WDFW, DNR, Weyerhaeuser Fire Restrictions Issued; Fall Chinook Picks Up

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
Effective immediately, WDFW has issued restrictions prohibiting campfires, smoking, target shooting, power tools and equipment, and vehicles on all WDFW-managed lands due to severe fire danger across the state.
Greg Schirato, deputy director of WDFW’s wildlife program, said these restrictions are part of a larger effort by state and federal agencies to reduce the risk of further wildfires in Washington. That effort includes a burn ban issued for all forestlands protected by the state Department of Natural Resources, and another issued by Gov. Chris Gregoire for eastern Washington.

“With numerous wildfires burning in eastern Washington, firefighting crews are stretched thin,” he said. “So it’s important that we take these steps on WDFW lands throughout the state to minimize the possibility of additional wildfires.”
The emergency order prohibits:
· Fires or campfires: However, personal camp stoves or lanterns fueled by liquid petroleum, liquid petroleum gas or propane are allowed.
· Smoking: Unless in an enclosed vehicle.
· Target shooting: Except at shooting ranges developed by WDFW.
· Welding and the use of chainsaws and other equipment: Operating a torch with an open flame and equipment powered by an internal combustion engine is prohibited.
· Operating a motor vehicle off developed roads: Except when parking in areas without vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway and parking in developed campgrounds and at trailheads.
The restrictions on WDFW-managed lands will remain in effect until conditions improve and the risk of wildfires decreases, Schirato said. Keep checking WDFW’s website (wdfw.wa.gov/) for an announcement.
For more information on fires currently burning in Washington, visit the state’s Emergency Management Division’s websites (www.emd.wa.gov/activations/Activation.shtml and www.wadisasternews.com/go/site/1105/), the Incident Information System’s website (www.inciweb.org/state/49/), and the U.S. Forest Service’s website (www.fs.usda.gov/detail/okawen/alerts-notices/?cid=stelprdb5390935).

Weyerhaeuser Gates Closed
Weyerhaeuser has announced that all of its Western Timberlands operations in Washington and Oregon will be closed to public access due to the current extreme forest fire danger. The timberlands will not reopen until the areas receive adequate rainfall and the temperatures improve.
Tree farms in the Vail, Aberdeen, Raymond and St. Helens will be indefinitely closed to public recreational access. The tree farms in Aberdeen and Raymond will have limited access to walk-in traffic only, but no motorized vehicles are allowed.
Call the company’s statewide, toll-free telephone number before heading out to the woods: 866-636-6531.

Early Bird Hunt
The annual special early opener for hunters under 16 seeking to shoot ducks, geese, coots and pheasants is this weekend, Sept. 22-23. Goose Management Areas 2A and 2B are not open for Canada geese during the youth hunt. Youth hunters must be accompanied by an adult who is at least 18 years old and is not hunting.
Hunters 65 years or older will go afield for pheasants during a special senior hunt Sept. 24-28. Hunters of all ages can hunt pheasants beginning Sept. 29.

WDFW Open for Clam Comments
You have until Oct. 9 to voice your opinion to WDFW on digging days, catch limits and other management options for the upcoming razor clam season — tentatively set to begin in mid-Oct.
Send your comments via email to razorclams@dfw.wa.gov or by postal mail to: RazorClams, 48 Devonshire Rd., Montesano, WA 98563.
Management options for the upcoming razor clam season are available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/seasons_set.html.

On the River
There are several new rules that will be in effect on various rivers this season:
· Release wild Chinook — Anglers must release all wild Chinook on the Tilton River from mouth to West Fork; the Cispus River from mouth to North Fork; the Cowlitz River from posted signs on Peters Road to mouth of Ohanepecosh and Muddy Fork; plus Mayfield Lake and Lake Scanewa. However, anglers may keep up to 10 hatchery rainbows at Lake Scanewa.
· North Fork Lewis River from mouth of East Fork to the overhead powerlines below Merwin Dam – Wild Chinook may be kept.
· Drano Lake — Any Chinook or coho salmon, with or without a clipped adipose fin, may be retained. Anglers with a two-pole endorsement can put it to use.

Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle. Tyler Wallace, Mossyrock, hoists up a hefty 15-pound Chinook hen that he coaxed out of the pool at the Barrier Dam last Friday evening using a great glob of eggs. Anglers have been complaining that they haven't been seeing the fish they were hoping for as they ply the waters of the Cowlitz River, "but you've just got to put in the time," said Wallace.

