Columbia springers primer

  • Wed Jan 27th, 2010 3:50pm
  • Sports

By Wayne Kruse Herald Writer

If Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife department predictions turn out to be anywhere close to fact, this year’s spring chinook return to the Columbia River could be the largest in nearly three-quarters of a century. The fish are fat, prime, magnificent kings, and the most popular fishing area — in downtown Vancouver — is accessible to small boats, with caution. The gear and technique is simple and easy to learn.

There’s nothing much not to like about springers on the Columbia, and now’s the time to start preparing.

One way to get your mind around this fishery is to attend a free seminar at the upcoming Seattle Boat Show, Jan. 29 through Feb. 6 at the Qwest Field Event Center. Our own piscatorial pro, Lake Stevens resident TJ Nelson, will present Columbia River Spring Chinook where-to, how-to, at 4 p.m. on Monday and will follow that with all the stuff you need to know about another very popular fishery, kings on the Skagit River. Nelson will give two Skagit seminars — the first two hours after his Columbia springer gig above, and the second at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 4.

No one knows salmon in north central Puget Sound like Everett’s Gary Krein, owner/skipper of All Star Charters, and he will be sharing his broad expertise in free seminars at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29; 3 and 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3; 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4; 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5; and noon Saturday, Feb. 6.

The boat show will feature 55 fishing-oriented seminars out of the total slate of over 200, and a few of the more interesting titles include local expert Ron Garner on catching trophy halibut in state waters; John Keizer on winter blackmouth fishing; Dungeness crabbing with Clyde McBrayer; fishing British Columbia with Tom Nelson; ocean halibut, lingcod and salmon with Mike Jamboretz, and more. For a full seminar schedule visit

Boat Show University will also be on hand with a list of more in-depth classes, running three hours and costing $39 (or a package of four for $149), covering cruising, sailing, boat maintenance, fishing, and seamanship. The fishing track advanced seminars include trophy halibut with Terry Rudnick; saltwater salmon fishing in the Pacific Northwest with Tony Floor; catching blackmouth, with John Keizer; and successful crabbing techniques in Washington with Clyde McBrayer. For more information and registration online for the full schedule of courses, see

Showgoers are also invited to stop by to view the grand prize — a 20-foot Stabi-Craft — of this year’s Northwest Salmon Derby Series. The boat will be unveiled at the show and awarded by drawing to some lucky participant in one or more of the 17 derbies to follow, starting immediately after the show and running well into November. Check out the derby series schedule at

Boat show hours are Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Adult tickets are $12, dropping to $8 after 5 p.m. on weeknights; youth 11-17, $5; and free for kids 10 and under.

Razor clam situation

It’s been seven years since presence of a marine toxin forced closure of a razor clam dig on any of Washington’s ocean beaches, but that may happen to the season which was scheduled to open Wednesday and to run through Sunday. The dig on Long Beach, between Ilwaco and Willapa Bay, has already been cancelled completely due to too-high levels of the toxin which causes paralytic shellfish poisoning, and the Wednesday dig on Twin Harbors beaches was also cancelled.

A decision on the remainder of the scheduled season was due to be announced sometime today, according to a state Fish and Wildlife Department spokesman at the Montesano office. Check the department’s shellfish hotline, 1-866-880-5431, or visit its Web site,, then fish-shellfish, then razor clams.

If clam samples examined yesterday by the state Health Department proved safe, the remaining season would include Twin Harbors beaches, today through Sunday; Copalis and Mocrocks, Friday through Sunday; and Kalaloch, Saturday and Sunday. Tides are: Jan. 28, minus 1.1 feet at 5:13 p.m.; Jan. 29, minus 1.5 feet at 5:58 p.m.; Jan. 30, minus 1.5 feet at 6:41 p.m.; and Jan. 31, minus 1.2 feet at 7:23 p.m.

A late-February dig was also tentatively scheduled, before the current toxin situation developed: Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks, Feb. 26-28; plus Long Beach and Kalaloch, Feb. 27-28.

Frank Cox, marine biotoxin coordinator for the Health Department, said he suspects PSP is moving northward from the Oregon coast, where beaches have been closed to razor clam digging since December. Cox said that the PSP toxin cannot be removed by cooking or freezing and, although no human fatalities from PSP have been reported in the state since 1942, people still get sick every few years — usually after eating toxic shellfish from closed beaches.

10th Street ramp closed

The Port of Everett closed its 10th Street boat ramp on Tuesday, the largest such facility in the state, for a dredging operation scheduled to continue through at least Feb. 15 on a 24/7 basis. The project is intended to eliminate siltation which was responsible for the closing of lanes 11, 12 and 13 for much of last summer, according to Port spokesperson Lisa Lefeber.

Boaters can monitor the situation on the Port Web site,, or call 1-800-729-7678.

All Star Charters owner Gary Krein said the Mukilteo ramp is an alternate launch site, but that the docks are not in the water there. Langus Park, on the lower Snohomish River, is also available, for those needing a pier.

Hunt reports due

Sunday is the deadline to report hunting activities for each 2009 black bear, deer, elk, or turkey tag purchased, whether the hunter was successful or not. Miss the deadline and expect to pay a $10 penalty before being allowed to purchase a 2010 hunting license.

Report by phone at 1-877-945-3482, or via the Internet at

Local blackmouth

Marine Area 9 is still probably the top bet for local blackmouth anglers, according to Gary Krein, above, but that’s not saying too much. State creel checks over the weekend at the Port of Everett ramp — 122 with 18 fish on Saturday and 47 with 7 on Sunday — were mediocre, at best. Checks at the Camano ramp were even worse, with no fish for 15 fishermen on Sunday.

Krein said Possession Bar has been spotty, and that a few blackmouth were caught last week on the racetrack, between Hat Island and Camano Head, and off Columbia Beach on Sunday.


Guide and Arlington resident Sam Ingram said there was an uptick in the local steelhead fishery last week, probably on fish brought in by several days of high water. A 50-50 mix of hatchery steelies, starting to color, and bright wild-stock fish 10 to 15 pounds, was showing in the Sultan area on the Skykomish, Ingram said, along with a sprinkling on the Pilchuck and on the Wallace near the hatchery.


The Cowlitz remains closed to recreational smelt dipping until Feb. 6, but state biologist Joe Hymer said there have been unconfirmed reports of bird and seal activity in the Deep, Grays and Cowlitz rivers, and that commercial fishermen reported 2,000 pounds of smelt landed from the lower mainstem Columbia last week.

Anti-firearm legislation

Hunting clubs are urging all interested hunters/shooters to contact their state legislators in opposition to SB 6396, the so-called “Assault Weapons Ban.” This bill will impact all firearm owners, according to information e-mailed by the Washington Waterfowl Association, including the following situations:

Every semiautomatic and pump-action rifle and shotgun having a detachable magazine and a pistol grip located rear of the trigger is defined as an “assault weapon” and is banned under SB 6396.

Plinking in the woods with your Ruger 10-22 makes you a felon, if there are more than 10 rounds in the magazine.

If you hold a concealed pistol license and your semi-auto self-defense handgun contains more than 10 rounds, you are a felon under the proposed legislation.

The club urges hunters/shooters to contact individual state senators and/or representatives, or to leave a brief message by calling the toll-free legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000.

The Seattle Rifle and Pistol Association is offering a Hunter Education Class that begins Feb. 16. Sessions are from 7-9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at the gun range at Evergreen Sportsman’s Park in Machias. The class meets on Feb. 16, 18, 23, 25 and 27. Preregistration is required and is available from 9 a.m. to noon on Feb. 6 and Feb. 13 at the Machias gun range clubhouse. The cost is $5, which is due at the time of registration. For more information, call Dick Abbey at 206-542-2792 or Myron Olson at 360-659-8617.

The Sno-King Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) is holding its monthly meeting from 7-9 p.m. today at the Sammamish Valley Grange in Woodinville (14654 148th Ave. NE). The program features Dr. Michael Rust of NOAA speaking on Puget Sound ground fish issues.

How to submit information: Items for the Outdoor Calendar can be submitted by e-mail (, by fax (425-339-3464) or by mail (P.O. Box 930, Everett, Wash., 98206). The deadline is noon Monday.