Buoy 10 salmon fishery opens Aug. 1, and don’t expect solitude at highly popular late-summer destination

While king salmon garner most of the attention at Buoy 10 look for some huge coho like this one hooked last August.

By Mark Yuasa

Year in and year out, the Lower Columbia River mouth near Buoy 10 has been deemed one of the top salmon fisheries in the Pacific Northwest and anglers will see an added caveat in later-summer.

Tony Floor, the director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association has made this is second home in late-summer since the mid-1980s, and indicates Buoy 10 usually produces decent action right when it opens.

State Fish and Wildlife says the projected catches at Buoy 10 will be around 22,100 chinook and 16,560 coho (including 1,500 release mortalities).

The good news is anglers will be allowed to keep wild and/or hatchery chinook daily, unlike last year when wild chinook needed to be released on Sundays and Mondays. During those two days last summer there was a big drop in effort as not many of the kings are hatchery-marked fish.

The fishing season will get underway on Aug. 1 through Labor Day (Sept. 4) with a daily limit of two salmon, and only one of which can be a chinook. The daily limit at Buoy 10 from Sept. 5 through 30 will be two hatchery coho, but all chinook must be released.

From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, the Buoy 10 rules allow anglers to keep two adult salmon daily, but coho must be hatchery-marked.

In-season considerations include a potential for allowing a chinook mark-selective fishery during all or part of the non-retention season from Sept. 5-30.

The red navigational buoy – known as Buoy 10 – is located just south of the Port of Ilwaco which marks the western boundary of this nearly 20-mile fishing area that heads east upstream to the Tongue Point-Rocky Point boundary above the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

Just like last year, if you haven’t already booked moorage space don’t expect to any spaces as the Port of Ilwaco has filled their allotment in August. Anglers will still be able to get their boats in the water at various boat ramps, but be patient and expect long waiting times at the ramps.

The red navigational marker known as “Buoy 10” is a place many anglers flock to, but there are many other areas to fish at the Lower Columbia River mouth.

A Columbia River fall chinook forecast of 582,600 closely mirrors last year’s actual return (951,300 was forecast last year with an actual return of 643,300), and was the fourth largest on record but down significantly from the record runs in 2013 to 2015.

The all-time actual return record dating to 1938 was 1,268,400 adult chinook in 2013, which was 227 percent of the 2003-to-2012 average of 557,600 adult fish. In 2014, the actual return was 1,159,000, which was second-highest on record.

The Columbia River coho forecast calls for 496,200 to arrive off the Washington-Oregon coast, compared to a preseason forecast of 549,200 last year and an actual return of 317,000.

That is a stark difference in comparison to a forecast of 1,015,000 in 2015 and an actual return of 322,100 and a forecast in 2014 of 964,100 with a return of 1,240,800.

The Columbia subtotal this season is 386,300 (380,600 last year and 223,100 actual return) – these are fish that turn the corner of southwest Washington and into the “Big-C” and doesn’t include the northern Oregon coast.

The Columbia forecast last year was 777,100 coho, but less than a third actually returned – 242,300. Poor ocean conditions and a lack of feed could have played a negative role.

The gear at Buoy 10 is fairly simplistic and consists of a weighted diver with a KoneZone- or Fish-Flash-type flasher tied to a leader with a whole or cut-plug herring in 30 feet of water.

Clyde McBrayer of Olympia hoists a beautiful king salmon caught just below the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

Anglers will need to constantly check their herring as it will get tattered while being dragged along the sandy bottom or from the extremely strong tides. Spinners like a Toman’s Thumper Flex with a blade in red/white or chartreuse attached to a plastic squid or a Brad’s Super Bait Cut Plug lure.

In the early morning on a flood tide, plan to first stop along the Wing Walls – located outside of the Port of Ilwaco – and work your way up and down the river.

The Desdemona Sands (a flat sandy bar which is exposed at low tides) is a place to look at during a mid- to late-flood tide as fish move along the drop-offs. Many will also work the buoy line on the Oregon side up to the bridge, which has also become a very popular area.

Fish either above or below the Astoria-Megler Bridge during flood tide change because that is where the kings tend to hang as they get pushed in with the tide. Others will concentrate at the Church Hole off Fort Columbia State Park; and the northern tip of Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon side west toward Hammond.

A newly discovered location this summer has been the channel leading out of the Port of Ilwaco marina where anglers were scoring on “dip-in” salmon.

The area is very diverse so if the bite is off at the mouth of the river, many will head out into the ocean along the 30-foot line just outside the surf off Long Beach near the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. This is a relatively easy place to fish when ocean conditions allow with anglers letting out 13 to 15 pulls of line (two feet per pull) with a diver or Fish Flash and a whole or cut-plug herring.

The best time off Long Beach is August as salmon stage before moving into the Columbia River, and it doesn’t matter on the tide or time of day as long as the fish are holding. On the surf line look on your depth-finder for huge anchovy baitfish schools.

If the batfish aren’t holding off Long Beach, then another option is the the ocean fishing grounds about 7 to 10 miles to areas west of the CR Buoy at depths of 50 to 80 feet, and ofen-times the Ilwaco charter boat fleet will venture even further to the 300-foot depth line.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife data from last season taken between Aug. 1 and Oct. 2 showed 5,018 boats with 15,701 kept 3,004 chinook (plus 1,332 released), 1,478 hatchery coho (plus 763 coho released) and 12 steelhead (plus two steelhead reelased) for 0.19 chinook per rod average and 0.09 on coho and 0.29 for both species.

The week-by-week catch per rod average was 0.11 for Aug. 1-7; 0.20 for Aug. 8-14; 0.22 for Aug. 15-21; 0.41 for Aug. 22-28; 0.50 for Aug. 29-Sept. 4; 0.48 for Sept. 6-11; 0.17 for Sept. 12-18; 0.13 for Sept. 19-25; and 0.16 for Sept. 26-Oct. 2.

The ocean outside the Lower Columbia River mouth produces very good catches of salmon.

Catches abound outside Buoy 10

The Rocky Point-Tongue Point line to the Lewis River/Warrior Rock line is open from Aug. 1 through Sept. 7 for chinook catch-and-keep, and then only hatchery-marked chinook may be kept from Sept. 8-14. Daily limit is two adult fish, and only one may be a chinook. Chinook retention will reopen Oct. 1 with a two fish daily limit of which two may be chinook.

The Lewis River/Warrior Rock line to Bonneville Dam will be open for chinook from this Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. The daily limit is two adult salmon of which two may be chinook.

In those two areas, state fisheries expect a catch (including release mortality) of 21,890 adult chinook (33,620 last year) and 1,040 adult coho (1,570 last year).

Areas from Bonneville Dam to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 with a daily limit of two adult salmon. The catch expectation is 4,080 adult chinook.

Anglers on the boat may keep fishing until the catch limit is achieved for all aboard from Buoy 10 up to the Oregon/Washington border.

