Monthly Archives: August 2017

Pete Heley Outdoors 8 /09 / 2017

The catch total for the ocean finclipped coho season that ended July 30th was 6,140 cohos and 728 chinooks. The coho catch was only 34.1 percent of the quota and hopefully there will be some salmon added to the 6,000 coho quota to the ocean nonselective season which begins on September 2nd.

Fishing for chinook salmon near Reedsport slowed last week. I thought that salmon fishing pressure in the ocean would drop off since the only ocean salmon currently legal are chinooks at least 24-inches long. However there were numerous boats fishing around the Umpqua River Bar that were making sure that they were landing salmon they were not sure were adult chinooks in the river since finclipped adult and jack cohos and jack chinooks are legal to keep in the river – but not the ocean.

It seemed like there wasn’t going to be a thermal barrier at Reedsport this year that kept salmon entering the Umpqua River jammed up below Reedsport, but exceptionally high temperatures last week will likely create one.

Last Friday and Saturday marked the first two day halibut opener of the summer season. Thanks to 6,078 pounds leftover from the spring all depth season, the summer all-depth quota was 66,281 pounds.

There were some recent actions taken regarding the commercial salmon and halibut fisheries. One action was the A rollover of Chinook remaining from the May – June troll salmon fishery from the US/Canada Border to Cape Falcon was made to the July – September troll salmon fishery in the same area. This results in a 2,205 Chinook net increase to the July-September troll fishery quota of 18,000 Chinook resulting in a revised quota of 20,205 Chinook..

The commercial halibut fishery closed at midnight on Thursday, August 3rd because 98 percent of the 39,810 pound quota had been caught.

Crabbing in the ocean at Winchester Bay is very good and good in the lower Umpqua River for those using boats. Dock crabbing is fair and gradually improving. Some redtailed surfperch were caught last week above Winchester Bay but the spawning run is almost over.

Bill Taylor, of Winchester Bay, reported a surprising outing on Tahkenitch Lake last week where he caught 15 nice-sized bluegill while fishing for yellow perch.

An angler from Lakeside showed me a photo on his Iphone of what appeared to be a huge largemouth bass taken from Tenmile Lake. The obviously big bass was hooked and landed on light tackle while crappie fishing near the yacht club. I was told that it weighed 11 pounds and two ounces when weighed at Ringo’s Lakeside Marina.

When I didn’t receive the promised emailed photo, I became even more suspicious and phoned Ringos and was told that while they had heard of a big bass being caught, it definitely was not weighed at Ringos. If the claimed weight was true, the bass would have been a lake record by over a pound and if it had been caught before spawning, it would almost certainly have topped the state record of 12 pounds 1.6 ounces taken from a Springfield area pond.

Some impressive fish that were brought into Ringos in the last month include a 13-inch crappie and a 16-inch yellow perch. While the crappie, which was caught near Coleman Arm was certainly impressive, the yellow perch, if it had been caught prior to early March when it most likely spawned, would almost certainly been a new state record since the longstanding state record is only two pounds and two ounces.

On an exploratory trip to Ford’s Pond in Sutherlin last week, my fishing partner landed several nice largemouth bass to three pounds on a buzzbait. I was trying for crappies since I had heard the pond contained some big ones, but drew a blank. What I did catch were several feisty smallmouth bass of 11-12-inches and a 7-inch yellow perch. While both species seem to be relatively new arrivals to the pond, they are the fish species most likely to take over the western Oregon waters they manage to get into.

The state of Washington definitely has a gray wolf problem as the state population has been growing by almost 30 percent annually in recent years. Last year, four documented fatalities occurred among Washington’s wolf population – and this is how they occurred. Two were accidentally hit by vehicles, one was intentionally shot by WDFW personnel to protect a threatened caribou herd and one wandered into Idaho where it was legally shot by a hunter.

Perhaps the most effective way to deal with the fast-growing wolf populations in Oregon and Washington is to lure or herd them into Idaho.

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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ODFW News – Commission Adopts 2018 Sport Fishing Regulations.

SALEM, Ore.—The Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted 2018 sport fishing regulations today at its meeting in Salem. Some of the changes anglers will see next year include:

Anglers with a two-rod endorsement will be able to use up to five rods when ice fishing (statewide).
There will be additional opportunity for retention of hatchery spring Chinook from Jan. 1- July 31 in some NW Zone streams including the Wilson, Trask, Nestucca, Kilchis River(s).
No bag or size limits for bass in the lower Deschutes River.
Change in the kokanee bonus daily bag limit in Wickiup Reservoir and Lake Billy Chinook to 5 kokanee per day in addition to the daily trout limit (so anglers can take up to 10 kokanee per day).
The Commission was also briefed on a draft updated Cougar Management Plan and heard public testimony about it. The Plan to guide management of cougars was last updated in 2006. The current draft Plan does not propose major management changes. It does incorporate more scientific literature and Oregon-specific research about cougars, including a genetics and habitat analysis. The updated Plan will continue to stress coexistence with Oregon’s more than 6,000 cougars.

