Author Archives: Pete Heley

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.

WDFW News – WDFW Plans Public Meetings on Rules for Suction Dredging Permit Process.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is inviting people to share their views at four public meetings focusing on the development of new rules for permitting suction dredging in state waters.

At the meetings, WDFW will also invite suggestions on ways to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by suction dredges used for recreational mining for gold and other minerals.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, a nine-member citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW, directed the department in April to develop new rules to address those issues.

Current state rules allow people to operate a small suction dredge as long as they carry – and follow – the Gold and Fish pamphlet, which outlines state regulations. To promote greater accountability, the commission called on WDFW to develop rules that require everyone who wants to use a suction dredge in Washington state to apply for an individual permit.

Randi Thurston, WDFW Habitat Program Protection Division Manager, said the commission is tentatively scheduled to act on a new permitting requirement for suction dredging early next year.

“The department is reaching out to citizens who have an interest in how the rules are developed,” said Thurston said. “Commissioners have emphasized that the department’s rule development must be open to public involvement. We are very early in the process, and we are seeking the public’s help in shaping the development of these rules.”

The public meetings are scheduled at the following times and places:

Wenatchee – July 16 from 7-9 p.m., Port of Chelan County Confluence Technology Center (Methow and Teanaway Rooms), 285 Technology Center Way.
Spokane Valley – July 17 from 7-9 p.m., CenterPlace Regional Event Center Auditorium, 2426 North Discovery Place.
Olympia – July 19 from 7-9 p.m., Natural Resources Building Room 172, 1111 Washington St. S.E.
Everett – July 25 from 7-9 p.m., Everett Community College, Jackson Conference Room 2000 Tower St.
Information about the upcoming rule change process is available at Comments can also be submitted by email to the department at

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Potholes Reservoir / Mardon Resort Fishing Report

The curr

Congratulations to Keegan Anderson and JR Clark for a 1st Place finish in the Limit Out Performance Marine Shoot Out Tournament!

ent water level on the Potholes Reservoir is 1037.6 – 1.6 feet lower than this time last week. The water temperature on the main Reservoir is just above 70 degrees and in the mid 70’s back in the sand dunes.
The Potholes Reservoir continues to produce excellent largemouth bass fishing as was seen at this past weekend’s Limit Out Performance Marine’s Shootout Tournament. Congratulations to Keegan Anderson and JR Clark for taking 1st Place with a five fish weight of 22.74 pounds and the big fish of the tournament weighing 6.89 pounds! They took home $5,000 for their effort! The Largemouth fishing continues to be very good back in the sand dunes and the stretch between MarDon Resort and the State Park. Top baits include – Spro Popping Frogs, Wacky Rigged Senkos and square bill crankbaits and Texas Rigged Chigger Caws. Smallmouth are being caught on the rock piles off Goose Island and along the face of the dam. Use crankbaits, 3 ½” tubes, and Senkos for the Smallmouth.
The walleye fishing slowed a bit this past week, but with the heat and rapid dropping of the water level, it should be picking up quickly. As the water drops and temperatures rise, the walleye will move out of the weeds and into the channels and to the face of the dunes. The crankbait bite will turn on. Concentrate on the main channels and face of the dunes the water drops. Troll #7 Flicker Shads and Rapalas, slow troll Slow Death rigs with Smile Blades and Butterfly Blade rigs as well as traditional spinner/crawler harnesses.
The trout fishing on the Potholes Reservoir continues to be very good this past week. Anglers have been catching big trout trolling #5 and # 7 Flicker Shads and Shad Raps and Mack’s Wedding Ring Rigs with a worm and bottom bouncer in 10-20 feet of water. Concentrate in front of the State Park and along the face of the dunes.
The crappie fishing continues to be very good off the MarDon Resort dock. The Crappie limit is 25 fish per person with a 9” minimum size on the Potholes Reservoir. Reports of crappie being caught back in the dunes are coming in as well. Use a 1” Berkley Gulp Minnow in Black Shad, Emerald Shiner on a 1/80th -1/32nd ounce jig head or fish the Strike King Lightning Shad in the Electric Chicken color, as well as Trout Magnets. A few perch are being caught off the dock and around Goose Island.
Only registered guests of MarDon Resort allowed to fish off the dock.
Call the MarDon Store for the latest fishing info and to make reservations at 509-346-2651.
Upcoming Events
July 14, 7:00pm – Live Music – Paul Sweeny
July 14-15 Northwest Bass Tournament

