Outdoors report: Going back home and becoming the wild

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Some folks who are perennially cooped up in their ivory towers have conjured up a highfalutin notion that going out into the wild is what makes a person, in fact, wild. They are, of course, wrong.

As it happens, a trek into the big unknown and uncontrollable elements has a way of quickly and convincingly washing away any of those preconceptions.

No matter how rugged or prepared one might feel prior to their departure from the coddled confines of domestic life there are never enough assurances to go around out beyond the pale. Cars break down. Clothes get wet. Wind tries to rip you apart at the seams. Food runs short, and, if you’re really up the wrong creek, water might even run out.

I’ve been on the top of the mountain and taken the wrong trail down. I’ve been in the sunbaked desert and drank from a drip in the sandstone. I’ve broken down in Death Valley and had the ocean try to roll me to past the breakers when the promise of an oversized razor clam overpowered other rational thought processes.

I’ve been on fishing boats and watched the shore disappear on the horizon and I’ve kayaked down mountain snow fed rivers. I’ve watched dire wolves run through old growth forests and heard the whisper of ghosts that sound the same wherever night falls with stars as your only nightlight.

In every case the whims of nature conspired to reveal just how domesticated and civilized I truly am. We may be descendants of cavemen but a cave does not feel like home to me. We may have danced with wolves at one point but today our dogs need to be carried when their paws get sore.

My ancestors may have killed the last mastodon with their bare hands, but nothing will ever taste better than a bacon cheeseburger when you first make it back to civilization.

The truth is that when you’re out in the wild there are reminders of your deficiencies at every turn. Those that can stand it find a way to adapt, and cope, and survive. For awhile. But the wrath of nature comes down like a hammer on it’s own terms and timeline so that we never forget where we came from.

And whenever we make it back where we came from, whether it be some concrete jungle or a log cabin outside of town, that’s when the effects of our time in the bush become evident to those that remained behind. It’s the close proximity to those manicured masses that provides the perspective required to make a modern human appear wild in the first place. The only difference is that the person who went and returned is able to know what we’ve long forgotten and remember what we’ve come to take for granted.

But those that never go never get to know what they’ve been missing all along.

FISHIN’

A steady diet of rain drops over the last week have given rise to area waters and buoyed hopes for anglers who have a tendency to see the glass as half full. However, it’s safe to say that the bite isn’t what it used to be and probably won’t be again for quite some time.

Anglers on the Cowlitz River last week had a down week even by the depressed standards of recent years. According to WDFW sampling, nine bank rods below the Interstate 5 bridge had no catch at all while 13 rods on seven boats kept two coho and released two Chinook and a silver. Between the freeway and the barrier dam, 13 bank rods kept three coho and released one silver jack. Early this week, river flow below Mayfield Dam was reported by Tacoma Power as 2,770 cubic feet per second with 13 feet of visibility and a temperature of 48.9 degrees.

At the Cowlitz River salmon hatchery last week, crews retrieved 445 coho adults, 13 coho jacks, three cutthroat trout, two summer-run steelhead and one fall Chinook. Those fish handlers also released 56 coho adults, and two coho jacks into the Cispus River by Yellow Jacket Creek near Randle along with 123 coho adults and three coho jacks in Lake Scanewa located near Randle. Another 66 coho adults and one coho jack were deposited at Franklin Bridge in Packwood, and 27 coho adults, one coho jack, and one fall Chinook adult were dropped into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

Anglers can still target hatchery coho and hatchery steelhead on the mainstem Columbia from Rocky Point/Tongue Point up to Bonneville Dam. However, most of the action will likely be found near the mouths of lower river tributaries. Last week, three sampled bank anglers on the Grays River released seven coho while two rods on one boat had no catch. Another dozen bank anglers on the Elochoman River released nine silvers.

Anglers on the Chehalis River are still limited to just one coho per day but most of the fish being caught near the Twin Cities have been turning up too dark to keep. Anglers who hope to bring home some fish to eat would be best served by heading down to Grays Harbor and trying their luck for fresh silvers, or casting for hatchery steelhead making their way back to the Wynoochee and Satsop rivers.