The Commission approved grant funds for nine Restoration and Enhancement Projects to improve angler access or facilities or enhance fisheries and appointed John Breese of Prineville, Ore. as the Landowner Representative to the Access and Habitat Board.

The Commission is the policy making body for fish and wildlife issues in Oregon. Its next meeting is Sept. 14-15 in Welches, Ore.

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WDFW Seeks Comments On Plan To Offset Lost Sport Shellfish Harvest Opportunities.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public comments on a draft plan to offset lost recreational shellfish harvesting opportunities on Whidbey Island due to a 2012 oil spill.

The plan is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/habitat/oil_spill/damage.html. The public can submit comments by e-mail through Sept. 5 at vog.aw.wfdnull@ADRNevoCnneP.

Public beaches in the Penn Cove area of Whidbey Island were closed to recreational shellfish harvesting for several weeks beginning in May 2012, when the fishing vessel Deep Sea caught fire and sank, spilling more than 5,000 gallons of oil.

WDFW has completed an analysis of the value of the lost shellfishing opportunity and plans to submit a claim for the damages to the National Pollution Fund Center.

“Calculating the value of these damages is a challenging process, but we think we have good data and rational to support our plan,” said Don Noviello, with WDFW’s Oil Spill Team.

If the claim is granted, the department plans to distribute varying levels of oyster seeds at three beaches in the Penn Cove area over two seasons.

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Willamette Steelhead On Verge Of Extinction Due To Increasing Sea Lion Presence At Willamette Falls.

One of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest’s iconic fish, native steelhead trout, have been migrating over Willamette Falls in Portland to spawn in Cascade Mountain rivers for millennia. They are now at high risk of going extinct, based on a new analysis by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1999 due primarily to the impacts of federal dams and habitat loss, wild native Willamette steelhead have now slipped to high risk of extinction. Willamette steelhead now face a new and growing threat from male sea lions that have learned to exploit the fish as they congregate below Willamette Falls before navigating upriver to spawn.

Continuing a decade-long downward trend, the number of wild steelhead returning to the upper Willamette this year was the lowest on record, with only 512 fish passing above the Willamette Falls. ODFW scientists found that sea lions consumed at least one quarter of the wild steelhead run and warned that if sea lion predation continues at these levels, there is an up to 90 percent probability that at least one wild steelhead population will go extinct as a direct result of the predation. The near-term risk of wild steelhead extinction can be significantly reduced or avoided by limiting sea lion access to Willamette Falls.

“We know what the problem is and have seen this coming for about a decade, we just couldn’t take action to prevent it,” said Dr. Shaun Clements from ODFW.

California sea lions have expanded along the West Coast over the past four decades to a population of nearly 300,000 animals coast-wide today. As numbers increased, a small proportion of sea lions – all males – have expanded their range into freshwater areas where migrating salmon and steelhead are especially vulnerable, including in places such as Ballard Locks in Washington, Bonneville Dam, and at the Willamette Falls, where fish tend to congregate before moving upstream. At these locations, predation by sea lions is especially high and adversely impacts salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon. In the 1980s, sea lion predation on winter steelhead at Ballard Locks in Seattle effectively destroyed the Lake Washington stock.

“Removal of afew problem individuals will have no impact on the overall sea lion populationbut can significantly benefit ESA-listed fish,” said Robin Brown, leadscientist for ODFW’s marine mammal program.

Any solution toaddress the threats to wild fish populations will have to strike a balance between the recovery of imperiled salmon and steelhead populations and theongoing conservation of sea lions. Also at stake are significant regionalinvestments in recovery efforts, such as improvements in fish passage at dams,restoration of fish habitat, and implementation of fishing regulations that prohibit anglers from harvesting wild fish. ODFW scientists have determinedthat curtailing the immediate impact created by sea lion predation is essential to saving the steelhead from extinction to support the success of long-term recovery efforts.

Sea lions are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). TheMMPA, unlike the ESA, has fewer tools for managers to use to balance the conservation of predators and prey and prevent these situations in locations where fish are most vulnerable. Sections of the MMPA were revised in 1994 to allow limited management ofsea lions for the purpose of protecting ESA-listed salmon and steelhead.Unfortunately, the revisions do not allow for proactive management and cannotaddress emergencies like that occurring at Willamette Falls.

