Time to start making plans to pursue fall kings in Hanford Reach area of Columbia River

Mark Yuasa (right) with guide Austin Moser of Austin’s Northwest Adventures holds up an upriver bright king caught in Hanford Reach area in mid-October of 2016.

By Mark Yuasa

For those like me who missed out on the Buoy 10 chinook fishery at the Lower Columbia River mouth last month, you can still score a second chance to catch those exact same fish about 375 miles upstream.

“The fish counts for chinook have really shot up at Bonneville and McNary dams this past week, and I’ve got a good feeling we should see fishing really improve up near Vernita very soon,” said Dave Graybill, a longtime outdoor radio host in central Washington.

“I fished the Columbia off the mouth of the Deschutes and Klickitat rivers, and we got into a pretty good bite,” Graybill said. “These fish are on the move and were fresh and very active to take our baits.”

While it is known that some of these king – better known as upriver brights – were picked off along the way, it is likely that many slipped by offering anglers another chance at encountering this decent return of 260,000 upriver bright chinook.

Boats troll up and down just off the Vernita boat launch.

Last year’s forecast was a bountiful figure of 589,000 although the actual return ended up being 406,600 headed to the Hanford Reach area in south-central Washington. Many anglers got spoiled after the 2015 return of 1.3 million, and runs between 250,000 and 500,000 are still very good.

The delightful news is 193,250 chinook had already passed Bonneville Dam through Sept. 14, and the tail-end of the king train is likely still somewhere down near  the mouth of the Cowlitz and extends way up to McNary Dam at Umatilla, Oregon where 25,274 were tallied to date.

Keep a close on eye on the fish counts at McNary and once the single-day counts hit around 5,000 to 9,000 it’s time to go! On Sept. 13, the count was 1,575 and by Sept. 14 it jumped to 3,861. It usually takes about five days for these fish to migrate to lower sections and around 10 days or so to reach the upper stretches.

The Hanford Reach area offers anglers one of the biggest late-autumn returns of kings along the entire West Coast, and also offers a chance to hook and release a boat-size sturgeon.

What gets in the way of migrating salmon to this neck of the woods (well more like farmland mixed in with arid, high bluffs, desert-like sagebrush lands) are four dams.

After clearing the fourth dam is a spectacular 51 miles of free-flowing river located between the Yakima River near Richland and Priest Rapids Dam located at River Mile 390.

The kings here are also known to be big bruisers averaging 15 to 25 pounds with some pushing 40 pounds.

I had a chance to fish in the middle of last October which is near the end of a run that peaks in late-September to early-October with friend Graybill of Leavenworth, Eric Granstrom of Wenatchee and Austin Moser of Austin’s Northwest Adventures in Wenatchee.

We launched from a rough gravel ramp just above Highway 24/Vernita Bridge on Columbia, and the fishing grounds are easy on the gas bill since the best fishing occurs right in front at a place known as the “King Hole,” which was a deep slot about 50 to 60 feet deep.

There are other fishing holes like the Hog Hole, and the Midway Drift and China Bar Drift located above King Hole.

Our tactics was to slow troll and back-bounce our Spin-N-Glos (a brightly orange-colored winged bobber) and a gob of salmon cluster eggs the size of a tennis ball plus Kwikfish lures wrapped with sardines and smeared in a sardine scent jelly against the current.

Look for this fishery to continue to blossom in the years to come as a big upriver bright chinook production program at Priest Rapids and Ringold, and the wild chinook runs to this area remain robust.

The Hanford Reach area still has strong numbers of fish coming back when you look at historical data. The spawning escapement of 60,000 at McNary has been easily attainable year in and out, and they’ve been able to meet their goals for more than a decade.

A report last week from Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist, indicated fishing was very slow, but did show some slight improvement.  State fisheries staff interviewed 126 boats with 262 anglers and 16 bank anglers (Ringold access area) and sampled 13 adult chinook and two jack chinook.

