October 30, 2009 in Sports

Hunting + fishing

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Tip of the week

Slip bobbers are a great way to present bait or a jig for steelhead or trout. Add enough split shot to the line just above the bait to submerge all but the top of the bobber. This way the fish can pull it down with little resistance.

Braggin’ rights

Mike Sweeney, Jerry Hawkins and I, three social security-age pheasant hunters who should know better than to stay out all day, nevertheless fought off muscle cramps, blisters and heavy brush to down nine roosters in the Endicott area on opening day. I think our dogs deserved most of the credit.

“Skipper Bill” Bongers, his son Sean, and friend Frank, put away their fishing rods long enough last week to take two nice mule deer bucks and one whitetail buck from the breaks of the Snake River. They started at 8 a.m. and were done by noon.

Overheard

The consensus among opening-day pheasant hunters seemed to be there are more birds than last year, but the population is still down. As always, there are pockets in the Palouse where hunters swear they were hunting the “glory days” of the 1960s. An informal survey last Saturday indicated pheasant hunters were averaging less than a bird each. Grey partridge appeared to be up and a friend who hunted around St. John said there were quail in every draw.

Heads up

The time chart on page 10 in the Idaho waterfowl rules book has some incorrect times for Sunday. The opening and closing times in the three Mountain time zone areas are off by one hour. The actual opening and closing time should be one hour earlier.

•The Fall chinook season on the Snake River ends Saturday. The 15,000-fish run was lower than expected, but the jack return set a record.

Salmon and steelhead

If you haven’t planned a steelhead trip for this year, you’ll be kicking yourself come spring barbecue time as we’re not likely to see another run of this magnitude soon. This year, 282,210 steelhead have been counted at Lower Granite Dam. The five-year average for this date is 134,764. The Snake and Salmon are giving up approximately one fish kept per eight hours of fishing, The Clearwater is not as good at 11 angler hours per fish.

Joe Bumgarner, a WDFW fish biologist, said limited creel checks indicate good catch rates in various river sections. Anglers who were recently checked in the Wallula area, from the Washington-Oregon state line to the mouth of the Walla Walla River, averaged just less than 11 hours of fishing per steelhead caught.

In the Ringold area this week, bank anglers averaged one steelhead for 6.6 hours of fishing and boat anglers averaged one steelhead for 4.8 pole hours, or 2.5 steelhead per boat.

Methow River hatchery steelhead fishing recently expanded. Now open is the section from the second powerline crossing upstream from Pateros to the first Hwy. 153 Bridge. The daily limit is four adipose fin-clipped, hatchery-origin steelhead, with a minimum size of 20 inches. The regulations state that anglers must retain any of these fish they catch, since the open area expansion is intended to reduce the number of excess hatchery-origin steelhead on the spawning grounds

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recent creel checks on the Lower Grand Ronde River showed an average of just more than nine hours of fishing per steelhead caught on the Washington section, from Boggan’s Oasis to the state line.

Trout and kokanee

Lake Roosevelt trout fishing has been consistently good everywhere. Latest reports from the Hunters area had the fish 15-30 feet down, hitting the usual muddler/flasher combo. Most fish are 14-17 inches.

If you want to keep fishing after Saturday, there are still a number of area lakes to hit. Waitts is open until the end of February. Silver, Eloika, Banks, Moses, Potholes and Lake Spokane are open year-round. Amber Lake is open for catch and release/restricted gear until Nov. 30. Sprague Lake continues to provide excellent fishing for outsized rainbow. Rock Lake browns are hitting well for trollers.

Spiny ray

Most area trout lakes that have not already closed will do so after Saturday. Many, such as Liberty, Chapman, Clear and Loon, are seeing some good bass fishing.

Other species

Two areas of Puget Sound are set to reopen Sunday for late-season crab fishing. Starting at sunrise, recreational crab fishing will reopen in Marine area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and most of Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) seven days a week.

More razor-clam digs are scheduled Wednesday through Nov. 7 and Nov. 14-17, subject to the results of marine toxin tests. Final word on those digs will be available on WDFW’s shellfish hotline (866-880-5431), or its Web site (wdfw.wa.gov).

Hunting

The best areas to hunt pheasants are usually along river and stream drainages, from Rock and Union Flat Creek and the Palouse River to the Snake, Touchet, Walla Walla and Tucannon rivers. Agricultural areas with good habitat conditions – brushy hillsides and draws – are prime. Acreage enrolled in WDFW’s “Feel Free to Hunt” and “Register to Hunt” programs can be a good bet, and hunters need to scout out those program signs in the field. More than 22,000 acres in the south end of the region were recently posted “Feel Free to Hunt.”

Game-farm-raised rooster pheasants have been released on the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area in Ferry County, the Fishtrap Lake site on the Lincoln-Spokane county line, and several other release sites in the south end of the region.

WDFW waterfowl specialist Mikal Moore reported that the waterfowl hunting season opener in the Columbia Basin had mixed success. “Before the cold weather moves in and ducks start to focus on field feeding, hunters should concentrate on shallow water ponds with abundant seeds,” he said. Good bets include Gloyd Seeps Wildlife Area off Road 16 and Stratford Road, the Winchester and Frenchman Regulated Access Areas, small potholes associated with the North Potholes Wildlife Area, the Columbia Basin National Wildlife Refuge’s Marsh Unit 1, Baile Memorial Youth Ranch and Windmill Ranch Regulated Access Areas near the town of Mesa. Moore also reports the Yakima Basin is providing excellent duck hunting.

The modern firearm general whitetail season in eastern Washington units 101-124 ends today. This includes hunters older than 65, disabled or youth. An early snowfall in the mountains helped to improve success rates for deer hunters during the modern-firearm season, said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager. The Late modern firearm whitetail season in units 105-124 runs Nov. 7-19.

The modern firearm elk season runs Saturday through Nov. 8 in several units throughout the region. The southeast district is traditionally the best, with the greatest numbers in the Blue Mountains, but only spike bulls can be harvested. “Calf survival has improved in recent years, but is still 15 percent below optimum levels, which does have a negative impact on the number of spike bulls available for harvest,” WDFW biologist Pat Fowler said.

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area manager Kari Dingman said elk hunters should come prepared because there is snow in the upper elevations of the Blue Mountains.

Central district units 124-142 are open for any elk, bull or cow, but private land access must be secured for most hunting. WDFW district wildlife biologists Howard Ferguson and Mike Atamian recently helicopter-surveyed elk in and around Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in the Cheney (130) unit and counted 260 elk – 35 bulls, 146 cows and 79 calves. They also saw a herd of about 100 elk just outside the survey area.

Contact Alan Liere at spokesmanliere@yahoo.com


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email