“We are in on-going discussions with state and tribal fishery managers and several stakeholder groups,” said Dr. Clements, “Given the situation at Willamette Falls, everyone is united in their call for swift action, and ODFW stands ready to provide expertise to the Northwest congressional delegation on a bipartisan,compromise bill to revise the MMPA to address these emergency situations without undermining the strength and importance of this law.” Bills in the House and Senate; H.R. 2083, sponsored by Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), and S 1702, sponsored by Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), represent the first steps toward that goal.

“We are at a point where any more delays in the Willamette may condemn this run to extinction,” Clements said. “We need to act now or extinction may be our legacy.”

Upper Willamette wild steelhead have been listed as “threatened” under the federal ESA since March 1999. ODFW has not allowed harvest of these fish for more than 20 years. California sea lion populations are robust, and the animals are not listed under the Endangered Species Act, but are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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ODFW News – ODFW Moves To Lethal Take For Harl Butte Wolves To Limit Further Livestock Losses.

On July 28, ODFW received a lethal removal request from several affected livestock producers from a local grazing association after two depredations were confirmed in a five-day period. They asked that the entire Harl Butte pack be removed due to chronic livestock depredation. ODFW has decided to deny the request and will take an incremental approach instead, removing two members of the pack and then evaluating the situation. “In this chronic situation, lethal control measures are warranted,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW Acting Wolf Coordinator. “We will use incremental removal to give the remaining wolves the opportunity to change their behavior or move out of the area.”

In the past 13 months, ODFW has confirmed seven depredations by the Harl Butte Pack in Wallowa County, which killed three and injured four calves. Six of the depredations have occurred in an area that supports dispersed livestock grazing in large forested pastures on private and public lands. ODFW believes that depredations may continue or escalate despite non-lethal deterrent measures in place due to the history of depredation by this pack.

When non-lethal deterrence measures are not sufficient, the state’s Wolf Management and Conservation Plan allows for lethal control as a tool to address continuing depredation. At the request of a producer or permittee, ODFW can consider lethal control of wolves under these circumstances: if it confirms at least two depredations of livestock; if the requester documents unsuccessful attempts to solve the situation thru non-lethal means; if no identified circumstance exists that attracts wolf-livestock conflict; and if the requester has complied with applicable laws and the conditions of any harassment or take permit.

In this situation, the livestock producers have maintained a significant human presence in the area of the depredations. Human presence is recognized as one of the best non-lethal methods to limit wolf-livestock conflict in dispersed grazing situations because wolves tend to avoid people. The producers coordinate between themselves, their employees, a county-employed range rider and a volunteer to ensure daily human presence coverage of the area. They increase human activity in areas when they see wolf sign, learn (through telemetry of a radio-collared wolf) that wolf activity is in close proximity to livestock, or when livestock show behavior that could indicate wolf presence.

The increased human presence has given the livestock producers and the range rider multiple opportunities to haze wolves that were chasing or in close proximity to livestock. On seven different occasions in June and July 2017, wolves have been hazed away from cattle by yelling, firing a pistol, shooting at, walking towards, and riding horseback towards the wolves.

Producers or their employees have also been spending nights near their cattle. Several producers are keeping their stock dogs inside horse trailers at night (as wolves are territorial and may attack dogs). Other producers are changing their typical grazing management practices including bunching cow/calf pairs in a herd (which enables cows to better protect themselves) or delaying pasture rotation to avoid putting cattle in an area where wolves have been.

While investigating reported livestock depredations, ODFW looks for attractants to wolves such as a bone pile or carcass that may contribute to the conflict. Livestock producers have also been watching for vulnerable livestock and carcasses in order to keep them from becoming wolf attractants and have been quick to remove them. Three injured or sick livestock were moved to home ranches for treatment and to protect them from predators. One dead domestic bull was removed from an area of concentrated cattle use (a pond). ODFW has not identified any circumstances or attractants that could promote wolf-livestock conflict in this area.

All these methods used by livestock producers have complied with Oregon’s applicable laws.

The Harl Butte Pack’s first depredation of livestock was confirmed in July of last year. ODFW received a request for lethal control in October 2016, after the fourth confirmed depredation. The department denied this request because most cattle were being removed from the large dispersed grazing pastures and out of the depredation area, so future depredation was unlikely.

The situation is different now because cattle will be grazing in the area on public lands until October and private lands into November, so ODFW expects the depredation will continue.

“Based on the level of non-lethal measures already being used and the fact that wolves are likely to be in the presence of cattle in this area for several more months, there is a substantial risk that depredation will continue or escalate,” said Brown.

