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The total 2013 count of about 953,225 adult fall chinook in the Columbia River at Bonneville Dam this year smashed the record of 610,244 set in 2003. The chinook run surged to set several single-day record numbers, peaking with a Sept. 9 stampede of 63,870 over Bonneville.
FISHING – Fly fishers have been reporting standout fishing for bigger brown trout on the Missouri River upstream from Great Falls this year, and there’s proof they weren’t telling fish tales. This year’s trout population was bigger in size and slightly lower in abundance than the past two years, said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologist Grant Grisak. That’s typical as the population reaches maximum size.
“You’re not going to write about the ‘being a woman in a male-dominated sport’ thing, are you?” she said politely near the end of our interview. “That’s old, boring and I’m tired of it.” But unless you are April Vokey, the theme is still compelling and evolving.
West Medical Lake is churning with the promise of great fishing when the 2014 season opens on the fourth Saturday of April. Thanks to local fly fishing clubs, a new aerator was switched on in October and will run until ice-off as a winter-kill insurance policy.
OUTFISH – A youth steelhead clinic held on the Snake River recently accomplished its goal by netting more than just fish.
Sometime early next summer, probably late June, 60-degree subtropical ocean currents will push close to the chilly waters off the Northwest Coast. Albacore tuna and other fishes from far-flung southern latitudes and eastern longitudes will swim within 60 miles of most Oregon and Washington ocean ports. To the delight of charter and private boat operators targeting tuna, the fish will draw much nearer as summer progresses, nearer yet in fall.
The Clearwater Snake Steelhead Derby will be held Nov. 23-30 despite the closure of a large section of the Clearwater River to harvest of steelhead more than 28 inches long. Officials with the steelhead derby committee at the Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce are working with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to ensure the annual fishing contest doesn’t unduly target fish that an emergency rule change is designed to protect.
Four lucky anglers found their way to the Ringold Springs boat launch in the pre-dawn darkness last week and used flashlights to find their fishing guide. They’d booked a salmon fishing trip in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River with a day’s notice only because another group of anglers had canceled with Reel Time Fishing guide Toby Wyatt. Normally a last-minute group cancellation is a direct $600-$1,500 blow to a guide’s bottom line.
Two hot fishing topics emerged this week: • Where are the behemoths in the Columbia River’s record run of chinook salmon?
OUTFISH – For dog owners, there is a downside to this year’s record-breaking return of fall chinook in the Snake River basin. Anglers are catching many of those fish and bringing them home.
SALEM – Health officials in Oregon and Washington said Monday that people should protect themselves against mercury and PCB contamination by limiting consumption of certain fish species from a 150-mile section of the Columbia River. The Oregon Health Authority and the Washington Department of Health said people should eat no more than one meal a week of resident fish – those that live year-round in the same place – between Bonneville and McNary dams. Resident species in the Columbia include bass, bluegill, yellow perch, crappie, walleye, carp, catfish, suckers and sturgeon.
Trout are stocked in about two dozen named lakes and a few unnamed waters in the Seven Devils Mountains of the Hells Canyon Wilderness, but some lakes are not stocked because they have natural reproduction, are too shallow or other factors. West-side lakes that drain into Sheep and Granite Creeks and ultimately the Snake River generally are stocked with rainbows, which are native to the drainage, said Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.
The annual return of A-run steelhead to the Snake River and its tributaries, normally the most reliable of Idaho’s anadromous fish runs, won’t tickle the record books this year. Just like the spring chinook run that preceded it, the steelhead return is showing signs of not living up to preseason predictions. A regional group of salmon and steelhead managers recently downgraded the run forecast by 27 percent.
In a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein, it’s said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. By that standard, you might watch Eric Stein, 47, of Yakima and his 15-year-old son, Brian, on a steelhead fishing trip and question their sanity.
FISHING – Sportfishing rule changes proposed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will be explained in a public meeting starting at 6 p.m. on Sept. 3 at the agency’s regional office, 2315 N. Discovery Place in Spokane Valley. Public comments will be accepted through Oct. 31.
FISHING – More than 6.2 million pink salmon are surging into Puget Sound this month in their return that occurs on odd-numbered years, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Anglers in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Neah Bay to Port Angeles have been scoring big numbers of pinks for two weeks. Recently the run has progressed into the south to treat both bank and boat anglers all the way to Seattle, said Steve Thiesfeld, the state Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound salmon manager.
After considerable effort and a few near misses at Williams Lake, Quinn Connacher, 6, of Spokane caught his first fish. Once the trout was netted, the boy got a huge high five before he pranced and danced in celebration on the Bunker's Resort dock. He didn't care about the five-fish limit. As soon as his stepfather gathered their minimal gear, the boy made a beeline up to the campground to show off his prize. The rainbow may have grown a little larger by the time he finished telling the story.
A monster trout legally harvested by a Lapwai man would crush the existing Idaho state record providing the fish is determined to be a pure rainbow trout. But even if a genetic test proves the fish is a rainbow and not a Kamloops, differences between state and tribal fishing rules will keep him from entering the record book.
Jeremy Jahn, aka the Kokanee Kid, has a website ( kokaneekidfishing.com) with a mission statement “to convert all fishermen into kokanee addicts.” Although he’s from Salem, Jahn believes some kokanee basics apply to virtually all lakes holding the sometimes finicky landlocked sockeyes, at one time or another.
BRIDGEPORT, Wash. – Cheers went up when Colville tribal fisherman Mylan Williams hauled a 20-pound chinook out of the Columbia River with a dip net. Then hats came off in a show of respect. Tribal elders circled the fish and sang, honoring the salmon that gave up its life to feed the people.