Monthly Archives: October 2012

A Tough and Very Sad Fishing Day

This article will be included in the e-book version of “Oregon Fish Tales”, if I ever learn how to format an e-book. The events in this article actually happened to me and this story is based on those events. I have attempted to write the article from the dual perspectives of the bird and the angler and I do have to speculate on the bird’s portion of this article. This incident remains one of my saddest fishing trips I have ever suffered through, but I do hope you enjoy the story.

A TOUGH AND VERY SAD FISHING DAY – by Pete Heley

The kingfisher sat perched on a tree limb overlooking the lake shallows. It was hungry and didn’t understand why there were no small fish swimming near the surface or in shallow water.

The truth of the matter was that the kingfisher had overstayed his welcome. Deceived by balmy fall weather, it had not bothered to fly southward when it should have. The small fish were active in the unseasonably warm temperatures and getting ample food was easy.

Then, several weeks later than was normal, the normal fall temperatures showed up and the small fish seemingly disappeared – and the kingfisher did not understant any of this – ony that it was hungry and there seemed to be nothing to eat.
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While this was going on, an optimistic bass angler slowly paddled his narrow 12 foot long jonboat along the lake’s shoreline. He was fishing with a six-inch Culprit soft plastic jerkbait. As he made cast after cast, he retrieved the lure with a realistic, almost tantalizing motion that seemed almost irresistible to him and therefore, in Clayton Post’s mind, should also be extremely appealing to any fish that were within sight of it.

But none were, or so it seemed, as every cast came back to the boat unmolested. But there was a certain joy in making every cast and retrieve as tantalizing as possible and Clayton continued to do so. He had been making those tantalizing, unmolested retrieves for nearly three hours and had not had so much as a nibble. Usually, Oregon’s Loon Lake treated him very well when he fished it for largemouth bass or bluegills and the lake’s less common fish species bit often enough to keep things interesting. Native cutthroat trout, planted rainbow trout, white crappies, brown bullheads and northern pikeminnows rounded out the lake’s fish species of interest to anglers.

As the jonboat moved closer to the kingfisher, the bird took note. The boat was the only thing actually moving within the kingfisher’s field of vision. The bird remained motionless, conserving energy and hoping something small enough to eat would show itself.

The cool, post-rain afternoon seemed to have completely stopped any fish activity, but the lake was beautiful and Clayton thought it was nice to be the only person on the lake.

And the casting continued.

With a baseball hat and polarized glasses, Clayton could see several feet down into the water and he had yet to see a fish. Although it could be frustrating to see fish that wouldn’t bite, it was far more depressing to see that there were no fish anywhere close to where his casts were landing.

Clayton Post did not get depressed very easily. He viewed fishing conditions such as these as a challenge. Could he keep making accurate casts and realistic, appealing retrieves for a long enough period of time to outlast this period of inactivity or temporary absense of fish. He remained confident. He knew that the odds were on his side and no matter how big of a bass he hooked, the 20 pound test Power Pro super braid would allow him to pull it out of a snaggy mess and the 5/0 extra-wide gap Owner hook would grab enough “meat” to keep the hook from ripping out of the fish’s mouth.

But there seemed to be no fish to take his lure and line deep into the snags, or even to get its mouth around the over-sized hook. So Clayton kept casting and the casts were now being made by an angler that was almost in a trance. The casts were slightly less accurate and each retrieve was virtually the same as the 20 that preceded it as Post’s mind had essentially shut out everything around him except the casting and retrieving. He was, most definitely, on auto-pilot.

As the boat slowly came closer, the kingfisher noticed the small splashes made by the soft plastic jerkbait hitting the water. Normally, the kingfisher would have flown away long before the boat got this close, but it had little energy, not having eaten in two days, and those tiny splashes, possibly made by small fish, seemed to be fairly close to the boat – so it remained sitting on its branch, protected from the slight, but cool breeze, and watched.

Even in a trance, the lack of fishing action was getting to Clayton Post. He had pretty much given up on the day and was merely going through the motions. His casts were now random, lacking in purpose, and the retrieves were so autonomic and lacking imagination that they were nearly identical.But he continued on. making one uninspired cast after another.

The kingfisher was on full alert. The small splashes around the boat seemed to be made by a clearly visible small fish that seemed to be dropping into the water instead of jumping out of it. It didn’t know that the thing making the splashes was a white, six-inch long lure, it just knew that it was hungry and even though the small fish were far larger than everything else it had eaten in its life, the thing was still far smaller than it was.

