Monthly Archives: December 2015

Pete Heley Outdoors 12 / 31 / 2015

While the commercial crabbing season for both Oregon and Washingon will start on January 4th, recreational crabbing has been legal in Oregon since last Monday (Dec. 21st).

On January 1st the rules and regulations for 2016 kick in and you will need to have 2016 licenses and tags for 2016 to be able to legally fish, hunt or pursue shellfish. Eel Creek opens for steelhead fishing on January 1st and will remain open through April. The coho salmon season for Siltcoos, Tahkenitch and Tenmile lakes will end an hour after sunset(5:38 pm) on December 31st.

As of Jan. 1st, many Oregon lakes will be open to year-round fishing for the first time. However, the numerous lakes that are not open all year will be listed under exceptions for each zone.

It won’t make much difference for a few months, but the Columbia, Coquille, John Day and Umpqua rivers will no longer have size or number limits on them for bass. Warm water enthusiasts shouldn’t panic though. Idaho tried upping the limit on smallmouth bass several years ago, but could not get its bass anglers to stop practicing catch and release. I’m sure Oregon will get similar results.

Many anglers remain unaware that steelhead anglers fishing the Coos River, Coquille River, Tenmile Creek and their tributaries that are open to hatchery steelhead retention can keep three finclipped steelhead per day through April 30th.

Since 2016 is the first time in six years with fee increases for hunting and fishing licenses and tags, those increases are substantial. The state of Washington is the best comparable as to the costs of hunting licenses, fishing licenses and tags. Here’s how they stack up.

Fishing licenses ($38.00 for Oregon residents between the ages of 18 and 69. ($29.50 for Washington resident between the ages of 16 and 60). Oregon’s fishing license is good for fresh and saltwater while the Washington quote is only good for freshwater. A saltwater fishing license will cost $30.05 bringing the cost up to $59.55. A nonresident yearly fishing license will cost $97.50 (down from $106.25 last year. A Washington nonresident license will cost $ 84.50 for freshwater and $59.75 for saltwater for a total of $144.25.

But comparing the costs of various outdoor recreation licenses for Oregon and Washington is like comparing apples and oranges. Most Oregon anglers opt to purchase a combined angling tag which allows them to fish for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon (when legal) and halibut. The cost for that tag increased this year from $26.50 to $35.00. Washington anglers are not required to purchase a combined angling tag, but must report their catch. In fact, All retained salmon, sturgeon, steelhead, Dungeness crab and halibut catch information must be reported on an angler’s catch record card.

Washington’s shellfish license also includes seaweed and costs $17.40 for a resident and $36.10 for a nonresident. Razor clams require a separate license at a cost of $14.10 for a resident and $21.80 for a nonresident. Oregon’s shellfish license costs $9.00 for a resident and $26.00 for a nonresident. Although Oregon’s shellfish licenses are cheaper than Washington’s, I believe the simplicity of Oregon’s shellfish regulations is a major factor in spurring both resident and nonresident shellfish license sales.

Washington definitely seems more “senior-friendly” than does Oregon. While a person at least 70 years old now pays a yearly angling fee of $25.00 if an Oregon resident, Washington charges its senior anglers only $7.50 to fish freshwater and $8.05 to fish saltwater – and they do not have to buy a combined angling tag ($35.00).

Beginning in 2016, young Oregonians need to start purchasing fishing and shellfish licenses at age 12 instead of at age 14, while in Washington the age where license purchase becomes necessary is 16.

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Mardon Resort Hunting Report

Recent weather conditions in Central Washington have been great for goose hunting. Just lay under a white cover with a few decoys and get your Christmas Goose. The snow almost gives unfair advantage to the white camo goose hunters. Many high goose flights have been passing over the Potholes Recreation area. Snow, rain and wind have been to the north lately. That’s why our hunting has been so good.

Brian Batzell, Meseberg Adventure Goose Guide, holds a Specklebelly Goose taken on a Royal Slope field hunt.

Brian Batzell, Meseberg Adventure Goose Guide, holds a Specklebelly Goose taken on a Royal Slope field hunt.


Clyde Foster enjoyed an eight-man goose hunt in the snow.  Limits were taken on Royal Slope, with Levi and Brian.

Clyde Foster enjoyed an eight-man goose hunt in the snow. Limits were taken on Royal Slope, with Levi and Brian.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 12 / 23 / 2015

Stormy weather and colder temperatures slowed the yellow perch bite this week at the county park on South Tenmile Lake. Although a few perch were caught by anglers fishing with nightcrawlers, anglers fishing with the same micro-jigs that worked so well the previous two weeks were drawing blanks this week. Colder water temperatures were undoubtedly a factor in the slow perch bite, but the more than six foot rise in the lake level was also a factor. The perch bite will most likely improve with more stable weather conditions as the lake is relatively clear despite a surprising amount of suspended algae in the lake.

