Archive for February, 2020

Tomorrow’s Hunting & Fishing – Part I

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 12, 2020. Posted in Uncategorized

I have been picking the brains of folks whose job it is to figure out where our hunting and fishing is headed. And what can – or must – be done to prepare for the changes coming. Much of my last – and very interesting – week was spent at the O’Loughlin’s Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show at the Expo Center in Portland, Oregon.

Discussions involved owners of saltwater and freshwater fishing outfits, reps of state and national wildlife agencies, and some of the people involved in putting on – and continuing to put on – the various sportsmen shows we chase this time of each year. While individual perspectives vary a bit, as you might expect, the overall outlook was surprisingly uniform.

It may be useful to look at fishing and hunting futures and changes separately, and then consider approaches to our overall outdoor future.

The future of ocean fishing, in the eyes of the Pacific Northwest ocean charter owners was summarized repeatedly as “more cost, less opportunity,” particularly as it comes to salmon. Reasons given included increased state and federal regulation, changing and varying ocean temperature patterns, severe predation from sea lions, cormorants, and pikeminnows, and growing concern for the well-being of Pacific Coast orcas.

Coastal conservation groups and charter associations are working increasingly with federal and state regulators to find solutions – particularly in those situations in which protected species like sea lions are heavily impacting threatened and endangered species like salmon. The newly-appointed director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Aurelia Skipwith, spent a day during last weekend’s Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show in Portland speaking with fishing and hunting industry representatives and the public about the role of her agency in streamlining regulations and working for a sustainable future for the fishing and hunting with which she grew up. The agency, she noted, was committed to supporting the role of fishers and hunters in conservation – and to remembering that conservation is as much about people as it is about wildlife. There are a number of initiatives underway to protect and increase fish stocks while dealing fairly with the predators which must also be managed.

Determined to remain as viable businesses while all these issues are worked to restore salmon and steelhead seasons, limits, and availability, charter operators are increasingly marketing abundant bottom fish such as sea bass and lings, and various seasons for both catch-and-release and catch-and-keep sturgeon.

In the meantime, sportsmen show planners, such as the O’Loughlins (owners of several shows in the West, including the Puyallup and Portland shows) are watching the ocean fishing efforts and noting new trends among the fishers attending their shows which may also attract new attendees. Over the last couple years, for example, as ocean salmon fishing has struggled, a significant growth is seen in surf fishing and kayak fishing (literally hundreds of folks lined up for advice and coaching at booths and talks during several of this year’s shows). In response to more limited inland river fishing for salmon and steelhead, a good many of the river guides are marketing trips for walleye and bass. The sportsmen shows are seeing an increase in marketing of fishing tourism on large inland lakes, and an uptick in interest in warm water fish such as bass, perch and panfish, along with the fairly abundant trout found across the interiors of Pacific states.

On the hunting side of things, conversations were even more intense. You’ve been hearing about the concern over dropping numbers of hunters across the country – and the subsequent loss of the revenue needed to manage wildlife – for some time. Maybe you saw the recent article in the Washington Post which focused on the impact of that diminishing number of hunters, and their dollars, on endangered species management. We will continue that large and looming conversation next week.

In the meantime, there are groups in which we are seeing – and will see – significant growth in hunter numbers. The fastest growing of them is women. In surrounding states, and several others, fish and wildlife agencies and private groups now offer special workshops specifically to train women in finding, getting and caring for fish and game animals. Our Washington Outdoor Women (WOW) group is a prime example. Several states are noting something that our local Kittitas County Field and Stream Club Basic Hunter Safety course instructors have seen for some time – half and more of their students are women and girls. The O’Loughlin group, and other sportsman show producers are hiring and recruiting women leaders and speakers, who are attracting increasing numbers of women to hunting and fishing. And with them are coming more kids and youth than in many years.

More young urban adults are suddenly wanting outdoor lives that include game and fish. How they are being recruited, and supported, is very different than how many of the rest of us found our paths into hunting and fishing. That fascinating process, and a lot more about our changing outdoor world, when we continue this next week.

See you in Yakima this week, at the Central Washington Sportsmen Show, where some of the face-to-face “future” conversation continues.

