Fishing & Hunting Report: Weyerhaeuser Shuts the Gates to All Recreation; WFDW Rule Changes for the Better

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
If it weren’t for bad luck, archers would have little to no luck at all this early season.
The season began under a full moon, keeping the critters up at night and bedded down in the day, it was (and is) hot and now the heat and lack of rain has caused Weyerhaeuser to shut their gates at most if not all of their lands.
Call the Weyerhaeuser hotline to find out if the area you want to hunt is accessible: 866-636-6531.

I listened to a few of the postings Wednesday afternoon and all of the central western Washington areas I explored were “closed to all recreation access, no access of any type, not even walk-in until adequate rainfall … ”
Hunters should consider going west to the Willapa 506 unit or to any of the units in the National forest. These areas often stay open during times of high fire danger in the west slope of the Cascades.

Choppers Over the Cowlitz
The WDFW Cowlitz Evaluation Team has begun their bi-weekly search for Chinook redds (spawning beds) along the lower Cowlitz.
Every other Wednesday from yesterday, Sept. 12, through December — or until the water is too high and turbulent for observers to see the spawning beds — biologist Chris Gleizes will fly over the lower river in a helicopter taking count.
This week Gleizes counted over 80 redds, over 80% of the redds were found in the short stretch of water below the pool at Barrier Dam down to Mill Creek at the boat launch.
Be aware that if you see fish holding in those waters, those are actively spawning spring Chinook.
As the fall Chinook run picks up, Gleizes expects to see 1,000 or more redds in the river at the height of the season.

FR 25 to Close
Gifford Pinchot National Forest engineers have received final confirmation of the closure dates for Forest Road 25 at Woods Creek, just South of Randle.
Forest Road 25 will close at milepost 4 (Woods Creek) from Monday, Sept. 17 to Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012. Forest Road 25 road will be open on either side of the construction site but there will not be a designated detour route.

Second Chance, Hatchery Chinook in Big C
Anglers will be allowed to retain adult hatchery Chinook salmon along the 70-mile stretch of the lower Columbia River during a weeklong pilot fishery that started Sept. 10.
But you’d better hurry, the new pilot fishery will only run through Sept. 16 and from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Warrior Rock near the mouth of the Lewis River.
The daily catch limit is two adult hatchery salmon, two hatchery steelhead, or one of each. Only one of the salmon may be an adult Chinook. Anglers must release any Chinook salmon, coho salmon or steelhead not marked as a hatchery-raised fish by a clipped adipose fin.
Guy Norman, southwest regional director of the WDFW, said the new pilot fishery is the first of its kind for fall Chinook in the lower Columbia River.
“We wanted to give anglers an extra week of Chinook fishing and reduce the number of excess hatchery fish, while minimizing impacts to wild fish,” Norman said. “This approach provides a way to do that.”
The fishery will get under way a day after the close of the regular Chinook fishery, during which anglers have been allowed to retain both marked and unmarked Chinook.
The area upstream from Warrior Rock remains open for Chinook retention, as described in WDFW’s 2012 fishing pamphlet.
Norman said the new pilot fishery will be closely monitored to determine catch rates and compliance with the rule requiring the release of unmarked fish.
“This is a test for both the anglers and the fishery,” Norman said. “Because healthy stocks of some wild upriver Chinook are not marked, anglers will likely have to release more fish than in other mark-selective fisheries on the river.”
Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are predicting a strong run of 655,000 fall Chinook salmon to Columbia River this year. Both states approved the new pilot fishery in July, but high catch rates last month in the Buoy 10 fishery near the river’s mouth raised questions about whether it would open as scheduled.
However, Norman said further analysis of the Buoy 10 fishery showed a higher ratio of hatchery fish in the catch than expected, allowing the pilot fishery to proceed.
“We’re on target with our conservation goals for wild Chinook in the lower Columbia River,” he said. “That will allow us to test the feasibility of a new mark selective fishery and give anglers an extra week to catch hatchery Chinook in the process.”
For more information on the pilot fishery, see the emergency rule update on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

Westport Coho Rule Change
Starting Thursday (Sept. 13), anglers fishing ocean waters off Westport can keep up to two coho salmon per day.
The new rule brings the coho limit for those waters (previously set at one per day) up to the same number in effect in the three other ocean areas off the Washington coast.
Anglers can also count up to two Chinook toward the overall two-salmon limit in those areas.
As before, anglers will be allowed to retain both hatchery and wild coho off Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) and Westport (Marine Area 2). Those fishing off LaPush (Marine Area 3) and Neah Bay (Marine Area 4) may retain only hatchery coho, which are marked with a clipped adipose fin.
“We wanted to keep the brakes on when we first opened the Westport fishery to retention of wild coho early this month,” said Pat Pattillo, WDFW salmon policy coordinator. “But after looking at the catch numbers, we are fairly confident we’ll have enough coho available for harvest to last through the end of the season.”
Ocean salmon fisheries are currently scheduled to run through Sept. 23 in marine areas 2, 3 and 4, and through Sept. 30 in Marine Area 1.

No More Skok Chum
Effective Sunday, Sept. 16, WDFW will close the Skokomish River to chum salmon harvesting.
Salmon fishing is open from Sept.16 through Dec.15. Daily bag limit of 6, which up to 4 may be adults. Release Chinook. Release chum from Sept. 16 through Oct. 15.

On the River
“There’s a lot of fish in the Toutle,” said Charles McElroy, a sporting goods clerk at Sunbird Shopping Center, “but it’s pretty crowded on the weekends.”
The Chehalis River is due to open to salmon seekers Sept. 16.
“It should be a good fishery right off the bat,” said McElroy.
Blue Creek on the Cowlitz River has cooled down for steelhead addicts.
Barrier Dam has heated up, but the bite seems to be better in the morning.
Eggs seem to be working the best for those fishing the 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.
Corky and yarn have coaxed a few fall Chinook out of the stretch of water between the pool and the launch, but anglers have had trouble sifting through the still numerous spring Chinook (many of which are holding in those waters, protecting their spawning beds), but there are a few skilled anglers that have hit the far shore and have found a bright fall Chinook or two.
Last week Tacoma Power recovered 327 fall Chinook adults, 25 jacks, 116 spring Chinook adults, three jacks, eight coho adults, two jacks, 144 summer-run steelhead and two sockeye salmon during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 69 spring Chinook adults, one jack, 68 fall Chinook adults, three jacks, three coho adults and two coho jacks into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek. They released 43 spring Chinook adults, two jacks, 36 fall Chinook adults, one jack and three coho adults into the upper Cowlitz River at Packwood.
A total of 169 fall Chinook adults, 19 jacks and two coho adults were released into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton during the week.
River flows at Mayfield Dam have remained steady at 3,480 cfs for the last week. Water visibility is 13 feet.

In Lakes and Ponds
Riffe Lake is still fishing just okay.
Bass fishing has cooled off in Swofford Pond.
“There a fair amount of fish to be had in Lake Mayfield,” said McElroy, “but the fish are not very big.”
I talked to one out-of-town angler that hit the lake in a float tube and enjoyed a long morning of hooking into squawfish.

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.