And yet it hung back. Something wasn’t quite right. Perhaps it was the “minnow” leaping into instead of out of the water or possibly it was the slowly moving giant creature, formed by jonboat and man, that unnerved the bird.

But then the hunger became too much and the bird dove.

Clayton had just completed a lengthy cast about ten feet out and parallel to the shore. No longer focused, he wasn’t watching his lure as he retrieved it beneath an overhanging tree near the lower end of the 300 acre lake.

The kingfisher hit the water at more than 30 miles per hour and the six-inch long target didn’t even react to it. The feisty bird’s flapping wings carried it clear of the water’s  surface while holding a prey item that wasn’t even slippery or wiggling.

The sudden splash woke Clayton from his daydreams and it took a moment for him to realize that there was a splash where his lure should be and maybe he should do something about it.

He did. Setting the hook with everything that the stiff rod, twenty pound test and jumbo hook allowed, Clayton was suddenly surprised to see his line go surging skyward.

Trying to keep from falling overboard, Clayton did not look up, instead making sure to carefully place his feet in a position that allowed him to remain standing and keep enough stability to begin reeling in the elevated line.

As he reeled in line, the flying creature that had grabbed of his lure came into view. He was perplexed to see that it was, of all things, a kingfisher, but kep reeling until the bird was struggling within two feet of the rod tip.

The bewildered bird did not know what was happening to it. What had once appeared to be a sizable snack had somehow grabbed hold of him and kept him from flying away. The pain was nearly unbearable, but the bird struggled valiently to keep the giant creature at bay.

As Clayton moved towards the injured bird, he noticed the 5/0 hook imbedded in the kingfisher’s white breast and the circle of dark crimson surrounding the hook. As the bird fiercely pecked at the man’s extended hand, Clayton noticed how tiny the bird’s feet were and how large its beak was.

But the bird was injured and needed to have the hook removed. Even if the bird cooperated, removing the hook would not be easy. Of all the missed strikes, Clayton had endured since he started fishing, why couldn’t this have been one of them. He reached for the bird.

The terrified kingfisher, seeing the giant beast try to grab it, tried to fly away, but for some strange reason, it could not. Forced to face the giant, the bird went into attack mode and pecked the closest part of the beast with all its might.

Yelling loudly and shaking his barely bleeding hand, Clayton looked at the uncooperative bird. “If you only knew I was trying to help you.”, he thought as he looked at the cowering bird with its bloody breast and enormous, at least when compared to the rest of its body, beak. He tried again and, once again, he found himself cursing and shaking his even bloodier hand.

The kingfisher was weakening. The combination of overwhelming fear and an ever-decreasing supply of blood were taking their toll. But the feisty bird stabbed with its beak every time the giant beast came close and, so far, it was still alive.

After a few more unsuccessful, yet bloody, attempts to grab the bird so that he could either remove the hook or cut the braided line close to the hook, Clayton gave up. He grabbed the tiny scissors he used to cut braided line and cut the line about 14-inches from the bird. Even that distance allowed the bird to get in one final stab with its beak, before it realized that it could now fly and did so.

As Clayton watched the suddenly free bird flutter weakly up into the lakeside foliage, he felt sick. Encumbered with a six-inch long plastic bait and 14-inches of line and bleeding badly from deep penetration by the 5/0 wide-gap hook, the man knew the bird had virtually no chance to survive.

Clayton sat there for several minutes, completely forgetting that this was a fishing trip, remembering only that he had managed to, almost certainly, mortally wound another one of God’s creatures. Later, he would realize that the bird should not have been there and almost certainly would have died a slow death from starvation unless it had enough energy to fly south and very quickly at that. At that moment, all he realized was that he was the instrument of the kingfisher’s destruction and he felt sick.

Safely in the canopy of trees at the lake’s edge, the kingfisher shivered and watched the giant creature shrink in size as it sat down and then slowly start moving away. As the afternoon air cooled down, the bird stayed still on its perch and shivered and watched.

Clayton put his gear away and then sat down and began slowly rowing away from the spot where the kingfisher flew off. Despite the cooling air and the threat of rain, he felt no need to hurry – not the weather or anything else would improve his mood for awhile. He felt sick to his stomach and would remain so for some time.

The kingfisher watched the great beast move to the edge of its ever-shrinking field of vision. It felt cold and it shivered faster and more violently as the beast left its field of vision. The rain started as a heavy mist, but the shivering bird did not even notice it.

