Thanks to all my supporters

Dear Friends and Anglers,

I have officially shut down all aspects of my fly fishing business. This blog will remain up as an archive and for when I feel inspired to discuss fishing and fishing related issues. I want to thank everyone who has supported me through this adventure. My clients are incredible people that I really enjoyed spending time with over the years, dating all the way back to 1994 in Colorado. I hope to see many of you out on the river. Feel free to email or drop me a line anytime!

Jason Cross

For local guiding and lessons, please contact my good friend Ed Megill @ cascadesfly.com.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Don't forget the Norrth Fork Nooksack Closure

WDFW FISHING RULE CHANGE
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091
http://wdfw.wa.gov

December 5, 2008

Fishing to close Dec. 15 on a portion
of North Fork Nooksack River

Action: A portion of the North Fork of the Nooksack River will be closed to fishing.

Effective dates: Dec. 15, 2008, until further notice.

Species affected: All gamefish.

Location: The North Fork Nooksack River from the yellow post located at the upstream most corner of the hatchery grounds, approximately 1,000 feet upstream of the mouth of Kendall Creek, downstream to the Mosquito Lake Road Bridge.

Reasons for action: The Kendall Creek Hatchery in recent years has been unable to secure sufficient eggs from returning hatchery winter steelhead to meet basin production goals. Closure of the fishery is needed to collect sufficient fish to meet egg-take needs. WDFW, in support of the Hatchery Scientific Review Group recommendations, intends to use locally adapted broodstock to support the Nooksack River winter steelhead hatchery program rather than importing eggs from outside sources.

Other information: When broodstock needs are met, the fishery will revert to seasons as listed in the Sport Fishing Rules 2008/2009 pamphlet edition, FISHING IN WASHINGTON.

Information Contact: Brett Barkdull, 360-466-4345 ext. 270 barkdbcb@dfw.wa.gov .

Fishers must have a current Washington fishing license, appropriate to the fishery. Check the WDFW "Fishing in Washington" rules pamphlet for details on fishing seasons and regulations. Fishing rules are subject to change. Check the WDFW Fishing hotline for the latest rule information at (360) 902-2500, press 2 for recreational rules. For the Shellfish Rule Change hotline call (360)796-3215 or toll free 1-866-880-5431.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Where the hell have I been?

Well, a few of you realized that I had not actually stopped fishing. At first I was really busy, then there was the economy thing, and then there were the big beach coho. The summer ran away from me with guide trips and family. Fall came, and I started selling grape juice to the local restaurants. But now, the steelhead itch is coming back and I feel a little stir crazy.

The calendar above offers up some outings for locals who want to float the Nooksack. The Skagit is still a great option, just a little more spendy. Over the next few days I will blog a little about the outings this year and my predictions for seeking the chrome. Ed Megill will be joining me in Captaining my boat for many outings. Ed is not only a great person and a great friend, he is an accomplished fishermen that has poured his heart and sole into the Northwest fishing culture. Any day on the river with Ed is a good day, you can count on that.

We are accepting reservations for the posted dates. Ed is offering a kickoff float at $65 on Tuesday Dec. 9. Don't miss out on the fun! Can't wait to hear from some of you and hopefully see you on the river again.

Jason

Why you need to get involved in CCA!

Imagine your kids growing up and wondering what happened to all the fish; wondering why Dad, who loved to fish so much, spent all of his time fishing and no time saving the fish.

CCA WA is now the 4th largest CCA state membership in the country! 8600 members. Things are happening, things are going to happen. We need you to become involved locally with our chapter so that we can turn some of the attention up North. This organization is no joke, it's the best shot we have at making a difference in our lifetime.

Have you seen a little change in the WDFW's attitude? A shift in transparency? CCA has been putting the pressure on and we are getting recognized. Fisheries positioning statements were published for both candidates running for Governor. That was no fluke!

Don't sit around and wait for something to happen in your back yard, on your bend in the river, jump in now because policy change affects the whole state. Sign up for CCA, now, please.

Next CCA Meeting Dec. 10


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Most Important local CCA meeting yet!

Please come and join us, CCA- WA North Sound Chapter, for a fun and informative membership meeting on Wednesday, June 11th @ 7:00pm. It will be held at the new Bella Marina Restaurant at 2615 S. Harbor Loop Drive, Bellingham, WA. Food and beverage will be available for purchase at this event. Frank Haw from CCA Washington Government Relations Committee will present CCA's platform and positioning statements and Ginny Broadhurst, Director of Northwest Straits Commission, will give a power point presentation on derelict fishing gear. Matt Kayser, Executive Director of CCA-PNW will make a welcome return to Bellingham to add the final touch to our most important North Sound Chapter meeting yet.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Yakima March Browns and Caddis

Photo By Arch Anglers Guide Ryan Smith
Fish caught by EWA Guide Kevin McAlerney

While over at the FFF Conclave this weekend I had the pleasure to float the Yakima with Ryan Smith and good friend Ed Megill. What a great time on a beautiful river. We didn't have a lot of time but we put in at Ringer and were able to float the few hours before dark.

Now I haven't floated and fished the Yakima too many times but I took the opportunity to glean some info out of Ryan. Right now the March Brown hatch is happening in the early afternoon and the fishing can be quite good. Late afternoon and evening can bring about a spinner fall which is always one of my favorite dries to fish. Warm evenings can bring on the early small and dark bodied caddis flies. Be on the lookout for golden stones to be crawling up into the grassy edges so don't overlook those areas in the next couple weeks.

We manged to nymph up a few whitefish and lose a few rainbows on stones and lightning bugs. The evening was pretty slow and the river was seriously on the rise. It is truly a great time to fish the Yakima before the bikini hatch happens, however, I am thinking of returning for that hatch in late June and July. You may need to ask for the exact time for that one.

Ryan says his favorite time to fish the Yakima is the fall. Of course! We all have about 300 rivers we want to be on in September and October, but not all are as close to us as the Yakima. On a good day you could meet Ryan there in about 3.5 hours. There is a lot of river to explore so you ought to take a few days and fish a lot of it. Give Ryan a call.


Call Ryan Smith for a Yakima Trip
Arch Anglers
Professional Guide
(425) 765-2035 cell

Monday, May 5, 2008

Lake fishing is turning on!


Whatcom County lakes may have been cool on opening day but some warmer weather is bringing on the callibaetis hatches. Squalicum and Silver Lake will see these hatches of nice mid-sized gray mayflies between 10:30am and 2:00pm depending on the warmth of the day. Start out fishing nymphs early and move to emergers between 11am and noon. Some of these fish can be pretty big as they do tend to stock some hefty triploids. Be ready for the occasional brown or tiger trout in Squalicum.

FFF Conclave in Ellensburg

I have never seen so many fly tyers in one spot. The FFF Coclave was a great event that I wish had been promoted better. The event was lined with tying benches filled with famous names like Harry Lemire. Flies from micro size 22 midges to elegant shadow box 3/0 Atlantic Salmon patterns were being tied with utmost expertise. I brought along my tying material and tied while running the Emerald Waters Anglers booth for Dave McCoy.

The event featured vendor booths selling tying materials like All About the Fly and Irish Angler to full lines from rod companies such as Temple Fork Outfitters. There was a casting competition and a casting obstacle course that was incredibly fun. This is a great idea for an event, it just needed for people like you there. Did you know about it? No, I barely knew about it.

The event should span two days next year and I think it will be one not to miss. Wish you could have been there.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Necessary Media for the Complete Whatcom County Fly Fisher

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking at the Fourth Corner Fly Fishing Club meeting. My topic was fishing in Whatcom County and specifically how to go after the untapped resoursces we have here. I was asked if I would list the books that I find to be necessary in the pursuit of good and relatively untouched waters. Well here they are:

  1. Delorme Atlas & Gazetteer Washington (I would be surprised if you don't already have this)
  2. National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map 223 North Cascades National Park Washington
  3. Washington State Fishing Guide by Terry Sheely
  4. Afoot and Afloat North Puget Sound by Marge and Ted Mueller
  5. Washington's Central Cascades Fishing Guide by Dave Shorett
  6. Current WDFW Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for Washington State plus check web site for emergency rules and closures
Happy Hunting!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What's on tap? Cutthroat Porter?

Well, you may wonder what I have been up to for the last week or two. I have been diligently dedicated to the pursuit of sea-run cutthroat. I had a really successful trip to Seattle and the South Sound and picked up five fish one day with Dave McCoy and his clients. Since then I have been running around hitting local beaches, looking for bait fish, and sitting behind the vise tying up minnows. Wow, I love a change of pace.

