They both woke up in mourning but not knowing what it was. The clock said it was time to rise but there was no pink blaze on the horizon. They checked their phones, those machines collaborated by laser beams and satellites, and the robots confirmed — it was half past the last gasp of summer and just a couple ticks from the great fall into winter.
The rooster crowed furiously out of habit while the sky lay all inky and foreboding. As the coffee brewed the encapsulating clouds trudged through pallid shades of grey before they could see anything at all.
When their eyes adjusted through the smudges on the windows the wrath of the first autumn bluster became clear. Everywhere, all at once, there were leaves scattered by the wind. Golden elephant ears and orange spades torn at the hinge from their limbs and cast into unbecoming piles along hedgerows and fence lines.
The pelting rain left the leaves limp and lifeless. The trees they’d been ripped from sagged at the shoulders. It was either the weight of the rain drops, or they were just sad. It has always been hard to tell.
It seemed like only yesterday that the people were stopping in their tracks to admire the big leaf elder and all of its fine friends. There were many maples and good ol’ sassafras, sourwood and sweetgum, too. Normally overshadowed by the omnipresent evergreens, these icons of the fall attain full glory in just a tiny stained-glass window of time. It opens just after the first frost and lingers until the first vicious wet-whipped lashes of impending winter slam its shut again.
It wouldn’t take long before puddles began to pond in the pastures and the parking lots. Picturesque pumpkin patches suddenly shed their romantic snap-shot charm. Their corn mazes and scarecrows left saturated in a whole Hunter’s Moon worth of soggy cobwebs, leering eyeballs, and the stalking pitter-patter of snickering children in between the disorienting rows.
Soon those trees will all stand naked in the cold. Robbed of the splendid magnificence of their fleeting prime they’ll be left as incidental lines on the bleached bone canvas of life’s undead winterscape.
She joked that an optimistic painter would say, “They used to be happy trees.” They laughed over the steam of their mugs and agreed the scene would be titled “Mourning Time”.
The Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers opened up to all angling efforts on Thursday after several months spent on the shelf due to emergency regulations. Those summer and early fall closures were intended to protect spring Chinook salmon as they navigated back to spawning grounds in the upper rivershed. Now that the vast majority of those kings have passed on to the great headwaters in the sky anglers can try their luck without fear of harassing those imperiled Chinook.
The mainstem Chehalis River has been open from top to bottom since Oct. 1. While preseason forecasts for spring Chinook returns came in at just over 500 fish, the outlook is much better for fall coho. According to Mike Scharpf, a WDFW biologist, the preseason forecast calls for 63,000 wild coho to return this fall and winter with another 48,000 hatchery fish expected to arrive as well.
However, Scharpf did walk back those estimates just a bit.
“Our hatchery forecast last year did not come in nearly as high as the actual forecast so I think the hatchery forecast is a little high,” he noted.
Just 18 percent of the total silver smolts released in 2016 originated upriver from Centralia. The Skookumchuck, which flows into the mainstem Chehalis River near Borst Park, is the primary benefactor of those hatchery releases. Another 50,000 smolts were released into the Newaukum River through the Lake Carlisle project orchestrated by Onalaska High School, and about 32,000 smolts were released from Elk Creek near Doty.
The seasonal deluge that opened up this week should help to draw more coho upriver in the coming days.
“Increased flows definitely bring in more fish activity,” said Scharpf. “Certainly on the downturn of big flow seems to be when things are good.”
Scharpf added that spoons and spinners are typically the best bet for hooking a silver this time of year.
The daily limit on the Chehalis River system is six fish, two of which may be adult salmon. Both wild and hatchery coho may be retained but all Chinook must be released. The fall coho salmon fishery will close at nightfall on Dec. 31.
Bass fishing is also a legal option on the Chehalis River system and the bite won’t get any better than it is right now until the flowers start to bloom next spring.
“The next couple of weeks is a good time to get them before they get hunkered in,” explained Curt Holt, another WDFW biologist. “In the mainstem in this time period, they are really getting fattened up before they move back into the oxbow areas and retreat for the winter.”
Anglers who prefer the wide waters of the Columbia River will now have another chance to target coho. The WDFW announced this week that the lower river, from Tongue/Rocky Point up to Bonneville, will be open for silver retention through the end of the month. The daily limit will be two adult hatchery coho. All steelhead and salmon, other than coho, must be released.
Sturgeon are another option on the lower Columbia River for at least two more days. Those fisheries will take place on the Saturdays of Oct. 19 and Oct. 24 from the Wauna powerlines up to Bonneville Dam, along with the Cowlitz River. A harvest limit has been set at 510 fish measuring between 44 and 50 inches in fork length. The annual limit is two sturgeon with a daily limit of one fish. Retention of green sturgeon is always off limits. Catch-and-release sturgeon fishing will be allowed when the catch-and-keep fishery ends.
Last week on the Cowlitz River the sturgeon bite was titillating but not necessarily productive. The WDFW sampled five bank rods below the I-5 Bridge with no catch at all while 13 rods on five boats released two sublegal sturgeon and five more that were too big. On the mainstem the bite was best near the mouth of the Kalama River.
