Brown trout really like nightcrawlers. Running a ¼- to ½-ounce sliding weight on the mainline above a swivel will help you hook more fish – they will not feel the weight as they bite the bait.

HUNTERS LOOK TOWARD May

with excitement and hope as this is the month that special hunt applications are due. Over the years my family has been fairly successful in drawing certain permits, especially second deer and antlerless tags. This is because I look at these hunts for what they are intended to be: an opportunity to be successful in harvesting an animal, not a trophy hunt. Hunters oftentimes put in for lowdraw-odds hunts and then complain when they don’t get it. Others look for hunts with higher odds or ones with enough tags that it doesn’t take too many bonus points to get drawn and apply for those instead. One example is an antlerless blacktail muzzleloader hunt. If you look at the odds in Western Washington units offering these hunts, you will notice that they’re much better than chances for antlerless Eastside mule deer permits. Blacktails don’t need much area to live, so if you don’t want to purchase one of the private timberlands


COLUMN passes, if you can locate a small parcel of public land, you can be successful in finding an antlerless deer. If you’re looking to pull a quality permit, keep in mind that WDFW manages these hunts as a “quality” experience not a quality trophy animal. A few years ago, a Hunt Washington forum member drew one of the famed Entiat late mule deer permits for modern firearms. Expecting to find a 180-inch buck behind every tree, the hunter was very disappointed when the snow didn’t fall and the deer stayed in the high country and away from roads. Plenty of other bucks were available, but this hunter had set their sights on one that was 180 inches or larger. When me or one of my hunting partners gets drawn for one of these permits, we enjoy just going out hunting with very few people around. I drew a Toutle bull permit in 2011 and shot the first elk I found, a small four-point. I was elated, as my father and a good friend were along for the hunt. I’ve shot bigger bulls since,

but I’ll remember that small four-point as one of the best hunts I have ever been on. One last thing to consider is putting in for the points option. Even if you don’t plan on hunting this fall, or have other plans and don’t want to chance getting drawn for a permit, it is a good idea to buy the application. In Washington, the preference points are multiplied or “squared,” so that if a hunter has two points they have four chances. One who has five points has 25 chances. Those years you decide not to apply at all can really hurt you in the future. Application deadline is May 23.

MAY’S A MONTH of transition, adaptation, planning and a bit of strategy for South Sound sportsmen. If you are still chasing turkey, try setting up on the route from the roost to the field or perfecting your stalking skills. Trout and kokanee anglers need to search for the fish and plan on spending a bit more time of the water for limits. And big game hunters should scour the regulations and plan accordingly for this coming fall. NS

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Whether looking for a freezer-filling doe or cow or a chance to hunt a bigger critter than usual, mid-May’s the deadline to put in for special permits. Brooks says to look at quality tags not as guaranteeing a whopper but rather a quality experience, which is what his 2011 Toutle tag bull represents to he and his pa Al to this day. (JASON BROOKS)


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HUNTING

As Northwest turkey hunters head afield with their shotguns, there’s a number of bugs and plants they encounter that might bite back, including western poison ivy, ticks, black widows and mosquitoes. (RYAN MCMINDS, WIKIMEDIA, CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0, IVY; JAMES GATHANY, CDC, SPIDER, TICK; THERMACELL, MOSQUITO)

How To Avoid Being The Gobblee Spring brings the nasties, poisonous plants out in the Northwest’s turkey woods. By M.D. Johnson

E

leven o’clock in the morning, and you just raised what sounds like a very amorous 2-year-old. You close the distance, find that perfect tree, settle in, and get ready. Gobble! He hits it on his own. Behind your headnet, you smile. Then you hear it. A faint hum that grows and grows; within seconds,

the sound becomes a shape, and the shape an undulating smokelike cloud. Then, another sound – a dinner bell, and unfortunately, oh Great Hunter, you’re the main course as hundreds – nah, make that thousands – of ravenous mosquitoes descend upon you. A minute, and you’re feeling faint from loss of blood; two minutes, and all hopes of tagging that loud-mouthed longbeard

are gone. Right now, you’re in survival mode, and it looks like the skeeters are winning. While the spring turkey season doesn’t hold a monopoly on biting bugs, stinging critters and poisonous plants, there’s no denying that one’s quest for a May gobbler often comes with any number of flying, crawling, itching or chewing unpleasantries. Can you avoid every one of these pests? Not unless you want to do nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

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HUNTING

all your turkey hunting indoors. However, with a little education, and a bit of what Grandma referred to as preventative medicine, you can lessen the chances of becoming the guest of honor at this annual outdoor buffet.