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Pete Heley Outdoors 7 / 11 / 2018

Ocean salmon fishing has been slow, but seems to be slowly improving. Most of the salmon reported caught seem to be chinooks and less than one-tenth of one percent of the ocean coho quota was caught during the opening weekend (34 cohos kept). 446 chinook salmon were caught and kept on the opening weekend with 57 percent of them caught out of Brookings. The ocean salmon catch report usually appears on the ODFW web site on Tuesdays with catch data through the previous weekend. At present, legal ocean salmon are chinooks at least 24-inches in length and finclipped coho salmon at least 16-inches in length. All ocean salmon that are kept must be tagged.

Anglers fishing for salmon off the south side of the “Triangle” must abide by ocean salmon regulations – barbless hooks and a 16-inch minimum size on finclipped cohos which must be marked on an angler’s combined angling or salmon tag and a 24-inch minimum size on chinooks which must be “tagged”.

Salmon anglers fishing in the Umpqua River off the South Jetty or other river locations can use barbed hooks and can keep finclipped cohos between 15 and 20-inches without tagging them and can keep five chinook salmon per day measuring between 15 and 24-inches rather than the daily ocean salmon limit of two fish.

An increasing number of chinook salmon are being caught in the Umpqua River by both boat and bank anglers.

It’s already been a good tuna year as tuna have been caught by anglers launching at Winchester Bay – which hasn’t always been the case – and a few salmon have been caught on the return trips. Wind is a major consideration for tuna anglers and a lot of trips are aborted.

Draw results for fall big game hunts are now available at the Hunter Information page, Hunters will need their Hunter/Angler ID#, which is printed on all licenses and tags and stays the same from year to year. Hunters who can’t find their Hunter/Angler ID# or don’t have internet access can call 1-800-708-1782 or (503) 947-6000.

The Umpqua River pinkfin run is far from over, but on most days the fishing has been tough. It seems that the intense fishing pressure directed at this run has resulted in surfperch behavior that makes them more difficult to catch. The majority of the redtail surfperch that haven’t “adjusted” have already been caught and kept. There has been just enough “hot fishing days” to keep the surfperch anglers trying, but on most days they earn their fish.

The Umpqua River shad run is essentially over – except at Sawyer’s Rapids, which is still giving up a few good catches. Smallmouth bass are biting well and much of the river above tidewater can easily be fished from the bank.

Striped bass angling on both the Smith and Umpqua rivers improved last week. Even when the stripers seem active, the bite has been tough and bait has been working better than artificial lures – and the stripers are far more active at night than they are in the daytime.

Crabbing is gradually improving at Winchester Bay, but at least half the crabs are less than full. Boat crabbers can usually catch enough crabs to end up with several relatively full legal crabs.

There are no upcoming trout plants for our area. The next scheduled trout plant will be Lake Marie during the last week in August when it gets its annual pre-Labor Day plant of trophy trout.

Tenmile Lakes is producing fair fishing for rainbow trout, largemouth bass, brown bullhead catfish and yellow perch. The hoped for improvement in the lakes’ bluegill and crappie fishing still hasn’t happened. Eel Lake is being heavily used for all types of water-based recreation, but currently has heavier fishing pressure than it ever had when it was strictly a trout lake.

