Outdoors Briefs: Snowy Owl Reports, Steelhead Anglers Wait for Cowlitz to Rise

By Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle

Snowy Owl Reported at Nisqually NWR

According to the Tweeters report, the Nisqually area snowy owl is still in residence. Jeff Jendro, of Longview, last saw the bird on Luhr Beach, across the McCallister Creek estuary, outside of refuge boundary markers.

When last seen “it was perched on a dead snag,” Jendro reported.

Snowy owls are primarily an Arctic bird, but this year they are being seen as far south as Oklahoma.

Why? The lemming — or, to be more precise, the lack thereof.

Lemmings make up the major portion of the snowy owl diet. When the lemmings have a good year, producing four or five litters of up to eight young in each, the snowy owls have a good year too, producing up to 14 chicks in one year. When the lemmings have a bad year, the owl must seek his dinner elsewhere.

Visit the 10,000 Birds website (www.10000birds.com) for more information and to see great shots of lemmings and snowy owls.

The author of the article, Clares Kines, a retired Canadian mountie and wildlife enthusiast, sternly reminds his readers to be kind to the snowy owl and keep your distance when you find one.

“They are probably having a hard time down there … the energy they expend will be sorely needed to get them through the winter and get them home,” he wrote.

Mushroom Class Next Week

Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 6 p.m. in the WSU Lewis County Extension meeting room, local expert Gene Butler will be teaching a class on mushroom terminology.

To be able to correctly identify mushrooms greatly depends on the ability to know and recognize the various terms used for identification. A PowerPoint program will be used to illustrate terminology. If you find fresh mushrooms growing, dig them out and bring to class.

Copies of the Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest will be available for purchase onsite.

Contact Debbie Burris or Sheila Gray for more information, 740-1212.

Master Hunter Permit Program

WDFW will accept enrollment applications for its Master Hunter Permit program from Jan. 1 through Feb. 15.

WDFW enlists master hunters for controlled hunts to remove problem animals that damage property or threaten public safety. Master hunters also participate in volunteer projects involving access to

private lands, habitat enhancement, and landowner relations.

To qualify for the program, applicants must demonstrate a high level of hunting skill and demonstrate a commitment to lawful and ethical hunting practices, said Sgt. Carl Klein, manager of the WDFW Hunter Education Division.

“This program was designed to create a pool of highly qualified hunters who can help the department manage wildlife in sensitive situations,” Klein said. “This is a great opportunity for conscientious, committed hunters to assume a leadership role among their peers.”

Hunters enrolling in the program must pay a non-refundable $50 application fee, pass a criminal background check, pass a written exam and meet other qualifications described on the Master Hunter website (wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/masterhunter/). The application form is also available on that website.

Klein encourages hunters who enroll in the program to prepare thoroughly for the written test, because applicants are allowed only one chance to re-take the exam.

Puget Sound Crabbing Closes

Puget Sound marine areas open to sport crabbing will close at sunset Dec. 31, after which all sport crabbers licensed to fish for crab in the Sound will have until Feb. 1 to report their winter catch.

State fishing rules require that all sport crabbers with winter catch record cards submit catch reports for the winter season to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) by Feb. 1 — even if they did not catch any crab. With the end of the winter crab season on Dec. 31, all Puget Sound marine areas will be closed to recreational crabbing until summer 2012.

Sport crabbers should be aware that if they fail to submit a winter catch report, they will receive a $10 fine when they purchase their 2012 crab endorsement, said Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish policy lead.

Fishing Report: Rivers, Lakes and Streams

Offut Lake would be a good bet right now, McElroy said, “but you’d have to put in the time.”

Riffe Lake and Lake Mayfield aren’t receiving much pressure from anglers, he said, so reports are few and far between.

“But with all the action going on at the rivers,” said Charles McElroy, sporting goods clerk at Sunbird Shopping Center, “who’d want to sit in a boat and shiver when you could be out there catching some big fish?”

After four very long days of low water, the Cowlitz River is back on the rise.

The river has been running low at 4,000 cfs for several days, putting off the bite. As of Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 28, it was at 6,000 cfs, and by evening 7,800 cfs and rising. If water levels continue to stay between 5,500 and 10,000 cfs, both boat and bank anglers should see a continuation of their earlier success.

Late in the day on Christmas Eve, I spoke with angler Nick Johnson, of North Bend, who spent three days on the Cowlitz River near Blue Creek. He battled hard to bring home three fish, he said. After hearing rumors of big winter-run steelhead takes on previous days, he had hoped his trip would have been more productive.

Local angler Ruben Becerra, of Chehalis, fished the Cowlitz River before water levels had dramatically dropped.

“Five guys fished Tuesday (Dec. 20), all had their limits,” said Becerra, “Chris (Bailey) took a 17-pounder. The next day, after the water was dropped, there were over 40 guys out here, only 7 fish were caught.”

Bill Waters, Puyallup, Travis Darnell and Jared Morlan, both of Olympia and frequent visitors to this stretch of the Cowlitz River, hauled two bright steelies home this last Monday.

They hooked into 21 fish, landed 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but said they didn’t see many other fish caught that day — even with (or perhaps because of) the pressure of 100 other anglers lining the banks.

They cited 2/0 hooks and 15-lb. line as the secrets to their success. They also threw a variety of spoons and spinner, bobber and jigs, Okie-Drifters, and a dark corky with black yarn at the winter-run steelies.

Last week, river guide Bob Sommers (guidelinesfishing.com) said, his clients were hauling in 3 to 6 fish a day.

“From one day to the next, it could be totally different. Today the bite isn’t anything like it was. You’ve really gotta put in the time,” Sommers said, as he sent home a pair of clients empty handed Monday afternoon. “Once the water comes up again, it’ll get better. Between 5,500 and 8,000 cfs is when I like to fish it.”

The next day Dan Houfek of D&H Guide Service (dandhguide.com ) had a similar sad tale to tell. His clients — two in the morning and two in the afternoon — had each limited out, but it was tough going.

“It’s going to stay tough going for a while,” Houfek predicted.

The chum salmon are running hard in the Nisqually River, said local angler Justin Hoff of Lacey.

“But you’ve got to fish it between noon on Wednesday and Sunday,” he said, “when the nets are out of the water.”

According to McElroy, the Chehalis River is the place to be.

“I talked to some guys that were fishing the Chehalis below the Independence Bridge,” said McElroy, “they took 32 silvers using plugs.”

The Willapa has a lot of fish, said McElroy, “but you’ve really gotta work for them. Your best bet is to troll plugs near tidewater.”

Last week Tacoma Power recovered 306 coho adults, five jacks and only 159 winter-run steelhead.

They released 185 coho adults and six winter-run steelhead at the Day Use Site on Lake Scanewa behind Cowlitz Falls Dam. Twenty-eight coho adults and four winter-run steelhead were released into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.