The Washington Outdoor Report - week of Sept. 22

One more fish camp

Guide Aaron Peterson (left) and a Fish Camp attendee with a typical Chinook salmon. Courtesy Rob Iman

After a 2020 hiatus because of the Coronavirus Pandemic, it was wonderful to head back to the Peach Beach RV Park in the Columbia River Gorge this week to participate in Ed Iman’s annual Fish Camp. This event has been going on for almost 20 years now and brings together a combination of outdoors media members, fishing guides, tournament anglers, retailers and fishing industry manufacturers who camp, eat, drink, network and fish for up to five days on the Columbia and other rivers in the gorge.

This year the focus was on the salmon staging off the mouth of the Deschutes River. One of the guides at Fish Camp, Aaron Peterson with Peterson’s Northwest Guide Service, was dialed into the fishery like no one else and returned with quick limits every day. The other guide boats grinded out Chinook and coho salmon for their anglers along with some bonus sturgeon, the largest one hooked approaching nine-feet in size.

The few boats not after salmon targeted walleye and smallmouth bass near Rufus, Arlington and Irrigon. The smallmouth bit readily and one of those caught weighed an estimated five plus pounds. The walleye, gorged on shad smolt this time of year, were harder to come by but a decent bite for them was found near Irrigon.

Attendance at this event was lighter this year than usual. Part of the reason was the ongoing pandemic which kept several past attendees away. The other reason was that manufacturers, who often roll out new products to share with the media during this event, had little product to share and no new products to show off due to the challenges brought on by huge demand from customers and supply chain issues making it a challenge to get products into the marketplace.

Despite this and the windy weather that made fishing a challenge several days, the company was good, the temperatures were mild and a good time was had by all in attendance.

Odds And Ends:

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is opening up coho salmon fishing on both the Upper Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam near Vernita to Wells Dam below Pateros until October 15th. The Icicle River near Leavenworth is also opening for coho on September 18th and will remain open until November 30th.

Steelhead runs are not only bad over Bonneville Dam, but disastrous on the Upper Columbia. As of September 13th, only 2240 fish have made it over Rock Island Dam, and an estimated 500 or so of these fish may be heading up the Wenatchee River. That Rock Island Dam Count is about one-third of the ten-year average when it comes to steelhead returns for this time of year. Don’t count on any steelhead angling on the Upper Columbia or its tributaries this fall.

On a brighter note, September 25th is Public Lands Day and Washington state as well as federal public lands are open for day use visitation with no fee or pass required. It’s also worth noting both the Washington Department of Natural Resources and WDFW has opened up all lands east of the Cascades to outdoor recreation (including overnight use) due to decreasing wildfire danger though campfire restrictions remain in effect.

Last but not least, if you are hiking on our public lands this month consider wearing hot pink or blaze orange. Not only will you make a fashion statement, but you’ll also be visible to hunters who are afield after deer during the High Buck Hunt in the Cascade Mountains which goes on until the 25th or after both bear and grouse where seasons continue well into fall. Accidental shootings have happened before and wearing these visible colors will decrease the likelihood you’ll be involved in one. .  

John Kruse – www.northwesternoutdoors.com and www.americaoutdoorsradio.com

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