Bass Anglers fishing Tenmile and putting in some time have been rewarded with a few largemouth bass. Fishing with jigs in eight to 12 feet of water has been the most effective technique and this may be another winter where Tenmile’s bass bite never completely shuts down.

At the end of this month, the coho fisheries on Siltcoos, Tahkenitch and Tenmile lakes will close with a whimper as all three lakes had disappointing seasons. Of course it didn’t help that the main boat ramp at Siltcoos was closed for the entire salmon season for repairs.

On a more positive note, anglers with second rod licenses that are fishing these three lakes will actually be able to use two rods beginning January 1st after the coho season closes.

As I am writing this, Oregon’s crab season is still closed south of Heceta Head despite the fact that levels of domoic acid in crabs along the entire Oregon coast have recently tested at safe levels. I actually appreciate the ODFW and the ODA choosing to be very cautious since some crabs along the southern Oregon coast recently showed safe, but increasing levels of domoic acid.

Washington chose to delay opening the crab season along their south coast – even though their crabs tested safe, to avoid being overrun by crabbers from closed areas. In fact, there seems to be some reluctance to be the first area to open the commercial crab season for that very reason. When the season does officially open, there should be very little doubt that the crabs are very safe and very edible.

Anxious, “biting-at-the-bit” crabbers need to call the ODA shellfish safety hotline at 1-800-448-2474 before actually going crabbing. The hotline provides the most current information about shellfish safety closures. Additional information is available from ODA’s Food Safety Program at (503) 986-4720 or the ODA shellfish closures website.

Water levels may be a problem, but water clarity almost certainly won’t when Eel Creek opens for steelhead fishing on January 1st.

When weather and ocean conditions permit, Winchester Bay’s South Jetty has been fishing well for rockfish and greenling while fishing for redtail surfperch at several area beaches has been inconsistent. Anglers fishing the surf or off jetties need to use caution as both areas can be dangerous

Once again, I urge anglers to purchase their 2016 hunting and fishing licenses early and to pick up their free copies of the regulations booklets. Despite numerous changes, I really feel that the 2016 booklets are better written and easier to understand than the booklets of previous years.

Recreational crabbing is now open along the entire coasts of Washington and Oregon, but the commercial crabbing seasons of both states won’t start until January 4th.

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Oregon Commercial Crab Season To Open Jan. 4th

Fresh Oregon Dungeness crab is back on the menu after fishery managers determined the fishery is ready to open Jan. 4 along the entire Oregon coast.

Fishery managers exercised an abundance of caution in opening the crab season this year due to unusual levels of domoic acid found in crabs along Oregon’s southern coast. The month-long delay in opening the season allowed for additional testing for domoic acid in order to provide confidence that crab harvested from Oregon waters are safe to consume and of excellent quality.

“Along with the state agencies, the Oregon commercial Dungeness crab industry has taken a very proactive and precautionary approach to the opening of this crab season in the interest of public safety,” says Caren Braby, ODFW Marine Resources Program Manager.

Testing of crab in recent weeks show the elevated levels of domoic acid in the southern half of the state have decreased and are all below U.S. Food and Drug Administration alert levels for three sample periods in a row. Based on these results and consultations with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Oregon commercial crab industry and Washington and California Departments of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is opening the ocean commercial Dungeness crab season along the entire Oregon coast just after the New Year, Jan 4.

Commercial crab boat lights will start dotting the horizon Jan. 1 as boats are allowed to set gear three days prior to the fishery opening. The recreational harvest of Dungeness crab in Oregon’s bays and ocean is currently open coastwide.

As the season gets underway, state agencies will continue to monitor marine biotoxins in shellfish to ensure that the concentrations remain below the alert level to ensure the consumer safety.

For more information about Oregon’s shellfish marine biotoxin monitoring, call ODA’s shellfish safety information hotline at (800) 448‐2474 or visit the ODA shellfish closures web page.

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WDFW News – Washington Commercial Crab Season To Open On January 4th

Washington’s commercial Dungeness crab fishery will open in coastal waters Jan. 4 after a month-long delay, state shellfish managers announced today.

Fishery managers for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) approved the opening in coordination with fishery managers from Oregon and California.

Washington’s commercial fishery opening includes the waters from the mouth of the Columbia River north to Destruction Island as well as Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. Crabbers can set their pots in this area on Jan. 1. The area north of Destruction Island will open later in coordination with tribal co-managers.

