Online sale of hunting, fishing licenses still suspended

Online sales of fish/hunt licenses remained on hold early this week as state and federal agencies continued to investigate a data breach discovered about three weeks ago, involving sales in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Until online sales have been deemed safe, licenses may be purchased securely at any of the 600 retail vendors around the state, and by telephone at 360-902-2464.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife customers whose personal information may have been compromised will be notified and will receive identity monitoring services. ACTIVE Network, the department’s online license vendor, has agreed to inform about 1.5 million WDFW customers who created “customer profiles” in the license system before July, 2006.

Texas-based ACTIVE Network will also provide a call center to help customers with questions and to provide monitoring services to those whose data has been potentially compromised. Details about those services will be provided to customers by mail.

At this time, investigators do not believe personal data is at risk for customers who made their first license purchase after June 2006. Some 60 percent of WDFW’s 6.6 million license customers fall into this category. Preliminary analysis suggests that personal information which may have been compromised could include names, addresses, driver’s license numbers (those were optional), dates of birth, and the last four digits of Social Security numbers. No credit card or other financial data was exposed.

Online sales through WDFW of the state’s Discover Pass have also been put on hold, but the pass can be purchased at any license vendor or by phone at 360-902-2464. The Puget Sound crab reporting function has been restored, and recreational crabbers have until Oct. 1 to report their catch online. The online hunter reporting function is still suspended. To submit a hunting report by phone, call 1-877-945-3492.

Additional information, including advice for people who are concerned about the security of their personal data, is available on the WDFW web site.

Yakima River and Red’s

Bob Miller, manager at Red’s Fly Shop on the Yakima River, says it’s prime time for fly fishermen on the river, and that plenty of fish are on the bite. Low summer water levels means good wading access and dry fly action, Miller says — always a popular time of year.

He says the lower canyon is probably the best bet right now, and it’s usually considered to have the highest number of trout per mile. It’s mostly rainbow and a few cutthroat, he says, averaging maybe 15 or 16 inches, up to 23 or 24. The upper river carries more cutthroat and fewer fish per mile, but it also receives less fishing pressure.

If you haven’t been down the old highway along the river — from Ellensburg to Yakima — for a while, you’ll be surprised at how Red’s old fly shop has metamorphosed into a full-blown fishing resort. It offers guided trips on the Yakima, Klickitat, Naches, Rocky Ford Creek, Mountain creeks, for bass, for steelhead on the Wenatchee, and more. Guided trips on the Yakima are $360 for a half-day and $450 for a full day.

“The Yakima became the state’s first blue ribbon, catch and release trout fishery in the early 1990s, and we’re located in the most popular section of the Yakima canyon,” Miller said.

The resort offers full accommodation, fly fishing lessons 101, 201, and 301 (wade fishing); shuttle service, boat and raft rentals, and a fishing newsletter (sign up for it at “contact us” on the web site redsflyshop.com) , among a lot of other good stuff. And now that hunting season is almost upon us, explore Red’s “cast and blast” trips for chukar and quail.

Farther north, the Methow River beckons. Get your hoppers and advice from Brett Alumbach at the Sun Mountain Lodge Fly Shop near Winthrop, and hit the river for a nice mix of rainbow and cutthroat. Alumbach said dries are the ticket right now, some nymphs too, but hopper patterns lead his list of favorites.

“A couple of us went out and fished the Carlton area two weeks ago,” Alumbach said, “and must-have hooked 20 fish. Nothing too big — averaging eight to 14 inches or so — but lots of action.”

Go to www.sunmountainlodge.com, or call 509-996-4735.

Fishing for bucks

Sport fishing for a living? Not likely, unless you’re one of those Southern tourney bass professionals.

But that’s not entirely true. There are a few guys who dragged down a nice annual income fishing for northern pikeminnows on the Columbia River. These sucker-like, unattractive fish will never pass for chinooks or steelhead or largemouth bass, but if you know your trade, they can be worth a bundle.

Bonneville Power Administration pays to rid the big river of pikeminnows, because they’re a major predator of migrating salmonid smolts. Fewer pikeminnows, more salmon and steelhead goes the reasoning, and thus the development of the fish for cash annual program.

Don’t laugh, sport. The top fisherman last year took home $100,453. And the top 20 averaged 4,029 pikeminnows each, and payments of $33,967, for a five-month season, May 1 to Sept. 30, from the mouth of the river to Priest Rapids Dam, using a single rod only.

Fishers get $5 each for the first 25 fish, $6 each for numbers 26-200 and $8 each for numbers 201-plus. There are also a sprinkling of tagged fish worth up to $500 each. Program managers estimate over 4.4 million pikeminnows have been eliminated from the Columbia, cutting predation on salmonids by 40 percent.

State biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver said only one rod is allowed, but that the top guns have several rods rigged and ready to go. Fishing close to dams is a good bet, looking for back eddies and other slow-moving water.

“There is also the rumor that the big dog uses only fresh salmon eggs for bait,” Hymer said.

Look into all this at greater depth at www.pikeminnow.org, or e-mail Steve Williams at swilliams@psmfc.org, or call 503-595-3100. You’ll find a lot of help available, including fishing maps, how-to info, bait and tackle and more.

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