Fishing, hunting, clamming and more

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FISHIN’

A rash of rain late last week coaxed a handful of hopeful anglers off the farm and out of the office in order to try their luck. But, like the flows that ebbed and then rushed away on the way to the ocean, the fish that were there in that moment are long gone now. And all we can do is pray for more rain.

What’s more, many tributaries to the lower Columbia River were hit with harvest limit reductions late on Thursday. Starting Saturday, anglers on the lower Cowlitz and lower Kalama rivers will be limited to just one adult coho per day. Additionally, anglers on the Lewis River, Cedar Creek (and all its tributaries), as well as the Washougal River will be required to release all adult coho. Those new rules will remain in effect through at least the end of the year.

On the Cowlitz River that rule will be enforced from the mouth up to the Barrier Dam. On the Kalama River the new rules will be enforced from the mouth to Kalama Falls hatchery. The ban on coho retention on the Lewis River will extend from the mouth to Merwin Dam. A press release from the WDFW pinned the catch reductions on lagging returns of coho adults to area hatcheries. 

On the Cowlitz River last week nearly all of the action was limited to those who were lucky enough to have a seat in a boat. From the I-5 Bridge down to the mouth 21 rods on nine boats kept 13 coho and released one Chinook while eight bank rods had no catch at all. From the freeway to the barrier dam another seven rods on three boats released one king and three silver while 15 bank rods kept one silver and released two kings. That’s all according to WDFW sampling efforts.

At the Cowlitz salmon hatchery last week crews retrieved 1,280 coho adults, 76 coho jacks, 22 fall Chinook adults, one coho jack, and 29 cutthroat trout. Fish handlers also released 151 coho adults, and 17 coho jacks at the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood, along with 111 coho adults and nine coho jacks into the Cispus River by Yellow Jacket Creek near Randle. Another 472 coho adults, 15 coho jacks, and three cutthroat trout were trucked up to Lake Scanewa located near Randle, and 434 coho adults, 27 coho jacks, six fall Chinook adults, one fall Chinook jack, and two cutthroat trout were released into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton. This week’s water report from below Mayfield Dam put flow at 3,520 cubic feet per second with 14 feet of visibility and a temperature of 51.8 degrees.

Additional sampling by the WDFW on other tributaries to the lower Columbia River indicates it was a slow week everywhere else but the Lewis River. On the Lewis River 15 bank anglers released three coho while a dozen rods on five boats released one Chinook and one coho. Meanwhile, one bank angler on the Kalama River, four bank anglers on the Grays River, and two bank anglers on the Elochoman River were all skunked.

Last week the Chehalis River was hit with a reduction to the daily limit of its ongoing, and frustrating, salmon fishery. That rule change cut the daily limit in half from two adult fish per day and requires that anglers cease fishing as soon as they have attained that quota. That regulation actually extends from the mouth of Grays Harbor all the way up to the Hoh River, including tributaries to the Chehalis River. The midseason rule change was implemented in response to a slumping run of coho this fall.  Waterways subject to the conservation measure include the mainstem Chehalis, Skookumchuck, Newaukum, Satsop and Wishkah rivers. Waterways subject to the rule change include, but are not limited to:

• Marine Area 2-2 (Grays Harbor)

• Black River (Grays Harbor/Thurston Co.), from mouth to bridge on 128th Ave. SW. 

• Chehalis River (Grays Harbor Co.), from mouth (Hwy. 101 Bridge in Aberdeen) to the high bridge on Weyerhaeuser 1000 line.

• Copalis River (Grays Harbor Co.), from mouth to Carlisle Bridge.

• Newaukum River, including South Fork (Lewis Co.), from mouth to Leonard Rd. near Onalaska.

• Quinault River, Upper (Clallam Co.), from mouth at upper end of Quinault Lake upstream to Olympic National Park boundary.

• Satsop River and East Fork (Grays Harbor Co.), from mouth to bridge at Schafer State Park; and from 400’ below Bingham Creek Hatchery to the dam.

• Skookumchuck River (Lewis/Thurston Co.), from mouth to 100 feet below outlet of TransAlta WDFW steelhead rearing pond located at the base of Skookumchuck Dam.

• Wishkah River (Grays Harbor Co.), from mouth to 200’ below the weir at the Wishkah Rearing Ponds; and from 150’ upstream to 150’ downstream of the Wishkah adult attraction channel/outfall structure (within the posted fishing boundary).

• Wynoochee River (Grays Harbor Co.), from mouth to WDFW White Bridge access site.

While effort has been surging on the Chehalis River over the last week the returns have been paltry. With the weather and water cooling off resident bass have all tucked into the deep mud and are unlikely to strike a lure. That leaves those sparse silver salmon as the primary target for anglers who have the time and patience. The best bet is to try casting spinners into slack water where those coho are most likely to hold up. Don’t forget to cross your fingers.

As per recent tradition, the WDFW and its hatchery crews have been busy gearing up for the Thanksgiving holiday by stocking lakes and ponds with truckloads of trout that should be ready to bite by Black Friday.

A press release from the WDFW noted that the hatchery trout stocking effort offers “anglers opportunities for tight lines rather than long lines on the day after Thanksgiving.”

Those hatchery trout are said to average between 15 and 16 inches in length with some weighing up to three pounds.