Two of the lakes I would most like to fish an night close the access routes at dusk due to vandalism. Olalla Creek Reservoir, a very clear reservoir located between Newport and Toledo seems to be a natural for nighttime bass fishing – but the access gate is locked at dusk. The same holds true for Ben Irving Reservoir as the park host , because of repeated vandalism, decided to start locking the gate at dusk – when the reservoir’s prolific crappie population is biting best.

Pete Heley works parttime at the Stockade Market & Tackle, across from A’ Dock, in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.

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Adventures in Weighing Big Fish.

About ten years ago, I was casting a small crankbait in northern California’s Lake Almanor for smallmouth bass. Fishing was slow as it was early spring and the water temperatures were still quite cool.

I finally had a strike and the fish fought hard. After several minutes, I had just about convinced myself that I was hooked into what had to be a lake record smallie – then a large “funny-looking” fish popped to the surface. I recognized the fish as a squawfish or pikeminnow, but it was chunkier and larger than any pikeminnow I had ever seen in the Pacific Northwest.

Wanting to find out just how heavy the fish was, I pulled out the digital scale I had recently purchased. It was still in the “tamper-proof” packaging and opening it was a major achievement with a pair of fingernail clippers. Finally, I put the jumbo pikeminnow on the scale – only to see the digital display read 3.8. I was shocked and upset, thinking I had just purchased a defective scale and “bounced” the fish a couple of times in an attempt to make the scale work. Then I noticed that the letters ‘kg’ were part of the reading. The jumbo pikeminnow weighed 3.8 kilograms.

I could not get the scale to switch over to weighing in pounds – but I knew that there were 2.2 pounds in a kilogram and it was easy to figure out that my 3.8 kilogram pike minnow weighed (3.8 X 2.2) or 8.36 pounds – or almost exactly eight pounds and six ounces.

When reminscing about this incident, I still feel foolish about my initial consternation – but I’m pretty sure it could happen to anybody – or almost anybody.

It happened to legendary walleye guide, Ed Iman, when he attempted to weigh the biggest walleye he ever caught.

But sometimes it’s the scale that is at fault.

Years ago, when Tag Watson was catching more humungous bass, both largemouths and smallmouths, than just about anybody in the Pacific Northwest – he cast a buzzbait out in the middle of a lake near his Bellingham-area home and caught the heaviest bass he has caught in the Pacific Northwest.

The lunker largemouth weghed about 11.5 pounds on Tag’s supposedly accurate scale – less than two ounces off the Washington state record.

Disappointed, Tag let the lunker largemouth go – only to discover later while “testing” the scale – that it weighted several ounces light.

Congratulations, Tag, on a great, but under-recognized catch.

Tag Watson’s giant largemouth would have been turned in for a Washington state record – if his scale had not “underweighed” it.

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A Sad and Unusual Catch.

About 20 years ago, I was fishing Loon Lake for bass. The time was mid-October and it had just rained. Fishing was very slow and i was daydreaming as I was going through the casting and retrieving ritual that had been uneventful for the last two hours.

But I was alert enough to set the hook when I noticed a surface splash about where my lure was.

When I set the hook, whatever I had hooked didn’t dive deep, but instead headed skyward.

I was bewildered, but not enough to quit reeling and the 20# Power Pro was up to the task.
I soon found that I had “landed” a belted kingfisher. Upon reeling it close to my rodtip, I didn’t have to worry about it attacking me.

Attached firmly to the kingfisher’s chest was the 5/0 wide gap hook to which I had attached the 6-inch long soft plastic jerkbait the bird had taken a liking to. Everytime I tried to hold the bird so that I could unhook it, I suffered painful jabs from its sharp beak. I couldn’t believe how small its feet were.

I finally cut the line about a foot above the hook and the kingfisher weakly flew off.

Not all of Oregon’s kingfishers fly south by late fall, but the ones that stay have to deal with a greatly reduced forage base. Perhaps that is why this particular kingfisher tackled a six inch long lure that didn’t look very much like an actual fish.

