Fishing & Hunting Report: Deer, Elk Archers Out in Numbers; Coho Start to Show

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
Archery hunts for deer started Sept. 1, when hunting seasons also opened for forest grouse, mourning dove and cottontail and snowshoe hare.
Elk hunting archers entered the fields and woods on Sept. 4.

Youth Duck Hunt Ahead
A youth-only hunt for ducks, geese, pheasant and other game birds runs Sept. 22-23 statewide. To participate, hunters must be 15 years old or younger and be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old who is not hunting.
“We should have plenty of local ducks available in September, followed by a record number of birds coming down from the north later this year,” said Dave Ware, statewide game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “The past mild winter and wet spring also bode well for deer and elk.”
But with wildfires burning in several parts of the state, Ware cautions hunters to be especially careful to avoid any action that might spark a blaze. Updates on fire conditions are available on the Washington Department of Natural Resources’ website athttp://www.dnr.wa.gov/Pages/default.aspx.

Public Meeting on Elk Hoof Disease
WDFW is holding a September public meeting and has launched a website to share information about reports of hoof disease among southwest Washington elk.
Lame elk or elk with overgrown or missing hooves in southwest Washington have been observed with increasing frequency in the region. At times, multiple animals in a group have been reported limping and showing signs of hoof disease, such as deformed hooves or club hooves. The condition has been observed in both male and female elk of various ages.
The public information meeting will run from 6-8 p.m., Monday, Sept. 17, in the Cowlitz PUD auditorium, 961 12th Ave., in Longview. It will include a brief presentation about the elk hoof disease, followed by a question-and-answer session.
WDFW is also providing an online reporting tool for citizens to report affected animals (wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/hoof_rot). The site offers information on the disease, as well as the reporting tool for those who observe elk with signs of hoof disease.
“The condition we are seeing in elk doesn’t appear to be an exact match with any of the known hoof diseases in domestic or wild animals, but it shares similarities with several diseases known in wildlife or livestock,” said Sandra Jonker, WDFW’s wildlife manager for the region. However, according to local veterinarians, the condition does not seem to be affecting domestic livestock in the area, she said.
WDFW is working with specialists in other natural-resource agencies and universities to gain a better understanding of what is causing the hoof disease.
Understanding the cause of elk hoof disease in southwestern Washington is an important step in understanding and managing its impacts, and citizen reports of elk with hoof disease will assist wildlife biologists in estimating the frequency and range of the condition, Jonker said.
“In recent years, outdoor recreation enthusiasts and landowners who shared reports of hair loss in western Washington Columbian black-tailed deer, helped wildlife biologists track the range and scope of that condition,” said Jonker. “We’re hoping that citizen observations can further our understanding of this disease as well.”
A black powder hunter friend, Tacoma, who has hunted the Winston area for over 40 years, said last year, “There is a lot of bloody tracks out there, made by elk with hoof rot.”
The Tacoma hunter said a friend had taken an elk that was suffering so badly from hoof rot that he was concerned for the quality of the meat. That friend, he said, took the elk to WDFW in Olympia and they took a sample of the liver and kidney, a tooth and a portion of a leg for study.
“If I get an animal like that,” he said, “I’m not sure I want to eat it!”
There are 40 different types of hoof rot, according to the WDFW website, some of which affect the quality and health of the meat. Testing is required to determine which strain of hoof rot disease the animal is carrying.

On the River
If you’re looking for a fall Chinook in the Cowlitz, you’d better hit the water before 10 a.m. or in the early evening after the sun goes off the water.
Eggs seem to be working the best for those fishing the 100’ pool at Barrier Dam. Try a bobber and a long cast, set the bait eight to ten feet below the bobber and heave it out in the middle.
Free drifting shrimp from the boat launch at Barrier Dam has yielded some good results for those that know what they’re doing.
Many are going home fishless or are stuck battling past-their-prime spring Chinook. Those in the know may be grumbling about the slow fishing conditions, but they’re still taking home some nice fish.
“I had several nice fall runs come into the store this morning,” said Karen Glaser of Barrier Dam Campground.
Coho have been spotted in the system. On Tuesday a Santa-suit red sockeye swam right in front of me on Tuesday near Mill Creek.
“The best fishing on the Cowlitz is from the S bends on down,” said Charles McElroy, sporting goods clerk at Sunbird Shopping Center, “otherwise it has been dead as the devil out there.”
But Marshall Borsom of Fish Country in Ethel is hopeful.
“It looks like it’s going to be a banner year for silvers and kings this year,” he said. “Fishing has been slow, but there aren’t too many guys out there hitting it hard yet.”
Last week Tacoma Power recovered 254 spring Chinook adults, 15 jacks, 131 fall Chinook adults, 15 jacks, 225 summer-run steelhead, ten sea-run cutthroat trout, one coho adult, one coho jack and one sockeye salmon at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 97 spring Chinook adults and four jacks into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek. They released 149 spring Chinook adults, eleven jacks, 29 fall Chinook adults, seven jacks, and one coho jack into the upper Cowlitz River at Packwood, and released 13 spring Chinook mini-jacks into Riffe Lake at the Mossyrock Park boat launch.
A total of 102 fall Chinook adults, eight jacks, one coho adult and five sea-run cutthroat trout were released into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton during the week.
Skate Creek near Packwood put out some nice trout over the weekend for visitors to Packwood State Park off Skate Creek and Craig Road.
There is fish in the Toutle, “but it’s a real zoo out there,” according to McElroy.
The Nisqually and Skokomish are fishing fairly well.
The Chehalis River opens up on Sept. 16.
Reminder to all those that have been hitting the Skookumchuck, it isn’t open for salmon until Oct. 1 and is currently a trout only fishery.
“I’ve still got people coming in to ask what to use on the Skook,” said McElroy, “I tell ‘em they better not use anything. There may be salmon in the water, but it ain’t open yet.”

In Lakes and Ponds
The daily limit for hatchery rainbow trout is up to 10 fish at Scanewa Lake. Make sure to release trout with an adipose fin.
Merwin raised the limit to five trout and 10 kokanee.
Riffe Lake has slowed way down. An angling friend fished from the bridge over the weekend and was able to haul in his limit, but said they were only very small silvers.

In the Salt
Crabbing has been good from ocean beaches.
“Use a long rod and a crab trap,” said McElroy.
Surf perch fishing has been good from Westport to Grayland.

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.