MOSQUITOES Unfortunately, mosquitoes can be found just about anywhere you find turkeys. I can’t recall a place I’ve hunted from the Southeast to the Northwest where I didn’t run into skeeters of one kind or another. True, Osceola country has a few more of the airborne bloodsuckers than does the Rio range of Oregon and Washington; still, and regardless of where you hunt, gobblers and mosquitoes pretty much go hand-in-hand. Mosquitoes are nasty little things, carrying with them a long list of diseases, including the west Nile virus and encephalitis. Although practically unheard of in the United States, malaria transmission via mosquito bites remains a very real concern for hunters pursuing oscellated birds in Central America. Only the female mosquito bites; however, as she does, she injects a microscopic amount of an anti140 Northwest Sportsman

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Rattler range overlaps turkey country in areas east of the Cascades and parts of Southern and Southwest Oregon, but the key is to leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone. (JULIA JOHNSON)

coagulant intended to keep the blood – your blood! – flowing nicely, and it’s this anti-coagulant that causes the familiar red raised bump and irritating itch. Repellent sprays containing 10 to 25 percent DEET work very well when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The downside to sprays that contain DEET? The chemical, technically known as N,N-Diethylmeta-toluamide, wrecks havoc on shotgun finishes, cell phone faces, watch crystals and anything plastic or rubber. The most effective anti-skeeter device, bar none, I have ever used is the butane-fueled ThermaCELL (mosquitorepellent.com), which is a lightweight handheld gadget capable of creating a 15-square-foot no-fly zone around your position. It’s the best $20 you’ll ever spend.

TICKS The Northwest is home to at least five different species of ticks, ranging from the more common American dog and Rocky Mountain wood ticks, to the lesser known, but nonetheless nasty black-legged and brown dog ticks. Ticks spread any number of Stephen King-esque

diseases, including Lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, tick paralysis, and tick-borne relapsing fever. Most if not all can be found just about anywhere a turkey hunter might roam – trees, grasses, shrubs, bushes, leaves, the ground – where they patiently wait for you to walk by. As is the case with mosquitoes, ticks inject an anti-coagulant when they bite, and it’s the introduction of this chemical that causes the itching, swelling, redness, and, in my case, the slow-to-heal, aggravating, oozing welts. Prevention is the best defense with ticks. Treating your hunting clothes with a Permethrin-based insecticide can help; however, do not – repeat – do not spray Permethrin on your skin. If you are bitten and a tick does become attached, do not just willy-nilly pull it free. Doing so leaves the head and mouthparts embedded, which then could lead to infection, along with the possibility of any of the earlier listed afflictions. You do want to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible with flat-tipped tweezers, and slowly but firmly pull without twisting. Disinfect the bite site, and make note of its location so you can


keep an eye on it. If a rash or sore develops at the site, or you come down with what feels like the flu, seek a doctor’s advice.