I hope it survived the encounter but its chances would have been much better if the incident had occurred in early summer.

During my lengthy angling career, I have made many unusual catches – but I think this one was the saddest of all.

A belted kingfisher looks for aquatic forage.

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Remembering Tahkenitch Creek’s Hybrid Stripers.

More than 30 years ago, back when the hybrid striper program on Tenmile Lakes was in operation, I discovered that there was a good-sized school of hybrid stripers hanging out below the dam on Tahkenitch Creek. These fish had exited Tenmile Lake via Tenmile Creek and then swam North for at least ten miles and then ascended Tahkenitch Creek.

Determined to catch one of these fish on an artificial lure, I began casting a 4-inch tube skirt and quickly got a bite. The powerful fish swam back and forth at an incredible rate of speed , but avoided the numerous snags in the creek. But it was swimming so fast that despite the loose drag it managed to break my 4# test monofilament.

I walked upstream to the dam in an effort to see what had just broke my line.

Iwas shocked to see that the hybrid striper still had my lure, clearly visible and partway inside the fish’s mouth – and it was the biggest fish in the entire school. I estimated that it weighed about nine pounds.

I never caught any of those Tahkenitch Creek hybrids on an artificial lure, but over the next few weeks I hooked 17 of them on sand shrimp and landed 12 of them. Every one of them weighed between six and seven and a half pounds.

None of the inexperienced anglers I showed the spot to landed any of the hybrids they hooked as they were simply overwhelmed – but John Griffith, who for many years was the outdoor editor for “The World” newspaper, landed the six pound hybrid he hooked.

When the gates of the dam were opened – like they were every year around November 1st, the hybrids did not enter the lake, but headed downstream to the Pacific ocean – never to return.

But it was special while it lasted.

Both of these Tahkenitch Creek wipers weighed more than six pounds.

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WDFW News – Canadian-Origin Salmon Transportation Rule Finalized.

Action: Finalizes method for obtaining clearance number for salmon caught in Canada.

Effective Date: July 6, 2018.

Species affected: Salmon.

Location: Washington marine areas.

Reason for action: Anglers seeking to possess and/or land Canadian-caught salmon in Washington waters or ports of call need a way to document the origin of the fish. Canadian Customs and Border Security no longer provides clearance numbers to travelers entering Canadian waters by boat if the travelers do not anchor or go ashore.

WDFW previously instructed anglers to fill out an online form before going fishing in Canada. Consistent with action taken by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, this regulation makes filling out the form a requirement.

Other information: Anglers who intend on fishing for salmon in Canadian waters and returning to a Washington port without clearing customs can find the form online at

The form requests basic trip and contact information from the leader of a fishing party and must be submitted prior to leaving Washington. The party leader will receive an email from WDFW with a confirmation code.

A Washington fishing license is not required to fish in Canada or to fill out the trip notification form. A WILD ID number can be used to fill out the form but it is not required.

Information contact: Fish Program: Mark Baltzell, 360-902-2807; Enforcement Program: Dan Chadwick, 360-249-4628, ext. 252.

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Remembering “Don Roberts”?

Trying to recall memories of anything that happened five decades ago can be frustrating, but when I graduated from North Bend High School in 1966 and attended Southwestern Oregon Community College for two years the best source of fishing information on Millicoma River Shad and Coos Bay striped bass was a small tackleshop located on the right side of Highway 101 as one leaves Coos Bay traveling south.

I believe the shop owner’s name was Don or Bill Roberts and his wife’s name was Lola.

When I first visited the shop, the Millicoma River had an excellent shad fishery and Coos Bay had a globally-recognized striped bass fishery – and Mr. Roberts was an excellent source of info on both fisheries.

I also remember when Don and Lola were mentioned in the “Salmon-Trout-Steelheader” for their excellent catches when fishing eastern Oregon’s Malheur Reservoir. They were also mentioned in the Oregon fishing guide published by Hennings.