WDFW delayed the fishery opening, initially scheduled Dec. 1, to conduct additional marine toxin testing and coordinate coastal openings with Oregon. Results from these tests continue to show domoic acid levels below the health-safety threshold set by state public health officials, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

“We understand the hardship that this delay has caused the coastal crab industry,” Ayres said. “However, it’s important to help make sure that the crab going to the marketplace is safe to eat.”

Domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae, has disrupted shellfish fisheries this year along the West Coast. The marine toxin can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. Cooking or freezing does not destroy the toxin in shellfish.

The Washington commercial crab fishery has an average annual value of $38 million.

Recreational crabbing is open in all of Washington’s coastal waters and in Puget Sound, where marine toxins in crab have not been a problem.

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WDFW News – Commission Adopts New Sportfishing Rules

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday adopted nearly 50 new sportfishing rules, including a requirement that anglers release all wild steelhead they catch on several streams on the Olympic Peninsula.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved the sportfishing rule changes during its public meeting Dec. 11-12 in Port Townsend.

The rule changes modify fishing seasons, daily catch limits and other regulations for freshwater areas of Puget Sound and the Washington coast.

One new rule prohibits the retention of wild steelhead on the Quillayute, Dickey, Bogachiel, Calawah, Sol Duc, Hoh, Clearwater and Quinault rivers – the only rivers in Washington where anglers are currently allowed to catch and keep a wild steelhead. The rule also prohibits the retention of wild rainbow trout on those eight rivers and their tributaries.

The change, designed to provide further protections for Olympic Peninsula steelhead, takes effect July 1, 2016. The other rules adopted by the commission also take effect that day.

Other sportfishing rule changes include:

Eliminating size restrictions and daily limits for eastern brook trout in most western Washington streams and crappie in several western Washington lakes.
Removing rules limiting anglers to keeping only two trout that are larger than 14 inches in several western Washington lowland lakes. WDFW is stocking these lakes with larger trout, making the requirement unnecessary.
Providing trout-fishing opportunities in sections of several streams currently closed to fishing.
The commission did not, however, adopt a proposal to close a portion of the North Fork Nooksack River near the Kendall Creek Hatchery. Commissioners asked fishery managers to evaluate other potential options to clarify fishing boundaries at the mouth of Kendall Creek, which meanders at different times of the year.

The commission also did not include Summit Lake (Thurston County) in a list of lakes that will be open for fishing year-round. Instead, the commission maintained the current season at the lake, where anglers can fish from the fourth Saturday in April through Oct. 31.

Summaries of the changes will be available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals/ by late January.

In other business, the commission discussed this year’s harmful algal bloom off the West Coast; conservation of Puget Sound rockfish; the status of a proposed boat launch at Point No Point in Kitsap County; and recent meetings of the department’s Wolf Advisory Group.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 12 / 20 / 2015

I picked this week to cover just how different the fish stocking programs are between Oregon and California for non-anadromous fish.

In Oregon, with a few exceptions of some private ponds and lakes, virtually all of the stocking is done by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and virtually all of the fish planted are rainbow trout of three basic sizes (barely legal, 12-inchers and 16-inchers) that are intended to be caught and kept almost immediately.

Many of the richer waters in central and eastern Oregon receive plants of sublegal rainbows since they reach legal size rather quickly and a few western Oregon waters such as Hyatt and Howard Prairie also receive plants of smaller trout because their trout grow quickly.

With very few exceptions, trout along the Oregon coast grow very slowly. Before Butterfield Lake, in Coos County, was deeded to the public, it produced rainbows up to nine pounds, but these were privately stocked fish that were fed food pellets daily and rarely ventured close enough to the railroad tracks to be hooked by an angler.

The larger coastal lakes are capable of growing good-sized trout, but they usually turn out to be searun rather than carryover or lake-reared fish.

A large portion of the trout planted in California are raised in private hatcheries and purchased by privately operated marinas on certain California lakes and reservoirs. Some of these marinas have got in the habit of buying some humongous fish including rainbow trout weighing more than 20 pounds. In fact, several years ago a small fee-fishing lake turned in a rainbow trout for state record consideration that was caught mere hours after being stocked as a 28 pounder. Thankfully, the record application was eventually denied.

Some of these marinas also purchase catfish for stocking in the summer months. Most of these fish are channel cats, but some blue cats are also purchased. Years ago, Irvine Lake received a lot of publicity when it gave up a 72 pound five ounce blue cat that was stocked three weeks earlier as a mere 72 pounder. Earlier this year, the Santa Ana River Lakes stocked a 78 pound blue cat that was caught a few days later at the same weight.