Through Sept. 10, 105 adult fall chinook and 10 chinook jacks have been caught in the Hanford Reach from 2,105 angler trips. Effort and harvest has been much lower this year compared to 2016.

The fishery from the I-182 Bridge to Rock Island Dam is open through Oct. 22, and from Rock Island to Wells Dam is open until Oct. 15. Be sure to check the regulation pamphlet for specifics.

Mark Yuasa
Outdoor Line Blogger
710 ESPN Seattle

 

Filson Hosts Sportsman’s Expo in Seattle September 30th

C. Filson’s 2017 Sportsman’s Expo

Join the Seattle outdoor outfitter and other local vendors in an all-day event to prepare for the upcoming fishing and hunting seasons

WHAT: Filson will partner with local outdoor merchants for an all-day expo to prepare sportsmen and women for the upcoming fishing and hunting season. 

WHY: Filson is dedicated to ensuring outdoor enthusiasts are smart, tough and prepared for all their endeavors coming up, and the outfitter is hosting other partners in the industry to make sure all your bases are covered for the fall and winter seasons.

WHO:

Participants include – 

Danner x Filson Grouse Boot Launch: Representatives from Danner will be instore to introduce the new collaboration, the Danner x Filson Grouse Boot.

Fly Fishing Pro Tips
: Emerald Water Anglers will be putting on fly-casting clinics (11 am, 12:30 pm, 2 pm, 3:30 pm) and all-day fly-tying demos.

Complimentary Knife Sharpening:
Bring your hunting/outdoor knife and Seattle Edge will sharpen it for free. First come, first serve. Subject to time and availability.

How to Filet a Fish:
Demonstrations by City Fish Co. at 1 pm and 2 pm.

Bacon & Jerky Sampling
: The Jerky Gal will serve up elk, venison, salmon and buffalo jerky and Animal Bacon will bring the lamb and buffalo bacon.

Learn Hunting Skills
: Awaken your primal nature and learn hunting and foraging skills with the Human Nature Hunting School.

Gun Storage Demo
: See TruckVault/ShotLock’s line of home and vehicle gun storage solutions.

Complimentary pie and Woods Coffee served 10 am – 1 pm.

WHEN: Saturday, September 29, 2017 10 am – 6 pm

WHERE: Filson Flagship Store, 1741 1st Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98134

Lake Washington yellow perch are abundant and an excellent late-summer fish to catch

Danny Garrett, the state Fish and Wildlife warm-water biologist, holds up a nice stringer of yellow perch he caught on Lake Washington. These later-summer fish are an easy catch and very abundant in the lake. Photo courtesy of Danny Garrett.

By Mark Yuasa

The yellow perch in Lake Washington are one of the most prolific fish species in Lake Washington, and for anglers they’re easy to find and extremely fun to catch.

“I recently took our marketing team out to fish for them, and we caught around 200 and never left our one spot,” said Danny Garrett, the state Fish and Wildlife warm-water species biologist.

“We caught a bunch in 8- to 10-inch range along with a couple over 10 inches,” Garrett said. “It is just so easy to catch them at this time of the year. I get super excited every August and can never talk enough about the perch fishery.”

Those sizes of yellow perch that Garrett and his group caught are typical of the catch in Lake Washington although a “jumbo-sized” fish of 12 inches or longer can often be found mixed into the schools of fish.

The shorelines along the bays of Lake Washington are filled with yellow perch.

State fisheries experts say it is only a matter of time before the official state record of 2.75 pounds caught by Larry Benthien at Snelson’s Slough in Skagit County on June 22, 1969 could be broken, and it likely may come from Seattle’s backyard urban watershed.

The basis for this statement is largely based upon the ample feed and lots of room for yellow perch to grow in Lake Washington  the second largest natural-bodied lake in the state.

“I don’t think we can keep up with the recruitment of yellow perch in Lake Washington, and even with the amount of fishing pressure we won’t make a dent on the population,” Garrett said. “The survival rate of perch are doing very well, and I’ve been doing surveys on the lake, and they dominate all the other warm-water fish species.”