This time of year the stagnant waters of lakes and ponds might provide the best piscatorial prospects. On Dec. 11, Mineral Lake was planted with 60 triploid rainbow trout weighing about ten pounds each, along with 130 trout weighing around 5 pounds each. Munn Lake received 335 cutthroat trout on Dec. 5 weighing nearly a pound and a half each, and Klineline Pond was planted with 30 10-pound trout and 70 5-pound trout on Dec. 4.

Additionally, updates have finally been provided regarding trout stocking at Fort Borst Park Pond and South Lewis County Park Pond. Fort Borst received 2,000 1-pound rainbow trout on Nov. 28, while SoCo Pond was planted with 1,000 1-pound rainbows on Nov. 29 and another 1,000 1-pound rainbows on Nov. 28.

HUNTIN’

The end is in sight for some of the region’s most popular hunts.

Black-tailed deer hunts expired in most areas on Dec. 15, although modern weapon hunts will remain open through the end of the year in GMUs 407, 410-417, 419-422, 454, 505, 564a*, 624, 627, 636, 648, 652, 654, 655, 660-672.

Similarly, archery hunts for elk in Western Washington came to a close Dec. 15, except for GMU 407, which is set to remain open through Jan. 20. That GMU will also remain open for muzzleloaders searching for elk.

Crow hunting (who eats crow these days?) will close at the end of the year, as will hunts for forest grouse and the few remaining openings for wild turkeys. Likewise, cougar hunts are slated for reexamination after Dec. 31. Historically, most areas have remained open into April but closures are possible depending upon harvest totals in particular areas.

Goose hunting will remain open through Jan. 26 in most of the region. In Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties hunters are required to obtain a special permit and Dusky Canada geese are off limits entirely. In Goose Management Area 2 (Coast) in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties west of Highway 101, goose hunting is currently closed but will reopen on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays from Dec. 22 through Jan. 20. In Goose Management Area 2 (Inland), which includes Grays Harbor County east of Highway 101, hunting is allowed Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays through Jan. 13.

Ducks are also fair game through Jan. 26 in southwest Washington. Some prime areas for targeting ducks include the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge north of Olympia as well as Henderson and Budd Inlets on South Puget Sound. The old Centralia Coal Mine is another popular place to find ducks, along with flooded farm fields near river channels where access can be obtained.

Small game hunts for bobcats, fox, raccoon, cottontail rabbit, and snowshoe will all remain open through March 15, and coyote hunts never end 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.

Additionally, 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’

Last week the WDFW approved another round of razor clam digs for the coastal beaches. The seven-day dig began on Tuesday after marine toxin testing revealed that the succulent bivalves are, indeed, safe to eat.

“We’ve had a couple of days of tough ocean conditions so people have had a tough go because of that,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the WDFW. “It’s not impossible. People are still getting their limits.” 

“Long beach has been good digging. The clams have grown faster than I would have expected,” added Ayres. “Until the last few days the catch has been an average of 15 clams per digging trip. Right on the money.”

Additionally, the WDFW released a set of tentative digging dates that will reach into February. Those digs will need final approval closer to the actual tides pending the results of more marine toxin testing.

“We also were able to pencil out tentative dates, and upcoming digs bring a ton of opportunity to harvest clams well into the new year,” said Ayres in last week’s press release.

Proposed razor clam digs for Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks remaining this year include:  

• Dec. 23, Monday, 4:35 p.m., -0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

• Dec. 26, Thursday, 6:47 p.m., -1.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

• Dec. 27, Friday, 7:26 p.m., -0.9 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

• Dec. 28, Saturday, 8:05 p.m., -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

• Dec. 29, Sunday, 8:43 p.m., -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

No digging will be allowed on any beach before noon. Ayres always advises diggers to arrive an hour or two prior to low tide in order to find the best digging prospects. With night digs in effect he also reminds beach goers to be safe.

“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,” added Ayres.

Digs proposed through the end of January include:

• Jan. 8, Wednesday, 5:05 p.m. -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

• Jan. 9, Thursday, 5:47 p.m. -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

• Jan. 10, Friday, 6:29 p.m. -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

• Jan. 11, Saturday, 7:11 p.m. -1.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

• Jan. 12, Sunday, 7:53 p.m. -1.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

• January 13, Monday, 8:36 p.m. -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

• Jan. 14, Tuesday, 9:20 p.m. -0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

• Jan. 21, Tuesday, 4:23 p.m. -0.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

• Jan. 22, Wednesday, 5:10 p.m. -0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

• Jan. 23, Thursday, 5:53 p.m. -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

• Jan. 24, Friday, 6:32 p.m. -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

• Jan. 25, Saturday, 7:08 p.m. -0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

• Jan. 26, Sunday, 7:42 p.m. -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

Fifteen clams is the daily limit and all diggers age 15 and older are required to possess a fishing license. No high grading is allowed and individuals must carry their own harvest in a personal container.