Presently, anglers catching one of these jumbo stocked cats are required to release them in return for cash or merchandise. After all, raising catfish this heavy is very expensive – and they do a much better job of generating fishing interest and turnout while they are still in the water.

While I applaud California for stocking some truly impressive fish the mindset of many of the anglers pursuing these fish greatly concerns me. These fish should not be considered the equal of similar-sized fish that have had to endure the constant dangers of growing up in the wild.

Further evidence that even some of California’s more seasoned anglers suffer from this “mindset” was when a rather famous Florida-strain largemouth bass was snagged off her bed in Dixon Lake. While “Dottie” definitely weighed enough to top the world record, the fact that the angler even considered turning the illegally-caught bass in for record consideration is very troubling.

A more recent example of this mindset is the huge spotted bass that was caught in late November. The bass was weighed on three different accurate scales at eleven pounds four ounces, or slightly more. After all that trouble, the lucky angler tried to keep the lake that produced this potential world record a secret – calling the lake “Lake B” and then starting rumors that it was caught on Lake Berryssa, although it is far more likely it was caught at Bullards Bar Reservoir.

My position is that if you cannot bring yourself to honestly state where you caught a fish you are submitting for a state or world record – don’t submit it. Oregon doesn’t accept fish for state records that are caught out of waters not open to the public. But they slipped up when they accepted as a state record, a largemouth bass caught from a private pond near Butte Falls. Fortunately, that record has since been eclipsed by a bass from a pond in Springfield that does have public access.

However there is some value in being able to take a drive of approximately one hour from Los Angeles to Irvine Lake and having a chance to catch lunker-sized specimens of the following trout species: rainbow trout; brown trout; cutthroat trout, brook trout and steelhead as well as more than ten warmwater species including channel and blue catfish.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 12 / 16 / 2015

I picked this week to cover just how different the fish stocking programs are between Oregon and California for non-anadromous fish.

In Oregon, with a few exceptions of some private ponds and lakes, virtually all of the stocking is done by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and virtually all of the fish planted are rainbow trout of three basic sizes (barely legal, 12-inchers and 16-inchers) that are intended to be caught and kept almost immediately.

Many of the richer waters in central and eastern Oregon receive plants of sublegal rainbows since they reach legal size rather quickly and a few western Oregon waters such as Hyatt and Howard Prairie also receive plants of smaller trout because their trout grow quickly.

With very few exceptions, trout along the Oregon coast grow very slowly. Before Butterfield Lake, in Coos County, was deeded to the public, it produced rainbows up to nine pounds, but these were privately stocked fish that were fed food pellets daily and rarely ventured close enough to the railroad tracks to be hooked by an angler.

The larger coastal lakes are capable of growing good-sized trout, but they usually turn out to be searun rather than carryover or lake-reared fish.

A large portion of the trout planted in California are raised in private hatcheries and purchased by privately operated marinas on certain California lakes and reservoirs. Some of these marinas have got in the habit of buying some humongous fish including rainbow trout weighing more than 20 pounds. In fact, several years ago a small fee-fishing lake turned in a rainbow trout for state record consideration that was caught mere hours after being stocked as a 28 pounder. Thankfully, the record application was eventually denied.

Some of these marinas also purchase catfish for stocking in the summer months. Most of these fish are channel cats, but some blue cats are also purchased. Years ago, Irvine Lake received a lot of publicity when it gave up a 72 pound five ounce blue cat that was stocked three weeks earlier as a mere 72 pounder. Earlier this year, the Santa Ana River Lakes stocked a 78 pound blue cat that was caught a few days later at the same weight.

Presently, anglers catching one of these jumbo stocked cats are required to release them in return for cash or merchandise. After all, raising catfish this heavy is very expensive – and they do a much better job of generating fishing interest and turnout while they are still in the water.

While I applaud California for stocking some truly impressive fish, the mindset of many of the anglers pursuing these fish  greatly concerns me. These fish should not be considered the equal of similar-sized fish that have had to endure the constant dangers of growing up in the wild.

Further evidence that even some of California’s more seasoned anglers suffer from this “mindset” was when a rather famous Florida-strain largemouth bass  was snagged off her bed in Dixon Lake. While “Dottie” definitely weighed enough to top the world record, the fact that the angler even considered turning the illegally-caught bass in for record consideration is very troubling.