Yellow perch – known for their colorful yellow, orange and brass-colored bodies with distinct olive-green, vertical triangular bars along each of their sides – spawn in April, and well ahead of many other warm-water fish species in the lake.

The female perch are the largest, and they tend to grow much faster (usually maturing in three to four years) and live long up to 8 to 10 years.

Yellow perch are the most abundant fish species in Lake Washington, and are very willing to take an anglers bait all-day long. Photo courtesy of WDFW.

“Unless we get a high die-off due to some type of fungal infection, I think they will be with us for a very long time in the lake,” Garrett said.

Perch won’t peel off line or leap out of the water like a salmon, but an all-day virtual nonstop bite will get any angler hooked on this enjoyable late summer and fall fishery.

‘On the day we fished it, we hung out in the Newport Canal and along the Newport Shores area just south of I-90,” Garret said. “There was 100s and 1,000s of perch schooling in the area, and when we’d reel in one you’d see 50 more perch chasing them up to the surface. It was amazing.”

Since the lake is huge – 20 miles long and covering more than 22,000 acres – it can seem a bit daunting to the newbie, but there are some simple tips to follow to find excellent success to catching yellow perch.

The best time to fish for yellow perch begins around July when the water heats up, and peaks in August through October. As the winter chill sets in by November, the bite all but ceases as the perch move out into very deep water.

Look for schools of yellow perch in shallow water, 15 to 35 feet, and close to the shoreline. They tend to hang in shaded spots just outside the cover of weed beds, milfoil, aquatic weeds and lily pads or under docks, piers and overhanging trees and brush.

A young angler tries his luck to catch fish and yellow perch off a dock.

“The fish feed throughout the day on snails, clams, crayfish and smaller invertebrates, and are a lot more active even in middle of afternoon and only hunker down at night when predators are out,” said Garrett who claims even during broad daylight they aren’t spooked by boaters or jet- or water-skiers zipping around.

“When we fished it a couple weeks ago they were active from 11 a.m. until we quit at 3 p.m.,” Garrett said. “You don’t have to be out there fishing early in the morning either. I also visited a bunch of piers and shorelines recently, and saw guys catching them right next to busy swim areas.”

Places to catch and gear to use for yellow perch

Popular locations to catch perch are Seward Park; Kenmore log boom and pier; Magnuson Park shoreline; Andrews Bay; Juanita Bay; Newport area; Webster Point in Union Bay; Yarrow Bay in Kirkland; Gene Coulon Park in Renton; Foster Island just outside the Montlake Cut; Mercer Island; and the docks off Madison Park, Stan Sayres Pits, Leschi Park and Mount Baker Park.

The gear to catch them is relatively simple using a light-to-medium-action fishing rod with a spinning reel attached to 4- to 6-pound test line.

“I keep two simple no-brainer options in the boat to catch perch, and while perch meat is awesome I haven’t gone in that direction,” Garrett said. “I use earth worms and a drop-shot (egg-style) weight, which is much easier than the three-way swivel technique. I will also use (Sniper Lures) Sniper Snubs – a colorful tiny 3-inch plastic worm. You really have to feel the very subtle strikes these fish make, and often the bigger 10- and 12-inch fish will just nibble at the bait, and are more finicky biters. Don’t set the hook hard when you first feel them bite, play with them a little bit and they’ll eventually strike the bait.”

The difference between an 8-inch and 14-inch yellow perch show the growth potential in Lake Washington. Some experts say the next state record could come from Seattle’s largest urban watershed. Photo courtesy of Danny Garrett, WDFW biologist.

Others will also use a skirted crappie jig, maggots and like previously mentioned by Garrett a small chunk of perch meat or even a perch eyeball works well.

While the main focus in Lake Washington are yellow perch the wide diversity of fish species enables an angler to switch gears and catch cutthroat and rainbow trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass and black crappie along with another abundant fish the “rock bass” a species of the sunfish.