It shivered even faster and closed its now blind eyes.

And then . . . . . oblivion.

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Freshwater Fish Records for California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington

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Bobby Brown Catches Giant Lingcod

Bobby Brown of Cottage Grove/Winchester Bay traveled to Port Orford with some friends to fish for lingcod and other bottomfish. They fished in several areas, all less than 20 fathoms deep. They took some unkeepable rockfish weighing at least 20 pounds, but because of the relatively shallow water were able to release apparently healthy fish to return to underwater lairs.

The highlight of the trip was the jumbo lingcod they landed with several of the fish topping 20 pounds in weight. Brown’s largest ling weighed in at 41 pounds eight ounces and took two husky people to wrestle it aboard. The giant lingcod had a couple of foot-long rockfish in its stomach along with a legal-sized lingcod that weighed about five pounds.

Ironically, the giant lingcod was the only fish the party hooked in that that immediate area – possibly because it scared off most of the other bottomfish and ate the rest.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 10/10/2012

Winchester Bay crabbing continues to be the hottest thing going in our area. Virtually all the boat crabbers that are putting in a reasonable amount of time are getting all the crabs they want. Even the dock crabbers are making good catches, but there have been some two or three hour stretches where female crabs have dominated the catch. The most successful crabbers don’t panic, but just keep crabbing until the male crabs become active again. Decent crab catches have been made all the way up to about a mile upriver from the entrance to Winchester Bay’s East Boat Basin.

It seems that the ocean has warmed slightly and salmon fishing near the Umpqua River Bar has improved slightly. Fishing remains inconsistent, but there appears to be fair numbers of happy salmon anglers each day. Bank anglers continue to catch a surprising number of salmon, but there bite seems to be best at daybreak and also near high tide.

The somewhat smaller rivers in our area seem to be improving and lots of salmon have come from the Siuslaw, Coos and Coquille rivers. Despite everyone’s worries, none of the wild coho quotas on area rivers are close to being met.

Siltcoosl Tahkenitch and Tenmile lakes are now open for salmon fishing. However, don’t count on catching any cohos just yet. Siltcoos, whose small dam is located at the upper end of tidewater will be the first of these lakes to get salmon, but without some major rain, or in the case of the Siltcoos River, some very high tides, the salmon fishing in these lakes is still weeks away.

Some anglers have been taking advantage of the reopening of bottomfishing in waters deeper than 180 feet. Success has been very good for lingcod and bottomfish, but the two best catches were boat limits of lingcod andc bottomfish made by Scott Howard’s Strike Zone Charters who managed to boat multiple lingcod weighing more than 20 pounds. Despite the optimistic weight estimates of many successful lingcod anglers, when one gets the privilege of viewing lingcod that actually weigh a legitimate 20 pounds, they realize what an impressive beast they are.

That unannounced jumbo trout plant at Lake Marie is still producing good trout fishing results, while Siltcoos, Tahkenitch and Tenmile lakes are still producing decent fishing for carryover and searun trout – usually by trolling with spinner and bait. Several trout fishing spots near Medford recently received extra trout that were purchased from a private hatchery and were stocked in Applegate, Hyatt, Howard Prairie and Selmac lakes as well as Expo and Reinhart ponds. The 7,000 trout were a mix of barely legal and one pound rainbow trout and Howard Prairie Lake also is slated to receive 16,000 fingerling rainbows.

Smallmouth bass angling on the Umpqua River remains productive, especially from late afternoon until dusk. Largemouth bass are biting fairly well in most area lakes, although early morning temperatures may slow the early bite. Some fair-sized yellow perch have been caught recently with much of the meager fishing pressure directed at them taking place at Tahkenitch Lake.

I think many hunters knew this was coming. The Oregon Legislature adopted a $25 penalty on hunters who fail to turn in their 2012 deer and elk tags by the January 31st, 2013 deadline. In defense of the ODFW, they recommended a $10 penalty, but were overruled by the legislature who felt the higher penalty would spur better compliance. A surprising number of hunters preferred the high fee for the same reason that the Oregon Legislature did. The penalty will be imposed when the hunter purchases his 2014 hunting license. Remember, this penalty only applies if  hunters do not do what they are already supposed to do.

It appears that the State of Washington, whose fisheries department has long been the most even-handed when it comes to dealing with their warmwater fishing opportunites has decided to throw their smallmouth bass, walleye and channel catfish fisheries under the bus in the Columbia and Snake rivers. If the “still under consideration” proposal takes effect there will be no limits on the aforementioned fish in the states two largest rivers.