Coastal Cutthroat trout are among my favorite. The pursuit of these feisty fish is a little overwhelming, kind of like the first time you showed up to the Skagit with your 5 wt. Where are they, when are they here or there, why and what are they feeding on? So many questions and so few answers biologically about this fish. I just love them. They are perhaps one of the most beautiful trout I have encountered and that is saying a lot. Look at Dave McCoy's picture of one of the fish from the other day. This fish was no more than 13 inches but it had spots like a leopard. You should have seen the spots on its back near the tail, they were huge. So beautiful! Size isn't everything. Why are you out there? Think about that for a minute.You may not know where to start and what to look for when hitting the beaches for sea-runs. I am your man. I will be offering up some introductory classes in the next couple of weeks so keep posted. April and may can be pretty good times to get out there especially before the lakes open and your options are slim. You have to put in your time and do your research because it is a lot like steelheading, except easier casting, warmer temperatures, and more success!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fly Fishing Film Tour Review

Last Friday night was a good night of entertainment for those dedicated fly fishers that made it out from behind their vise. Plus it was great to see K8 Taylor again in Bellingham.

AEG Media has put together an impressive show of "fish porn" and conservation pieces from different fly fishing related movies in this new and up-rising arm of the industry. The approach of staying clear of the instructional side of fly fishing is a new look for the sport and will probably make it more attractive to younger generations. No one could help leaving their seat thinking they better take a fishing trip soon. I believe the fly fishing industry needs this film tour to bring back the energy we saw when A River Runs Through It came out.

Mongolian Taimen......the world's largest trout. I have been eye-ing this monster fish for nearly ten years and can't believe it took this long for it to get publicized. Take a brown trout and add several feet onto it and then be the first person to go fish for it with a 12" long fly. Think your arm was tired the last time you hooked a fish?

I had the pleasure to hang out with Justin, Chris, Bryan and the rest of the crew. The tour gets my two thumbs up and my hat goes of to those young guys living the dream and getting it done!

NPR piece on salmon fisheries

Anyone who has the time should go to KUOW.org and do search for "salmon". You will find several articles and audio pieces, but the one you need to hear is from April 2, the Weekday program with Steve Scher.

Guests on this show include the following people:

Donald McIsaac, PhD is Executive Director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council
David Sones represents Washington, California and Oregon Tribal interests on the Pacific Fishery Management Council. He is a member of the Makah Nation.
Kurt Beardslee is co–founder and Executive Director of Wild Fish Conservancy Northwest.
Nathan Mantua is Associate Research Professor at the University of Washington's School of Acquatic and Fishery Sciences.
Jim Olson is a commercial fisherman with a boat based in Westport.

Listen to the part on climate and how they speak to the extent that warmer climate is bringing Alaskan rivers to the peak of their salmon production. I welcome any discussion on this topic.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

CCA Discussion

I received a great dialog from a reader that I thought should be brought to the main blog and not left in comments. Thanks for reading.

Jason,

I just wanted to let you know that I'm enjoying your blogs, particularly your reports from the river. Like many others, I enjoyed an up and down year on the Nooksack. You've noted some of the more interesting aspects of the season up there although I'd be curious to hear you expand on a couple of topics:
1) The color/silt in the SF. It sounds like you'll be doing some investigating on this. That fork seemed all kinds of f'ed up this year.
2) Your take on the NF hatchery steelhead.

In regards to the second topic, I found it "interesting" that the river was restricted at one point due to a lack of fish at the hatchery. I thought the closure was premature strictly based on run timing. I'm not sure why they didn't try to wait another couple of weeks to really know if the fish weren't going to show up? You seemed to indicate that it turned out to be a good year for the hatchery fish. Does this just mean the fish were late?

On a related subject, if the hatchery fish are inferior (which I think is clear even if broodstock is used,) their only stated purpose is to be bonked by fishermen. If that is the case, why EVER close a hatchery run? If they DO have to limit fishing, isn't it incredibly difficult to justify the continued money thrown at the hatchery especially when the results are so varied and the run timing isn't what they think it is (I caught 2 hatchery fish in the lower river the last week of Feb)?

I suppose this leaded into the CCA topic. I have mixed feelings about them and will not be joining until they can better state their positions. I know that many say I should get involved now to help direct the group's priorities but I have a hard time believe they will EVER come out against hatcheries because it would upset too many of their existing members. Unfortunately, this is a major problem that has and will continue to divide sportsmen. In the mean time, I certainly wish the CCA well with their efforts to reform commercial practices. Maybe, at some point, that will be enough for me to join them.

Again, thanks for the effort with the blogs and with the positive work you've been doing to help the Nooksack.

-Aaron (said "hi" to you once out of a blue 2-man pontoon boat)

March 20, 2008 4:40 PM

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Blogger Jason Cross said...

Hi Aaron,

Thanks for your post and contribution to the topics. I will try to answer each item that you have brought up.

1) I called Skookum Hatchery today and had to leave a message. I called for two reasons. The first being that I am involved in the Liam Wood fly fishing course for high school age students this summer and I thought it would be interesting for the kids to get a Native biologist's or hatchery worker's perspective on the fisheries in the Nooksack and learn of their efforts towards fisheries conservation. Second, I am thinking that they must be concerned about the silt load being carried in that river, especially with their pointed efforts at restoring native chinook runs. This will be the third time I have left a message there in the last year. I hope for a call back.

A friend of mine, Josh, mentioned an interesting possibility. He heard that logging operations in that basin had built a new bridge over a tributary and that this may be causing the discoloration. This is a distinct possibility because the clarity didn't completely deteriorate until February. We did start seeing warmer temperatures which could have caused some clay bank cave-ins or a big mud slide. I definitely going to go check it out in April.

2) The closure on the North Fork was a complete cop out for the WDFW. It seemes to me that with their lack of proper funding for enforcement they couldn't close a shorter portion of the river. I talked to one field biologist that was complaining how people get right up close below the hatchery and snag or floss the steelhead out. I said, "why don't you close this small braid section that is mostly Kendall Creek?" He told me it was too hard to enforce and that if it is completely closed then nobody has a reason to be there.

I completely agree with you that hatchery fish are for the taking. In fact, I hope you harvested those two hatchery fish you caught in late February. However, I can see arguments for both sides. I will get to this later.

The bulk of the hatchery run seemed to come from just before Christmas through the first two weeks of January. Now, hatchery fish are known to just move upriver pretty fast and WDFW might have been tipped off as to there presence in the system. Some fish might sit below the hatchery for quite a while before going in so it is hard for us to know when they were actually in the North Fork from Mosquito Lake down. By looking at the numbers and the fish we hooked on my trips I would say the bulk of the fish were there for us to hook on the North Fork below Mosquito Lake Rd.from December 23-Jan 7. If you fished the lower river more, that was smart.

Here are the numbers. You may have them already.
Dec 12 3 fish returned
Dec 19 no report (oops, were they to busy getting the first of the fish?)
Dec 26 73 fish
Jan 2 102 fish
Jan 9 127 fish
Jan 16 151 fish
Jan 30 159 fish
Feb 6 159 fish
And that's it. They quit. What happens to those stragglers like you caught? Left to spawn with the native runs? Did you know that some of the biggest runs of wild steelhead were in the fall, November and December? We wiped them out!

159 fish isn't a lot. 2006-2007 saw an escapement of only 66 fish and 87,000 egg take. These numbers do not give me a good outlook on next years return numbers. The smolt release numbers for 2006-2007 are not available yet on line. I will have to call.This is what the WDFW said in the end of December when they had 70 fish, "We need 250,000 eggs, which translates into roughly 83 females .
Returns so far include only 31 females." Here is the contact if anyone wants to ask more questions.

Brett Barkdull
P.O.Box 1100
LaConner, Wa. 98257
(360) 466-4345 x 270
barkdbcb@dfw.wa.gov

They most likely got there quota. maybe I talked about this earlier in one of my blogs. Hatcheries had to reform slightly this season to show that they are viable. It took the WDFW until 2007 to realize that "best science" tells us that we need to need to have hatcheries be self-sustainable and that the Nooksack should no longer use eggs from the Hoquiam because these fish need to genetically adapt to conditions on there own river system. Duh! So, in order to continue getting state funding, which comes from the license purchases of sportsmen, the Kendall Creek Hatchery needed to show that it was a viable hatchery. End of story. maybe we will see an increase in hatchery numbers over the next ten years with this new plan. Is that good? If you like to eat steelhead it is.

