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Lake Sammamish is the place for cutts

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By Wayne Kruse
Special to The Herald
Most anyone can go out and catch trout in May or June, under a puffy white cloud or two, a mild breeze, and sweet, sweet sunshine. But when the frost is on the punkin', THAT's the time for cutthroat dunkin', according to those who chase cutts year-around.
A traditional winter cutthroat fishery flourishes on the two big lakes to our south -- Sammamish and Washington -- but Sammamish is probably easier for the first-timer to learn. State Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Danny Garrett said both waters have been putting out perch, cutthroat and smallmouth bass recently, but for those interested in some beautiful cutts to 15 or 16 inches, here's how to go about it on Sammamish:
First, a warning: you're likely to catch both trout and kokanee, but the kokes are off limits and must be released with a gentle touch.
Now, tie some number 6 double-hook setups, and hang them on Wedding Ring spinners. Put them behind small Dick Nite dodgers -- the "clown" pattern is popular -- on a short leader of about 12 inches, and tip both hooks with either a piece of worm or a GULP maggot.
If you can't find takers for the Wedding Ring, be prepared to switch to a home-made spinner/mini-squid lure, tipped with the same baits, also trolled behind a small dodger. Or, if you're not into tying your own lures, lengthen your leader to about 2 feet and go with a Needlefish spoon in fire tiger pattern, still behind the dodger.
Put your yacht in the water at the nice Lake Sammamish State Park ramp, on the lake's southeast corner, and run approximately a mile north to what is called locally the "weather buoy." Fish that general area, trolling at 1.4 or 1.5 mph, closer to shore than to the middle of the lake, looking for humps and holes in 30 to 40 feet of water.
Obviously, a sounder helps, and so do downriggers, although the fish can be as shallow as 14 to 17 feet this time of year. Change depths until you find the flavor of the day.
More (big) trout
Allan and Glenn Acheson, a father-son team from Everett, have been fishing Flowing Lake the past two or three weeks, quietly nailing some very large rainbow trout. Last Thursday they came home with a 9-pounder and a 6-pounder, among other, smaller, fish, and Glenn said they caught another big one in the 5- or 6-pound range the week before.
All the fish were taken while anchored in a boat, about 50 feet off shore, directly in front of the launch. Glenn said they were fishing a shelf, or dropoff, in 25 to 30 feet of water, using a red Power Egg/nightcrawler combo.
Mark Spada with the Snohomish Sportsmen's Club, said the big trout were very likely holdovers from last year's stocking of pen-raised triploid rainbow, purchased by the club with funds from the Everett Coho Derby and other sources.
Spada said this year's stocking program won't begin until about March 1, again targeting Flowing and Blackmans lakes as their two primary waters.
Flowing lies about 5 miles northeast of Snohomish, in the three lakes area, with wheelchair access and good bank fishing.
For photos of the big trout, visit my blog at
A few spring chinook have already been taken in the lower Columbia, including a fish or two in the Cowlitz and the Willamette, according to WDFW biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver. The annual and very popular springer fishery, however, doesn't really ramp up until early March, Hymer said. The season is open now through April 5, with a quota for sport fishermen of 5,000 upriver hatchery chinook below Bonneville Dam.
After three years of strong returns, Washington/Oregon salmon managers predict a run this spring of 141,400 upriver fish. That would be about 25 percent below the 10-year average and down from the 203,000 chinook which returned last year, but still well above run levels of the 1990s. Anglers last year caught 10,160 upriver kings below Bonneville, and another 3,175 returning to the Willamette, Cowlitz, and other lower river tributaries.
In a new rule this year, barbless hooks are required on the mainstem Columbia to facilitate the release of wild-stock fish, downstream from the Washington-Oregon line. Double or treble hooks may still be used, as long as the barbs are filed off or pinched down.
Changing the guard
We'll all miss "Big John" Martinis, avid angler and iconic member of the north Puget Sound salmon fishing community, who died two weeks ago at age 82. I never spent much time with John, Sr., but I do remember one trip years ago with him, son "Little John," and Arlington attorney Richard Bailey, to Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
We were cleaning fish late one afternoon there, and had worked up several salmon, when I came to a halibut I had taken, of maybe 10 or 12 pounds. Having always fished halibut to that point aboard a charter, with a deckhand to do the honors, I was at a loss. "I don't have a clue how to fillet this sucker," I said to no one in particular.
There was a long pause, then Big John grabbed the halibut and flopped it down on the filleting board. He looked up, gave me that famous glare, and said, "I hope you're a quick study, because I'm never going to do this for you again."
I paid close attention to the procedure. Yes, I did.
Tight lines, Big John.
Proposed hunting rules
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is soliciting hunter comments on proposed hunting rules changes, including:
Expanding spring black bear hunting opportunities in the northern Puget Sound area to reduce bear damage to trees in commercial timberlands.
Allowing the use of illuminated arrow nocks for archery equipment.
Restoring antlerless elk opportunities for archery hunters in Yakima County, specifically in GMUs 352 (Nile) and 356 (Bumping).
There are a total of 17 proposals posted on WDFW's web site, Written comments, through Feb. 15, may be emailed to, or mailed to: Wildlife Program Commission Public Comments, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia 98501.
Proposed fishing rules
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will take public comment on proposed changes to the state's sportfishing rules during a public meeting tomorrow and Saturday in Olympia. A few of the more interesting proposals would:
Allow the use of two fishing rods, with the purchase of an endorsement, on 50 additional lakes throughout the state.
Remove the daily catch limit for channel cats and the daily catch and size limits for bass and walleye in portions of the Columbia and Snake rivers to assist recovery of salmon and steelhead. The proposed changes are designed to increase the harvest of abundant bass, walleye and channel catfish, which prey on juvenile salmon and steelhead that are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Prohibit keeping cabezon under 18 inches in marine areas 4-11 and 13, to provide additional protection for the species.
Increase catch limits for walleye on Lake Roosevelt, where there is an overabundance of the species. The change would allow a variety of other fish species to grow in number by reducing the impact of walleye.
Modify rules for white sturgeon, including possible changes in seasons or areas, change to catch and release, changes in size limits, reducing the annual limit and/or restricting terminal gear.
To review the proposed rules and comments already received, go to

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