A more recent example of this mindset is the huge spotted bass that was caught in late November of this year. The bass was weighed on three different accurate scales at eleven pounds four ounces, or slightly more. After all that trouble, the lucky angler tried to keep the lake that produced this potential world record a secret – calling the lake “Lake B” and then starting rumors that it was caught on Lake Berryssa, although it is far more likely it was caught at Bullards Bar Reservoir.

My position is that if you cannot bring yourself to honestly state where you caught a fish you are submitting for a state or world record – don’t submit it. Oregon doesn’t accept fish for state records that are caught out of waters not open to the public. But they slipped up when they accepted as a state record, a largemouth bass caught from a private pond near Butte Falls. Fortunately, that record has since been eclipsed by a bass from a pond in Springfield that does have public access.

However there is some value in being able to take a drive of approximately one hour from Los Angeles to Irvine Lake and having a chance to catch lunker-sized specimens of the following trout species: rainbow trout; brown trout; cutthroat trout, brook trout and steelhead as well as more than ten warmwater species including channel and blue catfish.

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WDFW News – Commission Adopts New Sportfishing Regulations

OLYMPIA — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday adopted nearly 50 new sportfishing rules, including a requirement that anglers release all wild steelhead they catch on several streams on the Olympic Peninsula.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved the sportfishing rule changes during its public meeting Dec. 11-12 in Port Townsend.

The rule changes modify fishing seasons, daily catch limits and other regulations for freshwater areas of Puget Sound and the Washington coast.

One new rule prohibits the retention of wild steelhead on the Quillayute, Dickey, Bogachiel, Calawah, Sol Duc, Hoh, Clearwater and Quinault rivers – the only rivers in Washington where anglers are currently allowed to catch and keep a wild steelhead. The rule also prohibits the retention of wild rainbow trout on those eight rivers and their tributaries.

The change, designed to provide further protections for Olympic Peninsula steelhead, takes effect July 1, 2016. The other rules adopted by the commission also take effect that day.

Other sportfishing rule changes include:

Eliminating size restrictions and daily limits for eastern brook trout in most western Washington streams and crappie in several western Washington lakes.
Removing rules limiting anglers to keeping only two trout that are larger than 14 inches in several western Washington lowland lakes. WDFW is stocking these lakes with larger trout, making the requirement unnecessary.
Providing trout-fishing opportunities in sections of several streams currently closed to fishing.
The commission did not, however, adopt a proposal to close a portion of the North Fork Nooksack River near the Kendall Creek Hatchery. Commissioners asked fishery managers to evaluate other potential options to clarify fishing boundaries at the mouth of Kendall Creek, which meanders at different times of the year.

The commission also did not include Summit Lake (Thurston County) in a list of lakes that will be open for fishing year-round. Instead, the commission maintained the current season at the lake, where anglers can fish from the fourth Saturday in April through Oct. 31.

Summaries of the changes will be available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals/ by late January.

In other business, the commission discussed this year’s harmful algal bloom off the West Coast; conservation of Puget Sound rockfish; the status of a proposed boat launch at Point No Point in Kitsap County; and recent meetings of the department’s Wolf Advisory Group.

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WDFW News – Washington Plans Tentative Razor Clam Digs

Clam diggers will have an opportunity to dig for razor clams on Copalis Beach over the Christmas holiday if the next marine toxin test confirms the clams are safe to eat, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.

The dig is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 24, 25 and 26 at Copalis Beach on evening tides. No other state beach will be open to digging those three days. State shellfish managers emphasized the Copalis dig hinges on results from the next marine toxin test, which will take place late next week.

If approved, the opening at Copalis would be the first razor clam dig of the fall season.

Elevated levels of domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of algae, forced WDFW to curtail digging. Razor clam digging will remain closed on Washington’s other coastal beaches until domoic acid levels drop below the threshold (20 parts per million) set by state public health officials, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

“Results from Copalis have met state health standards after two rounds of testing,” Ayres said. “If not for unfavorable surf conditions, we would be digging this weekend.”

State health safety officials require a toxin test within 10 days of an opening, making one more test necessary before the Dec. 24 dig, Ayres said.

Below is the tentative schedule of proposed razor clam digs for Copalis Beach, along with evening low tides if marine toxin tests are favorable:

Dec. 24, Thursday, 5:47 p.m.; -1.2 feet, Copalis
Dec. 25, Friday, 6:30 p.m.; -1.3 feet, Copalis
Dec. 26, Saturday, 7:12 p.m.; -1.1 feet, Copalis
Under state law, diggers can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container. Diggers may not harvest any part of another person’s daily limit, unless they possess a designated harvester card.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2015-16 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

Comprehensive information about razor clams – from updates on tentative digs to how-to advice on digging and cooking – is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

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