Anyone keen on making their way to Oregon on Saturday will be able to cast a line, collect crabs, or dig clams free of charge as part of the annual free fishing days offered by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife. That opening even extends to non-residents and includes the Columbia River, where anglers will need neither a license nor a combined angling tag for the two days following Thanksgiving.
All other standard regulations still apply such as species restrictions and daily creel limits. A recreational hatchery coho and steelhead fishery is currently open from Buoy 10 upstream to Bonneville Dam. Anglers are allowed to keep two adult salmonids per day, only one of which may be a steelhead. Coho jacks are legal for retention and boat anglers may continue to deploy all licensed gear until the collective limit has been attained.
Creel surveys conducted on Washington’s tributaries to the lower Columbia River last week indicate that the banks were flush with cold and cranky anglers. Five bank anglers on the Grays River released three coho while 15 bank anglers on the Elochoman released one steelhead and one coho. Four bank anglers on the Kalama and a dozen more on the Lewis River were all skunked. A boat angler on the Lewis River had no better luck.
The returns were more of a mixed bag on the Cowlitz River where anglers have been having some success targeting silvers in the frog water. Last week the WDFW talked to 18 bank anglers between the I-5 Bridge and the mouth with a single keeper coho, while one boat showed two rods with no catch. But between the freeway and the barrier dam 15 bank rods kept two coho while five rods on one boat kept another silver. River flow below Mayfield Dam was reported at about 3,520 cubic feet per second this week with water visibility of 11 feet and a temperature of 50.2 degrees and falling.
At the Cowlitz salmon hatchery separator last week crews retrieved 1,684 adult coho, 79 jacks, 35 cutthroat trout, 10 summer steelhead, and nine fall Chinook. Fish handlers also trucked 215 coho adults, 16 coho jacks, and one cutthroat trout to the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood and deposited 125 coho adults and seven coho jacks into the Cispus River by Yellow Jacket Creek near Randle. Another 591 coho adults, 16 coho jacks, and two cutthroat trout were dropped into Lake Scanewa located near Randle, while 566 coho adults, 31 coho jacks, six fall Chinook adults, and two cutthroat trout were put into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.
Anglers on the lower Cowlitz (below barrier dam) and lower Kalama (below Kalama Falls hatchery) rivers recently had their daily limit for adult coho reduced to just one fish. Anglers on the Lewis and Washougal rivers, along with Cedar Creek, are all required to release all adult coho. Those rule changes were implemented on Nov. 23 and will extend through the end of the year. The WDFW blamed the fishery reduction on lagging returns of adult coho to some Lower Columbia Basin tributaries.
The Chehalis River Basin and other coastal waterways have also been subject to a rather recent reduction on recreational anglers. In mid-November the WDFW reduced the daily limit to just one adult coho salmon per angler per day. The rule change was blamed on disappointing returns of coho that have fallen far below preseason projections. No end date was provided by the WDFW. Waterways subject to the conservation measure include, but are not limited to, the mainstem Chehalis, Skookumchuck, Newaukum, Black, Satsop, and Wishkah rivers.
Anglers who don’t mind a drive through the rain forest will find a few fleeting opportunities on the West End of the Olympic Peninsula. Through the end of the weekend the Quillayute, Sol Duc, Bogachiel, and Calawah rivers will all be open for recreational fishing. However, those rivers will remain closed to the retention of wild coho.
A press release from the WDFW noted that, “Early season abundance indicators confirm the returning Quillayute River wild coho salmon run is below harvestable levels while hatchery coho escapement goals have been reached. A majority of natural origin coho have now cleared the fishing area. As planned, WDFW is reopening these areas to target other species.”
While Black Friday has come and gone the truckloads of hatchery rainbow trout deposited by the state in recent weeks will largely still remain in area lakes, ponds, and billabongs.
Area lakes that were slated for stocking over the last few weeks include Fort Borst Park Pond in Centralia and South Lewis County Park Pond in Toledo. However, the online database maintained by the WDFW does not indicate that those deliveries ever occurred. A request for an update from the Mossyrock Hatchery was not returned prior to the holiday.
However, in Thurston County there were 1,452 rainbows weighing four pounds each put into Black Lake on Tuesday and another 1,500 one-pound rainbows were deposited on Nov. 18. Likewise, Offutt Lake received 1,215 rainbows weighing about 1.5 pounds each on Monday. In Clark County there were 1,999 rainbows weighing over one pound each deposited into Klineline Pond on Nov. 22. That same day Battle Ground Lake received 963 rainbows weighing over one pound each.
Cases Pond in Pacific County and Kress Lake in Cowlitz County were also scheduled for pre-holiday shipments of trout but updates were not available from the WDFW as of Friday.
Hall of Fame prep football coach Bob Wollan has been known to bag a duck or two in his day. He says it just hasn’t been happening around here lately.
“Let it be known that duck hunting is terrible in Lewis County right now,” said Wollan earlier this week with just a glint of frustration in his eye.
He insisted that dire report isn’t likely to change until the next big wave of rains arrives.
“If you want ducks today you’re going to have to head to the coast,” added Wollan.