hatchery vs. Wild. We have ourselves in a pickle now. I think I can try to answer a few of your questions at once here. I support the protection of wild fish. If WDFW could be convinced to do away with hatcheries on many rivers that would be great. We would not be able to fish, but I would be willing to make that sacrifice and go to BC along with everyone and their cousins. My question is where are the wild fish counts for our rivers. What do we have left to protect on what river system and how when are they all there. We can only theorize the effect hatchery fish have on wild stocks because we have no proof or do we? I believe there are some dead river systems. These should be put and take, such as the Cowlitz. I asked Matt Kayser, the Executive Director of CCAPNW, what CCA's position was on hatchery and wild fish. He said that if it were 20 years ago and we still had many strong stocks of wild fish throughout the Northwest, get rid of the hatcheries. But, we don't have those stocks on all rivers. CCA needs to take one battle at a time. If CCA comes out and against hatcheries, they are going to have lots of enemies right away. There are a lot of sportsmen that think fishing is solely for food and the fun comes with it. I am member of the Wild Steelhead Coalition and I like what they are doing. They have been here since 2000 and have less than 500 members. CCA already has 10,000 members in the Northwest. Strength to win fights in the political arena comes in numbers. CCA needs everyone and everyone, especially sportsmen, need CCA. Don't you think that if CCA wins the battle of changing non-selective commercial netting regulations (1st in the Columbia River basin, which sets a precedent) that this is aimed at protecting and preserving wild fish runs? First we get the fish back and then we fix the habitat. I don't think we will ever get rid of hatcheries completely, especially tribal hatcheries. The best we can hope for is hatchery reform and better methods of selectively harvesting the fish runs in the rivers. I would love to see the hatcheries disappear on the Nooksack, but it isn't happening anytime soon. I understand where you are coming from but I don't think we can sit back and wait. It would be kind of like saying i am not going to vote because the candidate doesn't have exactly the right platform I want. It is time for action and it all has to be done, one bite at a time. I will keep trying to convince people to help make change. Are there any other groups that have a track record like CCA in fisheries? Shrapnel and feater tossers unit, bonkers and conservationists unit. We get to decide what CCA fights for. Our chapter has a voice especially if it is big. We decide what CCA goes after. I know that CCA has habitat on their agenda. Think of all who that benefits and all the existing entities it will take to win that fight (logging, forestry, pollution, auto industry, state, federal, county and city, etc, etc.).

Aaron, thanks for the conversation. I enjoy hearing others perspectives and I see the huge battle we have ahead of us. I hope that an organization like CCA can join hands with other non-profits like the Native Fish Society, American Rivers, Wild Steelhead Coalition and more.

March 20, 2008 11:12 PM

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sauk it to me!


After spending most of the winter steelhead season on the Nooksack, it is a pleasure to lay my eyes on the beauty of the Sauk River. All morning long on my last two floats the male ruffed grouse drum quietly in the nearby forest. It is a low and progressively faster thudding noise that sounds like an old tractor starting up in the distance. Your ears aren't sure what or if they are hearing the sound at first. The other birds that remind me of spring on this river are the winter wrens. This tiny song bird belts out a melodious trill that warbles up and down echoing through the river bed. White Horse mountain pokes through the clouds and reveals its snow covered rocky crags. Sauk mountain lays low to the north covered in a down blanket of fluff.

What more can you ask for when your fishing? This is the reminder, the reason we fish for this elusive streak of silver. A tug would make my toes warm you say.....

..... on Wednesday Jason and his son Nick got seven tugs, six fish on and four dollies landed. Just dollies you say? That's awesome I say! I love dolly varden, they are so special and so beautiful. I can't believe they used to throw them up on the bank. Ever thought about hooking one of those 15-20lb. Skagit dollies? Would you turn up your nose at that? That would make my year, my fishing career maybe.

The Sauk was busy from the 530 bridge to the Government bridge. We lay back and targeted the "lesser" water letting other boats race ahead to grab the big runs. The water was so low and clear fish had to be hiding in the ripple water. That is what we fished, rocks and faster water that was 2-3 feet deep. No chrome, but they might have been there.

Nick, who is nine, did great. He rowed us down through the "rapids" as he called them with all the muscle he could find. His dad Jason took a fun video of this "guide in training". You can watch both videos here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQ2g3lDf3VE

Nick and Jason made the day a great one, thanks to both of you. I can't wait to get back to that river again. It is too bad everyone else is missing out. Oh....what fly were we using? It's a secret! Whoops...you can see it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gary Loomis' Talk and Matt Kayser Executive Director of CCAPNW

There is truly so much to discuss and I can't get to it all in one entry. I would like to encourage people to send me their comments. I can post them anonymously or not. Thanks to all of you that came and showed your support.

I was slightly disappointed in the turnout last night. The group of people that showed were a great mix. There are so many people that said they were coming and didn't. Too much nice weather, I suppose.

The next meeting will be even more important because we will build the foundation for our local chapter and decide what the issues are that we feel are most important. We were donated a spot by Semiahmoo Resort but that might be too far out to draw the crowd we need. The members in Burlington, Mt. Vernon, Oak Harbor and Anacortes may want to join us until we are large enough to split. My goal is to get Matt Kayser to return and lead us through our initial setup.

Keep posted here or drop me an email. April 17 is the date we have set for now.

The Bellingham area was built on commercial fisheries. How many of those families are still in it? How many of those fishermen, fish here? Probably very few. There were some people there last night showing concern for the economy, the jobs and the livelihoods at stake that our fisheries have supported for so long. I am a relative newcomer to Washington and cannot say that I know the whole picture yet. I spent 2 hours on the phone with a local who has commercially gill netted and seined the Copper River near Cordova, Alaska for 30 years. He was interested in CCA but had a completely different picture of the problems. Or at least he weighed the problems in a different order. He said "habitat". Not that he is wrong and we know it is a really big problem, but we have heard that one a lot. He said that because they are strictly regulated in area E (where he fishes) he claims they have had virtually no bi-catch in all his 30 years. In fact, he claims that the runs are getting better and better. As we heard last night, Alaska just had the largest harvest in history. Bill said it was the large pink run last year. My question is, even if the runs are getting better there, should we be harvesting more and driving the price of wild fish down to where we are selling the majority overseas at $1.95 a salmon? No. Let these fish thrive and use a simple theory of supply and demand. Alaska is really a different kettle of tea and CCA knows that.

We need to embrace and include the commercial fishermen, but they need to do the same for us. We have to have everybody working together to make changes. We can ask nicely for help a couple of times, but if there is no cooperation from the commercial side then it is going to be "no more mister nice guy!" We have to remove some of the variables in the salmon and steelhead cycle and see where the populations are failing in the Pacific Northwest. If 80% of the Puget Sound salmon runs are being harvested in the ocean, then we need to remove some of that variable and see what happens. 120,000 chinook incidentally caught be polluck trollers is certainly a significant bi-catch. It may not happen in area E or M but it is happening out there.

A question I received was "okay, the man is drowning in a pool, has a sprained ankle, and has prostate cancer. If we are supposed to save him from drowning and we feel that a large percent of our fish are being non-selectively harvested in Alaska, shouldn't CCA be aiming its targets at Alaska?" This is a valid question. I would really like to see the numbers for harvest up close. I will see if Gary can send me some of those graphs. Hypothetically, if CCAPNW says "Alaskan harvest is the only problem", everyone is going to laugh at us. Look at our habitat degradation and logging practices, look at our population along the coast (do you think we might have a little pollution killing some salmon fry?), look at our commercial netting practices, look at our hatchery science for the last 100 years, look at all the dams, look at our farming practices, look at how we take care of our lawns, and look at all the ghost nets in the Puget Sound and coastal waters, etc etc. We have to fix the leaks on our own plumbing before we can go out and put the wrench to someone else's pipes.

So, you ask, what is CCA doing. Their first order of business is to change the way fish are harvested to make it more selective. People have asked what CCA's position on hachery vs. wild fish is and I think this plainly shows it. The most selective form of harvest is done by sportsmen. Members of the wild steelhead coalition are sportsmen (I am a member). We take care of the wild fish we catch but we still catch them. If netting practices are made more selective and the wild fish can be set free unharmed, does this not show that CCA is pro wild fish? CCA is working first on the Columbia River basin because that is where the largest number of CCAPNW members are from right now. Hey what about my river you say? If they win on the Columbia, that sets a precedent and allows easier and further wins on Puget Sound Rivers. Don't think that aren't a lot of CCA members in Seattle/Tacoma area. As Gary and Matt put it last night, you can't eat an elephant in one bite.

Hatcheries? CCA is not taking a firm stand on hatcheries at this time as far as I can tell. Matt Kayser, who is the right, very smart man for the job, pointed out that if this were 20 years ago and our wild stocks were still good we might be able to do away with many hatcheries and save those wild runs. We can still do that on some rivers we have but not many. Do you like to fish? We may not be able to fish for completely native run rivers. I think we need to have a few of these rivers, do you want to volunteer your river? Let's look at the Cowlitz, dam after dam, hatchery after hatchery. Are there any pure native strains left in that river? It is probably a good candidate for a continued hatchery put and take fishery. We need some of those to. Not everyone gets satisfaction like fly fishermen do.

Whew!!!!!! Where am I, what next? Anyone else going to ever comment on my blogs or just let me ramble and through it on the table?