SPIDERS AND SNAKES Most outdoors enthusiasts are familiar with the dreaded black widow, which, truth be told, isn’t deserving of all the fear and prejudice. True, the little female, red hourglass on her underside, does pack a venomous bite. But like most spiders, she will work hard to avoid a confrontation with a human being. Black widows are found for the most part in Eastern Washington and Eastern and Southern Oregon, although some can be found in western portions of both states. Hobo spiders, a relatively nondescript, albeit large – .5 to .75 inch – brownish eight-legger, make their home throughout the Northwest. Like the widow, hobos are shy, prone more to flee than fight. Outdoors, turkey hunters may encounter either species in old buildings, or around rock piles or stacks of firewood. Vigilance is perhaps the best way to avoid an encounter. But should you be bitten, common practice is to first acknowledge the bite. Wash the injury thoroughly, and use ice to slow the swelling. If a black widow is suspect, prompt medical attention is strongly suggested, particularly if symptoms include difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, elevated blood pressure, or fever. Identifying poisonous snakes in Western Washington is easy. There are none. On the Eastside and in Eastern and Southern Oregon and parts of the Willamette Valley, however, turkey hunters may have to contend with one venomous reptile – the western rattlesnake. They’re actually quite common, ranging in size from 12 inches to over 3 feet in length, with coloration dependent upon 142 Northwest Sportsman

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Author MD Johnson calls units like the ThermaCell, which provides a 15-foot-diameter ring of protection from skeeters, “the best $20 you’ll ever spend.” (SCOTT HAUGEN)

habitat but often an earthy muted brown or olive or grey, with a white underbelly. Western rattlers are relative homebodies, sticking close to their dens located in rocky areas; however, they can be encountered across the landscape as they, like most turkey hunters, move from place to place in search of prey. Or a spot to take a nap in the sun – again, like a turkey hunter. With snakes, prevention is the best advice. Leave them alone, and they’ll leave you alone. If, by some twist of ill fate, someone is bitten by what you’ve identified positively as a western rattler, keep them calm. Do not cut an X over each puncture and attempt to remove the venom. That’s a falsity. Wash and lightly bandage the bite, and remove all rings, if bitten on or near the hand or fingers, as swelling will occur. And seek medical attention as quickly as possible.

BUFFALO GNATS If buffalo gnats (also known locally as black flies) were the size of bumblebees, Dwayne Johnson would drop to his knees after


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having been bitten by but one of the almost invisible black specks. Measuring only 1mm to 5mm in length, buffalo gnats are found around the planet, and they seem to be most abundant wherever I’m currently hunting. Here again, it’s anti-coagulants injected to maintain blood flow that result in discomfort, which includes pain, redness, and itch. A light misting of straight ordinary vanilla extract – note: the bucka-bottle stuff, not the spendy Watkins brand! – can help keep the little buggers at bay. So too will Absorbine, Jr. ointment.

POISONOUS PLANTS – IVY AND OAK

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The old adage – leaflets three, let it be! – holds true, as both poison ivy and poison oak possess three leaves per cluster. The itch associated with these poisonous plants comes from a sticky, oil-like resin coating the leaves and known as urushiol. The oil is extremely potent – only one nanogram, or one one-billionth of a gram, of urushiol is required to create the familiar red, itchy rash. Turkey hunters in eastern portions of the region have to contend with western poison ivy, a low-growing ground vine. West of the Cascades, it’s the more prevalent Pacific poison oak, which can be found both as a ground and climbing vine, as well as a shrub capable of reaching double-digit heights. Though sometimes easier said than done, avoiding contact with these poisonous plants is the best line of defense. The internet is awash with sites featuring excellent photographs of all three; one I’m partial to is titled simply Poison Ivy, and can be found at poison-ivy.org. For those unlucky enough to have a brush with either poison ivy or oak, several over-the-counter remedies, e.g. Calamine Lotion, Caladryl, or Benadryl, can help ease the itch and dry the rash. NS


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HUNTING It’s tougher to bag a turkey in the back end of the spring season as there naturally are fewer toms still around and the “rut” is largely past, but patience and persistence can yield a reward. Terry Rodakowski notched his tag with this old gobbler after a two-hour wait when it finally committed and came within range. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

Late’s Still Great With turkey season running to the end of May, here are tactics to bag the toughest game bird out there.

By Troy Rodakowski

M

ay is a month of warm sunshine, blooming flowers and fresh growth throughout the forests of the Northwest. The spring turkey season has been going on for nearly a month now and things have changed with the movements and breeding cycles

of the birds. Gobbles, once frequent, have all but disappeared, and the woods now seem to be missing those noisy jelly heads. What gives?