“There are more rock bass showing up than in previous years, and guys are catching a lot of them,” Garrett said. “In places like the Ship Canal we have seen a 50-50 split of yellow perch and rock bass. They aren’t big on eating, but very fun to catch.”

Lake Washington isn’t the only yellow perch show in town, and good action can be found in lakes Sammamish; Beaver and Pine near Issaquah; Whatcom near Bellingham; Sawyer northwest of Black Diamond; Goodwin northwest of Marysville; Stevens east of Everett; American near Fort Lewis; Kapowsin southeast of Puyallup; Angle in Sea-Tac; Desire in Renton; Meridian in Kent; and Harts southeast of Yelm.

Yellow perch are also very tasty with a firm white-fleshed body.

“I would call them the little walleye and they’re actually related,” Garrett said. “They’re in the same wheelhouse in texture and flavor as a walleye, and I’d eat them all-day long.”

State Fish and Wildlife doesn’t have a daily catch or size limit on yellow perch in the majority of statewide lakes, but check the regulation pamphlet before heading out to fish for them. You can also find plenty of information on yellow perch, including a super great video with WDFW’s Danny Garrett by going to the link http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington/Species/1849/.

Mark Yuasa

Outdoor Line Blogger

710 ESPN Seattle

 

Hidden Gem, Ranch House BBQ

When you see a bunch of Harley’s parked outside a restaurant on the weekend you can bet there’s some good eats to be had inside. There’s one thing that bikers and outdoorsman have in common…they love to eat good food!

I’ve been driving by Ranch House BBQ on Hwy 101 west of Olympia, Washington for years en route to fishing, hunting, and clamming destinations on the Olympic Peninsula.

Nearly every time I cruise past the Ranch House the parking lot is stuffed with cars and bikes. Since I am usually towing a boat I opt out of stopping, but I made note that this place was probably worth hitting when the time was right.

On our way to dig razor clams back on the Washington coast back in November I was astonished to see only a half full parking lot so I whipped in there with the wife. The time was right to see what this place was all about.

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into the Ranch House is that these folks take their bbq seriously. Ranch House BBQ has won bbq awards all over America…and all over the world. From the trophy case up front to the walls around the restaurant there are trophies, banners, and ribbons literally everywhere.

Everything on the menu looked awfully tasty but I stuck with the old bbq standby…a full rack of ribs with a cold Fish Tale ale. My wife ordered a full bbq’d chicken and of course half of that ended up on my plate. Both the chicken and the ribs were awesome.

Some of the bbq joints that I’ve visited here in Northwest toss some bbq sauce on their meats and called it “barbecue” without actually getting that smokey flavor into the meat. At the Ranch House all the meats are slow smoked with tasty rubs and little to no sauce added while they are cooking. They’ve got their own great barbecue sauce on the table to douse your food with, but the meats are so tender and delicious the sauce really isn’t necessary.

Ranch House was crowned World Champion at the BBQ World Championship in Ireland in 2000 and has won titles in Washington, California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and even Canada. In addition to all the awards owner Amy Anderson and her all-girl grill team have been featured on the Food Network numerous times. This place is the real deal!

Even if the parking lots full you owe it to yur-bad-self to stop by Ranch House BBQ in Olympia and enjoy some of Amy Anderson’s award-winning bbq. Rest assured we will be stopping in to see these nice folks as often as possible from now on. This place is a hidden gem!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

My Top 4 Breakfast Joints

Maybe I was thinking about this because I just polished off my boring breakfast of oatmeal and fruit. At the ripe old age of 41 I’m trying to watch my diet a little closer these days, but don’t think for one furry second that I’ve forgotten about the memorable morning meals I’ve had at these four brekky joints.

Someday and someday soon I’ll once again find myself staring wide-eyed at the menu at one of these places…wife permitting. These restaurants know how to turn what is normally the most boring meal of the day into a breakfast you’ll never forget. That’s why they made the top of my list.