Big Water Fish – DeVar’s Tale

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 5, 2020. Posted in Uncategorized

About this time of year, we wander the alleys and aisles of the regional sportsman shows immersed in offers of hunting and fishing trips we have long dreamed of taking. Those outdoor opportunities and fantasies await only our decision to go (and maybe a buck or two). As we feel spring rising before us, we particularly think about fishing. Thus, now, we begin seriously planning our ocean halibut and bottom fish adventures, and spring trips for the salmon heading up our rivers.

DeVar Gleed offers a look into one of those springtime ocean fishing trips – a trip with his buddy Gary and Gary’s brother-in-law Captain Roy – and takes the reader along. The judges were pretty sure you would enjoy his entry into this year’s Inside the Outdoors Writing Contest.

“I hadn’t been saltwater fishing for three years, so I was super excited when my buddy Gary called and asked if I could go fishing. Captain Roy had called him and said, ‘If the weather holds I’m going after halibut and rockfish and have room for two.’ He wouldn’t know until a few days before, to make sure conditions are right. Captain Roy’s a true saltwater captain – made from the same cloth of Captain Rob who Jim Huckabay wrote about back in 2013. The stars aligned – the call came – and off we went!

“The trip from Ellensburg to the fertile waters off La Push, Washington, (out on the far west side of the Olympic Peninsula) wasn’t a short one. We left shortly after work at 7pm, drove over Snoqualmie pass, through Seattle, rode across on the ferry, and drove around Crescent Lake to the mysterious town of Forks.

“The plan was to park and sleep until 4am. Unfortunately, we woke Captain Roy up when we arrived. He couldn’t get back to sleep…so two hours later we were on our way to the docks. We stopped to gas up at the all night mini-mart. This was a true fisherman’s mini-mart: Fried foods piled high for customers…at 3am! (They’d be sold out by sunrise.) We were one of the first on the water. Now this is the most important lesson I’ve learned when going saltwater fishing: take one Dramamine walking down the dock to the boat! Nothing ruins a great fishing trip more than sea sickness. (I speak from experience!)

“30 rough miles later we were fishing 800 foot water for highly coveted halibut. Going that far down you want to make sure that EVERYTHING is right. Your weight, bait, etc. This isn’t cast and retrieve fishing. When halibut fishing you discover long lost muscles in your arms and back.

“Okay, I know the Good Book says to not covet. But as rods and reels were being handed around Captain Roy’s looked suspiciously nicer than the rest of ours. I knew it was when he attached a cord to the battery. An electronic reel! My repentance process for breaking that great commandment still hasn’t happened. Wow – what a reel. He caught the first halibut and what a beauty (I mean the reel)! Sure, Captain Roy had to hold the rod and fight that fish – but the reel did half the work. It brought the fish in, fought it with a pre-set drag setting, take line in, let a little out, and so on. I’d never seen such a reel – and I coveted.

“We each caught a back-breaking halibut – what a prize! One of the best eating fish out there.

“We went after rockfish on our way back to La Push. Now, Captain Roy has a very nice fish finder – but I could not for the life of me tell how he knew where the fish were. The ocean floor topography looked the same to me wherever we were. But he’d yell ‘Put ‘em down!’ And we’d catch rockfish like mad! Two at a time. Then we’d drift off the bite. He’d go back to his chosen spot and yell again – and again we were on fish. We came in with limits of halibut and rockfish.

“Back at camp Captain Roy taught us all how to fillet halibut.

“A good night’s sleep in Gary’s tent that rivaled the Taj Mahal was what I needed – even if it was only four hours of shut eye. 4am we were on the water again for another glorious round of saltwater fishing. The whales, pod of dolphins, sunfish and albatross are always a bonus.

“I’m grateful for good friends, captains crazy enough to go 30+ miles into the ocean, and the bounty we enjoy in the beautiful waters of Washington State.” DeVar Gleed

And here’s to each of us enjoying our own unique and joyful outdoor adventure in the months ahead.

So, what really lies ahead for us and our fishing, hunting and shooting outdoor lives? I have been picking the brains of several gurus from the season’s regional and national sportsman shows – folks who spend their time and money looking beyond today. The changes coming in our outdoor play will not necessarily be bad or too difficult to manage, but they are significant. I figure you and your family would like to know what this 21st Century is bringing, too, so next week I will pass along what I have learned. Stand by…