As for salmon fishing, the bite on the Cowlitz River was more spread out than usual last week. According to WDFW sampling 31 lower river bank rods kept two silvers and released four more. Another 61 rods on 19 boats kept 16 silvers and three silver jacks, while releasing 20 Chinook, four jacks, 28 coho, and one jack. From the I-5 Bridge up to the Barrier Dam the WDFW talked to 32 bank rods with four keepers. Those anglers also released 43 Chinook and one silver salmon.
At the Cowlitz salmon hatchery last week crews retrieved 1,490 returning coho adults, 221 jacks, 390 fall Chinook adults, 51 jacks, 17 summer steelhead, 38 cutthroat trout, and one spring Chinook. Fish handlers also released 283 adult silvers, 53 jacks, three cutthroat trout, and one springer into the Cispus River near Yellow Jacket Creek near Randle. Another 305 adult coho, 60 jacks, and seven cutthroat trout were deposited at the Franklin Bridge in Packwood. The Tilton River received 682 adult coho, 84 jacks, 100 fall Chinook adults, six jacks, and four cutthroat at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton. River flows below Mayfield Dam were reported at 3,540 cubic feet per second on Monday with a water temperature of 51.1 degrees and visibility of 11 feet.
While sturgeon were staging near the mouth of the Kalama the action was not as plentiful for salmon anglers who tried their luck along the banks of that free flowing entity of God. According to WDFW sampling efforts, four bank anglers on the Kalama had no catch to show. However, the Lewis River was rewarding anglers for time spent on the water. Last week the WDFW talked to 48 bank anglers with three keeper Chinook, one jack, and one coho. Another 38 rods on 13 boats kept 17 Chinook and four jacks, while releasing three kings and one silver.
Time is growing short to cash in on the WDFW’s fourth annual statewide Trout Fishing Derby. That derby, which includes thousands of stocked fish in area billabongs, will come to a close at dusk on Oct. 31. The derby included 1,000 tagged hatchery rainbow trout that were planted in more than 100 lakes across the state. Locally, there are several lakes still teeming with prize worthy fish. Silver Lake should have seven tagged rainbows left, while Offut Lake is reported to have six tagged fish remaining. Mineral Lake should have four tagged trout left, Carlisle Lake (Ol’ Mill Pond) reportedly has two tagged trout making the rounds, while Fort Borst Park Pond, South County Park Pond, and Lake Sacajawea each have one prize fish left unclaimed.
With popular hunting seasons in full swing the WDFW went out of its way this week to remind hunters that they’ve got more options to choose from for their wardrobe this year.
Earlier this year state legislators passed Senate Bill 5148, which allows hunters to substitute fluorescent pink for traditional hunters orange while out in the field. The Fish and Wildlife Commission has since adopted rules to implement the legislation.
“Hunters must follow the same requirements as hunter orange if they wear hunter pink,” said David Whipple, WDFW hunter education division manager, in a press release. “If you hunt during a season that requires visible clothing, you’re required to wear a minimum of 400 square inches above the waist that is visible from all sides.”
The press release noted that a hat, in and ofitself, does not satisfy that requirement (although Rural Baseball Inc. hats do give hunters a good jump start on their requirement!). Safety color clothing can be comprised of several articles of clothing or just one, so long as 400 square inches are visible.
“This legislation follows that of numerous other states across the country and simply gives Washington hunters an additional color option to be seen while out in the field,” said Jen Syrowitz, Washington Outdoor Women Director, in the release. “And, if one grandfather in pink inspires his granddaughter to explore the outdoors, that is a great supplementary outcome!”
The WDFW noted that since hunter orange has been required in the field, along with the completion of hunter education courses, hunting related accidents have declined “significantly.”
“We’re excited to add this new option for our hunters,” added Whipple. “Many hunters, regardless of gender or age, are looking forward to wearing fluorescent hunter pink.”
Additional information on hunter clothing requirements can be found online at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/requirements.
With backwoods fashion options aplenty, most hunters will continue to set their sights on black-tailed deer. That general season hunt, with modern rifles, will continue in western Washington through the end of the month.
Additionally, a statewide opening for ducks will run through Oct. 30 before shutting down for a couple of days. Ducks will be fair game again from Nov. 2 through Jan. 26. Coot and snipe hunts will follow those same guidelines, but scaup are off limits through Nov. 1.
Goose hunting will remain open in Management Area 1 until Dec. 1 when a two week break will take place. In Goose Management Area 2 (Coastal) hunting is open every day through Oct. 27, except for the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. In the Inland portion of Goose Management Area 2 hunting is also open every day, except for the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge, which will be open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays through Oct. 26. In Goose Management Area 3, which includes Lewis County, honker hunting will close on Oct. 24 before reopening from Nov. 2 through Jan. 26.
Fall turkey hunts are set to remain open through the end of the year in GMUs 101-154 and 162-186. However, wild turkey hunts closed on Oct. 11 in GMUs 382, 388, 568-578.