Something has to be done and CCA has the proven track record to make it happen. I want to end with a plug for an article by Patrick McGann in Salmon & Steelhead Journal Winter 2008 Volume 5 Issue 1. Titled "Tide Turns on Northwest Fishing Advocacy". Pick it up and read it. The writing style is a little harsh but it smooths out after a page or so. Yes, you fly fishermen, buy it even though the steelhead on the cover has one of those pink worms hanging from its mouth. We just wish we could find a fly that successful! Anyway, Patrick points out a piece of journalism on the Gulf Coast fisheries that won a Pulitzer for public service and work. Check out the link: http://www.pulitzer.org/year/1997/public-service/works/6-2/
McGann quotes a Louisiana gill netter from the paper "I mean, it was no contest. Sudden, complete dominance. This is a rare thing in politics." That's CCA. He continues to talk about CCA's winning track record and its four part formula: "1. Get people, lots of them....2. get money, lots of it...lawyers and PR firms don't get paid in righteousness...3.Communicate, lots...4.And finally, advocacy." Pick up the article and read it. And join CCA. Now.

Nooksack Season Wrap-up


So, did you catch all the fish you wanted this season? I didn't, but I sure love the Nooksack and I saw some beautiful fish this winter. This is just one of the reasons that I am getting involved with CCA. Here is my plan with my two separate bloggs. This blogg "Classes and Outings" will be reserved for information on fishing, events, classes, outings and will be the place to come and find the "calendar". My other blogg, Angler on the Fly, will be the platform for discussion on fisheries, Coastal Conservation Association, and local fisheries related issues. Right now I am writing a report of last evenings talk by Gary Loomis and the CCA. An honest report. I hope to have it posted by this afternoon. Thanks to all of you that came last night.

Back to the Nooksack. The season. When were the fish around and where were they? I can't give it all up but I will tell that December was a good month. The hatchery steelhead run was good as was predicted. The hatchery got their numbers and then some. So, the hatchery on the North Fork will stay viable for more years to come. I know there are many opinions on this subject, but hatcheries are not going away and we need to embrace the need for them on certain river systems. Without them we not have a fishing season for salmon and steelhead on many rivers, especially with the ESA listing for Puget Sound steelhead. I will beat this subject up some more on my other blog. The coho came from September through February. Sounds crazy doesn't it. I have been told that there are coho in the Nooksack year round. So next year, don't skip those back eddies. The bulk of the run from the south fork came in October. The North Fork run was late and came mainly throughout December (remember the NF is only open for Salmon in October, which was funny this year because there really weren't any then).

The steelhead at times held in interesting places. Often tucked so far under root balls that a fly fishermen had no chance to get them out. This is partially because the water was so clear for so much of the winter. The first person to head through a run, if they didn't hook the fish, may have spooked it into hiding. A tactic, I have seen a few jet boat fishermen use to get steelhead out of shallow water (fly fishing water), into their water (deep water). I witnessed this, unfortunately, but it is very effective (I am not making a generalization on gear fishermen here because I know lots of great gear fishermen). It was a good year to be on the main stem with great clarity all the way down to Lynden for much of the season. But then something happened on the South Fork. Even at low flows of 300 cfs the South was pumping chocolate. I have talked this up with many people that have never seen it this bad. I am going for a nice hike soon to figure this out because I am concerned for this river. We should all be. We don't want another Deer Creek situation do we?

The bi-catch on the Nooksack was pretty slow this season until February when the lower North Fork started to see some more dolly varden hanging out waiting for the alevins. The dolly varden population is still rebounding from the 2003 and 2005 floods that happened right during their spawn. This has been a pretty good year for their spawn and salmon spawn which is great. There is a big snow pack out there and hopefully the weather can hold for the wild steelhead spawn in March/April. Winter steelhead pick a tough timing window. It would seem that the fry need to get out of the gravel before the summer high water comes. I do need to check the science on this...I will. Where were the whitefish this winter? It seems to me they were around early right below the chum and then they showed up in late February right above the highway 9 bridge. You ask why this is significant? Where there are whitefish, there are dolly's.

I want to thank everyone that came out with me this winter and all of the wonderful people I met on and off the river. The steelhead catch was slightly down this year, even according to the gear fishermen, but it was a great season with good clarity, great water levels, and lots of "swingable" water (even on the North Fork).

Monday, February 25, 2008

A reason to join CCA?

Accidental chinook catch among pollock is an issue
By Hal Bernton

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Bering Sea trawl fleets last year set a new and unwelcome catch record: Their vessels accidentally snared more than 120,000 chinook salmon as they dropped their nets in pursuit of pollock in North America's biggest seafood harvest.

The chinook are the largest of Pacific salmon, a prized catch in coastal and river harvests in Alaska, Canada and the Pacific Northwest. Last year's big accidental haul by the pollock fleet has prompted Alaska native groups, the Canadian government and conservationists to push for new restrictions on Bering Sea trawl operations.

"It's unbelievable that there is not a cap on the amount of salmon the pollock fleets can kill," said Jon Warrenchuk, a marine scientist with Oceana, a fisheries conservation group. "It's time for action."

The pollock-harvest rules are shaped by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, a group of state, federal and industry officials who are meeting this week in Seattle. Today, they are scheduled to consider several options to reduce the chinook catch, including placing a limit on the chinook harvest that — if reached — would terminate the annual Bering Sea pollock harvest.

It's a high-stakes decision. The pollock harvest yields more than $1 billion worth of fish processed into fillets and other seafood products, and it is a mainstay for Seattle-based trawlers in the Bering Sea.

Seattle trawl operators are hoping they can fend off a cap in favor of other options such as temporary closures of salmon hot spots in the Bering Sea or avoiding fishing in October, when salmon catch rates increase.

"We feel we can achieve the same objectives without that high cost of potentially shutting down the harvest," said Brent Paine, executive director of United Catcher Boats, which represent some Northwest trawlers. "But the pressure is on. This is a really emotional issue."

Chinook form a small fraction of the fish that wind up in the trawl nets, and to discourage fisherman from targeting them, they cannot be sold. Some are given to food banks.

In recent years, the size of this accidental catch has risen, with last year's record chinook catch more than double the 10-year average. Scientists are unsure why the trawl fleet is catching more chinook, which are born in freshwater, then undertake a lengthy migration to feed in the Bering Sea.

Since 2005, researchers have conducted genetic testing of about 1,600 of the trawl-caught chinook to find out where they were from. Initial results indicate that a sizable percentage would have returned to western Alaska, where the chinook are important fish for Alaska natives.

"There's a lot of concern," said David Bill Sr., a Yupik Eskimo leader who came to Seattle to support a salmon cap. "This is our livelihood."

The studies also indicate about 40 percent of the fish caught in a prime summer harvest zone of the Bering Sea would have returned to British Columbia or the Pacific Northwest, according to Jim Seeb, a University of Washington fishery professor who helped conduct the genetic testing.


Those findings have heightened concerns in the Pacific Northwest and California, where chinook are prized by sport, tribal and commercial fishermen. Some chinook stocks are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and have been the focal point of a lengthy and expensive rebuilding effort.

"For these fish, it does not appear that the trawl harvest is a major factor impeding recovery," said Bill Tweit, a Washington state representative to the Federal Fishery Council. "But that doesn't let us off the hook. You have to address every source of mortality in order to get recovery."

During weekend sessions, the council is expected to select several possible options for limiting the trawl fleet's salmon harvest. A final decision is expected this year.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Flies for sale!

Steelhead season is winding down but I know you won't forget about it. You can pre-order your flies for next season with me. Just give me a call.

I can custom tie just about anything you want from classic spey to moal leeches. I can also get you set up for summer trout and salt flies. Don't hesitate to call. 360-927-4700. The nice photos here are by Ed Megill.






Steelhead don't bite in clear water! Bah humbug!

I got a bit more sleep than I normally do before a trip because I had been out that day and was pretty much ready. The day felt good from the get go and the sun didn't take long to start warming us up and tanning our faces. Randy and Kenn were game for a split tactic of hard nymph drifting and swinging. My plan was to lose flies by getting tight into rip-wrap and log structure and maybe we could pull out a steelhead. There was one guy at the Mosquito Lake launch floating in his pontoon and then we didn't see another boat until almost 2pm. I kept asking myself where all the people were but then I got my answer after talking to some gear fishermen. "You can't catch steelhead when it's this clear." Ah I see, all the boats are down on the main stem where the South Fork is coloring up the clear water some.

I gave Randy a black and olive moal leech I tied with a chartreuse conehead. Kenn had on a black and purple marabou. Nothing going on the first run we hit except a couple of dead chickens in the middle of the river. Free tying material! Free chicken dinner (couldn't find the spot on my catch record card and they looked like they might wild Nooksack chickens!).