Shore fishing is option at Buoy 10

Both sides at the Lower Columbia River mouth have good shoreline fishing options where anglers can have a decent chance to catch a salmon.

The North Jetty on the Washington side is open daily when the marine area off Ilwaco or Buoy 10 areas are open for salmon. The daily limit and minimum size restrictions follow the most liberal of either of these areas. A saltwater or combination license is required to fish from the North Jetty.

On the Oregon side, anglers on an incoming tide can cast from long sandy stretch of beach-line along Clatsop Spit west of Hammond in the State Park. Most will cast a Blue Fox or Mepps spinner attached to a 30-inch leader with a one ounce banana weight to run it off the bottom. Other will use a number 5 or 6 bell-body red or orange lure with a small Nickle-blade dodger.

Willapa Bay another worthwhile destination

Buoy 10 isn’t the only later-summer option to catch salmon, and just north is Willapa Bay near Tokeland and from the towns of Raymond down to South Bend along Highway 101.

Not only does the Willapa River system host a good number of chinook, but the Columbia River chinook tend to dip-in at Washaway Beach.

The Willapa system itself is expecting a good run of 32,674 (36,200 was forecast last year) hatchery kings for a total run of 36,805, and has seen an increased hatchery production with boosted runs since 1988. This shallow water fishery will be good from August and peaks usually around Labor Day weekend. has seen an increased hatchery production with boosted runs since 1988.

More than a decade ago, the best fishing occurred along the shallow surf line at Washaway Beach on the outer perimeter of Cape Shoalwater, which is the major migration highway for salmon.

Now the fishery has shifted inside the bay’s deep channel and is dotted with red and green channel markers numbered from 2 to 27. The markers start in the middle of the bay and run all the way to the Willapa River mouth, and it is here where the salmon park before heading into the Willapa River salmon hatchery and some to the spawning grounds.

The preferred technique is to slowly troll in water 10 to 25 feet deep using a 6-ounce drop sinker ball on a three-way sliding swivel attached to a chartreuse green Kone Zone flasher and a 6-foot leader laced with a cut-plug herring.

Be sure to keep your bait about 1-2 feet off the bottom, smack dab in front of the fish’s face.

Salmon move in and out of the bay to feed on baitfish pushed in by the tides. Stay away from big tidal flows as grass that gets pushed into the bay can make it virtually impossible to keep off you gear.

 

Columbia River Catch and Release Sturgeon

by Jason Brooks

The lower Columbia river that separates Oregon and Washington is a super-highway for salmon and steelhead. As fall runs approach most anglers set up and wait to intercept fish. A single take-down makes everyone on board excited but what if there was another fishery where you can catch over a dozen or two fish that are measured in feet instead of inches using simple techniques on the same waters; there is and its sturgeon fishing!

Bruce Warren and Ryan Brooks with a Columbia River sturgeon-Jason Brooks

The lower Columbia is full of sturgeon and thanks to a well-regulated fishery with a long catch and release season you can go out with minimal gear and catch fish all day long. This past week my son Ryan and I joined Chris Kelly and his son Nathan and fished with Bruce Warren of Fishing for Fun Guide Service (253) 208-7433.

The morning’s Sun rising over the Columbia-Jason Brooks

Using two large sand shrimp wrapped onto a Gamakatsu 6/0 Big River barbless hook tied to a 40-pound lead of Izorline’s clear XXX we made sure to soak the baits with Pro-Cure bait oil. The mainline was 65-pound braid spooled onto a level wind reel and a stout 7’8” rod rated for 12-40 pounds. A 16-ounce pyramid weight on a slider kept our bait right on the bottom.

Sand shrimp soaked in Pro-Cure on a 6/0 Gamakatsu Big River barbless hook-Jason Brooks

The bites were surprisingly light. A tap of the rod tip and a few pulls, then you set the hook by swinging the rod upriver and reeling down at the same time. It took about a dozen bites for us to get the technique down and then the catching began.

Chris Kelly and his son Nathan with Guide Bruce Warren-Jason Brooks

As the sun rose we moved to a few other spots. Bruce doesn’t like over fishing any one place, even though all of the fish were safely released. Most of the sturgeon were between 35 and 45 inches with the largest fish of the day measuring 46 ½ inches at the fork landed by Chris Kelly and his son Nathan doing a team effort.

The biggest fish of the trip measured just shy of 5 feet-Jason Brooks

At the end of the day we pulled back into the marina and briefly talked to the fish checker. Out of a half a dozen boats only one summer Chinook was reported as being caught. He asked if we caught anything and when I replied we landed 18 fish in less than four hours he looked at me and knew that we were sturgeon fishing. Adding that this was about normal for a few hours. We didn’t see any other boats on the water during our entire trip while sitting on anchor for sturgeon.

Chris Kelly fighting one of the eighteen fish we caught in just a few hours with Guide Bruce Warren-Jason Brooks

Bruce Warren is one of the best lower Columbia guides I fish with. Not only does he provide a safe and successful trip but he is willing to share his techniques and make sure you know how to catch fish. He mentioned that this fishery will be great for several more weeks as long as the water temperatures are warm and there is a good current.

Guide Bruce Warren of Fishing for Fun Guide Service casting out the heavy set-up -Jason Brooks

We fished through a tide change but as long as the water was flowing downstream we were catching fish. So while you await the fall salmon and steelhead runs head to the Columbia and sit on anchor and do some sturgeon catching or give Bruce a call and he’ll be happy to take you out and show you how it’s done.

Jason Brooks

The Outdoor Line Blogger

Jason Brooks Photography

Scout Now for Fall Bear Season

by Jason Brooks

Fall bear season is just a few weeks away and that means it is time to start scouting. Late July and early August provides enough daylight, warm weather, and opportunities to locate your bear now so when the season opens you are ready. Here are a few tips on locating the best bear areas now to be successful this fall.

The author’s son Ryan scouting open slops for signs of black bears-Jason Brooks

#1. Glass for bears, habitat, and terrain.

When scouting don’t just sit and look for animals. In July and early August, you might not find game out feeding. The lack of seeing game doesn’t mean bears aren’t there, it just means that bears aren’t there right now. Especially if the berries and other food sources are not ripe. Also keep in mind that the daylight is still strong, the temperatures warm, and thermal winds kick up earlier. Instead look for plants, other food sources, benches, hiking routes, stalking routes and camping spots. The idea of scouting isn’t just about finding game but also learning the lay of the land. A good pair of binoculars and a spotting scope are a must. Lightweight and compact models such as the Vortex Vanquish are perfect for scouting trips.

Mountain Ash is one of the black bears favorite fall foods-Jason Brooks

#2. Bears like berries.

As the alpine snow finally melts off you will notice the blooming wildflowers starting to wilt. This is because most of those flowers are blossoms to the many wild berry patches that grow in Washington. Learn how to identify the plants from afar and you will locate the bears much easier. Broadleaf plants, such as thimbleberries, blackberries, and wild raspberries ripen first. Concentrate on avalanche chutes and open slopes were you locate these plants. Mountain ash is a small tree or large bush and bears love the berries they yield. You can spot an ash tree from a long distance away and bears will shake them, rip them down, and pull them over when their fruit is ripe. Oftentimes I locate bears simply by watching the brush and see if it starts to move or shake.