CHANGING TACTICS By now, most hens are on a nest or already raising poults. The turkey “rut” has drastically slowed, with only a few receptive females still

being bred or beginning to nest. Meanwhile, lonely gobblers are patrolling the woods for one last spring romance. Quite often you will find two or three toms traveling together, snapping heads off budding western mannagrass and other plants. During warmer days, I have also found birds hanging underneath shade trees and dusting themselves nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

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HUNTING during the midafternoon. Enticing one of these birds to gobble is difficult. Mostly that will occur first thing in the morning or prior to birds coming back to roost in the late afternoons. Most birds I’ve harvested have been spotted from a distance and called to a specific setup. Mind you, toms will likely come in silently. I like decoys this time of year and with some of the newer products on the market, hunters have a wide range of options to choose from. Faux jakes placed near a lone hen will oftentimes pull that old tom in range for a shot. It’s no guarantee, of course, as some birds, having seen so many decoys already, will not respond well to any presentation, but curiosity and the drive to breed just might help put that May bird in your cooler.

WAITING GAME It’s going to take a lot of patience and waiting, especially with older birds later in the season. Personally, I like to find a good place where turkeys often travel and sit for several hours at a time. Every 45 minutes or so I’ll throw out a light yelp, then listen and watch carefully for any sound or movement. Make sure to choose an area that you have scouted or have frequently seen turkeys visit. Patterning these birds is essential to increase your odds of being able to harvest one. Dusting and strutting areas are good places to start. Finding travel routes from a roost area to a strut zone is a great advantage to you as a hunter. However, some birds will find different routes from day to day between strutting and dusting sites. Also, during the late season birds will change their habits due to the pressure from hunters and newly available food sources. I had a fellow turkey hunter once tell me about a bird that would fly to his strut area every day from its roost site. Upon arrival, the tom would use a different entry point every single time. 148 Northwest Sportsman

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One of the most satisfying game critters a hunter will ever bag is a late-season tom. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

Needless to say, that bird survived the spring season without any problems. Yes, turkeys learn quickly and are very smart. Waiting only 30 to 45 minutes at a set-up is not enough. I have lost track how many times I have been

ready to call it quits when a bird finally showed up. I know that I’ve prematurely left areas and ruined opportunities to harvest at least a few birds. I can’t emphasize patience enough. Remembering what these birds have been through for a month


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HUNTING prior will keep you in the right mindset. Once eager to find love, many of these old gobblers have become more reclusive during their continued searches. The tall grassy meadows and pastures easily hide turkeys. This is exactly why a hunter should always have a good pair of binoculars to carefully scan these places, and especially the edges. Try to avoid cutting across openings when moving through to your set-up. I have taken more gobblers in the afternoons in May than any other time during the season.

SEAL THE DEAL WITH CHANGEUPS To find success on that late-season longbeard be prepared to spend a lot of time afield, and expect some disappointments along the way. Most seasoned hunters will tell you that late-season success is the sweetest. Turkeys are very wary and the older

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gobblers that have weathered several seasons are among the toughest to hunt. Even younger toms have a few tricks under their wings to avoid hunters this late in the game. Be prepared to try things you haven’t, such as new decoy set-ups, less calling and the use of optics to spot birds at greater distances. One season I got an old tom to gobble back at me about 4:30 in the afternoon. He gobbled only once but I knew where his roost tree was, so I set up a few hundred yards from it on a heavily traveled trail. Two hours later his bobbing red head appeared, curious as to where that hen he had heard disappeared to. I made sure he disappeared into my freezer. Try a few different calls. If you have been blowing the same old diaphragm all season, switch to a box or friction call. Believe me, birds can tell the difference and if you sound different in comparison to what they have been hearing, you might just

pull that wise bird your way. Give the birds some space and play hard to get. If a turkey hangs up, back off like you’re leaving the area. Move about 50 yards at a time and call lightly, then wait. Curiosity sometimes is the caveat to notching your tag in May. Also, be prepared to cover lots of ground. Nesting hens usually stay within a radius of a mile, spending the day feeding, laying and sitting on eggs. Gobblers, on the other hand, can cover ground, oftentimes wandering up to 2 miles from their roosting site in search of receptive hens. Hearing a gobble over a ridge doesn’t mean you will find that bird in the original location that he sounded off from. I remember one year I contacted a bird and ended up killing him 3 miles from where I’d first heard him. With seasons running through May 25 in Idaho and May 31 in Oregon and Washington, you’ve stilll got time to make the most of this year’s hunt. NS