ODFW intends to remove up to two adult uncollared wolves from the Harl Butte Pack by trapping or shooting from the ground or air. Once two wolves have been removed, the removal operation will stop. If two wolves have not been killed after two weeks, ODFW will assess whether removal efforts will continue another two weeks. If a new depredation occurs after the removal of two wolves, lethal control may resume.

About the Harl Butte Wolf Pack

The Harl Butte wolf pack may have formed and bred as early as 2015 though they were not documented until 2016. ODFW counted 10 wolves at the end of last year and observed seven wolves in the pack in March. One wolf in the pack, OR50, was collared in February 2017 and is believed to be the breeding male of the pack.

The pack is expected to have bred this year, and their weaned pups would now be about four months old, though the exact number of pups is unknown.

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ODFW News – Commercial Salmon, Halibut Fishing Update

8/3/17 ACTION NOTICE – Commercial Troll Salmon: NOAA Fisheries in consultation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, representatives from the commercial troll fishery, and the Pacific Fishery Management Council, has taken in-season actions with respect to the commercial troll salmon fishery in the area from the US/Canada Border to Cape Falcon.

ACTION TAKEN: A rollover of Chinook remaining from the May – June troll salmon fishery from the US/Canada Border to Cape Falcon was made to the July – September troll salmon fishery in the same area. This results in a 2,205 Chinook net increase to the July-September troll fishery quota of 18,000 Chinook resulting in a revised quota of 20,205 Chinook.

8/3/17 ACTION NOTICE – Incidental Troll Pacific Halibut: NOAA Fisheries in consultation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, representatives from the commercial troll fishery, and the Pacific Fishery Management Council, has taken in-season action with respect to the incidental retention of Pacific Halibut in the commercial troll salmon fishery.

ACTION TAKEN: Retention of Pacific Halibut by IPHC permitted salmon troll vessels within IPHC area 2A closes at 11:59 PM tonight, Thursday, August 3, 2017. All Pacific Halibut on troll vessels must be landed and delivered by 11:59 PM, Friday, August 4, 2017..

RATIONALE: Total Pacific Halibut landings from the commercial troll salmon fishery through August 2nd were estimated to total 39,054 lbs out of the quota of 39,810 lbs leaving only 2% of the quota remaining (756 lbs).

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Mardon Resort / Potholes Reservoir Fishing Report

The water level has dropped two feet this past week and is currently at 1032.35 feet. This brings the Reservoir to a level 12.95 feet lower than the high mark this year. The water temps back in the dunes are reaching the mid 80’s during the day with the main lake surface temps are in the low 80’s.
The trout fishing has slowed with the warm water temperatures. Not many folks fishing for trout this past week If you are targeting trout – use your fish finder to locate the thermocline and troll right above the thermocline with Flicker Shads, Shad Raps, Hot Lips. Depending on how deep the thermocline is, you may need additional weight or a Dipsy Diver to get the bait to the fish.
The walleye are still holding in the weeds in 5-18 feet. Storm GT 360s, crankbaits, Smile Blade – Slow Death Rigs, and crawler harness/blade combinations have been catching fish. Top colors are orange and chartreuse, and perch patterned crankbaits. Troll the edges of the willows or weed beds. Early in the morning and late evening/night are the best times to try for walleye in this heat and high water temperature.
Not many crappie reports form the Reservoir this week. The MarDon Resort dock fishing has been good for numbers with fish to 16 inches being caught The Trout Magnet in brown and Bull Dog, 1”and 2” Gulp Alive Minnows and crappie jigs tipped with maggots are doing the trick. The bluegill fishing off the dock has been very good this week. Use Trout Magnets and crappie jigs tipped with maggots or small pieces of worm. The perch fishing has picked up on the Reservoir. Perch are being caught in 10-22 feet of water using a variety of panfish jigs and Gulp Minnows, and worms around Goose Island. Dock fishing is only available to registered guests staying at MarDon Resort.
The Channel Catfish and bullhead fishing continues to be very good. A lot are being caught while trolling for walleye or fishing a worm on the bottom. Fish around Goose Island, the face of the dunes, and up Lind Coulee for the Channel Cats.
The largemouth bass fishing is going strong. Fish the dunes with SPRO Bronzeye Pop 60s, Rebel Pop-Rs and Zara Spooks for topwater action and Strike King square bill crankbaits and football head jigs for deeper action. There are good numbers of quality smallmouth bass in the dunes as well. Bass fishing along the face of the dam has been good this past week for both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Throw crankbaits, tubes, and 5” Kalin’s grubs for both.