Forest grouse (blue, ruffed, and spruce) hunts are open statewide through the end of the year, as are hunts for crows. Pheasant season remains open daily from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. in Western Washington through Nov. 30. Farm raised pheasants can be found at release sites such as Lincoln Creek and Kosmos in Lewis County. The WDFW has planned on releasing 2,000 pheasants at the Skookumchuck Wildlife Area and another 3,900 pheasants at the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area this fall. An additional 4,000 pheasants are set for release at Joint Base Lewis-McCord.
Quail hunts are also open on this side of the Cascades through Nov. 30, while mourning doves will remain fair game through the end of the month.
Black bear hunts will ramble on until Nov. 15 and cougar hunts will continue until at least the end of the year before population assessments can be conducted. Bobcat, fox, raccoon, rabbit, and hare hunting will all be options through the Ides of March. And, of course, the sun never sets on coyote hunting in Washington.
With the big fall rut in full swing it’s wise to remember that roadkill salvage is legal in Washington with the use of an emergency permit provided by the WDFW. However, deer are not legal for salvage in Clark, Cowlitz or Wahkiakum counties in order to protect endangered populations of Columbia white-tailed deer. Permits are available online and must be obtained within 24-hours of any deer or elk salvage. Permit applications, and additional roadkill salvage regulations, can now be found online at wdfw.wa.gov/licens
Clamhounds will have to wait at least one more week before they get to stalk the beach again with shovels at the ready. Tentative razor clam digs have already been announced through the end of the year but final approval is still pending the results of marine toxin testing.
The next batch of proposed razor clam digs would take place on the following dates, beaches, and tides:
Oct. 26, Saturday, 5:59 pm, 0.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
Oct. 27, Sunday, 6:47 pm, -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Oct. 28, Monday, 7:33 pm, -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
Oct. 29, Tuesday, 8:18 pm, -1.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Oct. 30, Wednesday, 9:03 pm, -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
Oct. 31, Thursday, 9:50 pm, -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Nov. 1, Friday, 10:38 pm, -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
All diggers age 15 and older are required to possess a valid fishing license. Approval of proposed clam tides are typically announced about one week before the digs are set to begin. For up to date information on clam tides check the WDFW website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish
With black bears on the move and searching for food stuffs to fatten up on before winter settles in, the WDFW has released a set of suggestions that can help humans and the great hibernators to co-exist.
A press release from the WDFW noted that black bears are opportunistic eaters who will plunder any easily available food source, such as garbage cans and, of course, pic-a-nic baskets.
“Do everything you can to avoid an encounter with any bear, which help to keep them, and you, out of harm’s way,” said Rich Beausoleil, WDFW statewide bear and cougar specialist, in the press release. “Following these simple steps can prevent virtually all black bear and other wildlife issues.”
The WDFW suggest following these five steps in order to reduce the chance of bear conflicts:
Always store garbage cans in a garage or sturdy building until collection day. Bears are smart and opportunistic. If a garbage can is left out, they’ll find it. So, put garbage out the morning of collection, not the night before.
Remove bird feeders (seed and liquid) from porches, trees, and other accessible areas, and feed pets inside. These feeders can inadvertently become easy, high-calorie attractants for bears. If they find it, they may come back, which will begin to pose a problem.
Pick and remove fruit from trees, even the highest branches. Bears love fruit and may climb trees to get it, possibly damaging valuable branches. Also remove fallen fruit, which can also pose an accidental lure for bears.
Don’t intentionally feed bears, deer, elk other wild animals. Bears have great memories, so once they find food, they’ll likely return having begun to associate food with people. Anything a deer or elk will eat, a bear will eat too, even near homes. Once bears learn to connect people with food, it starts to puts the bear, and the public, at risk.
Don’t wait until you have a bear problem. If people wait until a bear is seen, it may be too late to prevent a negative outcome. Taking these steps before a situation occurs is the best way to prevent negative interactions with wildlife.
The press release added that bears in the wild dine on healthy delicacies like blueberries (256 calories) and huckleberries (166 calories). When they wind up gorgin on garbage, birdseed (1,750 calories), and hummingbird juice (3,200 calories), their natural cycles can be interrupted and their health compromised.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will be listening to updates on revised fishing rules, as well as carnivore management practices during meetings in Olympia this week.
Those meetings were scheduled for Oct. 18-19 at the Natural Resources Building, located at 1111 Washington St. SE.
Updates will include changes to recreational sturgeon fishing regulations, as well as the latest round of simplified rule proposals related to marine, shell, and forage fishing. Updates will also be provided on the implementation of House Bill 1579, which calls for the WDFW to increase the daily limit for bass, walleye, and catfish in many waterways around the state. Those fish are all known predators to juvenile salmon and the bill is intended to help increase stocks of Chinook salmon in order to help boost the population of Southern Resident orcas.
Additionally, a briefing will be presented on a proposal to alter spring black bear hunts. That proposal includes permit changes in southeast Washington, mandatory reporting of harvested bears, and boundary clarification. Cougar management will also be a topic of discussion.
The commission will take public testimony proposals at the meeting and the public can also comment electronically at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/season-setting.