The next run we hit was in beautiful shape and I was pretty sure it would have been overlooked by the previous floater (no offense Tyler). Kenn took the top half and Randy started in on the lower half. About half way down to the tail out I heard a yelp from Randy and he was hooked up strong. She was a fighter! Made several great runs but really had nowhere to go, in fact there couldn't be a much better hole to land a steelhead on as far as being worry free of snags. I was so psyched! Randy played her well and I tailed her. We kept the beautiful chrome wild fish under the water and got a measurement of 27 inches. With the formula (girth of around 14 inches) this fish comes out between 6 and 7 pounds. Thanks Randy for making my day! The rest of the day for Randy was just icing on the cake. Who says steelhead don't bite in clear water?

We worked hard to get Kenn a fish as well. There were a few fishermen at the Eagle Park and down river but not what I expected for a Saturday. The sun was super hot and I was definitely over-dressed for the first day all winter. Chrome on a summer day in February, what more can you ask for? Great job Randy. Kenn will be out with me a couple more times this season so there is still hope for him. Great float with great people!

I still have two spots for Wednesday, come on now, it is time to call in sick to work! This is the last week on the Nooksack. Don't you want your own picture like this? I was wishing to float the South Fork this week but I really think it is done for the year. Some huge chunk of clay must have fallen in the river upstream of Skookum because it is way too off color for the flow levels it is at. Sad state of affairs and I think I am going to take a hike in March and figure out why this is happening.

Well, I suppose if nobody wants to go out Wednesday, I will just have to go catch one myself and maybe on a fly rod instead of a kid's rod.

North Fork Nooksack clear clear clear!


Sarah and Glenn hired me for a second trip with a goal of getting Glenn a birthday fish. After Sarah hooked her second dolly varden, I could hear Glenn muttering, "I love her, I love her." I just had to laugh because I know how that goes with fishing partners. I wish my fishing partner was my wife. Glenn knows he has it good! I couldn't ask for two more fun people to have out on the water and I sure wish I could have given Glenn that birthday fish.

The weather is just way too nice. This certainly doesn't feel like steelheading to me. You can see 15 feet to the bottom of the river. Those fish are probably tucked way up under logs and boulders just waiting for the sun to drop a little lower to come out. Fishing at dusk is good on days like these. We fished the river hard today from the hatchery down to Mosquito Lake Road and a couple dolly's rewarded our efforts, an awesome day all in all.

Shakespear Rainbow Rod's, believe it!

The weekend started on Thursday. I took the boys, my 4 year old Addison and my 2 1/2 year olds Owen out to check the clarity on the Nooksack for Friday's float. I knew I shouldn't bring any fishing gear because that wouldn't be fun for them. They wanted to fish so I brought Addison's Zebco and Owen's Shakespear along. We showed up at the river with our picnic and hiked down to an inviting run with an easy beach for them to fish from (not necessarily where I would choose to fish from but easy walking for them).

My eldest son has become quite a fly tyer, tying big flamboyant flies that I might even consider using for steelhead. I rigged him up a float, he picked out one of his flies, and I added enough weight for him to cast. He went to work on the run, casting and swinging the setup having an absolute blast. As I watched him I thought, you know he could catch a fish with that method. For Owen I rigged up a giant washer so he wouldn't hurt himself flinging it around.

After about twenty minutes both boys decided to have lunch. I took Owen's Shakespear Rainbow and rigged up a double glow bug setup with an indicator and started casting. It's hard for a die hard fisherman to be at the water and not fish. I was looking at the run and noticed that there were quite a few rocks downstream about twenty feet and I walked down making sure the boys were happily eating lunch. I cast a few times drifting the rig through the rocks that were two to three feet down in the water. It looked like a great spot.

On the fifth cast the indicator dropped suddenly and I pulled back expecting a snag. Suddenly I had a fish tugging hard at the line. The drag was not set well and I fumbled to adjust the drag on the broken plastic housing of this blue and green close-faced spin reel. The fish ran out into the river and I yelled back at the kids, "Come on down here, I have a fish." Meanwhile, I am saying to myself, "I hope it's a dolly, I hope it's a dolly!" The fish came in easier than I thought it might, but the rod was bent to the hilt. Sure enough it was a steelhead. About a 24 inch wild hen. I only had my camera phone so I did my best to take a quick snap shot keeping it in the water and making sure the kids had a chance to see their first live steelhead. I let Addison grab the tail and slide it out into the main river. Wow! Winston BIIx $600+, Nautilus reel $400, Rio Versa-tip line $125; catching a wild steelhead on your son's Shakespear Rainbow rod, priceless!

Gary Loomis and CCA coming to Bellingham


Dear Fellow Anglers,


One of the most important things you can do this year for your fishery is come hear Gary Loomis speak on March 11. In February, my wife and I drove to Mt. Vernon to hear Gary speak on behalf of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) and for sport fishermen. It's not too late to save our fishery and CCA offers a proven track record, system and method that will enable us to save one of our most treasured resources and pastimes. This is a call to action and a call for support. Gary's talk is enlightening, motivating and entertaining. Please join me at this free informational speech. Bring your friends and your family and let us pack the house!


Date: Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Time: 6:30pm-8:30pm

Location: Bloedel Donovan Park Multi-Purpose Gymnasium

Who: Anyone who is concerned about our fishery

Questions: Jason@angleronthefly.com

Jason Cross 360.927.4700


Sincerely,


Jason Cross

Angler on the Fly


(CCA press release below)

Anglers Organize for Coastal Conservation

Gary Loomis to give informational talks about Coastal Conservation Association chapters in the Pacific Northwest

VANCOUVER, WA - The fast-growing Pacific Northwest chapters of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) continue their membership recruiting drive with a series of information sessions by PNW Chairman Gary Loomis. Just 11 months after a handful of concerned anglers brought CCA to the Northwest, membership exceeds 4,000 and shows no signs of slowing.

"CCA is a grassroots advocacy organization, not a fishing club, and that makes it different from most groups in the country," said Matt Kayser, Executive Director of CCA PNW. "Our members are getting involved to change the future of fisheries in the Northwest. That is the strength of CCA."

Frustrated sports anglers are "refusing to let wild salmon populations disappear forever at the hands of commercial gillnetters," said Matt Olson, president of CCA Washington.

"Gary Loomis deserves much of the credit for bringing CCA to Washington and Oregon. He has been tireless in spreading the message and he has the visibility and charisma to draw attention to this issue," said David Cummins, CCA president.

"The plight of salmon is really motivating people by the hundreds to get involved in CCA. We have rarely seen this degree of frustration with a fishery and its management. People here know what is at stake and they are ready to do whatever they have to do to fix the situation."

CCA is the largest marine resource conservation group in the country, with more than 100,000 members in 17 state chapters along the Gulf, Atlantic, and Pacific coasts.


Hear Gary Loomis, Tuesday, March 11 at 6:30 PM

Bellingham, WA

Event and raffle hosted by Angler on the Fly

Bloedel Donovan Park Multi-Purpose Gymnasium

2214 Electric Avenue

Contact: Jason Cross 360-927-4700

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gary Loomis and CCA coming to Bellingham


Dear Fellow Anglers,


One of the most important things you can do this year for your fishery is come hear Gary Loomis speak on March 11. In February, my wife and I drove to Mt. Vernon to hear Gary speak on behalf of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) and for sport fishermen. It's not too late to save our fishery and CCA offers a proven track record, system and method that will enable us to save one of our most treasured resources and pastimes. This is a call to action and a call for support. Gary's talk is enlightening, motivating and entertaining. Please join me at this free informational speech. Bring your friends and your family and let us pack the house!


Date: Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Time: 6:30pm-8:30pm

Location: Bloedel Donovan Park Multi-Purpose Gymnasium

Who: Anyone who is concerned about our fishery

Questions: Jason@angleronthefly.com

Jason Cross 360.927.4700


Sincerely,


Jason Cross

Angler on the Fly


(CCA press release below)

Anglers Organize for Coastal Conservation

Gary Loomis to give informational talks about Coastal Conservation Association chapters in the Pacific Northwest

VANCOUVER, WA - The fast-growing Pacific Northwest chapters of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) continue their membership recruiting drive with a series of information sessions by PNW Chairman Gary Loomis. Just 11 months after a handful of concerned anglers brought CCA to the Northwest, membership exceeds 4,000 and shows no signs of slowing.

"CCA is a grassroots advocacy organization, not a fishing club, and that makes it different from most groups in the country," said Matt Kayser, Executive Director of CCA PNW. "Our members are getting involved to change the future of fisheries in the Northwest. That is the strength of CCA."

Frustrated sports anglers are "refusing to let wild salmon populations disappear forever at the hands of commercial gillnetters," said Matt Olson, president of CCA Washington.

"Gary Loomis deserves much of the credit for bringing CCA to Washington and Oregon. He has been tireless in spreading the message and he has the visibility and charisma to draw attention to this issue," said David Cummins, CCA president.

"The plight of salmon is really motivating people by the hundreds to get involved in CCA. We have rarely seen this degree of frustration with a fishery and its management. People here know what is at stake and they are ready to do whatever they have to do to fix the situation."

CCA is the largest marine resource conservation group in the country, with more than 100,000 members in 17 state chapters along the Gulf, Atlantic, and Pacific coasts.


Hear Gary Loomis, Tuesday, March 11 at 6:30 PM

Bellingham, WA

Event and raffle hosted by Angler on the Fly

Bloedel Donovan Park Multi-Purpose Gymnasium

2214 Electric Avenue

Contact: Jason Cross 360-927-4700

Monday, February 18, 2008

Portaging the North Fork

Well, I guess the word never really got to me about the trees below the hatchery. Now that I mention it to my friends, they say, "Oh, you haven't floated that section in a while." Yeah, it was early December when I last put in at the hatchery. I drove my rig up instead of down to Kendall Creek. That was my first mistake.
Or was it......we landed 4 beautiful 17 inch dolly varden. Everyone else seemed to have had less fish that day so maybe we payed our dues. Jim got his Grandson Jake a trip for Christmas. Now this kid can fish! He is 9 years old and casting a fly rod better than most 11 or 12 year olds. He had the biggest fish and biggest smile. Nice 17 and a half inch dolly varden Jake. It was great to run into a pod of char after not seeing that many all winter. Thanks Jim and Jake for a great day and sorry about those portages!It is truly amazing how much this river can change. More swinging water is available on this upper section now but a lot of it is shallow and fast. The lower part of this float spreads out and gets really flat and braided. An exploration on foot would be good in this section. I couldn't even find the area where I landed a 12 lb native last season. The hatchery area is still the most crowded with people, but once you get around the s turn big rock bend you at least have the right bank to yourself. What a beautiful float with interesting geological features. When you get a beautiful day out there it rejuvenates your sole. What a gem this river is, lets keep it this way.

What I am talking about here is the amount of fishing line I pulled off the bank and trees. Now, I have nothing against gear fishing, but everything I found was from gear setups. Check out the picture below. I have seen plenty of fly fishermen clipping line and letting it drop in the river or on the ground. I have dropped a few pieces of mono, but I try not to. What is so hard about putting all your clippings in your pockets and picking up your line mess off the shore? Just do it. Nobody wants it there, think about it, not even the guys who drop it like seeing it there later. Those who litter must not care about their river. This picture is just a tiny portion of what is out there. Enough about this trash, lets just clean it up, I will. Jake, the nine year old, asked me "Why do people leave their line out here?" I said, "I just don't know Jake, but we won't leave it here."

South Fork Nooksack float


We put in above Saxon Road on Friday, February 15th. The flows had dropped so much, I was sure that there would be some clarity. The morning saw about 15 inches of clarity but a nice level. I like to have at least two feet to give me real confidence. Large dark flies had to be the ticket to summon up a strike. Second run down, we were really focusing on the dangle when Hal got the tug. Unfortunately, he was looking up river at the time, but he was working the fly back and forth at the dangle. This is a great thing to do when you are the first one through a run and especially if the water clarity is off. Give those fish something to think about, make sure they see it.That was the only tug of the day. Jon, Bill and Hal fished hard in some great looking water. Clarity increased to about 21 inches by late afternoon. The rains set in and I am sure it was off again for Saturday. I just got a report that the clarity was still poor on Sunday. The South Fork didn't used to be this way. It was interesting fishing with Bill. He was taught fly tying by the late Syd Glasso, steelhead guru of the OP, famous for his spey flies such as the Orange Heron and Sol Duc Spey. Great people on a great river, a high quality day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Skagit/Sauk Rivers to remain open through March!

Skagit River system steelhead rules change

Action: The Skagit, Sauk, and Cascade rivers and Fisher Slough will go to the selective gear rules, release all fish, except up to two hatchery steelhead may be retained per day, beginning Feb. 16, 2008.

Effective date: Feb.16, 2008 through various dates - see Locations and Restrictions.

Species affected: Steelhead and all other game fish.

Locations and Restrictions:

Skagit River

From mouth upstream to the Memorial Highway Bridge (Highway 536 at Mt. Vernon) effective February 16 until May 31. Selective gear rules apply, internal combustion motors allowed. Release all fish except up to two hatchery steelhead may be retained per day.
From Memorial Highway Bridge (Highway 536 at Mt. Vernon) upstream to Gilligan Creek effective February 16 until March 15 (closed March 16 through May 31). Selective gear rules apply, internal combustion motors allowed. Release all fish, except up to two hatchery steelhead may be retained per day.
From Gilligan Creek to Dalles Bridge at Concrete effective February 16 until March 15 (closed March 16 through May 31). Selective gear rules apply, internal combustion motors allowed. Release all fish, except up to two hatchery steelhead may be retained per day.
From the Dalles Bridge at Concrete to the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport effective February 16 until March 31(closed April 1 through May 31). Selective gear rules apply, internal combustion motors allowed. Release all fish, except up to two hatchery steelhead may be retained per day.
From the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to the Cascade River effective February 16 until March 31(closed April 1 through May 31). Selective gear rules apply, internal combustion motors allowed. Unlawful to fish from a floating device while under power. Release all fish except up to two hatchery steelhead may be retained per day.
From Cascade River to Gorge Powerhouse (Dam) effective February 16 until March 15 (closed March 16 through May 31). Selective gear rules apply, internal combustion motors allowed. Unlawful to fish from a floating device while under power. Release all fish except up to two hatchery steelhead may be retained per day.
Sauk River

From mouth to the Darrington Bridge effective February 16 until March 31 (closed April 1 through May 31). Selective gear rules apply. Release all fish except up to two hatchery steelhead may be retained per day.
From the Darrington Bridge to Whitechuck River effective February 16 until February 29 (closed March 1 through May 31). Selective gear rules apply. Release all fish except up to two hatchery steelhead may be retained per day.
Cascade River

From mouth upstream (entire river) effective February 16 until February 29 (closed March 1 through May 31). Selective gear rules apply. Release all fish except up to two hatchery steelhead may be retained per day.
Fisher Slough

From mouth to Highway 530 Bridge effective February 16 until May 31. Selective gear rules apply. Release all fish except up to two hatchery steelhead may be retained per day.
Other Information: The definition of selective gear rules can be found on page 26 of the 2007/2008 Fishing in Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

A Hatchery Steelhead is defined as: A steelhead with a clipped adipose or ventral fin and a healed scar at the location of the clipped fin.

Reason for action: The preseason forecast for Skagit River wild winter steelhead returning and spawning this winter and spring (2008) is 5,061 fish, the basin’s escapement goal is 6,000 fish. The spawning escapement last spring (2007) was 4,113 fish. We anticipate the 2007/2008 winter steelhead run to be the second year in a row the basin will be underescaped, therefore these measures are being implemented to limit impacts to the wild run and assist in recovery efforts. Puget Sound steelhead were formally listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in May 2007.

Information contact: Brett Barkdull, District 14 fish biologist, 360-466-4345 - ext. 270; Bob Leland, Steelhead Program Manager, 360-902-2817; Annette Hoffmann, Region 4 Fish Program Manager, 425-775-1311- ext. 120

Fishers must have a current Washington fishing license, appropriate to the fishery. Check the WDFW "Fishing in Washington" rules pamphlet for details on fishing seasons and regulations. Fishing rules are subject to change. Check the WDFW Fishing hotline for the latest rule information at (360) 902-2500, press 2 for recreational rules. For the Shellfish Rule Change hotline call (360)796-3215 or toll free 1-866-880-5431.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Kudos to Nooksack Tribal Enforcement

On Wednesday, February 6th, Ed Megill and I met Nooksack Tribal Enforcement officer Mike Hammell for some coffee. At the meeting we provided Mike with 8 GPS coordinates for derelict gill nets between Hwy 9 and Nugent's Corner on the Nooksack River. We expressed our concern for these nets and especially for two that would be endangering wild steelhead if the rivers were to come up again.

Mike listened and told us he would see what he could do. The next day I received a call from Officer Hammell. He said that he and his boss were gearing up to go out and remove nets with a jet sled. Later that afternoon (March 7), Officer Hammell reported having removed six of the eight nets and that they would go back out the next day to get the other two.

You can only imagine how excited I am by this course of action. Nothing speaks better than action. What can we all learn from this? Sitting down for a one on one, making the extra effort, and doing your part will all pay off to make this a better fishery for everyone. Thank you Officer Mike Hammell and Nooksack Tribal Enforcement.

I know there are other derelict nets out there on sections of the river that I don't fish regularly. If you see one, take the time to GPS its location and report it. If you don't have a GPS, let me know where it is and I will get it GPS'd.

I like what Ed had to say in the last blog entry. Joining CCA is so important for anyone who cares about our fisheries. Please come and hear Gary Loomis speak on March 11. I will have a location this week.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Save our Fisheries! by Ed Megill

The Nooksack River Valley is an awesome place; one you could spend a lifetime exploring. I am out as much as I can be and many times with my good friend, Jason, a local guide here. But, when you are out there frequently, you see a lot of nets.