The proposal, if enacted, will almost certainly have a slight negative impact on these fisheries, but any improvement in the salmon and steelhead fisheries will most likely be offset with an increase in the northern pikeminnow populations in the Columbia and Snake rivers. In fact, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) may have to start paying out some real money regarding their pikeminnow harvest program. Since most of the bass anglers affected by this legislation routinely release their catch and the walleye and catfish anglers very seldom catch the limits they now have on these fish, this proposal appears to be a nearly meaningless way to make many salmon and steelhead anglers happy.

If the proposal becomes law, one can only guess how the ODFW will respond to it.

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Wild Coho Catch Estimates For Oregon Coast Rivers Through Sunday, October 7th

Open Fishing Areas for Wild Coho Harvests and Open Seasons Subject to Quota Fulfillment

NEHALEM RIVER – Jetty tips to Miami-Foley Bridge on South Fork and to North
Fork Rd. Bridge on North Fork. Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

TILLAMOOK – Jetty tips to Hwy 101 Bridge on Miami, Kilchis, Wilson and
Trask rivers and to Burton Bridge on Tillamook River. Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

NESTUCCA RIVER – Mouth to Cloverdale Bridge (excludes Little Nestucca
tidewater). Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

SILETZ RIVER – Mouth upstream to an ODFW marker approximately 1,200
feet upstream from Ojalla Bridge (RM 31). Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

YAQUINA RIVER – Mouth to confluence of Yaquina R. and Big Elk Creek. Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

ALSEA RIVER – Mouth to Five Rivers (RM21). Season runs from October 1st through December 15th.

SIUSLAW RIVER – Mouth to Lake Cr. (RM 30). Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

UMPQUA RIVER – Mouth to Scottsburg Bridge. Smith River closed. Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

TENMILE LAKES – Open in North and South lakes.C losed downstream of Hilltop
Bridge, canal between lakes, and all tributaries above lakes. Season runs from October 1st through December 31st.

COOS RIVER – Mouth to Dellwood and E/W Millicoma confluence. Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

COQUILLE RIVER – Mouth to Hwy 42S Bridge (Sturdivant Park). Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 10/03/2012

Crabbing at Winchester Bay continues to be very good for boat anglers and fair to good for dockbound crabbers. There appears to be some confusion as to when the ocean closes to sport crabbing and the correct answer is that it closes on October 15th and will reopen on December 1st. Crabbing in our coastal river systems is open all year.

As you are reading this, the Crab Bounty Contest is officially over. It ended at 2:00 pm last Monday (October 1st). Since the contest ending came after the deadline for this article, I’ll report the winners in next week’s column.  As I am writing this, 19 tagged crabs have been turned in to the Sportsman Cannery for their free hats and a chance at the $1,000 Grand Prize. One crabber from Florence went crabbing with some friends from McMinnville and when his friends returned to McMinnville, they discovered that one of their crabs had a tag (actually a numbered spinner blade) on it. Their revised game plan was to get the tag back to Florence and then to the Sportsman Cannery early monday morning on the last half-day of the contest. I hope they made it.

Some quick stats on the tagged crab caught through last Saturday. Of the 19 tagged crabs caught, only one was caught by an Oregon nonresident. Three were caught by people from Reedsport and only two were caught by boat crabbers. Dock 9 produced five tagged crabs while the Coast Guard Pier produced four and Dock A produced three.

Crabbing continues to be very good for boat crabbers, although it seems that a large number of them are unaware that the ocean is still legal for sport crabbing and will remain so through October 15th. Of course, the river is open to crabbing year-round, but crabbing success has fallen off somewhat above the entrance to Winchester Bay’s East Boat Basin due to some commercial crabbing.

The most recent salmon-fishing news is all about the Siuslaw River where they managed to catch more than 27 percent of their wild coho quota in the first nine days of the season. As a comparison, the Umpqua River has been the second most productive wild coho producer and through Sunday, September 23rd, and they had caught less than four percent of their wild coho quota. The wild coho quotas for the Siuslaw and Umpqua rivers were 1,700 and 3,000 fish respectively and each river has an individual season wild coho limit of two.

For those wanting to look up these statistics online, they come out on Tuesday and cover catch rates up through the preceding Sunday. The web address is: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing/coastal_salmon_seasons.asp.

