By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
Thanksgiving Day traditionally marks the start of the winter steelhead fishery, although some anglers have already started to work their favorite rivers. Catch totals will ramp up as area rivers swell from the falling rain, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist WDFW.
“Steelhead move upriver on pulses of water,” Hymer said. “Once the sky opens up, we’ll see more fish on the move.”
The daily catch limit on the mainstem Columbia River is two adult hatchery steelhead, or two adult salmon (Chinook and coho only), or one of each. On area tributaries, anglers may retain two adult hatchery steelhead plus the salmon limit listed for each river.
Major destinations for hatchery-reared steelhead include the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis (east and north forks), Washougal, Elochoman and Grays rivers, along with Salmon Creek in Clark County, Hymer said.
The Tacoma Power fishing report didn’t show any winter-run steelhead coming through the separator this week, but I saw two hit the bank last Thursday at the Barrier Dam, so they are definitely starting to trickle in.
Early Blue Creek Opening
Blue Creek opened two weeks early for hatchery cutthroat trout and steelhead starting yesterday, Nov. 14. The creek is open from the mouth upstream to the posted sign just above the rearing pond outlet.
The daily limit is five trout. Minimum size is 12 inches, no more than two over 20 inches. Release wild cutthroat and wild steelhead. Release all salmon. Night fishing closure and anti-snagging rule is in effect.
Anglers are reminded that access to Blue Creek is by foot either from the mouth or from the trail at the trout hatchery boat ramp parking lot.
Fishing is open to all anglers. Anglers 15 years of age and older must have a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement.
Razor Clam Dig Underway
There are just three days left to this week’s razor clam dig. Only Long Beach and Twin Harbors is open today (Nov. 15). All four beaches will be open on Friday and Saturday (Nov. 16-17).
No digging will be allowed at any of those beaches until after noon.
The dig at Twin Harbors will run five days, extending through Saturday (Nov. 17). Long Beach will open for digging Thursday (Nov. 15), followed by Copalis and Mocrocks on Friday (Nov.16).
Digging days and evening low tides for those beaches are: Nov. 15, Thursday, 7:29 p.m., -1.9 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors; Nov. 16, Friday, 8:18 p.m., -1.6 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks; Nov. 17, Saturday, 9:09 p.m., -1.1 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks.
Diggers heading to Copalis and Mocrocks should be aware of a traffic revision on eastbound U.S. Highway 101 in Hoquiam due to emergency work on the Simpson Avenue Bridge. Check the WaDOT website for more information at http://goo.gl/hzoM1.
Big Game, Turkeys, Waterfowl
Modern firearm season for elk ended yesterday, Nov. 14. Late archery and the muzzleloader elk seasons get underway Nov. 21.
Hunters using modern firearms will get another chance at deer starting today, Nov. 15, in a short 3-day season. Archers will get another chance at deer on Nov. 21, black powder hunters start a day later on Nov. 22.
Eric Holman, a WDFW wildlife biologist, said late-season deer hunters can expect far better conditions than in the early season, when wildfire dangers prompted widespread access closures.
“Now rain is falling, the gates to the forestlands are open and the deer are going into rut,” Holman said. “Those conditions make the late season the best time to get a deer.”
Fall bear season closed Nov. 14, but cougar hunting remains open through March.
Late fall turkey season opens Nov. 20 and runs through Dec. 15.
Locally produced mallards, widgeon and wood ducks are providing good early-season hunting opportunities. Duck hunting should improve greatly toward the end of November, when migratory birds are expected to start pushing down from British Columbia and Alaska in record numbers.
Field reports indicate there are higher numbers of dabbling ducks on the coastal bays this year, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager.
“Those ducks should stick to the bays early in the month, but as we get more and more rain they will move farther inland,” he said.
As for geese, the numbers of birds have yet to climb, Kraege said. “We have yet to see the numbers of geese we typically see in Pacific County and other parts of southwest Washington,” he said. “It appears migration is delayed. I would expect the number of geese to increase throughout the month.”
On the Water
The Kalama River is reportedly slow for fall Chinook, coho and steelhead.
On the north fork of the Lewis River, boat anglers are catching fall Chinook and some coho; fishing from the bank is slow.
“The rivers got a little dirty this week,” said Charles McElroy, a sporting goods clerk at Sunbird Shopping Center, “but they’re clearing up again.”
The Willapa, Naselle, Chehalis, Skookumchuck, Satsop, Wynoochie, and Humptulips are all fishing well, he said.
“They’re all fishing well, except for the Cowlitz,” McElroy said. “I’m hearing it’s lousy.”
Anglers near the Barrier Dam on the Cowlitz River are mainly catching mostly wild or dark hatchery fall Chinook.
Depending on the day and the bite, anglers are hooking into some bright coho salmon, but the catch seems to be as unreliable as the rise and fall of the river.
Hatchery returns of hatchery adult coho are down from this time last year. From 29,747 on the Cowlitz River last year to 8,247 this year. The same holds true for the Grays, the Kalama, Lewis and the Washougal — although those rivers don’t have near the number of coho that the Cowlitz River offers each year.
Last week Tacoma Power recovered 830 coho adults, 316 jacks, 71 fall Chinook adults, three jacks, 47 summer-run steelhead and 26 cutthroat trout during six days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 187 coho adults and 124 jacks into Lake Scanewa above Cowlitz Falls Dam at the Day Use Site. They released 31 fall Chinook adults, one jack, 23 coho adults and 46 jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at Packwood, and they released 101 coho adults, 63 jacks, one fall Chinook adult and one cutthroat trout into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek.
A total of 445 coho adults, 117 jacks, 71 fall Chinook adults, three jacks and eight cutthroat trout were released into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton during the week.
River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 10,300 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, November 13. Water visibility is five feet.
Riffe Lake is putting out some fish, said McElroy, “but I you have to look for them, they’re scattered.”
Swofford is fishing well.
“Offut should be fishing well by now and there should be some good-sized fish,” said McElroy, “they have a good summer to grow.”
Crabbing has been good along the coastal waters.
Raffle Winner Bags 5×6 Bull Elk
Steam plant mechanic Bill Johnson, the winner of the Dave Sherwood Memorial Scholarship Elk Hunt raffle, bagged a big 5×6 bull elk last week on TransAlta mine reclamation property.
The raffle, in honor of Dave who passed away in a tragic hunting accident last year, raised $13,500 to go toward a scholarship at Centralia College in Dave’s memory. Dave was a respected Outside Resource Manager at the Centralia plant.
Johnson had previously won an elk hunt raffle in 2005. Those proceeds went to the United Way of Lewis County.
Johnson said he bought his tickets to both help support a good cause and for the hunting opportunity. He brought along his father and cousin on the hunt last week.
They went out on a Friday to scout the area and returned Saturday morning. They encountered several herd of elk, including one of about 250. That group was bedded down. Johnson waited about two hours for a clean shot.
The big bull finally rose up and Johnson, from 516 yards, made a clean shot.
“Being the lucky winner of the Dave Sherwood Memorial Scholarship Elk Hunt, I would like to thank TransAlta for such a neat opportunity in being able to harvest a great bull,” Johnson wrote on his Facebook page, adding he also thanked Mine Senior Environmental Specialist Tim LeDuc for his assistance in the hunt. “Although I did not know Dave Sherwood, I do know we had something in common. We both love, loved to hunt elk. God bless.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.