Bug’s are annoying, so be prepared to keep them away while out scouting-Jason Brooks

#3. Be bug prepared.

Hiking in July and August is primetime for biting bugs. Especially in the high country where ground heather, moss, and tarns are still saturated with water. Mosquitos can ruin a day of scouting. Biting black flies are even worse. Use a quality repellent with DEET. If you don’t like using chemicals then a good head net, bug resistant clothing, and a Thermacell are a must, especially when sitting and glassing.

With the long summer days, and clear skies now is the time to get into the mountains and start looking for bears and their habitat. Learn the food sources in your hunting area. As fall approaches bears will go into a constant feeding mode and you will find them out eating all throughout the day. For now, just locating where the food is, how to get there, and a place to set up camp will help you fill your tag when the season opens.

Jason Brooks

The Outdoor Line Blogger

Jason Brooks Photography

Decent hatchery king action expected when central and northern Puget Sound opens this Sunday

John Martinis, owner of John’s Sporting Goods in Everett and his son with a nice catch of hatchery kings from northern Puget Sound.

The inner-marine waterway salmon fisheries will begin in earnest this coming Sunday (July 16) when northern and central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 9 and 10) open for the much anticipated hatchery king fishery.

“The increased quota for the mark-selective fishery is primarily due to the larger run size we forecasted, and there should be more hatchery chinook which extrapolates to good fishing,” said Ryan Lothrop, the state Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound recreational salmon manager. “I also think the mark rate will be pretty high.”

In northern Puget Sound the hatchery chinook catch quota is 5,599 compared to 3,056 in 2016; and central Puget Sound Sound will have a catch quota of 2,166 compared to 1,395 in 2016.

Both areas will be open for hatchery-marked kings this Sunday (July 16) through Aug. 15, but could close sooner if the catch quota is achieved.

On paper, the Puget Sound outlook for summer chinook shows an uptick with a forecast of 193,962 (166,235 are hatchery and 27,727 are wild) compared to 165,150 forecasted last summer.

“We feel pretty solid about this year’s salmon fisheries, and more comfortable than the past years,” Lothrop said. “We did a lot of double- and triple-checking on our forecasts, and there’s a lot more data on chinook that would make the forecast actually materialize.”

The hatchery jack chinook returns last year indicate a strong return of four-year-old chinook coming back this summer, which makes up the bulk of the sport catch.

A good portion of this summer’s chinook return originates from southern Puget Sound where 80,400 hatchery and 4,700 wild fish are predicted to arrive. A breakdown of major South Sound hatchery production includes 8,219 in Carr Inlet, 18,341 in Deschutes, 22,669 in Nisqually and 1,229 in Chambers Creek.

The northern Puget Sound chinook forecast is 53,209 with a slight improvement on Stillaguamish of 1,500 (500 last year); Snohomish is 8,200 (8,300); Skagit is 16,200 (15,500); Nooksack is 21,200 (27,900); and Tulalip is 5,300 (1,400).

If there is any indication on how catches could fare one should look at what is happening n fisheries right now in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, south-central Puget Sound, San Juan Islands and Strait of Georgia in British Columbia.

“Area 11 (south-central Puget Sound) has been solid lately,” Lothrop said. “There is some early evidence that folks are running into chinook in Area 10 (central Puget Sound which opened July 1 for hatchery coho only).”

Christine WIlmsen holds a catch of resident coho salmon.

Port Townsend typically gets off to a hot start, and since the area didn’t open early on July 1 for a coho only fishery that might make the bite decent.

King catches off Port Angeles have also been fairly good of late, fair to good in the San Juan Islands and very good in southern portions of B.C. waters with many of those fish being hatchery-marked kings. The positive news is those fish are most likely of Puget Sound origin since Canada doesn’t mass mark any of their kings.

“A couple of surprises we might have and I anticipate we’ll catch quite a few hatchery coho judging from the big numbers of coho we had seen this winter in South Sound,” Lothrop said. ‘I’ve also heard of reports of more pink salmon caught in Area 11 already.”

“For better or worse it is only a two salmon daily limit, and no bonus pink limits, but it will be realistic to get a limit of mixed salmon species and you won’t have to spend all day fishing,” Lothrop said. “The pink numbers will start to increase as the summer progresses and right out of the gate on July 16 anglers should consider getting some hatchery coho or pinks if the bite goes off for the kings.”

Look for thousands of anglers to turnout when inner-Elliott Bay opens for a three-day king fishery on Aug. 11-13. This fishery will allow a chance at 16,362 chinook destined for the Green River (13,988 are of hatchery origin). The inner-bay will be open Fridays to Sundays only from Aug. 18-20 and Aug. 25-27 for hatchery coho and pinks only. Places like Pier 86 in Elliott Bay and the Seacrest Boathouse Pier will also give up a fair share of kings during the summer, both of which are open Aug. 1 through Sept.15 with a one king daily limit.

The terminal hatchery-marked chinook and coho fishery in Sinclair Inlet is currently open through Sept. 30. In this area anglers will need to release wild chinook and coho from Aug. 1 through Sept. 15.

The summer hatchery king fishery has been anywhere from spotty to fairly good along the northern side of Vashon Island south to Tacoma since it opened on June 1. Dogfish have been a huge problem for baitfish anglers.

Places like Southworth, Dolphin Point, Point Robinson, Three Tree Point, Brace Point, Colvos Passage, outside of Gig Harbor, south side of Vashon Island and Point Defiance Park in Tacoma from the Clay Banks east toward the Slag Pile are all “good to go” fishing bets in the next couple of months especially later in August as the South Sound bound kings appear in bigger numbers.

Looking further ahead anglers should expect some decent coho fishing in central (Area 10) and south-central Puget Sound (Area 11), which will both be open through Oct. 31. It will be a hatchery-marked coho only fishery in central Sound while all coho and hatchery-marked chinook may be kept in south-central Puget Sound.

“I anticipate basically in Area 10 on southward ought to have good coho opportunity in late August , and September and October,” Lothrop said. “It will fare better than expected as there will be a lot of areas where the fish aren’t fished on (to the north) like they have in the past. There should be a good combination of opportunity for what the coho forecasts look like.”

This year’s Puget Sound coho return is 590,336 (300,696 are of hatchery origin and 289,640 are wild) compared to 255,403 (166,589 and 87,350) in 2016.

Benny Wong of Seattle holds up a hatchery chinook caught in central Puget Sound.

BY THE NUMBERS FOR 2016 NORTHERN PUGET SOUND (AREA 9)

(No two seasons are alike, but here is just a glimpse of how success fared last year during the selective hatchery-marked king fisheries)

July 16-17 – 1,520 boats with 3,416 anglers retaining 894 hatchery-marked chinook (six wild fish illegally kept), and released 2,003 hatchery-marked and 842 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 3,746.