Pete Fisher of MarDon Resort with a nice walleye caught back in the dunes on a crankbait.

Joni Nye of Monroe, WA caught this 16″ crappie off the MarDon dock – biggest dock crappie so far this year!

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Pete Heley Outdoors 8 / 02 / 2017

The finclipped ocean salmon season ended on July 31st with only a fraction of the 18,000 coho quota retained. Through July 23rd, 22.5 percent or 4,055 of the coho quota had been kept and those cohos made up 87 percent of the retained ocean salmon catch through July 23rd. The hottest bite recently was along the central Oregon coast where Newport, Depoe Bay and Florence had seasonal catch rates of .71, .65 and .58 salmon per angler trip respectively. Newport was very hot for finclipped coho as the seasonal catch rate increased from .31 to .71 salmon in a single week.

Through July 23rd, Winchester Bay, Charlston and Bandon had kept salmon averages of .42, .51 and .27 respectively.

Garibaldi continues to lead in retained chinook salmon, but those were early season chinooks and only a half dozen chinooks have been added to their season total in the last two weeks.

As for ocean salmon fishing, only chinook salmon of 24-inches in length or longer will be legal to keep until the nonselective ocean coho salmon season begins on September 2nd. Once that season starts, salmon anglers shouldn’t procrastinate as good weather and ocean conditions coupled with a quota of only of only 6,000 cohos could make the upcoming season a short one.

The Umpqua River has been offering fair fishing for chinook salmon below Reedsport, but there have been few anglers casting spinners from the bank at Winchester Bay. Crabbing in Half Moon Bay and in the ocean near the Umpqua River Bar has been very good.

A series of high tides brought a fresh batch of female redtailed surfperch into the Umpqua River last week and quick boat limits were the rule. With a liberal daily limit of 15 perch per angler and heavy fishing pressure, the newly arriving perch can be caught caught down rather quickly. Last week, some of the best perch catches were made between the entrance to Winchester Bay’s East Boat Basin and Marker 12. Although it is getting late into the Umpqua’s perch run, there should be some perch available for a couple more weeks.

Last week the most unusual catch made by an Umpqua River pinkfin angler was a 30-inch zebra shark which bit a sand shrimp about two miles upriver of the Umpqua River Bar.

Eastern Oregon is experiencing some heat-related water problems as Brownlee Reservoir now has a toxic algae bloom. A ranch near Lakeview lost 32 cattle when they drank infected water. According to a report in USA Today, the dead cattle had legs stained blue where they waded into a pond to drink. In Stanfield, Oregon a dehydration plant started emitting a foul odor when a filter designed to suppress the stench stopped working.

An interesting WDFW email stated the ways four Washington wolves were killed last year. Two were hit and killed by vehicles, one was shot by WDFW personnel to protect caribou and one wandered into Idaho and was legally shot and killed by a hunter. Despite the wolf mortalities, the Washingon wolf population is increasing by about 30 percent per year.

The fisheries in some of our local coastal waters have undergone significant changes during this highwater year. A surprising number of winter steelhead were caught out of Clear Lake in Coos County this last spring and since the south end of Clear Lake is connected to the north end of Saunders Lake, steelhead from Tenmile Creek could conceivably reach Saunders Lake. It would be difficult to differentiate a Saunders Lake steelhead that made it there on its own from an adult steelhead that that was trapped by the STEP chapter on upper Eel Creek and then planted in Saunders Lake.

More surprising have been rainbow trout catches in Beale Lake. They concivably could have come from Butterfield Lake, but then would have had to swim from the eastern section along the railroad tracks and then entered the middle section via very shallow water and then entered the western section where they seem to have ended up – through more shallow water. It would be very difficult for an angler to successfully plant any trout into Beale Lake because of difficult access.

At the same time, yellow perch have become well established in Butterfield Lake. They possibly had a helping hand from an ignorant, law breaking, but well-meaning angler, but may have also reached Butterfield by swimming south from Beale Lake during high water.. In any case, the presense of yellow perch along with trout plants has adversely affected Butterfield’s bluegill and crappie populations and most likely didn’t help the few warmouths that inhabited the lake. A more positive note regarding Butterfield Lake is that Dwayne Schwartz caught a very chunky six pound six ounce largemouth on a buzzbait while fishing with me last Sunday. I was fishing for panfish and had to settle for about 20 smallish bass, yellow perch and bluegills. I was pleasantly surprised by rainbow trout of ten and 17-inches.

In 50 years of fishing Butterfield Lake, the bass have tended to be small and thin. Dwayne’s lunker bass, which he released, was clearly a most welcome exception.

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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