But I will always remember Don for giving me fishing advice early in my fishing career – when I could most use it.

Don Roberts with some Millicoma River shad.

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WDFW News – Fire Closures Extended for Restoration on Parts of Two Southcentral Washington Wildlife Areas.

Following wildfires last month, sections of two wildlife areas in southcentral Washington will remain closed until at least this fall, state lands managers announced today.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is extending previously announced closures to sections of the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area in Kittitas County and the Wenas Wildlife Area in Yakima County to protect fragile burned areas and allow post-fire restoration work.

The Milepost 22 fire on June 20 burned 7,614 acres of the Whiskey Dick unit of the L. T. Murray Wildlife Area. The burned area remains closed through Sept. 15 to all uses while Washington Department of Natural Resources crews complete post-fire tasks. WDFW wildlife area staff will follow up with seeding, weed control, and additional restoration work on the fragile soils.

Visitors can still access the unburned sections of the wildlife area traveling north to south and from the Windfarm east to the Columbia River. The closure does not restrict motorized access from Vantage highway because Whiskey Dick Creek Road remains open although about seven miles of “Green Dot” roads on the Whiskey Dick unit remain closed.

A map of the Whiskey Dick closure is online at

On the Wenas Wildlife Area, the Buffalo fire that started June 2 burned a part of the area that has burned multiple times in recent years. About 4,000 acres of the area, defined by the Yakima River and elk fence, have been closed to use, including access to the southern trailhead of the popular Skyline Trail on Lower Buffalo Road and about three miles of the trail itself.

That closure has been extended through at least Nov. 30, although hunters will have walk-in access during hunting seasons. The closure will likely be extended again into spring 2019 to allow seeded grasses to establish.

A map of the Wenas closure is online at

“That area has been hit so hard with fires that those fragile soils need protection,” explained Ross Huffman, WDFW regional lands operations manager in Yakima. “Our goal is to protect wildlife habitat and accommodate wildlife recreation as best we can, which is why we’re allowing walk-in access for hunters during the limited hunting seasons.”

The annual target-shooting restrictions, which are in effect across the entire 105,000-arcre Wenas Wildlife Area, remain in place through September. More information about those restrictions is available online at

WDFW wildlife area staff have posted signs about the closures and gated closed areas on both the Wenas and Whiskey Dick wildlife areas.

Visitors to WDFW-managed lands in eastern Washington are reminded to observe the restrictions that are in place to reduce the risk of wildfire to state wildlife areas and access sites. Those restrictions can be found on the department’s website at

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Chasing Giant Crappies in Oregon.

Really big crappies are extremely rare in Oregon. Some of the lakes capable of producing outsized crappies have almost annual water level issues (Gerber Reservoir and the Warner Valley Lakes. Some lakes are simply too big to effectively target the largest crappies – such as Lake Washington which produced Washington’s state record black crappie, a four pound eight ounce fish caught way back in 1956 or Lookout Point Reservoir which has produced white crappies to at least four pounds eight ounces with even larger ones taken in ODFW netting operations.

Some of the Eugene-area lakes offer a chance at a truly humungous crappie as several of them have given up crappies weighing at least three pounds. Dorena and Cottage Grove Reservoirs have done so as has Fall Creek Reservoir. However, Fall Creek Reservoir now spends much of the year being a stream rather than a lake and should no longer be considered a “contender” – but when the water level was relatively stable, the reservoir produced multiple three pound crappies.

Also removed from the contender list would be Lost River which still holds the state record for black crappie – a four pound fish taken back in 1978. For the last three decades, the water quality in Lost River has suffered greatly from the effects of agricultural runoff and jumbo crappies and largemouth bass are no longer a viable angling option.

Oregonians seeking giant crappies are doomed to frustration – the best strategy is to settle for decent crappies and hope to be “surprised” by that extremely rare exception.

This crappie from Lookout Point Reservoir weighed more than four pounds and grabbed a Rapala crank bait.

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