· Klickitat River from mouth to Fisher Hill Bridge (located about 3 miles upstream from the mouth) – Night closure and anti-snagging rules are in effect. Only fish hooked inside the mouth may be retained.
· Washougal River — Fishing is closed from 200 feet (or posted markers) below to 200 feet above the temporary weir (when in place).
Like last year, anglers may retain up to six hatchery adult coho on all tributaries to the lower Columbia River with hatchery programs. Those rivers include the Cowlitz, Deep, Elochoman, Grays (including West Fork), Kalama, Klickitat, Lewis (including North Fork), Toutle (including Green and North Fork) and Washougal.
“Anglers glo-balling at night seem to be having the best luck near the mouth of the Toutle,” said Charles McElroy, a sporting goods clerk at Sunbird Shopping Center, “
The Chehalis River had a slow opener due to the high water temps and low water levels.
“And there’s a brutal netting schedule coming up,” said McElroy. “There won’t be many fish out there unless we get a good rain, and those guys I know that are good at weather forecasting are telling me they don’t think we’ll see a good rain until after Halloween.”
The bite on the Cowlitz River has picked up a little since they raised the water.
Blue Creek seems to be the best bet for coho, according to inside sources, they are showing up at the Barrier Dam area but seen to get lockjaw as soon as they pass Mill Creek.
The bar has seen a better bite too, but don’t expect large numbers of fall Chinook yet, sorting through the spawned-out springers and the finned fish is giving anglers a headache.
There are still cutthroat to be found, mainly from Blue Creek on down.
Last week Tacoma Power recovered 640 fall Chinook adults, 61 jacks, 60 spring Chinook adults, two jacks, 29 coho adults, ten jacks, 95 summer-run steelhead and four cutthroat trout during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 176 fall Chinook adults, 31 jacks, 46 spring Chinook adults, one jack, one coho adults, five jacks and one cutthroat trout into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek. They released 73 fall Chinook adults, 15 jacks, 12 spring Chinook adults, one jack and three coho adults into the upper Cowlitz River at Packwood.
A total of 315 fall Chinook adults, 13 jacks, 12 coho adults and three jacks were released into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton during the week.
River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 4,940 cfs on Wednesday, Sept. 19, rising Monday morning from the steady 3,480 cfs of the past few weeks. Water visibility is 15 feet.
“The water is so clear you can count almost every rock in the river,” said McElroy. “If you aren’t on the river before the sun hits it or after it’s come off the water then you’ve missed the bite.”

In Lakes and Ponds
There’s still some fish to be found in Riffe Lake and a few in Mayfield. Swofford Pond has slowed significantly.
Your best bet is to try the early morning or late evening bite.

In the Salt
“Westport has been slow,” said McElroy. “They’re having to go 12 miles north and 12 miles out to get into the fish. That’s a lot of gas for two fish.”
Ocean salmon fisheries are currently scheduled to continue through Sept. 23 in marine areas 2, 3 and 4, and through Sept. 30 in Marine Area 1. However, salmon fisheries in those areas could close early if catch quotas are reached. Check for rule changes at WDFW’s website, (wdfw.wa.gov).
In Grays Harbor, anglers will be allowed to retain Chinook salmon through Oct. 7. Anglers fishing the harbor will have a daily limit of three salmon, only one of which may be a Chinook, and are also limited to two wild coho as part of their three-salmon daily limit.
“This is the first time since 2007 that anglers will be allowed to retain Chinook in Grays Harbor,” said Kirt Hughes, regional fishery manager for WDFW.
Willapa Bay (Marine Area 2-1) salmon fishery is already under way, but “it’s deader than dead out there,” said McElroy. “The surface temp is around 70-degrees, the water is just too warm.”
Anglers there have a daily limit of six salmon, up to three may be adult fish, but chum and wild Chinook must be released. Salmon anglers can fish with two poles in in Willapa Bay through Jan. 31 with the purchase of a two-pole endorsement.
WDFW would like to remind crabbers their summer catch record cards are due by Oct. 1 and must be returned whether or not you caught or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2012 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2013 Puget Sound crab endorsement. Completed cards can be mailed in or recorded online.
WDFW will announce winter crab seasons for Puget Sound in early October.

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.