Hairy spiders retreat from soggy wrecked webs and head in to tend cotton ball egg sacks tucked into tight nooks and crannies that human eyes overlook. Greasy field mice scurry from flooded pockets and make a mad dash for dusty kitchen cupboards. A fat mouse flexes and scares a sensitive kitty back into the shadows.
All scaredy cats remain ashamed.
Oil slicks spiral tie dye in parking lot puddles as a shimmering sheen slinks silent and sinister along the surface of the mighty river. Running out of salmon but plenty of runoff to spawn petridish rainbow trout.
At least pollution is pretty.
A season in slow motion suddenly hits hyperlapse. One wily wind rips burnt orange tangles from their moorings. Chaos overcomes tidy yards and grownups rush to push and blow them into piles. Puppies and children bark and run and plunge headlong into the leaves.
Progress is scattered to the wind but nothing matters except the laughs we count in the end.
A caravan of waterfowl from the Great White North flock and squawk and survey boggy pastures for puddles and predators. They don’t like dogs so they shred the cider crisp night by a Navigator Moon and then lay low when the winds begin to howl.
Man is in the forest. It is known.
The bears knew first. Then they came for the mountain lions. The deer told the elk and cows formed support groups while their bulls high tailed for the high country. But the furry ones had long ago made a pact to keep what was theirs, so nobody ever told the migrants on the move. The locals had never taken too kindly to strangers, or even hifalutin snowbirds.
Some things never change.
A big burst of warm rain swooped in from Hawaii and is currently falling all over western Washington. Those big banana raindrops are stoking the hopes of salmon anglers around the region as the rainfall has river flow on the uptick while water temperatures remain relatively warm so as not to shock the sensibilities of the fishies.
On the Chehalis River the crowds started hitting their favorite honey holes within about five minutes of the first fat raindrops that fell early this week. Since then the hard rains have continued to fall and the turnout by bank and boat has only become more consistent. A barrage of boat anglers have been crowding the river just above and below the elbow bend at Elma, but you better get there early if you want to find yourself a spot in the flotilla without resorting to fisticuffs. The new blast of water will also have anglers heading to upper river tributaries like the Newaukum (if you can figure out how to get on it) and the Skookumchuck where the salmon are bound to show up at the dam eventually. On Oct. 31 river flow on the Wynoochee was all the way up to 1,000 cubic feet per second above Black Creek, but at Grisdale the river was still trickling by at just 209 CFPS.
Salmon fishing remains closed on the Columbia River from Buoy 10 all the way to Pasco but prospects are picking up ever so slightly on area tributaries to the mighty river. Likewise, sturgeon fishing is limited to catch-and-release ventures only in the lower river, and all tributaries, below McNary Dam.
Last week on the Cowlitz River the WDFW sampled 51 bank anglers below the I-5 Bridge with 15 coho jacks kept and one Chinook jack released. Another 23 rods on 11 boats in the lower river kept four coho and three coho jacks while releasing one Chinook, one coho and one coho jack. Between the I-5 Bridge and the Barrier Dam the WDFW sampled 82 bank rods with one keeper coho jack and three steelhead to show, along with 40 Chinook, one Chinook jack, one coho and two coho jacks reportedly released. Another 22 rods on nine boats kept one coho, nine coho jacks, and one steelhead while releasing one Chinook and 10 coho jacks.
Returns at the salmon hatchery show that the run was actually a bit muted last week compared to the week previous. Last week crews retrieved 935 coho adults, 2,717 coho jacks, 110 fall Chinook, 32 fall Chinook jacks, 73 cutthroat trout and 11 summer-run steelhead. As has been the case all fall long, those returns are lagging far behind the ten-year average. Fish crews also released 181 coho adults and 428 coho jacks into the Cispus River near Randle along with 77 coho adults and 214 coho jacks at the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood. Another 242 coho adults, 1,212 coho jacks, 33 fall Chinook adults, 22 fall Chinook jacks and six cutthroat trout were planted into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton, and 227 coho adults and 879 coho jacks were released into Lake Scanewa in Randle. River flow below Mayfield Dam was reported at 3,540 cubic feet per second on Monday with visibility down to 11 feet but water temperature up slightly to 54.14 degrees. Retention of Chinook salmon is prohibited on the Cowlitz River and its tributaries.
On the Kalama River last week the WDFW sampled nine bank anglers with one coho and one steelhead bonked along with one Chinook and eight coho released. On the Lewis River 109 bank anglers showed one keeper Chinook, two coho, and two coho jacks on their stringers, while reportedly releasing two Chinook, one Chinook jack, two coho and two coho jacks. Another 24 rods on 10 boats kept three Chinook jacks, three coho and three jacks while releasing three Chinook.
