posted on October 22, 2004 00:00
Basin pheasant season set to open
By Denny Church
Columbia Basin upland game bird hunters will find pockets of pheasants this weekend surrounded by compromised habitat with relatively few birds.
Biologists predict the Snake River and its tributary canyons in Whitman, Garfield, Columbia, and Asotin counties will produce the highest hunter success rate.
Vast tracts owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and more than 400,000 acres of private land with access agreements will provide plenty of room to roam, but overcrowding will still be a problem at some locations.
According to the state, pen-reared pheasants will be released before Saturday at several "Feel Free To Hunt" and state-owned lands throughout the region. Nearly a dozen of these sites are scattered through the hills between the Snake River and Walla Walla. Several others can be found in Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Yakima counties.
The 2004 Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program Pamphlet contains maps of each release site and detailed driving directions. This document can be found online at www.wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/ewapheas.com.
In the past decade, pheasant management practices in Eastern Washington have gone through a number of changes. At one point, the state halted the release of all pen-reared pheasants and began numerous small-scale habitat improvement projects to increase the wild pheasant population.
Unfortunately, upland game habitat was being lost to changing farming practices at a rate far greater than what the state could reclaim, and wild pheasant numbers continued their decline.
Eventually, pen-reared pheasant releases were resumed starting on the second or third weekend of the season.
And after consulting with upland bird managers across the United States, the state adopted fewer large scale habitat improvement projects in the Snake River country, where wild pheasant numbers have the greatest chance of making a major recovery.
With the release of pen reared pheasants for the opening weekend of the 2004 season, the pheasant management process has come full circle.
Upland advisory group farming
The state is accepting nominations for a 10- to 15-member upland bird and small-game advisory group.
Advisory group members must be willing to attend meetings several times a year and to communicate with the public in the region they represent.
The nomination deadline is Nov. 10. Additional information is available online at www.wdfw.wa.gov.
Citizen advisory groups on recreational fishing, crabbing, waterfowling and big-game management issues are already in existence.
Disabled hunters have access options
Hunters with limited mobility can apply for Road Access Entry Permits, which allow hunters to drive gated roads. Several other roads in prime big game hunting territory are accessible without a permit.
Accessible duck and goose hunting and wildlife viewing blinds are also available throughout the state.
For more information about this program, go online at www.wdfw.wa.gov/outreach/access/accessibility.
For the first time this season, anglers began reporting multiple fish days on the Skagit. The largest concentration of coho was in the shallow, and jet sled accessible, upper river.
The catch rate also improved near Avon but remained low below Mount Vernon through the weekend. Coho to 19 pounds were boated. Most were taken on a variety of spoons.
Based on total sales, the "wee" or No. 1 half brass and half silver Dick Nite is the hottest coho spoon on the planet.
But each angler seems to have a color combination preference and apparently they all catch fish.
This suggests that the leader length, the action of the spoon, its depth and the speed of the retrieve are just as important as color.
For the past few weeks, I've had success with a 5 weight fly rod and a sink tip fly line.
This combination works well with small flashy flies in six feet of water where a current line leads the fish toward an anchored boat.
The Skagit was on the rise early this week. That will put an end to the spoon and fly fishing over the near term.
Coho can still be taken on Kwikfish and fresh sand shrimp when the river conditions are less than ideal.
The sea-run cutthroat either moved upstream on the first high water in September or their numbers are usually low. In mid-October, sea-runs should be seen jumping in and around the snag piles all along the lower and middle Skagit, but that isn't happening.
On the marine waters, large schools of coho have been reported at Pile and Eagle Point in the San Juans.
Anglers are also releasing fair numbers of small feeder chinook in the San Juans and Saratoga Passage. That bodes well for the opening of the blackmouth season Nov. 1.
The split duck season is closed statewide today and Friday.
Hunting resumes at 7:05 a.m. on Saturday morning and continues through Jan. 30.
The migratory bird pamphlet contains an error on the dates for the canvasback and pintail season.
On Nov. 6, the Oak Harbor PSA will host a Blackmouth Derby in Saratoga Passage. The entry fee is $20 per person. First prize is $750 or 50 percent of the gate receipts.
The modern rifle elk season runs Oct. 30 through Nov. 7 in Eastern Washington and Nov. 6-14 in Western Washington.
Nov. 8 is the application deadline for authorization to hunt brant during the 2004-2005 season.
Nov. 19 is the deadline for submitting letters of interest for wildlife-themed vehicle license plates.
The bald eagle and elk designs have already received more than the 2,000 minimum letters of interest and will be forwarded to the state legislature for final approval.
Deer, bear, pheasant, waterfowl, killer whale, Dungeness crab and salmon images may also become available if enough interest is expressed.
The designs and a signature sheet are available online at www.wdfw.wa.gov/license_plates/index.htm.
This document was modified last on Oct 21, 2004 - 11:40:41 PDT