Record-breaking Year for Tiger Musky Tourney; Steelhead Recycling Study Starts

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
The worst hours of weather made for the best fishing of the weekend on Lake Mayfield at the 7th annual Mayfield Open Tiger Musky Tournament this weekend.
In the first six hours of the tournament, between 6 a.m. and 12 noon, ten of the thirteen fish caught in the tournament were landed. Only three were caught during the Saturday evening run — and only two of those were caught during a brief bout of sunshine.
“The worst weather made for the best fishing,” said local angler Chilly Sterner, who was received his tournament entry as a father’s day gift from his children.
Sterner’s fishing partner was son Ben Lomedico, who had never fished for tiger muskies until the morning the tournament opened.
Somewhere near the twelfth hour of fishing, Lomedico hooked into his first musky.

“It was only 26-inches, so it was undersized, but it was my first one ever,” said Lomedico with a wide grin. “Now I’m hooked … literally.”
Chilly Sterner and son rode the smallest boat of the tournament; a customized aluminum boat that seemed as though it should be overpowered and out fished by those riding big Ranger bass boats, but that certainly wasn’t the case. Seven of the thirteen teams went home without a recorded catch, Sterner’s wasn’t one of them.
“I’ve never been skunked out here before,” said Sterner with a shake of his head as he lamented Sunday’s zero point count. “I hooked two and lost two today that would have been winning fish.”

Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle. Chilly Sterner, of Centralia, leans over his boat to release a tiger musky back into the water as son Ben Lomedico looks on. Sterner caught the fourth fish of the day in the Mayfield Open Tiger Musky Tournament on Saturday, garnering his team a fifth place finish in the event. Lomedico caught his first tiger musky ever on Sunday, but it came in just under the minimum size and could not be recorded in the tournament. Sterner has been fishing for musky on Mayfield since they were first planted in the lake. Now that Lomedico has had his first taste of a tiger musky hit, "I'm hooked," he said.

With a field of only 13 teams, fifth place didn’t garner the team cash winnings, but they did seem to earn the respect of the out-of-town anglers.
The Sterner-Lomedico team concentrated most of their efforts inside the Winston Cove near the resort, but did venture out into the salt flats and near the park for a few casts, where most teams patrolled throughout the two days.
The tiger musky king of the flats was Oregon resident Ed Walzer — who became known as “The Fly Guy,” so named by tournament judge Stacie Kelsey, WDFW, who had his cell phone number memorized after several calls the first morning of the tournament.
Walzer and his teammate Mike Floyd, of Auburn, caught seven of the thirteen fish caught all weekend long — six of those seven were Walzer’s fish and all six were caught on fly fishing gear.
Walzer said he started using fly fishing gear exclusively last year.
“It’s just something I had on my bucket list,” he said.
Walzer’s teammate, Floyd, said, “I only took one fish, but I got to net six. That was a really good day. And watching Ed with that fly rod was amazing. He’s a wizard. If the fish came up behind the fly, they’d hit it every time. And they didn’t just hit it, they engulfed it.”
The team spent most of their time on the flats, some in the cove, but caught fish everywhere.
Cascade Musky Association president Mark Wells and his wife, Lori Wells, took second place in the tournament.
Lori Wells caught the two biggest fish of the tournament, one at 45.5 inches with a 22-inch girth, and another just a quarter inch larger. There is some speculation that Lori caught the same fish twice.
“On Sunday Lori had a great follow by another big fish,” said her husband Mark, “but that fish took one look at her and said, ‘Not again!’ and turned right around.”
At the end of the day on Sunday, Mark Wells added up the scores of the contestants and came up with an interesting statistic.
“This was the best Mayfield Open we’ve ever had,” said Wells, “And while it may have looked like a tiger musky factory out there, it took 13 teams 416 hours to catch just 13 fish. That’s 32 hours per fish.”

Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle. Hoisting the first of the two largest fish of the Mayfield Open Tiger Musky Tournament is Lori Wells, accompanied by her husband Mark Wells. Both of Lori's fish measured over 45-inches each.

Summer-Run Steelhead Recycling
Between now and August, WDFW is running a summer-run steelhead recycling study in conjunction with the USGS, said Wolf Dammers, fish biologist, WDFW.
“The program has created a lot of interest among anglers,” said Dammers, “who’ll get a second chance at catching these fish.”
A number of summer-run steelhead, gathered at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery, will be tagged and trucked back downriver to the I-5 bridge and released.
Two types of tags will be used, a Floy T-Bar tag, placed on the body of the fish, and a radio-tracking tag, placed internally.
If you catch a tagged steelhead, note the tag number and the location where the fish was caught and call Chris Gleizes at 864-6133 with the information.
Returned radio tags can be reused and placed in another fish.