Without further adieu…

Mckay CottageBend, Oregon
The first time we visited McKay Cottage for breakfast in Bend, Oregon I ate so much I could hardly shuffle out of the place. There’s so many tastie dishes on their breakfast menu that my wife, her best friend Brandy, and I decided to order breakfast “family style” so we could sample as much of their grub as we could.

We greased up the skids before the main course arrived with mochas from the espresso bar and a plate of fresh raspberry scones from McKay’s awesome bakery. Most people would have called in quits there, but I had my sights set on a full blown Thanksgiving style, lay-on-the-floor-with-my-pants-unbuttoned food coma.

It wasn’t long after we ordered before the kitchen door flew open and hot plates began to hit the table. Our outdoorsy and fit waitress presented us with Smith Rock Benny, pumpkin pancakes, Joe’s Special scramble, and a breakfast burrito before hustling off to keep up with the orders. How these waitresses stay in such great shape with all this awesome food around is beyond me. I was sitting with two ladies that also eat like birds and my food coma dreams were about to come true.

Breakfast was nothing short of oh-mazing and my plans for an active day in the Oregon outdoors quickly evaporated. Mass rump was destined for a couch. I’m ashamed to admit that I watched football the rest of the day. Next time I’ll go hiking girls…I promise!If you visit McKay Cottage plan on getting there early and bring an appetite. Don’t forget to try one of their scones while you wait!

Duck Brand Hotel and CantinaWinthrop, Washington
My wife and I make frequent trips to Winthrop, Washington to hike, hunt, and relax in what can only be described as a little slice of Montana. When we’re there we always make a point to visit the Duck Brand Hotel and Cantina for a Mexican style breakfast. The Duck Brand has seating inside the main restaurant and plenty of outdoor seating so you can enjoy the warm Eastern Washington mornings out on the deck.

The breakfast menu here has a Mexican twist and most of the dishes come with a side of black beans, which is a different but totally awesome addition to breakfast.

My favorite breakfast thus far at this place is the Eggs McDuck, but the Huevos Rancheros is a very close second. Unlike my visit to McKay Cottage I leave the Duck ready to clamber up any of the scenic ridges in the Methow Valley.

I like breakfast joints that are hustle-bustle and the Duck Brand doesn’t disappoint. Spoons clanging into coffee cups, short order cooks hollering at waitresses, and lots of outdoorsy folks waiting to fuel up for the day. It’s busy for a reason…the food is yummers!

Blue Star Cafe-Seattle, Washington
I was going to keep this list to just my favorite small fishing town breakfast joints, but I simply couldn’t resist adding the Blue Star in Seattle’s Wallingford District to my list because of it’s totally ri-donk-ulous breakfast menu. The Blue Star is also a bar, so you can grab a Bloody Mary and watch football pre-game shows before the Smokey Mountain scramble or Eggs Seattle arrives.

The Smokey Mountain Scramble is one of the most memorable egg dishes I’ve ever inhaled. It consists of as many eggs as you’d like, pepper jack cheese, and Little Smokee sausages. Pure genius!

Or if you’re in a more eclectic Northwest’y mood you can order the Eggs Seattle, which is smoked salmon on an English muffin with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. This one’s also a dandy!

There can be a long wait on weekends at the Blue Star so get there early. The wait, however, is well worth it!

Forks Coffee Shop-Forks, Washington
The Coffee Shop’s montra is “Nobody Leaves Hungry” and that ain’t no bull. Both fisherman and loggers alike need to prime the pumps early in the morning for a long day in the woods or on the water and the breakfast plates here are served accordingly.

I can polish off a lot of brekky before hitting the water and I’ll be darned if the servings here don’t test me every time.

My favorite brekky chow here is the Sol Duc scramble, which consists of veggies, country sausage, and hash browns scrambled together with eggs and served with toast. Douse it with Tabasco sauce and you’ll be ready for a day of steelhead fishing on one of the many nearby rivers.