In trout news, the WDFW has been busy planting lakes in Thurston County in recent weeks. On Oct. 19 Offutt Lake received 252 small trout. On Oct. 16 Lake Lawrence received 665 plus one small rainbows in addition to 110 rainbows weighing about one pound each. Lake St. Clair received 520 one pound trout on Oct. 9 and Ward Lake was planted with 715 trout of a similar size on the same day. Lastly, Munn Lake was planted with 275 trout weighing just under one pound each on Oct. 2. In Grays Harbor Vance Creek Ponds received 2,400 rainbows weighing just over one pound each on Oct. 8. Lake Sylvia Lake was planted with 400 “catchable size” rainbows on Oct. 5. The WDFW has promised to plant 147,000 hatchery trout in at least 55 lakes across the state between mid-October and the end of November when the Black Friday fishery is scheduled to set reels to spinning and bobbers to bobbing.
The return of the rains has been kind to hunters just like their angling brethren. The late fall blustering has ripped most of the remaining leaves from their limbs and the rainfall has softened the sound of earth under boot out in the backwoods.
Now all that’s left is to find the proper quarry in its favorite hideaway glade, which is always easier said than done.
Modern firearm hunts for black-tailed deer ended at dusk Oct. 31 which means hunters are now realigning their attention to wildlife that’s both in season and abundant. Modern firearm hunts for elk began in eastern Washington last week and will continue through Nov. 4 in some areas and through Nov. 15 in other areas. Meanwhile, modern firearm hunts for elk in western Washington began on Nov. 3 and continues through Nov. 14.
Archers will have limited options for elk in eastern Washington GMUs 203, 209-248, 250, 254-272, 278d, 284, 290, 379d, 381 between Oct. 27 and Nov. 15. Meanwhile, muzzleloader toters will have access to the same areas during those dates, in addition to GMU 373d.
Until big game hunts begin to open back up in bulk in western Washington it will be bird hunts that make up the bulk of the hunting opportunity. Forest grouse and crow seasons will run through the end of the year, but openings for mourning doves closed on Oct. 30. Meanwhile, pheasant hunts in western Washington will continue through Nov. 30 with daily openings between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Area release sites include Skookumchuck, Fort Lewis, Kosmos, Scatter Creek, & Lincoln Creek.
Hunts for California quail, mountain quail, and northern bobwhite will continue in western Washington through Nov. 30, but opening for fall turkey hunts were cut in half last month. Nowadays GMUs 101-154 and 162-186 are open and will remain so through the end of the year.
Statewide duck, coot and snipe seasons ended on Wednesday but are set to resume on Nov. 3 when scaup will become legal hunting fodder. As for geese, Goose Management Areas 1 and 3 will stay open through Nov. 25. In Goose Management Area 2 all areas except for the Ridgefield Wildlife Area will be open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in November. The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge will be open for hunting on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays beginning Nov. 24.
Fall bear season will continue for another fortnight until Nov. 15 and hunters will be able to target cougars through at least Dec. 31 in all applicable areas.
Bobcat, fox, raccoon, cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares will all find themselves legally within the crosshairs until March 15. And, as always, coyotes are legal to target all year long. What’s more, most roadkill is legal for salvage with a free emergency permit available through the WDFW.
With a pair of razor clam digging weekends in the book so far this fall it’s a good time to check in and see how the sandy clam hounds have been faring.
“Overall, the weather has made things a little funky. However, the crowds have been decent on all beaches,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the WDFW, in an email to the Fishrap command center. “The best size clams have come from Copalis. But the size isn’t that much larger.”
While the clams may be slightly bigger in Copalis the diggers at Mocrocks have been getting closest to their daily limits. All told Mocrocks has been sending diggers home with an average of 12.7 clams per day, while Twin Harbors diggers have been hauling out an average of 9.6 clams per day. Copalis brings up the rear with an average of 8.8 clams per trip.
Ayres noted that while Long Beach has been shuttered so far this fall there is a good chance that the peninsula will get one chance to pound sand in search of succulent bivalves before the end of the year.
“We do have one day in December scheduled for Long Beach, and they’ll likely be just a few more to follow in the spring,” said Ayres.
The remaining proposed razor clam digs in 2018 are listed on the following dates, low tides and beaches:
Nov. 10, Saturday, 8:15 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Nov. 11, Sunday, 8:56 p.m.; 0.0 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
Nov. 22, Thursday, 5:55 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
Nov. 23, Friday, 6:36 p.m.; -1.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Nov. 24, Saturday, 7:20 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
Nov. 25, Sunday, 8:05 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Dec. 6, Thursday, 6:01 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
Dec. 7, Friday, 6:40 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Dec. 8, Saturday, 7:16 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis