Posts Tagged With: fishing

Smelt Dipping – It’s Not What You Think

Smelt, Cowlitz River, Kelso, Washington

Smelt (Photo credit: David Keaton)

My first thought was that smelt dipping is just another way of saying using chewing tobacco. My second thought was it had something to do with extracting minerals from ore (like copper, silver, etc.) because this is also known as smelting. Turns out I was way off on both thoughts.

The first time I heard of dipping smelt was about 28 years ago. I worked for two bosses who decided I needed to find out what this was all about. They said, “The smelt are running on the Cowlitz!” What? OK, smelt are a small fish, the Cowlitz is a river in Southwest Washington running through Kelso. You don’t catch these fish with a fishing pole, but scoop them up in a net. That’s why it’s known as “dipping.” So we jumped in their car and ran down there. We took a net and went to the river and – nothing. Gee, that was fun. David had tried it many years ago too, without success.

I never thought much more about it, although I heard a lot of people talking about it over the years. They would say how the smelt run used to be so thick you could just go down and dip net after net of the little fishes. But over the years the run got smaller and smaller until it finally became a protected species and smelt-dipping was no longer allowed – until recently. This is the second year that limited time has been opened to allow smelt-dipping.

Using a net to dip smelt, Cowlitz River, Kelso, Washington

Using a net to dip smelt (Photo credit: David Keaton)

This past Saturday was one of those dates. We already had plans to go to Portland for the day when we heard about it, but as we drove down I-5 we could see the Cowlitz and a lot of people were out on it. David couldn’t stand it, he had to check it out so we got off the freeway and headed down to the river. It was packed with people, but many were leaving. Not only is the date set, but so is the time – you can only fish from 6am to noon and it was just before noon when we got there.

Pat and Dick Lindeman, Cowlitz River, Kelso, Washington

Pat and Dick Lindeman with their smelt catch (Photo credit: David Keaton)

I saw a couple who looked friendly and asked if I could talk to them. Pat and Dick Lindeman are their names and they were very friendly and helpful. They even offered to let us use their equipment next weekend since there is another catch date set for February 14. They showed us their catch, which was the limit, and said they got it in only 2 scoops! Now that’s starting to sound like the stories I have heard!

Smelt in a net, Cowlitz River, Kelso, Washington

Smelt in a net (Photo credit: David Keaton)

If you’re wondering what to do with smelt, Dick said that he will freeze some to use for bait, smoke some, and fry some.

Another nice part about smelt-dipping is that no license is needed, just a net, a bucket, and some good shoes to slog through the mud on the side of the river. Be sure to follow the rules, take only your limit – we want to make sure we do our part to help bring this fish back to its natural run, and we can do that by fishing responsibly. And even though you don’t need a license, if you are fishing past noon you can get a ticket for that, as well as if you go over your limit.

So where will we be on Valentine’s Day? You got it – smelt-dipping!

 

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Categories: Fishing, Outdoors, Washington | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fishing, Kayaking, and Walking at Carlisle Lake

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Kayaking on Carlisle Lake

It’s not much of a lake. It’s only about 22 acres. Carlisle Lake used to be a mill pond for the Carlisle Lumber Company. The mill shut down in 1942 but the smoke stack from the mill is still standing on the site. It’s quite the landmark. David was very excited when we flew over it one day on our way back from Las Vegas because he could see the smokestack from the jet.

The lake has been stocked with trout since 1953, and Coho Salmon are raised in pens in the lake. It is a cute little lake, and perfect for a quick afternoon fishing trip or kayaking. We can stick our kayaks in the back of the pickup and be there in 20 minutes, then spend a few leisurely hours kayaking from one end to the other while Josh does catch-and-release fishing. Most of the fish that we have caught are small and bony but some people have caught larger fish.

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Interesting Things in Carlisle Lake (yes, we put it gently back)

There is a trail going all the way around the lake and people have made trails down to the water so you can fish from the bank and you don’t need a boat. It’s a great lake to take little kids to since it’s not only easy for them to fish, you can run them on the trail around the lake and tire them out.