July 18-24 – 3,058 boats with 6,186 anglers retaining 1,265 hatchery-marked chinook (three wild fish illegally kept), and released 2,833 hatchery-marked and 1,196 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 5,297.

July 25-31 – 1,930 boats with 3,967 anglers retaining 618 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 1,384 hatchery-marked and 586 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 2,588.

Aug. 1-4 – 742 boats with 1,342 anglers retaining 195 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 436 hatchery-marked and 185 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 816.

Season total from July 16 to Aug. 4 – 7,250 boats with 14,911 anglers retaining 2,972 hatchery-marked chinook (nine wild fish were illegally kept), and released 6,657 hatchery-marked and 2,809 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 12,448.

BY THE NUMBERS FOR 2016 CENTRAL PUGET SOUND (AREA 10)

July 16-17 – 604 boats with 1,350 anglers retaining 106 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 122 hatchery-marked and 85 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 313.

July 18-24 – 860 boats with 1,752 anglers retaining 134 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 153 hatchery-marked and 107 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 394.

July 25-31 – 1,028 boats with 1,952 anglers retaining 196 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 224 hatchery-marked and 156 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 576.

Aug. 1-7 – 1,084 boats with 2,060 anglers retaining 244 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 279 hatchery-marked and 195 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 718.

Aug. 8-14 – 1,014 boats with 1,949 anglers retaining 335 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 383 hatchery-marked and 268 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 986.

Aug. 15 – 99 boats with 2172 anglers retaining 31 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 36 hatchery-marked and 25 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 93.

RCAW Derby – Five boats with 12 anglers retaining five hatchery-marked chinook, and released six hatchery-marked and four wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 15.

South King County PSA Derby – 33 boats with 67 anglers retaining 33 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 38 hatchery-marked and 26 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 97.

Season total from July 16 to Aug. 4 – 4,726 boats with 9,314 anglers retaining 1,085 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 1,241 hatchery-marked and 866 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 3,192.

Mount Baker looms in the background of Baker Lake where sockeye fishing is expected to be good later this summer. Photo courtesy of David Kim.

Nibbles and bites

The Lake Washington sockeye count hit 98,146 surpassing the 77,292 pre-season forecast! Through Sunday the run was still behind 119,496 in 2006 when the last sport fishery occurred.

Recent single-day counts were: July 9, 4,777; July 8, 4,721; July 7, 5,496; July 6, 2,126; July 5, 5,562; July 4, 7,466; July 3, 5,411; July 2, 6,286; July 1, 4,481; June 30, 3,877; June 29, 5,585; June 28, 3,614; June 27, 4,665; June 26, 4,319; June 25, 3,482; June 24, 2,797; June 23, 4,342. Spawning goal is 350,000, but late word is fisheries officials could drop it to 200,000 if the run nears that mark. Now tracking between 150,000 and 200,000. Look for it to peak this week. Fingers crossed!

According to Aaron Bosworth a state fisheries biologist they ran a model to see what the end of season run would look like at it was hovering at 149,000, but he noticed the counts were still holding in there and while nothing was hitting the 10,000 single-day counts they saw 6,000-plus fish day which is pretty good. He said it might be higher at more like 150,000 or 200,000. He says it still too soon to say which way this run will go, and didn’t see any evidence the run is peaking just yet.

The state and tribes were talking this past week about trying to finalize that 200,000 fish spawning threshold and wanted to finish that up as soon as possible if the counts continue to climb toward that updated magical number.

One more week should give us a lot more information Bosworth said. “It started to come in early this summer, and in 2013 and 2015,” he said. “I think in those two years it came in really early and they thought it was a huge run and then it petered out to 150,000 and 180,000 which is still a decent return.”

The timing on the returns seems a lot earlier than historical figures show, and Bosworth thinks this run is kind of similar and he just doesn’t see it going big like in 2006. But it is certainly a strong year and a good return to the hatchery and he’s definitely excited about that.

Up north the Baker River fish-trap has 4,663 sockeye and 2,714 transferred to Baker Lake (which is now open for fishing, but was somewhat on the spotty this past weekend). Counts: 545 on 7/9; 546 on 7/8; 663 on 7/7; 645 on 7/6; 315 on 7/5; 318 on 7/4; 395 on 7/3; 179 on 7/2; 122 on 7/1; 53 on June 30; 152 on 6/29; 213 on 6/28; 150 on 6/27; 132 fish on 6/26; 74 on 6/25; 49 on 6/24; 34 on 6/23; 25 on 6/22; and 14 on 6/21. The pre-season, state and tribal biologists produced an estimate run of 47,000.

The Skagit River fishery is open, but closed July 11 to avoid gear conflict with tribal fisheries. Netting dates may change so checkhttps://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/.

“Sockeye fishing got a little better in the Skagit River, but not spectacular,” said Brett Barkdull, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “The so-so fishing had more to do with clearer water conditions instead of the bad conditions. In fact we’ve got four foot of visibility. It is a beautiful steelhead green color, and that doesn’t equate to good plunking conditions.”

“It will take the fish we do plant on those a couple of days to acclimate, and they aren’t very bitable,” Barkdull said. “If I were to look at the opener it would be like finding a needle in the haystack. They aren’t late coming back and last year was incredibly early. In most years the peak of the run is July 16 and around half of the fish will arrive right around that time frame. We are just on the beginning of the front end of the run. I’d say the third week of this month is when the fishing will really turn on at Baker Lake.”

 

Retired state fisheries regional director Bob Everitt may have caught a new state Pacific sanddab record

Ichiro Nakata of Mercer Island holds up a small flounder he caught off Possession Point. Retired state fisheries regional director Bob Everitt has set a possible new state record for a sanddab flounder he caught on July 1 off Jefferson Head.

Something mighty fishy has been happening in Puget Sound, and it deals with one tiny bottom-dwelling sea creature that often gets no respect in the sport-fishing world.

Just a short while ago – on May 25 to be exact – the state record for a Pacific sanddab was set by Juan Valero of Seattle who caught a 1.00 pound fish off Possession Point in northern Puget Sound.

Now it looks like that newly established record could be in jeopardy after recently retired Bob Everitt, the former Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife director for the Region Four Mill Creek Office, could have broken the record during a fishing outing on July 1.

While unofficial until verified by WDFW, Everitt who spent 33.7 years as a state fisheries employee, was out fishing with Danny Garrett, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist, off Jefferson Head where the duo was mooching for resident coho salmon and seeking out Dungeness crab on the opening day in Marine Catch Area 10 (central Puget Sound).

“It was Everitt’s first day of retirement from our department, and he was super excited,” Garrett said. “I’ve never mooched for salmon before so I wanted to try and catch a coho. We had only hooked a couple of (dogfish) sharks and a few sanddabs, and gave it just an hour or two while we soaked our crab pots.”