Being relatively new to the area, but not to fishing, we came up with a significant number of questions about those nets. Jason contacted Nooksack Tribal Enforcement to obtain information about Tribal netting activities, laws governing such, how, where, when, etc. Through that contact, good information was gathered.

We had also met up with a Washington Fish and Wildlife officer, checking licenses. We retained her card as a potential resource.

Having some basic knowledge on Tribal netting law, we began to call in nets which we knew to be illegally placed as well as abandoned, derelict nets. There has been some effort in response to our reports, but certainly not enough.

On a call to report an abandoned net, Nooksack Tribal Enforcement told Jason that if we could provide GPS coordinates for the net locations, it would make it easier for them to be found.

Prior to getting out with the GPS, Jason was guiding a trip and called to tell me he had just found a net, pulled onto river left, containing 18 dead and completely wasted fish. Six were hatchery steelhead. I was completely stunned.

This came at a time when the North Fork above Mosquito Lake Road had been closed to fishing due to low returns at the Kendall Creek Hatchery as they only had three steelhead back. Yes, three.

This net was originally spotted on 12/21/2007 and reported to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on 12/23/2007 as well as Nooksack Tribal Enforcement the following week. The name of the netter and his associated number were provided in both reports.

On 12/28/2007, on a subsequent guided trip, Jason discovered this net was still there along with a aluminum John boat wrapped on the bridge pilings just downstream. A new net, that had obviously fallen out of the boat, was hung up mid-river downstream of the boat. Photos of the boat with hull numbers and “new” net location were provided to Nooksack Tribal Enforcement on the evening of 12/28/2007. On Jason’s next guide trip on 12/30/2007, Jason noted that the boat had been removed yet the derelict net remained in mid-river.

On 1/9/2008, Constantine, another fishing buddy of ours, and I obtained the GPS coordinates of this net as well as for seven other derelict nets.

I called U.S. Fish and Wildlife thinking maybe we were just not getting to the right person. It seemed to me that Tribal would fall under Federal jurisdiction rather than State; however, I was referred back to WDFW, Mill Creek.

The locations of these eight derelict nets were provided via email to WDFW on 1/10/2008. I did not receive a reply of confirmation of receipt of this email; so, I left a message for one of our local WDFW enforcement officers. At a point when I was set to call again, I received a call from a WDFW enforcement officer. Conversation was had. The email apparently did not get forwarded to him; so, the GPS coordinates were provided directly to him on 1/29/2008.

The nets are still there as of February 1, 2008.

The worst part is that this net, with the 18 dead fish, will begin working again at a flow of approximately 5000cfs at the Cedarville station.

At that point, it will begin killing wild steelhead.

We will continue to follow up on this terrible problem to make sure that one way or another, these nets come off the river.

But, this leads to me to a point. I think we can all agree on one thing: our very favorite resource is in big trouble and, right now, we are on the very short end of the stick.

My wife and I are members of the Coastal Conservation Association (www.CCA-PNW.com) as well as other fine, problem-focused organizations. CCA is an exceptional organization though. They are an intelligent bunch with a proven track record in fishery’s recovery. They will formulate a solid plan and take action. I saw, first hand, the dramatic and positive difference CCA made for the Gulf Coast. My friends’ children will have fish to catch down there. Will yours here?

So, whether it’s CCA-PNW, WSC, NSEA, CREP it all matters…a lot. They are working hard to try to protect and improve the resource we love.

However, on the core issues here, we must absolutely band and stick together…period. The bottom line though is that YOU have to do your part; get educated, get involved and stay involved. If you don’t have time, give money.

Gary Loomis will be here on March 11th, 2008 to speak about our Pacific Northwest fisheries and CCA-PNW efforts; and, what you as an individual, can do about it. The location of this venue will be announced here in the near future.

Special thanks goes to Jason as a great mentor and for the use of his raft in obtaining the GPS coordinates. He has volunteered to be the interim President for a Whatcom County CCA chapter. This fine person certainly has my vote.

Thanks for reading. Let’s start working on getting this fixed. See you out there.

Ed Megill
emegill@cablespeed.com
360-303-7409

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Fly Fishing Show in Bellevue

I spent the day in Bellevue at the Fly Fishing Show working the booth for Emerald Waters. It was a good time and it was great to meet people and make a bunch of connections. My favorite part of the show was what I called "stud row". This was a row of famous fly tyers showing off their skills. I slowly moved my way down the row picking up interesting info and watching these masters at work. It was amazing, especially Harry Lemire. Harry sat there tying perfect, beautiful spey flies without a vise! Yes, without a vise.

At 4:15pm an English casting guru by the name of Simon Gawesworth gave an amazing casting demonstration on spey and two handed casting. He did most of the casts with a single-handed rod because of limited space. My eyes were wide throughout the demonstration. I came away with ammo to improve my instructing ability and with ammo to improve my personal spey casting which I have fallen in love with this year. Next season I will be carrying spey rods on a regular basis and giving basic spey casting instruction. I can't wait to pick up a switch rod that will work well for the North and South Forks. The name switch rod is really an incorrect title for these rods. When they are loaded properly for spey casting, especially winter fishing with heavy grain heads, they are a mini spey rod. Well, not so mini because many are 10.5 to 12.5 feet in length. When loaded for spey these rods can't be used to suddenly cast single handed much more than a regular spey rod. If you change lines then they can be used single handed albeit not entirely fun.

If you went to the show. Post something cool that you saw or learned there. It's not too late there is still one more day to go.

Float Fly Fishing the Nooksack

I had the pleasure of floating the Nooksack with Brady on Friday. We had first hand reports from good friends of multiple fish landed and good conditions. We floated from Mosquito Lake Road to Nugents Corner and encountered crystal clear water on the North Fork. Some of the water looked really good even as low as it is but produced nothing for us. The mainstem had perfect clarity with the addition of the tainted South Fork. We could sense a fish on each cast but never felt the tug. The clay banks were dropping some serious color into the river and we should have spent more time up above. We did see two fish that we floated over and some of the jet sleds fishing gear caught fish. You know February is here when the main stem starts to get busy with jet boats. If you can get out there, go early and hit your run before the jet boats take over your hole.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Friday's Frozen Toes

You never intend to go fishing when it is 22 degress with a significant hole in your waders. You can only hope that the sun will come to your rescue. And it did! Friday, Josh, Carl and Ed searched the South Fork with me for the few lonely wild steelhead that hadn't gone all the way upstream passed Skookum Creek. Early morning, Josh, a local who has some secrets, hooked a fish and had another bump and that was it for the day. We covered lots of water, but must have missed the right runs, because when you float 6 miles you can't hit them all. We were the only boat, had first shot at each run (which is important when fly fishing), but no dice!

I think it was the hot Italian sausage soup that saved me from frostbite. Here is a little tip to try when you go out fishing in this type of weather. To stay warm in your extremities place heat packs on your wrists and ankles. This will warm the blood before going to your hands and feet. It works wonders, unless you have a gaping hole in your waders! Also, Carl suggested spraying Pam on the guides of your rod to keep the ice from building up. Now, I have not tried this but I can't see it causing any damage to your gear. Look what salt water and sand does to your 8 wt.

I have to say I am looking forward to February. We have had a great Winter of river conditions but it has pushed back most of the runs. The next water spike could be a productive one. Start out fishing low in the beginning and move up river as it comes up. Send me pictures because this is your month to catch a steelhead on the Nooksack! Thanks to Carl and Ed who have been excellent loyal customers and thanks to Josh for joining us, I am sure I will see you out there soon!

Low, Cold Water Techniques for Winter Steelhead

You may have heard people say, "High water fish high in the system, low water fish low in the system." This can be a decent general rule. But what happens when you have two weeks of increasingly cold temperatures and no precipitation except snow? For one, there will be no new fish in system or at least not in any numbers. Fishing down near the mouth of the rivers might be productive but for us Fly Fishers and here on the Nooksack not possible. All of those fish that came in at the last water spike had to go somewhere........up river. For the hatchery fish that means fishing close to the hatchery. For wild fish that might mean getting high up in the system.

Low cold water is the time to fish longer, finer leaders. If there are to be fish hanging in super clear water they will be looking for cover. Longer casts so that you swing further down below you are going to be beneficial. These fish will look for deep water that might be a little slower than the norm. That water is cold and their metabolism is down, way down. They are probably staying put for longer periods of time and moving for shorter periods during low light so cover more water. You may find these fish in soft ripple water behind larger underwater structure. This type of water will hide the fish and allow them significantly less energy output. You will also need to swing your flies slowly, making sure to get closer to the fish than you might normally.

