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Published: Thursday, May 31, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Steelhead fishing early at Reiter Ponds

No, that's not a mistake in the new 2012-13 state fishing regulations pamphlet. The Reiter Ponds area of the upper Skykomish River opens Friday with the rest of the Sky to summer steelhead fishing.
It had become nearly normal for the hatchery summer-run terminal fishery at Reiter Steelhead Rearing Ponds above Gold Bar to remain closed for several weeks while state Fish and Wildlife Department personnel struggled to secure enough broodstock to keep the program going. Suddenly, the popular stretch of river at, above and below the rearing pond outlet stream opens on June 1 with the rest of the river.
It's almost enough to make the dedicated steelhead angler suspicious. Why is this happening?
Does the hatchery have its broodstock already? Not likely. Or is this (and here comes the conspiracy theory, Martha) just another step in a perceived state agenda to eventually do away with all hatchery steelhead fishing in these parts?
You can't blame steelheaders for being a little paranoid, what with all negative happenings. There's the seemingly inexorable decline in westside fishing opportunity over the past many years. Add to that the struggle to keep the Cowlitz hatchery program functioning. And don't forget the disgust over the state's abandonment of the very popular, very successful, Snider Creek rearing facility on the Sol Duc several weeks ago.
So is this an agenda-driven regulation change on the Sky? A step toward closure of the Reiter rearing facility?
No, says state biologist Jennifer Whitney at Fish and Wildlife's Mill Creek office. Reiter doesn't have its brood fish yet. But no, this is not part of a nefarious scheme to close the facility. Whitney says the hatchery folks have told her they will get their fish, either at the Reiter trap or from the trap at Sunset Falls on the South Fork, or both, and that it makes nice to let fishermen start taking returning Reiter fish at the ponds from the get-go.
"There is no plan to stop production at Reiter," Whitney says. "The facility released 190,000 summer smolts last year, and is scheduled to release 190,000 summer smolts this year. The predicted return of hatchery fish to the Snohomish system is 3,000 adults this year, and 3,000 adults next year. No change."
Okay, maybe. But you're still left wondering why if they can do it this year, they couldn't do it two years ago, or five years ago.
Anyway, go ahead and blast your glo balls and be out there at 12:01 a.m. Friday, if you can find some way to get there legally without going through the state facility. The rearing pond grounds don't open to the public until 6 a.m., and no boat fishing is allowed 1,500 feet upstream to 1,000 feet downstream of the hatchery outlet.
Halibut derby results
The two-day Port Angeles Halibut Derby over the Memorial Day holiday held no particular surprises, except for the fact that for the first time in the history of the sponsoring Port Angeles Salmon Club, a previous winner won for a second time. That's a record of 58 salmon derbies and 11 halibut derbies without a repeat winner, until this year.
Jeff Reynolds of Port Angeles was the fortunate fisherman, taking the $5,000 first prize for a halibut of 112 pounds. Second, and $2,500, went to Tom Bihler of Edmonds, for a fish of 97 pounds; third to Mike Constant at 93 pounds; and fourth to Clarence Long of Marysville at 92 pounds. Long beat out his fishing buddy, Bruce Forester, who took fifth at 88 pounds.
An almost identical number of participants hit the water this year as in 2011, but the winning halibut were a little smaller. Last year's top three fish weighed 128, 107, and 106 pounds.
Winning kokanee rig
Ryan Hansen, the first-place winner of the Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby on May 19, used a rig more like a standard sockeye setup than the usual spinner-oriented kokanee rig.
He started with a 4-inch Dick Nite "clown" dodger, only 10 inches of leader, two No. 6 pink Gamakatsu hooks tied in tandem, one inch apart, and with two pink beads between the hooks. He tipped the hooks with Berkely "natural" maggots, and trolled faster (1.8 to 2 mph) and deeper (50 feet) than most other derby participants were probably doing.
All of which seems to prove it sometimes pays to fish outside the box.
"The $1,000 was a godsend," Hansen said. "It let us pay off our credit card debt and most of our other bills."
New derby
A new, two-day, total weight salmon derby comes on line in local waters this summer, with the announcement by Harbor Marine of a high-quality team event scheduled for July 28-29 in marine areas 9, 10 and the Tulalip bubble portion of 8-2. Entry fee is $400 per team (one boat, 2-4 fishermen), and first place is worth $10,000. The derby will benefit the Coastal Conservation Association and Robbie Tobeck's new Washington Anglers for Conservation Political Action Committee (WACPAC). Tobeck will be fishing the event in his 30-ft Seaswirl, "Salmon Hawk."
For more information call Harbor Marine in Everett at 425-259-3285, or go to www.harbormarine.net.
Bowhunter course
Sean Overman is a state hunter education instructor and Master Hunter, and will be teaching a first in a long time (in this area) bowhunter Education Course, June 12-16, at Cabela's Tulalip and the Silver Arrow Bowmen facility in Mount Vernon. Participants can choose between a traditional class (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) and an International Bowhunter Education Program online course, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 16. Pre-registration is required for either course and the fee of $10 must be paid in advance.
The courses are designed to benefit both new and experienced bowhunters, and while Washington does not require bowhunter education training, many states do, and these courses meet the requirements of all states.
Call Overman at 360-941-4628, or email seanoverman@hotmail.com.

END PRINT COLUMN

First case of wolf predation
State and federal wildlife managers have determined that wolves likely caused the death of a calf on a Methow Valley ranch May 18 and that the landowner would qualify for compensation. The case would be the first in the state to qualify for compensation under Washington's Wolf Conservation and Management Plan adopted late last year.
State Fish and Wildlife Department regional director Steve Pozzanghera said the 3,000-acre ranch near Carlton is in an area traditionally used by the Lookout wolf pack, and that set cameras had photographed two wolves on nearby National Forest land in recent weeks. The Lookout pack is one of five confirmed in the state.
Under the new management plan, ranchers can be compensated up to $1,500 per cow for wolf kills classified "probable," and up to twice that amount for a "confirmed" loss.
Shad
The Columbia River shad fishery is underway, although early yet, and some 16,517 fish have been counted over Bonneville Dam as of May 29. The 10-year average at this point in the run is 212,404 fish, and the count last year was 1,419.
State biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver said bank anglers over the weekend in the Camas/Washougal area, and below Bonneville, averaged 7.7 and 3.5 shad per rod, respectively. Boat anglers last week, farther downriver in the Kalama area, averaged nearly 16 shad per rod.
Tulalip bubble
Very slow fishing since the opener, according to All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein in Everett. "The checker at the (Port of Everett) ramp told me she's seeing only a fish or two a day from the bubble," Krein said.
Story tags » Fishing

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