The superlatives are flying about this season’s snow goose prospects — 240,000 birds coming down from Wrangell Island; largest flight in 50 years; lots of dumb juveniles ready to throw caution to the wind.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife data shows that 2016 was a very good snow goose year and that the number of breeding pairs has remained at an all-time high this year. The increasing number of snows over-wintering in this area has caused not only an increase in the daily bag limit from four birds to six, but also an expansion in their usual feeding territory from just Fir Island and the Skagit delta to the Stillaguamish and Snohomish valleys, the Edison area and either side of I-5 north of Burlington.
The WDFW runs what it calls the Snow Goose Quality Hunt program, partnering with farmland owners to allow the public to hunt on private land, under supervision. The hunt units are open through the waterfowl season, seven days a week, first come, first served.
Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said snow geese started showing up in numbers about 10 days prior to last weekend’s opener of the general statewide waterfowl season, but that there are a lot more to come. Two reserves — one on Fir Island and the other near Stanwood — hold most of the birds right now.
You’ll need: a federal migratory bird stamp; a small-game hunting license; state migratory bird permit; and a Goose Management Area 1 Snow Goose Harvest Card (apply for one online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/permits/migratory). Authorizations and harvest record cards are available online and at WDFW license dealers.
Sites on corn stubble are the early season favorites, but geese later diversify to winter wheat, silage/hay, potatoes and others. Stormy weather conditions this week, along with the early-in-the-season factor, should make for good hunting this weekend.
For more information, search Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Snow Goose Quality Hunts.
There have been private waterfowl clubs on the Skagit delta for years, of course, but a new pay-to-play operation came on board relatively recently, according to The Outdoor Line radio show host Tom Nelson, leasing land and selling hunting time to the public at reasonable rates.
The outfit is called Know Where To Hunt (knowwheretohunt.com), run by David McCormick and Jonathan Kitchens. The operation is concentrating on snow geese early, but is set up to include all waterfowl hunters, according to Kitchens. The pair insist on ethical hunting, monitor the sites every day, and rotate field use to keep from alienating birds.
“We have some properties that need rested, and some that produce day in and day out through the entire season,” Kitchens says.
Most of the leased land is on the delta and Fir Island, Kitchens says, and roughly 75 percent of the fields are equipped with blinds. The remainder have natural cover or ditches in which to hide. Lay-down blinds in corn stubble are also available.
“We scout every day, enforcing ethical hunting rules and the desires of our landowners, and we send out bulletins to all our members on where the birds are, and other useful information,” Kitchens says.
The operation had about 250 members last year, and Kitchens expects about the same number this season. A morning’s hunt costs $170, in addition to a once-a-year membership fee of $150. The daily hunt fee, however, is for an entire field and can be shared by several hunters (all must be members).
Chelan more than macs
Travis Maitland, WDFW biologist, says Lake Chelan can produce good fishing for more than just its well known Mackinaw.
Nice cutthroat are a top target, Maitland says, and they’re easy to catch from either shore or boat, with no downriggers needed. From shore, cast and retrieve spinners or spoons, from the Manson area uplake. By boat, troll spoons, spinners or small plugs such as Flatfish or small Maglips. Also try casting Roostertails to surface action.
Most cutts run 12 to 14 inches, with a few in the 16- or 17-inch range, but keep only fin-clipped fish, which make up about 80 percent of the plants.
Kokanee fishing can be very good in May, closer to the lower end of the lake, fishing from the surface down to about 100 feet, where fish finders are a big help. Lots of 10-fish limits come from Manson Bay, Maitland says, trolling deep with a Mack’s DD dodger, short leader, and Wedding Ring, tipped with whole kernel corn soaked in Bloody Tuna scent.
Yuasa replaces Floor
Longtime Seattle Times outdoor columnist Mark Yuasa has signed on with the Northwest Marine Trade Association as sort of their “fishing guy,” pushing fishing and boating in general through such programs as the Seattle Boat Show and the Northwest Salmon Derby Series. Yuasa will also write a monthly column for The Reel News, Jim Goerg’s highly regarded Northwest regional fishing newspaper.
Yuasa left the Times when the paper decided its readers no longer valued the traditional outdoor sports, or at least not in large enough numbers, and canceled the column.
Yuasa replaces retiring Tony Floor.