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COLUMN

The Hunt’s On For

‘Pure Culinary Gold’ S

Morel mushrooms are ripe for the picking across the Northwest this month. Good areas include burn scars from recent years’ wildfires, which is where author Randy King and his boys found some. (RANDY KING)

top!” cried G a b e McDaniel, holding one hand up and closing CHEF IN THE WILD a fist. He liked By Randy King pretending that my 5-year-old son knew military combat hand signals. “Found a mushroom!” he said, bending at the waist to cut a thumbsized morel from the ground. “Now look all around us. Where there is one there are more. The more steps we take, the more mushrooms we step on,” Gabe added with dramatic flair, as if we were in a minefield. We started to gaze all around. Like garden fairies and lost cell phone chargers, morels began to appear out of thin air in the duff around us. “There!” came a cry from behind me. “Oh, I see one!” added my buddy’s girlfriend. One would be sprouting from under a burned-out deadfall. Another growing in what looked like a gopher hole. A ring of mushrooms would be barely visible in the needle duff near a big white pine. Indeed, where there was one, there were more. This would be a banner year for morels due to 2016’s Pioneer Fire northeast of Boise. But just as wildfire and other disturbances bring mushrooms, they also draw the attention of other, less savory folk. A big fire on national forest or Bureau of Land Management ground often attracts the attention of the professional forager. Rundown RVs shamble into mountain towns and create a small community in the burned area. These hunters are so fixated on the possible payout for the product that

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COLUMN they can become territorial of the best producing areas. It’s gotten to the point where the Forest Service even publishes maps detailing what sections are for the public and what section is for commercial use. Basically, they are trying to keep hapless groups of hikers with kids out of the commercial pickers’ territory, but you still never know what you will find in the mushroom woods.

WE WENT ARMED for bears and other mushroom hunters. Our party of nine – four adults and five children (three were my boys) – scoured the hills east of Idaho City. We found pay dirt. By the end of the day, each adult had picked nearly a gallon worth of mushrooms and each child nearly half

that much. It was the type of haul you write articles about. We only ever ran into one other group, a duo of friendly out-of-towners with a slight Eastern European accent. They had several gallons worth of mushrooms on their backs and pistols on their hips. They had the look of seasoned pickers. They smiled and were nothing but polite. I was thankful. Back home I washed and washed again my mushrooms, getting out all of the sand, grit and pine needles I could from our prize haul. Eventually, in an act of desperation, I removed my sliding screen door and used it to dry them on top of. I now had about a half-gallon of dried morel mushrooms in my cupboard. Every time, I see them I know I am looking at pure culinary gold. NS

Ham, wild rice and morel mushroom soup. (RANDY KING) 154 Northwest Sportsman

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Unless you’re talking about a portobello burger, mushrooms are not the centerpiece of a meal. They’re more of a role player, providing that je ne sais quoi to a hearty plate. Here’s a good recipe for wild-picked morels.