“We weren’t taking anything too seriously, and it was around 4 p.m. when (Everitt) hooked not just one but two sanddabs on each of his (tandem) hooks,” Garrett said. “After he caught it I told him we should get it weighed because I knew it was bigger (than the previous record) just by looking at it.”

Everitt and Garrett followed all the procedures to make it an official state record (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/records/) by immediately taking it a grocery store that had a certified scale.

“It weighed 1.22 pounds and was 14 inches long, and that would edge out the record fish caught by Valero by .22 pounds,” Garrett said. “(Everitt) has been a fixture with the state agency, and what a great way to kick off his retirement.”

While unofficial until official, the soon-to-be record is being processed by WDFW, and an announcement along with a picture should come to light very soon.

 

 

Graybill’s Central Washington Fishing Update

I am showing off the king I caught on opening day of salmon season at Chelan Falls. I was with Shane Magnuson, of Upper Columbia Guide Service.

by Dave Graybill

I had a fantastic week of fishing. My adventures included another trip to Banks Lake for walleye, spending opening day of salmon season with Shane Magnuson at Chelan Falls, and even an afternoon at Evergreen Reservoir for smallmouth bass.

I spent Tuesday at Banks Lake with Lars Larson, the Coulee Dam Chamber auction winner, and his guest Jim Harrington. They met me at the Northrup launch at 8 and we took off in search of walleye. I tried the area behind Steamboat Rock and didn’t find any fish, so we ran down to the bay below the mid way launch.

Lar Larson holds up one of the walleye he caught while trolling crank baits with me on Banks Lake.

We fished a mix of Dutch Fork Lures Turtle Back spinners in the Blue Tiger pattern and Slow Death Hook rigs. We picked up three in this bay and then I switched to crank baits. We started just above this bay and were into fish right away. I think the first fish we got was a smallmouth, but we only got one more. The walleye were in here and were hitting my Flicker Shads in the silver with black back, perch pattern and the bright chartreuse. I was trolling at about 2 mph in 15 to 17 feet of water. We were using the size 7s, and if I got into 14 feet of water we would get weeds. We picked up seven more walleye here and a whopper perch that we kept.

This is really a fun way to get walleye and I was glad that the crank bait bite was working for us that day. The walleye we got averaged about 15 inches. I know there are bigger ones in Banks we just didn’t get them this day.

Shane Magnuson and I have a long-running tradition of spending the opening day of salmon season together. For at least eight years I have joined him with whatever group he has put together to celebrate the salmon season on the upper Columbia. This year we spent the morning at Chelan Falls. This has become the “hot spot” for salmon anglers, and produces a very high ratio of hatchery reared fish.

We were using lead balls, with Pro-Troll flashers and a mix of Super Baits and Hilebrandt spinners. As Shane predicted the first two fish came on a Mountain Dew Super Bait. He made a round of checking baits and changing leader lengths and wham, my rod went off. We all knew it was a good one, the way it fought, and it was. He then turned the boat driving duties over to Cody Luft, who will be running a boat for him this season. Shane was checking something in the back of the boat when the rod next to him bounced, and he got to land a salmon, which is a rare thing as he is always at the tiller. After a short break I jumped ship and the group headed up to Wells Dam. Here they trolled for kings, too, and got two more, for a total of six kings on opening day!

When I left Shane and his group that were heading up to Wells Dam, I drove down to Evergreen Reservoir to meet Tom Verschueren, my brother in law, and Jerry Day at Evergreen Reservoir. I fished here with Tom last year, and he had a blast catching smallmouth. He is breaking in a new boat and wanted to try it out on Evergreen.

Jerry Day had a great day for his first time bass fishing. At Evergreen Reservoir he caught smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and even a walleye!

Using the launch at the east end and then started down the south shore. We were casting Senkos in the watermelon with red flake or the 3-inch in brown cinnamon. We were catching smallmouth, but our baits were constantly being pecked at by small perch. I had heard that the perch population in Evergreen had really taken off, but I had no idea there would be so many of them. They were everywhere, and all about three or four inches. We managed to hook them even with the 4-inch Senkos. I really think we would have done better on the smallmouth if the perch weren’t hitting our baits.

Don’t get me wrong, though, we had a blast. We got 20 or so smallmouth and some of them were 2-pounders. Both Tom and I saw one flash past his Senko behind the boat that had to be 3 or 4 pounds. This was Jerry Day’s first time bass fishing and he had a hot rod. He not only caught the most and biggest smallmouth, he also landed a walleye on his Senko, and a largemouth bass and pumpkin seed. It was a great day to be on Evergreen. Although it was over 90 degrees we had enough of a breeze to keep it comfortable. I hope the tigermuskie take care of the exploding perch population in Evergreen. Bass fishing would improve as a result.

Now that the summer-run salmon season is underway, it is time to plan for the salmon derbies in the region. The first one to come up is the 6th Annual CCA Wenatchee River Salmon Derby. It will be held from Friday, July 14th through Saturday, July 15th. There is a mandatory driver’s meeting on Thursday, July 13th at 6 p.m. at the Eagles Hall on Wenatchee Avenue. The boundary for the derby is from Rock Island Dam to below Wells Dam. Entry free is $60.00. This is a very well-run derby and grows every year. To register on-line and learn all the details visit www.wenatcheesalmonderby.com.

The next derby is the 12th Annual Brewster King Salmon Derby. The derby will be held from Friday, August 4th to Sunday, August 6th. There is a free seminar the night before the derby at the area next to the boat launch in Brewster, starting at 6 p.m. This is easily the biggest derby with the largest amounts of cash and prizes awarded each year. There are only 275 tickets sold for this derby, and they sell out every year. Ticket sales end on July 31st, so don’t miss the deadline. Tickets are $50.00 for adults, $20 for youth under the age of 15, and kids age eight and under are free. You can register on-line and get all the details on the derby by visiting www.brewstersalmonderby.com.

This is the first year of the return of the release of summer-run salmon from the Colville Tribal Hatchery in Bridgeport. This will mean more hatchery fish available to anglers, and good fishing above the Brewster Pool.

I am very eager to get back out on the water this week. It may be for salmon on the Columbia or walleye on Banks Lake. I sure hope I run into you there on the water!

Dave Graybill
Outdoor Line Blogger – North Central Washington
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Tips for Better Accuracy

by Jason Brooks

If you have been hunting for a few years or more then I am sure you have missed a time or two. We all would like to think that under pressure and when it counts that we will make the shot. And when we do miss oftentimes we start guessing at why the shot went awry. Here are a few quick tips to help with accuracy that you can use before hunting season starts so when you are offered that opportunity to fill the tag you don’t miss.