Cool ocean water is still hampering the ocean and lowermost rivers salmon fishing success although there appears to be large numbers of salmon present in all of the larger streams in our area. While the bar areas on our local rivers will have somewhat warmer water near low tide when the warmer upriver water is mixed with the cold ocean water, it often is too rough to comfortably fish during that time and the salmon tend to enter even the largest rivers during periods of high tides.

Sturgeon and striped bass angling remains slow with little fishing pressure. A few quiet-mouthed anglers have been catching some chinook salmon from the Smith River, which does not allow the taking of any coho salmon. Surfperch anglers have been having some success at the end of Sparrow Park Road, but the fishing has been inconsistent and subject to decent surf conditions. Jetty anglers have been very few and far between with many having switched to salmon angling and the others avoiding the jetty until the recent heavy wave action subsides. Although there has not been much salmon fishing activity near the mouth of Winchester Creek located in Winchester Bay’s East Boat Basin, more than 100 salmon have entered the STEP trap located in the closed section of Winchester Creek.

I suppose it should have been expected, but inshore halibut seem to have nearly disappeared now that they are legal to keep, when only a few weeks ago, at least five good-sized ones were caught incidentally when the season was closed.

Cool mornings have slowed recent bass and panfish activity, but the warm afternoons should allow for better afternoon and evening fishing. Recent temperatures have exceeded 75 degrees along the coast and 90 degrees near Medford which should allow for worthwhile bass fishing.

A couple of new additions to the ODFW website that should be of interest to area anglers are the new Google map showing the places that receive trout plants in the Southwest region and “50 places to go fishing within 60 minutes of Medford”.
perch anglers

According to a recent ODFW bulletin, sockeye salmon are now ascending the Deschutes River above Billy Chinook Dam for the first time in more than 45 years. The fish are the result of kokanee (the landlocked version of sockeye salmon) taken from Lake Billy Chinook and released into the Deschutes River below Pelton Dam where they could migrate down the Deschutes, into the Columbia, and then into the ocean. The first of these returning sockeyes are now in the Deschutes above Lake Billy Chinook where it is hoped that they will re-establish the sockeye runs present in the Deschutes before the construction of Round Butte and Pelton dams. It is quite interesting that specimens from a kokanee population landlocked for several decades could immediately become sockeye salmon as soon as their path to the ocean becomes possible.

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Wild Coho Catch Estimates For Oregon Coastal Rivers Through Sept. 30th

Open Fishing Areas for Wild Coho Harvests and Open Seasons Subject to Quota Fulfillment

NEHALEM RIVER – Jetty tips to Miami-Foley Bridge on South Fork and to North
Fork Rd. Bridge on North Fork. Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

TILLAMOOK – Jetty tips to Hwy 101 Bridge on Miami, Kilchis, Wilson and
Trask rivers and to Burton Bridge on Tillamook River. Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

NESTUCCA RIVER – Mouth to Cloverdale Bridge (excludes Little Nestucca
tidewater). Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

SILETZ RIVER – Mouth upstream to an ODFW marker approximately 1,200
feet upstream from Ojalla Bridge (RM 31). Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

YAQUINA RIVER – Mouth to confluence of Yaquina R. and Big Elk Creek. Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

ALSEA RIVER – Mouth to Five Rivers (RM21). Season runs from October 1st through December 15th.

SIUSLAW RIVER – Mouth to Lake Cr. (RM 30). Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

UMPQUA RIVER – Mouth to Scottsburg Bridge. Smith River closed. Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

TENMILE LAKES – Open in North and South lakes.C losed downstream of Hilltop
Bridge, canal between lakes, and all tributaries above lakes. Season runs from October 1st through December 31st.

COOS RIVER – Mouth to Dellwood and E/W Millicoma confluence. Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

COQUILLE RIVER – Mouth to Hwy 42S Bridge (Sturdivant Park). Season runs from September 15th through November 30th.

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Grand Prize Won In Winchester Bay’s Crab Bounty Hunt

Jim Marshall, of Madras, Oregon won the $1,000 Grand Prize when the number of spinner-tag on the tagged crab he caught was found to match the pre-selected number for the Grand Prize at 2 pm on Monday, October 1st.

Since the Grand Prize was won, the three consolation prizes of $500, $300 and $200 were not given out. Approximately 20 of the 100 tagged crabs that were released during the contest were caught and turned in to the Sportsman Cannery in Winchester Bay.

Ironically, although the crabbing was defintely and consistently better from a boat, almost all of the tagged crabs were caught from the three main crabbing docks (The Coast Guard Pier, Dock 9 and DOck A).

 

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