Ham, Wild Rice and Morel Mushroom Soup 1 ounce dried morel mushrooms, rehydrated with 1 cup of warm water 5 cups chicken broth ½ cup uncooked wild rice 2 tablespoons butter 1 small onion, chopped 2 carrots, diced 2 stalks celery, diced 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 cups diced smoked ham 1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 cup heavy cream 2 cups baby kale Rehydrate the morel mushrooms in warm water. Let them sit in the water a few hours. Overnight is better. In one high-walled soup pot simmer the wild rice in the chicken broth for one hour, or until tender. Heat the butter in a soup pot over medium-high heat until the butter is clear and about to brown. Add the mirepoix, which is a fancy chef term for onion, carrot and celery. Cook for about five minutes. Turn heat down to medium low. Add the ham and cook for about four more minutes. Add the flour slowly, while stirring to combine. Pour in the broth/rice mixture. This will “deglaze” the bottom of the pan – bringing up all the brown bits off the bottom. Add the mushrooms and the mushroom “juice” – the brown water they were reconstituted in. Bring all to a simmer. Next add the thyme, salt and pepper. Turn the heat to medium. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the cream and baby kale and heat through. Serve immediately. For more wild game recipes, see chefrandyking.com. –RK


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COLUMN

Keep Fetch Training Short, Sweet A

s puppies m a t u r e , drawing a line between play and work is important. This is especially true when it comes to GUN DOGGIN’ 101 teaching your gun By Scott Haugen dog how to fetch. The action of fetching is innate with most dogs, something you’ll often observe as your pup plays with toys at 10 weeks of age, even younger. Puppies are intrigued with toys, and like the attention they receive from chasing them and bringing them back. This is actually the early phase of teaching a dog to fetch. Early on, encourage your pup to fetch as many different objects as possible. I’m not an advocate of finding a favorite toy and sticking with that. I want to expand the horizons of a pup, encouraging it to fetch everything from balls to bones, shoes to pencils, hats to towels, and more. This not only encourages them to handle objects of different sizes and shapes but also gets them used to diverse textures and figuring out how to fetch cumbersome items they might get tangled in, like the wings of bigger birds they’ll soon be retrieving when hunting.

simply “hand.” My dogs know this means to bring the object to me and don’t let go until it’s in my hand. This is valuable once they start retrieving crippled birds. When the pup brings you an object, avoid getting in a game of tug of war. It may seem fun, but as the pup matures, these tugging matches transform into

a game of dominance, something you want to avoid. I never play tugging games with any dogs, as retrieving an object to hand is not a game, rather the dog’s job. It’s OK for dogs to play tug o’ war with each other, but stop if either dog gets too possessive. As a pup matures, playing fetch with Playing with toys is the start of teaching a pup to fetch. But avoid getting into tugging matches as this will later lead to dominance issues and improper behavior by your gun dog. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

THE KEY IN these early fetching stages is keeping it fun for the pup. Praise them when they do it right, for they are learning it for the first time. Immediately start with voice commands you’ll use throughout the dog’s life. When they bring an object to you, say the command for them to release it. The command might be “release,” “drop it,” “let go,” or whatever you decide. My command is nwsportsmanmag.com | MAY 2018

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NOW YOU CAN expand training sessions so your pup marks retrieves as items are tossed into the air, or by hiding them for a blind search and retrieve. Bumpers, bird wings, deer antlers and bird skins tied to bumpers are all great tools for teaching a dog to fetch. As when the pup was little, make certain every object is retrieved to hand, then offer brief praise. I never reward a puppy with a treat for fetching to hand, as I want simple praise to be what drives them. This is what dogs are designed to do, you just have to guide them. Once this is clearly communicated, a dog will fetch any object you instruct, directly to your hand. Keep fetch training sessions fun and brief. Make it a special event that your dog gets excited about. I’ve trained pups that got bored after three fetches, so I ended the training after two retrieves. Other dogs will fetch When teaching a pup to fetch, be it in water or on land, keep training sessions short. Stay positive and conclude the training with the pup wanting more, as trainer Steve Waller is doing here. (SCOTT HAUGEN) bumpers will begin. This can happen when a pup is three months old, give or take, depending on the dog. Start with small bumpers they can grasp, maybe even canvas ones that are comfortable in their mouth. When introducing bumpers, don’t treat them like toys, as these will be training tools used throughout the dog’s life. From that four- to six-month age, when a dog is losing its puppy teeth, they’ll want to chew on the bumpers. Avoid leaving bumpers laying around, as you do not want a puppy associating bumpers with something they can play with or chew on. When teething happens, get the dog a chew toy, like a thick rope, socks tied into knots, or Kong-style toys they can’t chew into pieces and swallow. Once the adult teeth are in, more intense fetch training can be done. When the pup is not worried about grabbing 158 Northwest Sportsman

