The Washington Outdoors Report for July 23-30th
John Kruse, July 25, 2021
Columbia River salmon derbies, the potential for a sockeye salmon fishery at Lake Wenatchee and the closure of public lands due to wildfire danger are covered in our outdoors roundup this week.
PUBLIC LAND CLOSURES
Drought, heat and wildfires have resulted in closures of huge swaths of land outdoors enthusiasts recreate in east of the Cascades this summer. The Umatilla National Forest and the Colville Tribal Reservation, both saddled with large wildfires, are closed to all access and Pearrygin State Park near Winthrop is closed until further notice due to a nearby wildfire.
On July 20th, both the Washington Department of Resources (DNR) and Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced closures affecting all of their lands in Eastern Washington in hopes of preventing human caused wildfires. The Department of Natural Resources has closed access to all of their 1.4 million acres of land in Eastern Washington to include the developed campgrounds they manage.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife is restricting overnight stays in all of their State Wildlife Areas in Eastern Washington, which consist of 700,000 acres of state-managed land. Staci Lehman with WDFW says while no fires have started this summer thus far in WDFW Wildlife Areas, a number of them have suffered habitat loss as fires that started elsewhere burned through state land. No timeline for reopening these lands to overnight stays has been given. According to Lehman, a closure of this type is unprecedented for their agency.
Having said that, the wildfire situation is indeed dire. Ryan Rodruck, the Eastside Communications Manager for Washington DNR, reports as of July 22nd, 546 fires had already started on DNR managed lands this summer in Eastern Washington, burning 103,502 acres.
Unless major rain and temperature shifts occur, it is very possible these closures could remain into effect through the rest of fire season, which generally runs to the end of September (and sometimes longer). This has the potential to affect hunters and anglers who often enjoy multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursions every September and October on these state lands. Asked about this, Rodruck (who is a hunter himself), stated DNR officials are cognizant of upcoming hunting seasons and he is hopeful conditions will change and allow state lands to reopen prior to the opening of major hunting seasons.
WENATCHEE AND BREWSTER SALMON DERBIES
Anglers in 16 boats participated in the Peter Flohr Memorial Salmon Derby (also known as the Wenatchee Salmon Derby) on July 16th and 17th. Participants were targeting Chinook salmon between Wells Dam and Rock Island Dam on the Columbia River. The largest salmon caught was a 21.68-pound summer Chinook reeled in by Tim Davis. The boat with the heaviest weight of salmon was skippered by well-known guide Shane Magnuson who owns Upper Columbia Guide Service. He and his four team members (Tim and Erin Davis, Patty Fisher and Jim Keith) brought 203 pounds of salmon to the scales over two days, twice as much as the second-place team weighed in. Proceeds from this derby benefited the North Central Washington Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association.
The final big salmon derby on the Upper Columbia River this year is the 15th Annual Brewster Salmon Derby, taking place August 6th, 7th and 8th. The angler who catches the biggest fish in this contest will win $2,000 and additional cash prizes are available. More information is available at www.brewstersalmonderby.com
LAKE WENATCHEE SOCKEYE?
I spoke with Travis Maitland, the WDFW District Fish Biologist at the Wenatchee Office, on July 21st about the possibility of a sockeye salmon fishery this year. Travis says “It’s going to be close” as to whether anglers will get to enjoy this popular fishery. Maitland explains that they need at least 23,000 fish over Tumwater Dam on the Wenatchee River to meet spawning escapement goals. To have any sort of meaningful fishery you would need to have at least two to three thousand additional fish above that number heading to the lake and it may not be clear as to whether that number will be reached until the end of the month.
Maitland stated if there is a fishery there will likely be a two fish daily limit. With as much pressure as Lake Wenatchee gets from anglers, the season (if opened) could close in a week or less if only 25 to 27,000 fish return up the Wenatchee River this year. Your best bet? Keep your eyes peeled for announcements from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife through their website for late breaking news about this fishery.
John Kruse – www.northwesternoutdoors.com and www.americaoutdoorsradio.com
1. Mike Roth, owner of Team Takedown Guide Service, with a nice Upper Columbia Chinook salmon - Photo courtesy Mack’s Lure
2. Anglers are hoping for a chance to catch sockeye salmon at Lake Wenatchee this summer – Photo courtesy WDFW