BIRDIN’

A series of concerted Christmas Bird Counts in southwest Washington will begin on Sunday in Olympia. The annual avian survey established by the Audubon Society is in its 120th year and provides one of the most comprehensive sets of data on birds in the western hemisphere in existence.

The Lewis County CBC will take place on Dec. 20 with several counting groups set to scour a 15 mile diameter search area. Most groups will be out from dawn until dusk but an amatuer counting circle will also assemble for part of the day at Fort Borst Park. Birdwatchers in Wahkiakum County will do their thing on Dec. 30 while the Cowlitz/Columbia county CBC will take place on Jan. 1. Grays Harbor will wrap things up with their counting effort on Jan. 4.

The CBC is dependant on volunteer efforts and is free to join.

“It brings people from the surrounding areas into a place together that I love and call home,” said Dalton Spencer, organizer of the Lewis County CBC. “The numbers matter and the numbers are all going toward something,”

To sign up for the Lewis County Christmas Bird Count send an email to Spencer at offthehookflyshop@yahoo.com or call Dave Hayden at 360-388-1317.

MEETIN’

The public has been invited to participate in an online “open house” hosted by the WDFW on Dec. 16.

“This is a chance to hear from those who aren’t always able to attend our in-person events and meetings,” said WDFW director Kelly Susewind, in a press release. “Getting this feedback is incredibly helpful. We learn about what’s on people’s minds and how we can enhance their lives through our work while participants get answers to the things that matter most to them.”

Susewind will be flanked by WDFW biologists, law enforcement, and other experts during the seminar. The public will be able to submit questions to the WDFW.

The online webinar starts at 6:30 p.m. Access can be obtained at the following website: https://tinyurl.com/qtht5tf.

COMMENTIN’

The WDFW has extended an invite to the public to provide input on 18 prospective land conservation projects around the state. Those projects are being touted as opportunities to protect fish and wildlife habitat while increasing public access to the outdoors.

According to a press release the project facilitators are currently seeking funding sources.

The most local project on the list is located west of Oakville and would secure 416 acres of land around Davis Creek. Those acres are located in historic flood plain and include oak savannas that used to be prevalent in the area. Recreational activities in the area include waterfowl, upland bird, and big game hunting, fishing, boating, and multiple wildlife watching opportunities. The acquisition has been supported by Ducks Unlimited.

“This is an opportunity to comment on proposals in the early stages of our strategic thinking,” said Cynthia Wilkerson, WDFW lands division manager, in a press release. “Our goal is to protect land and water for people and wildlife throughout the state while preserving natural and cultural heritage.” 

The WDFW currently owns or manages close to one million acres statewide. That includes 33 wildlife areas and almost 500 water access sites. A full list of proposed land acquisition can be viewed online at wdfw.wa.gov/about/wdfw-lands/land-acquisitions. Public comment will be accepted through Jan. 3, 2020. Comments can be submitted by email to lands@dfw.wa.gov, or by standard mail to: Real Estate Services, PO Box 43158, Olympia, WA 98504.

SNOWIN’

White Pass is set to open on Saturday thanks to a blast of snow that worked the runs into shape.

A snow report from the ski resort noted that more than a foot and a half of new powder piled up late in the week to plow the way for the season opener.

“With over 18” of new in the past 24 hours things are coming together up here!  Tomorrow is opening day!  Remember, early season conditions will exist with limited terrain but hey... lifts will run and we will have a blast!” read the online conditions report.

At 10 a.m. on Friday there was 39 inches of snow up high and about 20 inches near the lodge. Temperatures ranged from 30 degrees down low to 24 degrees at the summit with light snow fall and scattershot clouds.

Beginning Saturday the Nordic Center will be open along with the Great White Express, Basin Quad, Far East Triple and Carpets. The tubing area is not expected to be open this weekend.

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