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Rarely is there a need to raise your voice at a pup during training sessions. Clearly communicate what you expect, and you’ll be surprised with how quickly they learn. Noted trainer Howard Meyer patiently works with one of his German shorthairs. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

all day long, but those sessions obviously end sooner rather than later. A rule of thumb is to end the training session with the dog wanting more, not when they’ve grown bored and lost interest. Never chase a dog to get an object back; rather, just end the fetch session without praise. Clear, positive communication is important when training a pup. Once yours knows what you expect of them, rarely is there a need to holler or even raise your voice. Keep training sessions fun and you’ll be surprised how quickly a pup learns how to properly fetch an object in an efficient manner. Achieving and reinforcing proper behavior at a young age is only the start of building a disciplined pup, and eventually shaping it into the efficient gun dog you ultimately desire. 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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Along with providing the initial funding for purchase of Washington’s Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, seen here, PittmanRobertson dollars recently helped Oregon acquire more land for its Lower Deschutes Wildlife Area, helping hunters and critters out at the same time. (JUSTIN HAUG, WDFW)

As Ammo, Gun Dollars Disbursed, New Options For Shooters Out

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he U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recently disbursed a whole lot of your money to state fish and wildlife agencies ON TARGET By Dave Workman under the PittmanRobertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Programs, and a sizeable chunk of that is for game conservation and enhancement. People who just like to watch wildlife and dislike seeing fluorescent orange all over the countryside every autumn may have to choke down the fact that the money for wildlife restoration comes largely from a special excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition created back in the late 1930s. Every time a shooter

or hunter buys a gun or a box of .30-06 bullets, that’s more money for the fund. Ironically, every time some gun prohibitionist starts talking about banning firearms, gun sales go up, and that translates to more money for wildlife. When Barack Obama was in the White House, the joke among gun owners was that he was the best salesman of AR-15s in the country. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced this year’s revenue sharing in Wisconsin in late winter. Here’s how it breaks down for states in the Northwest: Alaska gets a whopping $33,455,771 while Montana received $21,131,270. Another $15,474,320 went to Idaho, and Oregon collected a cool $17,690,588. Washington received $15,120,478. The sportfish share equaled another 40 to 50

percent, depending on the state. What’s been amusing over the years is how people who dislike guns and hunting sometimes are embarrassed to learn that it’s guns and hunting that makes all of today’s wildlife management work. Overall, for the fiscal year, $797,160,652 was available for wildlife restoration and that’s a lot of gun and ammunition sales! In the midst of this good news, two perennial anti-gun politicians – Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Florida) – recently tried to grab the spotlight by introducing the Ammunition Background Check Act of 2018. It’s a silly piece of legislation that would require anyone purchasing ammunition to pass a background check, as if that’s going to prevent a violent crime. But it

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The recently SAAMIapproved .224 Valkyrie cartridge offers a better trajectory than other highspeed bullets with just half the recoil of larger rounds with similar ballistics, reports author Dave Workman. (DAVE WORKMAN)

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demonstrates that people who dislike guns are visceral about it. A group in Oregon has also started an initiative campaign that seeks to ban so-called “assault weapons” and the concern is that with big money behind the effort, the backers of this bad idea will get the 88,000 signatures they need and then run a formidable campaign. Tens of thousands of law-abiding Oregon gun owners haven’t hurt anybody with their modern sporting rifles (MSR), but antigunners don’t care. This has never been about preventing crime; it’s about disarming honest people and getting rid of guns.