Most of the locally famous Forks river guides meet their guests at the Coffee Shop in the morning, so if you want the latest fishing intel this is the place to be before the sun rises on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

If you’ve got a favorite breakfast spot that I should be checkin’ out please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m always on the hunt for good fishing…and good food. Adios muchachos!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Seven Things I dislike About Nature

I know, I know, you’ll give me the ol’ “you’ve got to take the good with the bad and accept everything in nature” drovel that I would expect from all of you that love the outdoors as much as I do. Shoot! I’ve even said it ma’self.

If there’s a thousand, or even a million, things that are so great about nature there’s just got to be a few things, just a few, that are no bueno. Read thru my list below and tell me these things haven’t caused you grief or freaked you out at some point in your life. I bet most of them are on your list too!

Gale Force Winds
You’d have to be a certified nut-job to actually like gale force winds. I mean, seriously, I’ve been on the water in more gale force winds than I can remember and not one single time have I enjoyed it. They turn the ocean into a roiley, boiley mess, make hunting close to impossible, and just try rowing a driftboat in a gale. No beuno! Gale force winds are like jogging. Have you ever seen a jogger smiling. I rest my case.

Spiders
This is the one creature in nature that scares the living crap out of me. Couldn’t Ma Nature come up with something a lot less creapy to eat bugs. We have bug-zapper lights , exterminators, and gooey-stickum fly strips now for crying out loud. Couldn’t we invent a gooey spider strip to do the same job. I think so. Why do we even need spiders? They only serve to create nightmares and paranoia…nothing else.

Snakes
I have to admit that I hate snakes less nowadays than I used to, but they still score an 8 out of 10 on my most-hated list and thus they make the cut. In Africa they actually have a snake called the black mamba that chases down people and kills them just for the hell of it. Another snake, the king cobra, spits venom in your eyes to blind you, then it bites and kills you before wandering off to killl something else. It doesn’t even eat you. What kind of crap is that?

Breaking Branches
There is never anything there…just a broken branch. I can honestly say that a large branch breaking in the night is something that makes me nearly shart me’drawers. On a mid-night hike into Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness for the early mule deer hunt in the mid-90’s my good friend Mike Jesch and I stopped along the trail at around 1:00 a.m. to rest our aching clown feet. We turned off our headlamps and sat there in the who’s-your-momma-now, pitch black darkness and listened to the total nothingness in the old growth forest. The night was soot black and there wasn’t a sound, not any one thing making a single, solitary sound. Creapy! Then, no more than forty feet behind me a giant branch breaks. It went “Kaaaa-rack!” and then like in so many other branch-breaking episodes there was terminal silence. No thump-thump-thump of a deer bounding off or primal growl from Big Foot…just nothing. We grabbed our packs and beat feet!

Slush
Slush isn’t rain and it isn’t snow. It’s 100% pure freezing ass cold. I’ve spent days on end guiding for winter steelhead in the pouring down slush and not one time did I think, “Man, this is rad dude!”. It penetrates every form of rain gear created by man and it even permeates human skin, chilling right into the very marrow of our bones. I wish they would build a gi-normous, pollution-spewing coal factory in Seattle that would provide enough localized global warming to make it impossible for Mother Nature to produce slush here. We may have pollution, but we would rid the Northwest of slush. Fair trade? I think so.

No See Ums
They fly up your nose, into your ears, in your eyeballs, and bore microscopic holes into your flesh that itch like the dickens for days. The worst part about the little buggers is that YOU CAN’T EVEN SEE THEM! You can swing your ball cap around wildly to ward them off, but you’ll be swinging at nothing but clean air. They can hang out on the gooey bug strip with the spiders. Bu-bye!

Hornets
What good do hornets do anyway? I’ve never seen them make honey or help an old lady across the street. They are only a mechanism for terror and the earth should be ridden of these foul creatures. Have you ever had a pleasant encounter with a hornet? Hell no you haven’t and neither have I. Wouldn’t nature be a lot more enjoyable without them? I think so.

There’s my list. How about you? I’m sure there’s something about the outdoors that drives you to swinging your hat around like a lunatic.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com