Ducks are currently open statewide, as are coot and snipe hunts, so long as you can find them. Meanwhile, goose hunting is set to remain open through Jan. 26 in Goose Management Area 3, which includes Lewis County. However, the rules become more complex in Goose Management Area 2, which includes parts of Grays Harbor and Pacific counties. In the coastal section of Goose Area 2 (west of Highway 101) goose hunting is allowed on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays only through Dec. 1. In the inland portion of Goose Area 2 hunters outside of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge will be able to hunt Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays from Nov. 23 through Jan. 12. At the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge goose hunting will be allowed on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from Nov. 23 through Jan. 11.
Hunts for forest grouse (Blue, Ruffed, and Spruce), as well as quail, northern bobwhite, and pheasants are also open statewide. Quail hunts will end at dusk on Saturday. Pheasant hunts will stay open in western Washington through the end of November with legal hunting hours happening between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. In December limited openings will occur at designated release locations such as Skookumchuck, Fort Lewis, Kosmos, Scatter Creek, and Lincoln Creek.
Hunts for crows will remain open statewide through the end of the year while wild turkeys are fair game in GMUs 101-154 and 162-186.
Late archery and muzzleloader seasons for black-tails and elk began on Wednesday and will continue through at least Dec. 15, depending on the area. Some areas will remain open through the end of the year for archers chasing black-tailed deer, while GMU 407 will stay open until Jan. 20 for bowman and musketeers in search of elk.
Cougar hunts will continue through at least the end of the year until the WDFW conducts a harvest count. Historically, most areas have remained open for cougar hunting through Apr. 30. Small game hunts for bobcats, fox, racoon, cottontail rabbit, and snowshoe hare must all beware through the Ides of March, but coyote hunts never close in Washington.
Meanwhile, beaver, badger, weasel, marten, mink, muskrat, and river otter trapping seasons that opened at the beginning of November will continue through the end of March. Those animals may only be harvested by means of trapping.
With deer and elk still on the move and nature’s refrigerator kicking into full gear now is a great time to be on the lookout for roadkill salvage to supplement your holiday feasts. 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/licenses/road
One day remains in the ongoing set of succulent bivalve tides on the coastal beaches. That seven day opening for razor clams will come to a close at midnight after Saturday’s digs at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis. Low tide will take place at 9:10 p.m. with a -0.2 tide predicted.
WDFW coastal shellfish manager, Dan Ayres, always advises that diggers arrive about an hour or two prior to low tide in order to enjoy the best digging odds. Additionally, Ayres reminds diggers to come prepared for dark and cold conditions during nighttime digs.
“It’s great to find time for digs over the Thanksgiving holiday, “ said Ayres, in a press release late last week.
The next proposed set of clam digging dates are still subject to marine testing by the Department of Health. Those tests look for the presence of domoic acid and other marine toxins in order to determine if the shellfish will be safe for human consumption. Ayres noted that Long Beach in particular has been hovering near the threshold where digs may wind up cancelled.
“We’re still continuing to see indications of domoic acid in the water,” explained Ayres during a phone call with the FishRap command center. He noted that those conditions are unusual for this time of year.
“Other than that the clams at Long Beach are a little on the smaller side, but there are areas where they are bigger,” added Ayres.
If approved, the next round of proposed digging dates would take place on the following dates, beaches, and tides:
December 10, Tuesday, 5:28 pm, -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
December 11, Wednesday, 6:06 pm, -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
December 12, Thursday, 6:45 pm, -0.9 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
December 13, Friday, 7:26 pm, -1.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
December 14, Saturday, 8:08 pm, -1.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
December 15, Sunday, 8:53 pm, -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
December 16, Monday, 9:41 pm, -0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
All diggers age 15 and up are required to possess a fishing license. The daily limit for razor clams is 15 per person, and all dug clams must be kept regardless of size or condition. Additionally, diggers are required to carry their own clams in a personal container.
If you’ve been itching to put a little gravel in your travel, a Christmas tree hunt may be just the excuse you need. Permits are currently available for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest that allow the public to harvest their own Christmas trees from the verdant foothills of the Cascade Mountains.
As with any adventure, there are risks associated with winter forays into the woods. That includes inclement weather and poor roads, not to mention greenhorns operating chainsaws or swinging axes.
“Winter weather in the forest can change rapidly,” warned a nameless person tasked with speaking for the National Forest in a press release. “Most forest roads are not maintained for winter driving. Forest staff recommend bringing traction devices and a shovel, extra food, drinking water, winter clothing, blankets, a flashlight and a first aid kit. Don’t forget a tool for cutting the tree and a rope or cord to secure it to vehicles. Tree cutting and travel may take longer than anticipated, so let a friend or family member know where you’re going, get an early start, and leave the woods well before dark.”
Permits are $5 per tree, with a limit of five permits per household. They can be obtained online at openforest.fs.usda.gov. Locations where permits can be purchased in person include:
• Cowlitz Valley Ranger District
10024 US Hwy 12, Randle, WA 98377; (360) 497-1100
Hours: Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m.to 4:30 p.m. (Closed for lunch 12:00-1:00 p.m.)
• Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
42218 NE Yale Bridge Rd., Amboy, WA 98607; (360) 449-7800
Hours: Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Ashford — Ashford General Store, 360-569-2377
• Ashford — Ashford Valley Grocery, 360-569-2560
• Elbe — Elbe Junction, 360-524-7707
• Elbe — Elbe Mall, 360-569-2772
• Packwood — Blanton’s Market, 360-494-6101
• Randle — Fischer’s Market, 360-497-5355
• Randle — Randle One Stop, 360-497-3261