Please remember that these fish from here out are mostly wild. No knotted nylon nets are allowed, just knotless catch and release nets and ones with rubber mesh. Do not remove them from the water. These steelhead are the future of our fishery and need to spawn. They passed nets, fishermen, orca and seal to make it here. Please fish barbless and use a little stronger line and gear to get them back in water faster. Thanks for your help and I would love to hear about your stories!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Local CCA Chapter


I have committed myself to become the interim president of the Bellingham chapter for the CCA (Coastal Conservation Association). Our fishery needs our help and we can make a difference in our life time. I will be organizing a meeting for all parties interested during the first two weeks of March. With regulations getting tighter and tighter on sportsmen and nothing changing for commercial fishermen, it is time for us to step up and speak as one powerful voice. If you belong to another organization that is helping our fisheries in different ways, that is fantastic. You need to belong to CCA too! CCA has the proven track record to make change happen. This can only be done with the strength of numbers and the strength of political change.

Gary Loomis raised the hairs on the back of my neck in his speech Friday night. It's not about fixing the small problems, it's about going after all of them, one at a time and starting with the biggest. He put it this way: if a man is dying of cancer, has a broken arm and is lying at the bottom of the pool, what problem do you fix first? Do you try and treat the cancer? No, you get him the hell out of the pool. So, if the salmon and steelhead stocks are being depleted beyond repair, do we go out and plant a bunch of trees along a small salmon stream and hope that the fish will return? No, we go after the reason they are not returning and that is harvest. Harvest numbers are sickening. Am I against the commercial fishing industry, absolutely not! But if these amazing anadromous fish have survived over-harvest for 140 years and there still are some left, don't you think if we at least cut down on the non-selective commercial harvest salmon and steelhead might make a comeback? This is what CCA is going after first and I am jumping on board!

It is time for some of us to stop going fishing (which it looks like we will have to do locally in March and April) and give back to the fisheries that we love. All of you who are doubting CCA need to take a closer look and realize that we must unify and that CCA has the strength to make it happen.

Keep posted on this blog for more information. If you sign up, please be patient because it takes a little while to get your materials. In the mean time, send me your info so we can get organized to make things happen on our rivers and streams and the Puget Sound.

South Fork Nooksack still waiting for wild fish!

This last weekend I floated the South Fork Nooksack from Saxon Rd. to Acme for both Friday and Saturday. The weather was kind to us on Friday but left a little to be desired on Saturday. Friday we hooked a steelhead in the morning on a tail-out with a black and red marabou. The fish was on for less than a minute when the knot gave way. A sad steelhead story, a nightmare for a some, but I won't dive into it too much further. It was great to see a fish on the end of the line. Just to make that connection is what it's all about.

I use a non-slip mono loop knot exclusively when I am swinging flies. This is an incredibly strong knot that is recommended by Frog Hair (my preferred tippet material; deep blue for steelhead). This loop allows the fly to dangle, swivel and even slow down its material compression during the swing. While I have no problem using the improved clinch knot for trout, the shear force that a steelhead can place on your leader, especially on the dangle, can cause knot breakage. This also brings about an earlier blog discussion where I touched on getting all of your ducks in a row. You never know when it's going to happen, but sometimes you might have a feeling about a certain spot in a run. Check your fly, the hook, its sharpness, the knot, your leader, leader knots and make sure your gear is ready before every run. I am not saying that I am religious about this during a run but I usually do check when I know I have thrown a poor cast with a tailing loop or nicked a rock behind me. Yes, it does happen to the best of us! I get sloppy some times, even some days!

The South Fork is a jewel. There isn't any other water in Whatcom County quite like it. The bulk of the wild run comes after it closes in March and April but from now through February you can catch some nice wild fish. The North Fork is very similar with its wild run of steelhead but it does see the earlier hatchery fish through January, padding its numbers and striking our fancy.

Saturday was one of those days where clients ask chilled to the bone, we endured several hours of varying precipitation. It's funny how after the "don't I get a free steelhead today?" Wet and shore coffee break you don't even notice the rain for at least the next hour, then the onset of cold creeps over you and you know it is time to row out.

I would like to thank everyone this weekend for getting out with me. Steve, Jon and Bob it was a pleasure. Bob, that chromer is yours next time. Ed and Audrey, your day is coming, I can feel it. If I could send you all a punch card for a free steelhead, I would!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Coastal Conservation Association talk in Mt. Vernon

COME HEAR GARY LOOMIS TALK ABOUT THE DECLINE OF STEELHEAD AND SALMON IN
WASHINGTON AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT.
FIND out about the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). An
informational meeting on what CCA means to the flyfishing community will
be held on January 18th at 7pm
at the Mt. Vernon P.U.D. building, 1415 Freeway Drive Mount Vernon WA
For more information visit http://www.ccapnw.org

Skagit and Sauk River may close for Catch & Release Season

It has been a sad week for those who look forward every year to the catch and release season on the Sauk and Skagit rivers in Skagit County. While all of Washingtons other Puget Sound rivers close we have taken refuge in peaceful thoughts of the beautiful Sauk and its amazing wild steelhead. The closure is said to be eminent but there has been no direct posting from WDFW. If you care to read about discussions on this topic please visit Washington Fly Fishing and/or Piscatorial Pursuits on the web and search the forums for threads on this closure.

Below is the latest on closures in the Skagit basin. If this information interests you, you can sign up to receive bulletins from WDFW.

Cascade River fishery closes Jan. 17
due to low hatchery steelhead return

OLYMPIA - Low steelhead returns to the Marblemount Hatchery have prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to close a portion of the Cascade River to recreational fishing beginning Jan. 17.

The Cascade will be closed until further notice from the mouth upstream to Rockport-Cascade Road to ensure enough steelhead make it back to the hatchery to meet spawning goals, said Bob Leland, WDFW's steelhead program manager.

"Both hatchery and wild steelhead returns to the Skagit River basin are down this year," said Leland. "This closure will help the Marblemount Hatchery meet its broodstock needs, but additional fishing closures in the basin also are likely this spring to protect wild steelhead."

Catch-and-release fisheries in the Skagit and Sauk rivers are among those fisheries that could close, Leland said.

WDFW will continue to monitor returns of wild steelhead, which are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, to determine when emergency closures could take effect, said Leland.

Local Information

Nooksack River

The Nooksack is our most Northern Puget Sound river. From the flanks of beautiful Mt. Baker and the Mt. Baker Wilderness the Nooksack River travels 75 miles to Bellingham Bay through diverse terrain. Three forks make up the main stem that locals say starts in the town of Deming. The North Fork provides most of the water in the drainage right off the northern side of Mt. Baker and parallels the Mt. Baker Highway often unseen. The Middle Fork is smaller and faster tributary with a steeper gradient and deep plunge pools. The South Fork, although some 50 miles long that stretches into Skagit County, is only fishable for 14 river miles before it closes to protect endangered Chinook spawning grounds.

The North Fork Kendall Creek hatchery provides a decent fishery for winter steelhead and October salmon fishing. Chinook and coho hatchery returns are mainly from the Native hatchery on the South Fork at Skookum Creek. Salmon fishing opens on the Main Stem in early September and stays good through a healthy chum run well into December. Both forks open in October for salmon but can be fished for sea-run cutthroat trout in September. Thanksgiving brings about hatchery steelhead season which carries through into January. Wild steelhead start trickling into the system in December and really show up in good numbers in January and February. Sadly for the fishermen the river closes in the end of February.

The main stem is a true spey rod river with some beautiful classic steelhead runs that will remind you of other nice places you have fished. The forks are smaller and lend themselves more to the single handed rod or a switch rod. The North Fork Nooksack is a wild and scenic river and boasts an incredible population of bald eagles. The river shifts quite frequently throughout the vast channel as the waters rise and fall with rain. Tree roots and log jams make up much of the excellent fish habitat on this fork. The south and middle forks are more defined channels and runs and holes remain more consistent. Wherever you are on this river the backdrop is spectacular. Around one bend you will look back and see The Sisters and the next bend will offer a pristine view of towering Mt. Baker.

Resident trout and anadromous dolly varden are found throughout the system in small numbers with the latter being off limits to target. The North Fork Nooksack above the 100 foot Nooksack Falls can be fun summer trout fishing with light weight rods and surface flies. Some open tributaries such as Canyon Creek can be great fun on the dry fly in July through September for small to medium sized trout. These tributaries of crystal clear cascading water sooth the sole and bring you smiling back to the roots of fly fishing.

Puget Sound Beaches are fun relief from the river and Stillwater settings. Sea-run cutthroat are available for the catching along several nice cobblestone reaches. The shelter of bull kelp beds provide a great feeding grounds for this fun anadramous salmonid. Late summer sees the arrival of solid hatchery coho fishery easily within reach of shore.

Come on up and get away from the crowds. You wont believe how beautiful it is and you won’t regret it. And, oh yeah, you might catch some nice fish!