Lakes slated for stocking in the coming weeks include Fort Borst Park Pond in Centralia, and South Lewis County Park Pond in Toledo. In Thurston County, Black, Long and Offut lakes are all designated for trout deposits. Cases Pond in Pacific County and Kress Lake in Cowlitz County are also scheduled to be stocked along with Battle Ground Lake and Klineline Pond in Clark County. American Lake and Tanwax Lake in Pierce County will also receive shipments of rainbows.

“This is a great chance to enjoy a fun day on the water with family and friends,” said Steve Caromile, WDFW inland fish program manager, in the press release. “I can’t think of a better way to pre-celebrate the holidays.”

HUNTIN’

It’s not too late to run out and bag yourself a girthy gobbler for the holiday table. Wild turkey hunts are slated to remain open through the end of the year in GMUs 101-154 and 162-186. 

While late season hunts for black-tailed deer ended last week, late archery and muzzleloader seasons for black-tails and elk will begin on Nov. 27 and run through at least Dec. 15. 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.

Duck season remains open statewide until Jan. 26 and even scaup are now legal after a species specific moratorium ended at the beginning of November. Hunts for coots and snipes are also open through Jan. 26.

Honker hunting will also 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.

Pheasant hunts will remain on the wing 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. Forest grouse hunts (Blue, Ruffed, and Spruce) and crows will stay open through the end of the year but mountain quail will cease to be fair game at the end of November.

Black bear hunts closed earlier this month but cougar hunts will continue through at least the end of the year until the WDFW conducts a harvest count. Historically, most areas will remain open for cougar hunting through Apr. 30

Small game hunts for bobcats, fox, racoon, cottontail rabbit, and snowshoe hare will stay open through March 15 and 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.

It’s always important 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/licenses/roadkill-salvage.

CLAMMIN’

The most recent round of razor clam digs came to an end on Sunday but if the tides comply succulent bivalve hounds won’t have to wait much longer before they can bust out their shovels and guns again.

Another round of digs that are set to begin on Sunday were approved on Thursday after testing conducted by the Department of Health revealed the clams are safe to eat.

“It’s great to find time for digs over the Thanksgiving holiday, “ said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, in a press release. “Razor clams are a great addition to your feast, and it’s fun to bring guests from out of state along for a distinctive Washington experience.”

Those digs will take place on the following dates, beaches, and tides, so long as the Department of Health finds that those clams are safe to eat:

November 24, Sunday, 4:47 pm, -0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

November 25, Monday, 5:34 pm, -1.0 feet; Long Beach Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

November 26, Tuesday, 6:18 pm, -1.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

November 27, Wednesday, 7:02 pm, -1.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

November 28, Thursday, 7:44 pm, -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

November 29, Friday, 8:29 pm, -0.7 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

November 30, Saturday, 9:10 pm, -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

In a clam-centric phone conversation, Ayres noted that he hit the beach on Veteran’s Day to see what he could find and was rewarded with a vaunted 15-minute limit.

“I couldn’t get the wife to go so I took the dog out to Grayland,” relayed Ayres. “It was just so easy digging out there and the dog looked at me like, what, we’re going home already?”

Ayres added that turnout for the last set of digs was lower than the season opener, but the results did not disappoint those who hit the beach.

“One thing we find is that when we announce a lot of days all at once is that people spread out their activity so it hasn’t been as busy as it has been in the past,” explained Ayres. “The weather didn’t affect digging. Now, there is a storm predicted around the corner here with some wind and rain and that could affect digging.”

Additional digging dates have been proposed to begin the second week of December. If approved, those digs 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

Ayres noted that the prospects at Long Beach have been subject to the whims of the tides.

“We’re still continuing to see indications of domoic acid in the water,” said Ayres, noting 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.”

He noted that pockets of bigger clams are spread out on the ‘World’s Longest Beach”, but the best digging can often be found at the polar extremes of the peninsula.

“The denser populations are always going to be on the north end. I’ve never seen otherwise, but there is fairly good distribution along the rest of the beach,” said Ayres, who added that some locals have been touting the conditions south of Beard’s Hollow near Cape Disappointment.

The daily limit for razor clams is 15 per person, with a requirement that all clams are kept regardless of size or condition. All diggers age 15 and older must have a fishing license and harvested clams must be kept in a personal container.

Ayres added that with nighttime digging in effect this time of year diggers need to be sure to come prepared for cold and dark conditions.

“Diggers want to be sure to come prepared with good lighting devices and always keep an eye on the surf, particularly at this time of year when low tides come at dusk and after dark,” warned Ayres.

VIEWIN’

Swans are returning to western Washington along with the threat of snow and the WDFW is asking the public to keep an eye out for sick, injured, or dead birds.

In southwest Washington swans are likely to congregate on ponds and wet farm fields with remnants of corn and other grain crops still scattered on the ground. Swans are not legal fodder for hunting in Washington and the WDFW is conducting an ongoing study regarding the impact of lead poisoning from old ammunition on the long neck birds.

“If you observe dead, sick, or injured swans, do not handle or collect the birds,” said Daniel Zimmerman, WDFW biologist, in a press release. “Call the hotline instead.”

Lead shot was banned for waterfowl hunting in 1991 but foraging birds are able to dig up and ingest the long forgotten poison pellets from fields and wetlands that they frequent. The public can call (360) 466-4345, ext. 266, to report dead, sick or injured swans in western Washington counties.

On Wednesday at least 13 swans could be seen swimming on Carlisle Lake (Ol’ Mill Pond) in Onalaska. Soon they’re sure to show up on fields along Highway 6 near Adna and other traditional gathering grounds.

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