A quality scope with good mounts on your hunting rifle is a must for accurate shooting-Jason Brooks

1. Use Quality Optics

More than once hunters have fallen victim to using a cut-rate scope thinking that it will work since the rifle is only used a few times a year. Either a heavy rain, freezing storm, or a slip that lands you on your rifle, the bargain-basement scopes always fail. Not only are low-quality scopes prone to breaking due to lack of quality controls when made but the low-cost scopes often lack clarity, precision adjustments, or ease of use. There are several scopes on the market that offer exceptional quality and provide better accuracy. Currently I have a Vortex Razor HD LH on my Kimber Mountain Ascent. This is precision scope built for hunting, and is built with tight quality controls. The scope is one of the most important components to shooting. A good scope, such as my Vortex, is clear, multi-coated to keep the rain from fogging up on the outside as well as the inside of the glass, has micro-adjustments of ¼ inch that are easy tuned by turrets, and most of all it stays true under drops, jarring, and extreme difference in temperatures.

Custom Grade and Premium Ammunition is  more accurate than generic and inexpensive ammo-Jason Brooks

2.  Ammunition makes a difference

Ammunition is one of the other areas where hunters need to understand that the better they buy the more accurate it will be. The reason why some ammo cost more than others is because of the manufacturing of these rounds. From precision length cases, primers, exact measurement of powders and quality bullets. All of the components can make a difference in how the ammunition performs. Most companies that offer high-end precision ammo have their own blends of powder and all of them have done extensive testing. A well-built bullet is designed to fly farther, flatter and hit with more energy than a cheap, mass produced one. All of this leads to much better accuracy. If you have ever hit an animal with a “perfect shot” using cheap ammo and somehow the animal got away, it was more than likely due to a bad bullet design that didn’t transfer energy or failed to create a wound channel that was fatal. Several ammunition manufactures even make custom ammunition tailored for your rifle. Nosler makes a commercial round that is extremely accurate in their Trophy Grade as well as a precise round in their Custom Grade.

Sight-in your rifle in the same conditions that you hunt in-Jason Brooks

3. Sight-in your rifle under hunting conditions

Range time is the most important part of accurate shooting. Before shooting from various hunting positions the rifle must be sighted in. In early Spring I like to take my rifle out and re-check that it is ready to go for the fall. There is a big difference in sighting in your rifle and shooting your rifle. I have yet to find a perfect bench-rest in the high country while elk hunting. Yet, I always spend a few sessions shooting from a good rest, such as a Caldwell Lead-Sled, on a table with a chair. The reason is that I need to make sure my rifle is accurate before I simulate a hunting scenario. I also don’t go to my local gun range to do this as the range near my home is around 500 feet above sea-level, with a covered bench that often heats up in the summertime. I prefer to go to a spot on public land that is at 5,000 feet as I tend to do most of my hunting around 4,000 to 6,000 feet in elevation. I want my conditions to be as close to my hunting altitude, barometric pressure, and temperature as I can. This way when I sight in my rifle I know it is accurate under the same conditions that I will be hunting under.

As hunting season nears my rifle is accurate with good optics, quality controlled ammunition and sighted in for the elevations and temperatures I will be hunting. I am confident that I can make the shot. Well, at least I am confident my rifle is accurate enough to make the shot. A big mature muley buck for some reason always magically evades my bullet. Maybe it’s some supernatural force knowing my rifle shoots straight, as it can’t be my fault…

Jason Brooks
Outdoor Line Blogger
710 ESPN Seattle
www.jasonbrooksphotography.com

Coastal salmon fisheries off to decent start, coho mostly a no show; and early Lake Washington sockeye counts are soaring

Tegan Yuasa admires a nice catch of chinook salmon.

The coastal salmon fishery started off on a high note this past weekend at Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay, and many are also gearing up for the Westport opener this coming Saturday.

“What we’re seeing at Ilwaco is interestingly all chinook in the catch, and a lot of people with their one-chinook (daily) limit,” said Wendy Beeghly, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal salmon manager. “People are having trouble finding coho. I heard up north they’re seeing more chinook than coho although they did have coho in the catch, plus some pinks which is pretty early.”

Beeghly said the average catch was a fish per person at La Push and Neah Bay or could even be a little higher after all the data is tallied. The average size at La Push, Neah Bay and Ilwaco was 8 to 12 pounds with some bigger ones too.

“It is not great weather conditions, but not terrible although it might get worse during the week,” Beeghly said. “Apparently we’ve got windy weather coming (northwest winds are forecasted at 15 to 25 mph Monday through Wednesday).”

Clyde McBrayer of Olympia holds a 25-plus pound king caught in the ocean off Ilwaco that was bound for the Columbia River.

A Columbia River fall chinook forecast of 582,600 resembles last year’s actual return (951,300 was forecast last year with an actual return of 643,300), and was the fourth largest on record although down significantly from record runs in 2013 to 2015.

“We’ve had some strong chinook returns in past years, and those are the bread-and-butter of our fisheries,” Beeghly said. “The Columbia chinook returns look slightly below average. I would expect coho returns to be OK and nothing on fire.”

Ocean king fisheries will be driven by a lower river hatchery chinook stock of 92,400 and Bonneville Pool hatchery chinook stock of 158,400 – better known as “tule chinook” – that are mainly caught off Ilwaco, Westport and later in summer at Buoy 10 near the Lower Columbia River mouth.

The tule are a lower river hatchery run is close to recent five-year average, and Bonneville Pool hatchery run is predicted to be the second highest return since 2004.

The all-time actual return record dating back to 1938 was 1,268,400 adult chinook in 2013, up from 227 percent of the 2003-to-2012 average of 557,600 adult fish. In 2014, the actual return was 1,159,000, which was second-highest on record.

On the table this summer is a sport chinook catch quota of 45,000 fish, which is 10,000 more fish than 2016’s quota of 35,000 chinook. A quota of 42,000 hatchery-marked coho for this summer’s sport fishery is about 23,100 more fish than last year’s quota of 18,900 coho.

Writer Mark Yuasa holds up a king salmon caught in the ocean.

The Ilwaco catch quota is 21,000 hatchery-marked coho and 13,200 chinook; Westport is 15,540 hatchery-marked coho and 21,400 chinook; La Push is 1,090 hatchery-marked coho and 2,500 chinook; and Neah Bay is 4,370 hatchery-marked coho and 7,900 chinook.

The ocean non-tribal commercial troll fisheries opened in May, and after a lull during the brief season it recently started to show signs of life.

“The troll fishery slowed way down for about three weeks, and that is not all uncommon to see, but just this past week it really started to pick back up,” said Beeghly. “It looks like a new batch of fish are coming through, and we’ve seen some bigger fish up north (off Neah Bay).”

Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay are currently open for salmon fishing, and Westport opens Saturday (July 1). Fishing will remain open daily at all four coastal ports through Sept. 4 or until quotas are caught, whichever comes first.

The daily limit at Neah Bay and La Push is two salmon of either chinook or hatchery-marked coho. The daily limit at Westport and Ilwaco is two salmon, but only one may be a chinook. The chinook minimum size limit is 24 inches and the hatchery-marked coho minimum size is 16 inches.

The entrance to the Port of Ilwaco will be one of the areas that takes center-stage this summer for thousands of salmon anglers trying their luck off the coast.