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Just as this column was being written, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, or SAAMI, gave a thumbs up to Federal Premium’s new .224 Valkyrie, a sizzling cartridge designed for the MSR platform. This cartridge is based on the 6.8 SPC case necked down to .22 caliber, and it reportedly delivers an improved trajectory over such warp-speed competitors as the 22 Nosler, .223 Remington and 6.5 Grendel, with about half the felt recoil of larger cartridges with comparable ballistics, according to Federal. Right, just what we need, another red-hot cartridge for the semiauto sport/ utility rifle, some people are thinking. But here’s the reality: People have been arguing for years that “you don’t need a blah-blah to hunt with” or the variation, “you can’t hunt with a blah-blah.” Well, yeah, you can and a lot of people do hunt with such rifles, and they’re pretty successful at it. According to Federal, the .224 Valkyrie has enough stuff to put down varmints and even deer-sized game, at long range. Being a fan of the .257 Roberts, a cartridge that – contrary to some know-it-alls – has hardly outlived its usefulness, I can attest to the effectiveness of small-caliber pills on deer at a distance. Some years back, I anchored a rather nice whitetail buck with a single shot out of my .257 Roberts boltaction. That deer took a few steps, turned


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Savage’s new Model 110 Hunter comes in a dozen calibers, from .204 Ruger to .300 Winchester Magnum. (SAVAGE)

around and walked back a few steps, and dropped dead literally in his tracks on a ridge about 20 miles east of Colville. The .224 Valkyrie has some impressive reported ballistics. One load topped by a 90-grain Sierra MatchKing bullet has a muzzle velocity of 2,700 feet per second, which is a might faster than my .257 load using a 100-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip. A Fusion load launches a 90-grain jacketed soft point at 2,700 fps from the

muzzle, clocking along at just over 2,500 fps at 100 yards and is still running at a reported 2,314 fps at 200 yards. There’s also a Federal Premium round for varmints in .224 Valkyrie. This one pushes a 60-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip out of the bore at a reported 3,300 fps. There is not a prairie dog on the planet that can outrun a tiny missile at that speed, and in the winter, coyotes will be in big trouble. For target shooters out there, Federal’s

American Eagle brand is offering a load with a 75-grain total metal jacket, or TMJ, projectile that produces a muzzle velocity of 3,000 fps. That bullet should also put the hurt on varmints out on the plains. The fact that SAAMI approved the .224 Valkyrie as an “official new cartridge” effectively puts this round on the map. I anticipate that shortly there will lots of loading data available from Hodgdon, Nosler, Speer and others.

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KICK-EEZ TWO MORE RIFLES FROM SAVAGE There are two more incarnations of the popular Savage Model 110, one called the Lightweight Storm and the other the Model 110 Hunter. The Lightweight Storm has a 20-inch stainless lightweight contour barrel, synthetic stock with an adjustable length of pull, an adjustable AccuTrigger, skeletonized receiver and it is chambered in six popular calibers, ranging from .223 Remington to .270 Winchester. It has a detachable box magazine, and they’re being delivered as you read this. The Model 110 Hunter features an AccuStock and AccuFit system that adjusts for length of pull and height of comb. The Hunter is offered in a dozen popular calibers from .204 Ruger to .300 Winchester Magnum. And here’s a surprise: One model is chambered for the .280 Ackley Improved, and another is offered in .2506 Remington. The .280 Ackley Improved is a rather potent load, based on the .280 Remington with a sharper shoulder and a lesstapered case. It’s capable of delivering the goods at longer ranges with plenty of energy and velocity to take down bigger game. It’s really a handloader’s cartridge and I’m aware that Nosler makes new brass for this round. The .25-06 Rem. has been around since the early 1900s, starting out as a wildcat and then loaded by ammo manufacturers. Based on the venerable .30-06 case, it’s necked down to take the .25-caliber bullet. It is absolutely deadly for deer, antelope and similar-sized game out to 300 or 400 yards. I checked a couple of loading manuals and found so many loads that deliver above 3,300 fps muzzle velocities with lighter bullets that I stopped counting. With heavier pills in the 115- to 120-grain range, you are still in the 2,800 to 3,000 fps realm, and that’s plenty of horsepower to put venison in the cooler. All of these new Savage rifle models carry a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $749. NS 166 Northwest Sportsman

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