Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Washington Outdoors Report

Catfish and Salmon Fun

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Rufus Catfish Derby

Rufus may not be in Washington but it’s right across the Columbia River from there and purchasing a one or two-day non-resident fishing license could be worth your while if you want to participate in the annual Rufus Catfish Derby. This year’s event takes place on May 28th and the 29th.

The fishing takes place along eight miles of the Lower John Day River and while quite a few boats will be heading upstream a to look for catfish, you can also catch them without a boat at Le Page Park, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed property at the mouth of the John Day offering a boat launch, day-use area and a camping area along with an ample amount of accessible shoreline to fish from. Prizes will be given to the anglers who catch the three heaviest catfish and the three longest catfish.

There will also be a prize for the biggest catfish reeled in by a youth angler ten years of age or under and new this year, a first-place prize for the person who cleans up the most garbage along the shoreline. Wendy Boyer is the owner of Gorge Outfitters Supply in Rufus and has put on this derby for seven years. She says you’ll likely need a 15-pound catfish to be in the winner’s circle for the heaviest fish. As for what to use to catch these channel cats?

Wendy says it’s a big secret but admitted hot dogs might be involved. Wendy also said she sells a lot of chicken livers and shrimp for this event every year. There are no cash prizes but there are some very valuable gift prizes being given away this year. The actual prizes are a closely guarded secret but in years past outdoors cooking stoves, guided fishing trips and rods and reels have been awarded to the winners.

The awards ceremony for this event kicks off at 5:30 p.m., in the City Lot in Rufus. Tickets are $50 which includes a great meal during the awards dinner and the group “Countryfied” will be back again this year providing music during the dinner and beyond. By the way, even if you don’t fish, you can still purchase a derby ticket and attend the dinner, purchase raffle tickets for additional prizes and enjoy the music. Tickets can be purchased at Gorge Outfitters Supply and you can purchase them prior to or during the days the derby takes place.

Salmon Returns Exceed Expectatons

After several years of poor runs of spring Chinook salmon up the Columbia River anglers and fisheries managers alike are thrilled at this year’s very healthy return. The initial forecast was for just under 123,000 Chinook to come back to the Columbia this spring. However, with almost 124,000 Chinook over Bonneville Dam as of May 18th, fisheries managers have revised the estimated return to 180,000 salmon, marking the best return of springers since 2015 and over 127 percent of the ten-year average.

Anglers will get to take advantage of this healthy return with additional fishing days on the Lower Columbia from May 24th through June 15th. Boat anglers can fish from Tongue Point near the mouth of the river up to Beacon Rock while bank anglers can also fish from Beacon Rock to the deadline just below Bonneville Dam. There will also be two bonus days available for anglers above Bonneville Dam, those being May 26th and the 28th from the Tower Island Power Lines below The Dalles upstream to the Washington/ Oregon Border for boaters.

Bank anglers can fish these days from Bonneville Dam to the Tower Island Power Lines. The good news about salmon is not limited to the Columbia River. WDFW biologists say, “A large return of spring Chinook is forecasted to return to the Icicle River this spring.” Because of this the Icicle River is now open from the 800 feet above the mouth to 500 feet below the dam at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. The limit is two hatchery Chinook with a minimum size limit of 12- inches. Traditionally, the last week of May has seen very good success for anglers on the Icicle River. This fishery is scheduled to stay open until June 15th.

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

washington outdoors report, Catfish, salmon, Issue 21

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