Catches weren’t great last summer with an average at Westport of 0.81 chinook per rod during the first week of August; 0.49 at Neah Bay; 0.10 at La Push; and 0.56 at Ilwaco.

Many overlook premier summer king fisheries off La Push and Neah Bay. Make plans to trek in mid-July to La Push and Neah Bay where kings and other salmon species either head into the Strait of Juan de Fuca or continue their journey south along the coast.

The trend in recent years for kings occurs along the 30-foot line just outside the surf in the ocean off Long Beach near the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. This is a relatively easy place to fish when ocean conditions allow with anglers letting out 13 to 15 pulls of line (two feet per pull) with a diver or Fish Flash and a whole or cut-plug herring.

The best time off Long Beach is August as salmon stage before moving into the Columbia River, and it doesn’t matter on the tide or time of day as long as the fish are holding. On the surf line look for huge anchovy baitfish schools.

NOTE: A lesson learned last summer was if the fish aren’t showing at Long Beach don’t waste too much time plowing an empty field. We moved south just about five miles, and payoff turned out to be money in the pocket.

A party of Westport anglers hold up their bounty of kings caught in the ocean off Grays Harbor.

As the summer progresses in late summer and early fall salmon fishing will shift to the Buoy-10 area at the mouth of the Columbia River and up and beyond the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

The Buoy-10 king salmon season is open Aug. 1 through Sept. 4 then shifts to coho only from Sept. 5-30. Look for this to blossom by the middle of August although in past years the fish have shown up right from the start.

The Desdemona Sands (a flat sandy bar which is exposed at low tides) is a place to look at during a mid- to late-flood tide as fish move along the drop-offs. Many will also work the buoy line on the Oregon side up to the bridge, which has also become a very popular area.

In the early morning on a flood tide, plan to first stop along the Wing Walls – located outside of the Port of Ilwaco – and work your way up and down the river.

Anglers are still holding out hope that a Lake Washington sockeye fishery will occur later this summer. Pictured are a group of anglers who had luck in the south-end of the lake during the last time a fishery occurred in 2006.

Nibbles and bites

Lake Washington sockeye returns are off to a really robust start, but many are under cautious optimism since this is just the early stages with the peak of the run occurring around July 4.

“It is off to a strong start, but when you look at the run two years ago they came in early and it seemed like a big run only to eventually even out at the end,” said Aaron Bosworth, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “My suspicion is we’re on track for something like that, but it is still too soon to know. It could be as high as 190,000, but that could change dramatically as we move forward.”

Total so far this season is 29,760 slightly ahead of 29,159 in 2006 when the last sport fishery occurred. Pre-season forecast was 77,292.

Single-day counts were: 3,482 on June 25; 2,797 on June 24; 4,342 on June 23; 2,230 on June 22; 2,071 on June 21; 2,448 on June 20; 2,563 on June 19; 1,964 on June 18; 2,124 on June 17; 2,039 on June 16; 1,359 on June 15; 1,201 on June 14; 352 on June 13; and 728 on June 12.

Fishery workers have been collecting samples of sockeye at the Locks, and had no problem gathering their 200 fish.

“The fish are in really good condition, and there seems to be a lot of large five-year-old fish,” Bosworth said. “Last year we were supposed to see more big fish, but we didn’t, and maybe they stayed in the ocean as age four fish and are now coming back as age five fish.”

The outgoing fry migration of this summer’s adult returning fish was an above average number of both wild and hatchery produced sockeye fry.

The spawning goal is 350,000, but recently fisheries managers have agreed if the run exceeds 200,000 then they could possibly open a fishing season on the state’s second largest freshwater watershed. Keep your fingers crossed on this one!

John Martinis owner of John’s Sporting Goods in Everett and his son kneel besides a nice catch of hatchery kings.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca from Sekiu to Port Angeles opens for hatchery kings on Saturday (July 1) through Aug. 15, and last summer the eastern portion got off to a hot start.

“We had some spectacular days around Port Angeles when it opened last summer, and I’ll be there for the opener,” said Tony Floor, the director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association.

Sekiu in the western Strait will remain open from Aug. 16-31 for a fishery that targets mainly pinks and hatchery-marked coho.

While there won’t be a bonus catch limit for pinks, anglers in the eastern Strait can keep two additional sockeye salmon in a daily limit. The problem is you’ll need to figure out how to catch them as they’ve been rather tricky to get to bite. Commercial trollers in the ocean have success using bare red hooks or small hootchie rigs has been the new “go to” way when fishing in places like Baker Lake.

The Army Corp of Engineers made a mistake (and we are all entitled to those) on the Columbia River shad count at Bonneville Dam on June 19 as a malfunction in their counting system tallied the wrong figure.

They revised the total single-day from 497,738 to 247,366. That’s still not a shabby daily count, just not the near record proportions as originally thought. That was followed by another 246,596 shad on June 20, and 148,872 on June 21. That brought the total season count to 1,310,094. The highest single-day counts were in 2003 with 506,724 on June 5 and 520,664 on June 6.

Fishing off the Washington bank just below Bonneville Dam has been excellent. Some groups of anglers last week had close to a hundred fish when sampled.  Fish are reported to be good sized.  A popular fishing location, Steamboat Landing Dock in Washougal, is closed and will be opened in the future after repairs are made.

The elusive geoduck like this being held by Taylan Yuasa can be found on many beaches of Puget Sound and Hood Canal especially during extreme low tides during summer.

The most extreme low tides of the summer are happening right now, and that means Puget Sound shellfish seekers targeting the elusive deep-dwelling geoduck should find excellent opportunities as well as for a variety of other clams and oysters.

Low tide: Monday, minus-3.0 feet at 1:05 p.m.; and Tuesday, -2.2 at 1:53 p.m. Next series of low tides are July 7, -1.0 at 9:10 p.m.; July 8, -1.3 at 11:07 a.m.; July 9, -1.4 at 11:42 a.m.; July 10, -1.5 at 12:17 p.m.; and July 11, -1.3 at 12:54 p.m. Those will be followed by even more lower tides on July 20, -1.5 at 8:48 a.m.; July 21, -2.4 at 9:39 a.m.; July 22, -2.8 at 10:27 a.m.; July 23, -3.0 at 11:15 a.m.; July 24, -2.7 at 12:01 p.m.; -2.1 at 12:47 p.m.; and July 25, -1.1 at 1:32 p.m.

Diggers should note that all eastern mainland beaches from Everett south into southern Puget Sound are also closed for shellfish due to unsafe pollution levels. Before heading to a beach, call the marine biotoxin hotline at 800-562-5632 or visit the website at www.doh.wa.gov. Also check the state fisheries hotline at 866-880-5431 and website at http://wdfw.wa.gov. State Fish and Wildlife offers a good interactive shellfish map at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/beachreg.

 

 

Gentle Rifles For Africa?

By Wayne van Zwoll

Dozens of recoil-sensitive hunters return from safaris with the same verdict on rifles and tough game.

