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Okanogan deer hunt opens with a bang

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By Wayne Kruse
Herald writer
Published:
Winthrop was Deer Central over the weekend, as the Okanogan mule deer herd produced outstanding results for the general statewide modern firearm hunting opener. Success rates approached 30 percent at the state Fish and Wildlife Department's Winthrop check station -- significantly better than average and a major increase over last year's results, according to state biologist Scott Fitkin.
Game managers expect more than 100,000 deer hunters to take to the field this month for the modern firearm season -- the state's most popular hunt.
The weekend check data also showed a higher than average percentage of older, larger animals, including a very nice buck with a 30-inch spread. Good hunting, with an increase in larger bucks, had been predicted by the department for the Okanogan, and results seemed to bear them out.
Prospects for the remainder of the season remain good, Fitkin said, although mild weather will likely keep deer well scattered over the landscape.
Hunters who harvest animals on the weekend are encouraged to bring their deer to the check station, located at the "Red Barn" in Winthrop. At least two (live) mulies even showed at the station on the opening weekend, uninvited, when a doe and fawn wandered in as if wishing to be checked and photographed. They were, and you can see the cute shot, along with one of the big 4-point, by going to The Herald's outdoor blog, www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.
The numbers for the opener at Winthrop were 107 hunters checked, with 30 deer.
Whitetail herds in the northeast quarter of the state are still recovering from a major winter-kill two years in a row, 2007 and '08, so a success rate of about 13 percent at both the Deer Park and Chattaroy check stations is generally good news. At Deer Park, 91 hunters (114 last year) had 12 deer, and at Chattaroy, 67 had 9.
State publicist Madonna Luers at the agency's Spokane office said deer managers don't think the reduced number of hunters at Deer Park means participation is down so much as simply fewer hunters stopping at the check station (it's not mandatory).
Dave Ware, game manager for the state, said participation was, however, lower than average around the state, but success rates were generally higher. Success on southwest Washington blacktail will turn out to be 20 to 25 percent for the season, he said, but with many of those animals taken late in the general season or during the late buck hunt, when foliage is down and visibility up.
In Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties, Ware said, participation was light, and so was the harvest, although the area always produces a few nice racks.
Summaries of hunting prospects around the state are available on the agency's webpage, http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects.
Derbies
Tickets are on sale for two upcoming salmon derbies. The first is the Bayside Marine Derby, Nov. 2-3, with a $2,000 first prize. Tickets are $30 a copy, at Bayside Marine only. Optional, for $50 per boat, is a team, winner take all, event. Call 425-252-3088, or go to www.baysidemarine.com. Last year's winner was Scott Bumstead at 14.4 pounds; both chinook and coho are eligible.
Next up is the high-profile Resurrection Derby out of Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Dec. 6-7. This is a seriously competitive team event, charging an entry fee of $400 per boat and offering a first place prize of $10,000, second, $2,500, and third, $1,500. The derby is sponsored by the Fidalgo-San Juan Islands chapter of the Puget Sound Anglers, and is in its fourth year.
"This is a big boy/big girl contest pitting the best-of-the-best Northwest salmon anglers against each other for bragging rights and a total 15Gs in cool cash," said club president, Jay Field.
All net proceeds go toward salmon enhancement projects and promotions to raise awareness of the benefits selective fishing provides.
Upper Columbia steelhead
The mainstem upper Columbia, Wenatchee, Icicle, Methow and Okanogan rivers opened yesterday for hatchery steelhead, until further notice. WDFW regional fish manager Jeff Korth in Ephrata said about 14,000 adult steelhead are expected to return to the upper Columbia system this year, enough to allow a fishery, but with a caveat.
Korth said that fishing will be more tightly regulated than last year because fewer hatchery steelhead are projected to return and wild-stock fish are expected to make up a higher proportion of the run.
These fisheries traditionally remain open through the winter, but Korth said "We may have to close fishing early due to the higher number of encounters with wild (protected) steelhead expected this year."
Anglers are required to keep the first two hatchery, fin-clipped, steelhead they catch, and that with the exception of the Columbia proper, where bait may be used, selective gear rules apply.
Skagit coho
One of the better coho seasons in a number of years continues on the Skagit, according to Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington. Anglers are nailing nice silvers throughout the system, but the fish on the upper end -- Rockport to Marblemount -- are starting to darken.
John said the Mount Vernon/Burlington area is a good bet, both trolling and casting plugs. Early in the morning, he said, is the time to run something primarily yellow like a purple tiger or EFL (Brad's #95), before switching over to the standard metallic purple with cerise herringbone (Brad's #29). Vibrax and Flash Glo spinners have also been effective and, as the water drops, Dick Nites come into their own.
John said as the season progresses, more and more coho are being taken farther upriver, from Burlington up to Lyman.
Hook shape matters
An interesting comment popped up in a communication from Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service in Chelan. Jones fishes a lot, and mostly for one species -- Mackinaw -- in a controlled setting. That makes him and his guides pretty good judges of whether or not a fishing tackle innovation is worth its hype.
In this case, Jones seems reasonably sure that a relatively new hook shape is the real deal:
"For several years now we have felt that Silver Horde's Kingfisher Lite spoons with sickle hooks tend to hold fish more securely than other lures with standard "J" shaped hooks. Jeff's (guide) initial experiments with Matzuo sickle hooks in our squid rigs tend to confirm that. Their shape seems to keep those fish lips down at the deepest bend in the hook. This converts more "fish on" to "fish in the boat." Don't be afraid to experiment."
For more outdoor news, read Wayne Kruse's blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.
Story tags » Fishing

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