Rivers, Lake, and Streams
Spring Chinook are still coming through the hatchery in good numbers, although it isn’t a consistent bite, said Marshall Borsom of Fish Country in Ethel.

“Some days the bite is better than others, but the guys putting their time in are catching a few fish,” Borsom said.
It seems the local anglers who know the waters well are having the best luck, and they seem to be of one mind on a very crucial issue.
“I’ve got guys casting over my line and other guys using something completely different than everyone else here. It’s frustrating,” said a local fisherman as he shook his head. “We’re the ones catching the fish, but they make it awfully hard for us. They won’t listen when we try to tell them any different.”
There hasn’t been a lot of pressure at Blue Creek for the steelhead, Borsom said.
Last week Tacoma Power recovered 339 spring Chinook adults, 54 jacks, 411 summer-run steelhead and four winter-run steelhead during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 97 spring Chinook adults and 18 jacks at the Day Use Park in Lake Scanewa above Cowlitz Falls Dam and released 78 spring Chinook adults and 12 jacks into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek. Also, 66 spring Chinook adults and 15 jacks were released into the upper Cowlitz River at Packwood.
A total of 37 summer-run steelhead were transported to the lower Cowlitz River during the week. These tagged fish were released at the I-5 boat launch and were the first releases of the 2012 summer-run recycling study conducted by WDFW.
“The Chehalis cleared up and is looking good for springers,” said Charles McElroy, sporting goods clerk at Sunbird Shopping Center. “Fishing for smallmouth bass is heating up too.”
Riffe Lake is still on fire for the silvers, said Borsom.
“Cocktail shrimp, worms, corn about 8-10 feet under a bobber or throw some hardware like Super Dupers, Kastmaters, etc.,” he said. “It seems they are biting just about anything right now.”
Tales of five fish limits in fewer than 30 minutes are common.
“Don’t waste your money buying a two-pole endorsement for Riffe Lake,” said McElroy with a smile in his voice, “you’ll have your limit too quick and it’s a lot of work trying to juggle two or three fish on at a time.”
Try the dam area on south Riffe or the fishing bridge on the north end. Both areas are putting out

 

a lot of good-sized silvers.

In the Salt
The recreational crab season gets under way July 1 in most of Puget Sound. The exception is Marine Area 7, where the crab fishery opens July 15 in the area’s southern portion (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) and Aug. 16 in the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia).
The crab fishery in all marine areas of Puget Sound will be open Thursday through Monday of each week. Crabbers should note, however, that the season gets under way with a two-day opening (July 1-2), and will be closed July 3-4 before re-opening on its regular weekly schedule Thursday, July 5.

Rich Childers, shellfish policy lead for WDFW, said recent state and tribal test fisheries indicate the crab population in Puget Sound remains abundant.
“The test boats have done very well,” Childers said. “I expect this summer’s fishery to be similar to last year’s, when crabbing was good throughout the entire season in most areas of Puget Sound.”
The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.

Most marine areas will close the evening of Sept. 3 for a catch assessment. However, Marine Area 7 will remain open through Sept. 30.
Sport crabbers in Puget Sound are required to record their Dungeness crab catch on a catch record card. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons. The 2012 summer cards are valid only through Sept. 3. The winter cards will be available on Aug. 15 and are valid until Dec. 31.
Catch record cards are not required to fish for Dungeness crab in the Columbia River or on the Washington coast (marine areas 1-4).
Childers reminds Puget Sound crabbers that they are required to record their Dungeness crab catch on their catch record cards immediately after retaining crab. “Having crab in your possession that are not properly recorded on a catch card is a violation and could result in a fine,” he said.
Anyone fishing for crab in Puget Sound must purchase a crab endorsement, which is free to children under age 15.
Mike Cenci, WDFW’s deputy chief of enforcement, said it is important for crabbers to review the rules of the fishery before heading out on the water.
“Take the time to fully understand the rules, particularly the daily limit, how to properly measure and identify crab, and the catch record card requirements,” Cenci said. “Our officers will be out on the water enforcing the regulations and ensuring boaters are complying with safe boating practices.”
WDFW’s Enforcement Program encourages citizens who witness a fish and wildlife offense to report the violation. Reports can be filed by calling 1-877-933-9847, email at reportpoaching@dfw.wa.gov or by text message sent to 847411 (Tip411). The text message must begin with the letters WDFWTIP followed by a space, and then a brief description of the violation and location.
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website The (Almost) Daily News (almostdailynews.com), find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email kim@almostdailynews.com.