When Hemingway and Ruark brought Africa to the page, you’d have taken two or three rifles on safari. A heavy double or bolt-action, perhaps in .500 NE or .416 Rigby, would have seen action only on “big game.” You’d probably have carried a medium-bore bolt rifle, say, a .375, less than your lightweight, scoped 7mm or .30-bore.

These days, few hunters bring three rifles. Doubles are frightfully expensive; bolt rifles dominate for big game. With modern loads, the .375 (in many places the legal minimum for thick-skinned animals) has become a popular “heavy” round. For plains game, you don’t need that horsepower.

Having visited Africa 20 times, I agree with hunters of greater experience that some animals there can be hard to kill. But tenacity is not a function of place; North America has tough animals too. Genetics play into an animal’s ability to endure. So does adrenaline. Gemsbok can take extraordinary punishment, so too blue wildebeest. Pursuit ups the ante, as the will to survive kicks in. But accurate shots always kill.

Gemsbok are tough, but this one folded to a well-placed shot from Cristi’s .308, a Weatherby Camilla.-Wayne van Zwoll

Over the past 13 years I’ve hosted groups of women on their first African hunts, under my High Country Adventures shingle. “Safari Sisters” who otherwise might never afford such a trip learn of the role of hunting in wildlife conservation. Many “discover” hunting and return as enthusiastic ambassadors.

These safari-bound women include some who’ve never fired a rifle. What to use? “A scoped deer rifle works fine,” they’re told. “If you don’t have a rifle, we’ll provide one.” Usually it’s a .308 or a .270.

Is that really enough? Yes. A chest or shoulder hit with those rounds will kill gemsbok and other heavy antelopes as surely as it will deer or elk. To ensure a well-placed shot, Safari Sisters stalk to within 200 yards – and closer. In open country, some sneaks fail. But that’s hunting! The .260, .270 and 7mm-08 routinely drop hardy wildebeest and gemsbok bulls.

Cartridges like the .270 excel on plains game. Safari Sisters also use the .260, 7mm-08, .308, .30-06.-Wayne van Zwoll

Amber brought her 7mm-08, a family gift for the safari. With us, she refined the zero over sticks at paper targets. Her chance at a big warthog required quick shooting. She hit the animal quartering away. It ran just a few yards; but wisely, Amber approached with caution to finish it.

Amber took this tenacious – and trophy-class – warthog with a 7mm-08. Pigs don’t get any tougher!-Wayne van Zwoll

Though a wildlife biologist by profession, Leslie had never shot an animal. Her first kill came at dusk on the hem of thick bush. Suddenly a huge kudu bull ghosted into a gap. Offhand, from sticks, she triggered the .270. The bull leaped, scrambled, and nosed into the sand.

Our youngest Safari Sister, Thea, was slight of build, so borrowed a .270 with a suppressor. She took three animals with three shots, including a fine kudu and a tough blue wildebeest. Her one-shot-kill record was matched by Cathy with a .30-06 and Sara with her .260.

Thea downed this fine kudu with one bullet from a suppressed .270. Gentle recoil! Precise shooting!-Wayne van Zwoll

Tamar liked Africa so much after her first HCA Safari, she’s returned four times, last year taking her husband and son on their first safari. She’s carried her Kimber rifles in .270 and .308 for all the game she’s taken, including an eland that approached a ton in weight.

Lightweight, light-recoiling rifles help hunters get close and fire without flinching. Center hits result!-Wayne van Zwoll

Lightweight, light-recoiling rifles help hunters get close and fire without flinching. Center hits result!These women have in common what most men share but won’t admit: an aversion to recoil. The blast and thrust of a powerful rifle causes flinching. Though I’ve fired rounds as violent as the .338/378 Weatherby and .505 Gibbs from unbraked rifles, I don’t like recoil! No matter your physical build or will to resist flinching, recoil induces reactions you can’t fully erase.

A last-day prize! Emily’s magnificent Namibian kudu fell to a .270 bullet from a Browning rifle.-Wayne van Zwoll

Because they favor rifles gentle in recoil, Safari Sisters can fire without flinching. And they send bullets through the vitals.

W.D.M. Bell, who famously killed elephants by surgically directing bullets from the likes of the 7×57 and .303 British, would have understood – and applauded!

Wayne Van Zwoll
Journalist, Gun Writer
The Outdoor Line 
710 ESPN Seattle

EXO Mountain Gear Backcountry Hunting Packs - Boise, Idaho

Scout Now for Fall’s Hunts!

by Jason Brooks

With special permit draws being announced hunting season is starting to feel a little bit closer. If you drew your “dream tag” or struck out once again now is the time to start your scouting. If you attended my seminar last April then you heard me talk about other resources to help with your scouting, if you missed the seminar then keep reading as I highlight some of the details. A record snowpack means that you might not be able to put “boots on the ground” to find your big buck or bull this fall for a few more weeks or even a month but you can start your scouting right now!

Finding bucks in the summertime helps find them again in the Fall-Jason Brooks

Start with your state’s Fish and Game website and their hunt planning tools. For Washington it is the “Go Hunt” feature at the WDFW Hunting Tab. On this planner you can find public lands, private lands that allows access, integrated maps with satellite photos, roads, unit boundaries and harvest data.

WDFW Go Hunt allows you to find maps of your unit as well as harvest data-Jason Brooks

Once you have your unit figured out then it is time to start thinking about other places for information. Websites such as Hunting WashingtonEastman’s Hunting , Muley Madness, and other sites offer articles and even forums where hunters give up information. You can also contact members and ask them directly about their experiences, especially for the hard-to-draw tags.

The SNOTEL website lets you know how much snow is still in the high country-Jason Brooks

As you start to narrow down your areas search maps and topography websites such as “Google Earth”. You can also find other maps and data about your area from government websites such as the SNOTEL site that gives you up-to-date snow depth information. This will let you know when you can actually head to your unit and do some physical scouting of the ridges, mountains, draws, and drainages you want to hunt.

Google Earth shows you topography as well as other features such as lakes, open slopes, and ridges-Jason Brooks

Other websites that provide information are ones that non-hunters frequent and provide trail reports for such as Washington Trails AssociationWilderness.net and wildland fire data at National Interagency Fire Center.

Before you head to your unit make sure to check the local forest service website if you are hunting the national forest. This will list road conditions and closures, trail conditions, planned projects such as construction or prescribed burns, and other information including ATV use.

National Interagency Fire Center provides up-to-date fire maps and information-Jason Brooks

Now that you know if your hunting the yearly “deer camp” or are heading to a new unit and a dream hunt it is time to start scouting. Between weekend trips keep up to date with various websites and maps. Learn the area and talk to those that are familiar with the unit such as biologist, guides, and other hunters. Just remember to share information as well when asked.

Kyle Hurst knows scouting pays off and helped him harvest this mule deer during a general season-Jason Brooks

Jason Brooks
Outdoor Line Blogger
Northwest Outdoor Writer