Onalaska Alliance, a non-profit group, was formed to restore the lake and surrounding area.  The previous owners, the Southwest Washington Development Association, donated the land, which measures 72 acres, to the group. The Alliance intends to develop it for better recreational use as well as an environmental education aid. This past summer they received a grant and paved the parking lot. It’s a fabulous upgrade because it used to be a pothole-filled gravel and dirt mess. They now plan to clean up the trail around the park. Future plans include a fishing dock and wheelchair accessibility.

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David and Josh

Getting there: Take exit 71 off of I-5 and head east on Hwy. 508 for about eight miles. When you see the grocery store/gas station on your left you will take a left on the street right before the store. The street will take you about 2-3 blocks north and you will end up in the parking lot at Carlisle Lake. You can also look for the smokestack as you get into town.

Categories: Boating/Kayaking, Fishing, Historical, Keatons Out and About, Outdoors, Parks, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Forest, Fishing, Fun – Taidnapam Park, Washington

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Mother-in-law, Sue, very happy with her catch!

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Beautiful forested camping spots

It’s the perfect family camping spot. A lake for fishing, boating, and a swimming area, a playground, tent sites, RV sites, trails – what more could you ask for? This perfect little spot is Taidnapam (pronounced Tide-nuh-pom) Park, hidden off of Highway 12 in Washington, just west of the town of Morton. It is operated by Tacoma Public Utilities and is located on the shores of Riffe Lake.

Riffe Lake is a 23 1/2-mile lake that was created in 1968 when the Mossyrock Dam was created and flooded the towns of Riffe and Kosmos. Taidnapam Park is located at the east end of the lake and has 139 RV sites and 24 tent sites. There are also primitive sites and group camps. Shower facilities are available. Prices range from $18 to $33. A boat ramp is also available and can be used without camping at the park.

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Ready to fish on the Fishing Bridge!

But my favorite part of the park is “The Fishing Bridge,” also known as the “108 Bridge.” You can easily walk (or bike) to it from any of the camping spots. There is a section just off the parking lot that is wheelchair accessible. But wheelchairs would also not have any problems getting up the short ramp to the bridge. The bridge has a fence on both sides that is about 3 ½ feet tall, tall enough that many parents bring their children up on the bridge while they fish. There’s a picnic table nearby, as well as restrooms and the very important fish-cleaning station for all those fish you will catch!

Once up on the bridge, you just pick a spot and drop your line into the water. What you hope to catch there are called “silvers” or “land-locked salmon” but one time I caught a beautiful 14-inch small mouth bass. I was Queen of the Bridge that day! Some days you can sit there and fish all day and end up with nothing, other days within seconds of your line touching the water, you will get a hit. Some days it can be pretty crowded but since most people just drop their lines in and aren’t trying to cast out, it really isn’t too difficult to stand almost shoulder-to-shoulder to fish.

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Tunnel to playground

If the kids aren’t interested in fishing, they can simply walk through a tunnel under the Champion Haul Road which runs next to the Fishing Bridge, and reach the playground. There is also a roped-off swimming area but you’ll want to go early in the summer to use it. The water gets down pretty far by the end of summer.

You don’t have to camp at the campground to use the Fishing Bridge or the playground. Then you would just pay the $5 day use fee on weekends and holidays. Weekdays there is no charge! We often just run up there for the day to try our fishing luck.

Taidnapam Park is easy to get to, not too far from the nearest town, yet far enough off the highway to feel quite remote. Cellphones still work while on the bridge but when you head back to the campground, you may lose reception.

So with all the activities you can do in one spot – fishing, swimming, boating, bicycling, hiking, camping, playing – Taidnapam Park makes the ideal family lake-and-forest getaway.

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Wheelchair accessible fishing dock

Getting there (courtesy of Taidnapam Park website: http://www.mytpu.org/tacomapower/parks-recreation/taidnapam-park.htm)
Taidnapam Park is about 110 miles south of Tacoma in Lewis County, near the town of Morton. From Tacoma, take I-5 south to Highway 12 East (Exit 68). Drive east on Highway 12 for approximately 37 miles (5 miles past Morton). Turn right on Kosmos Road, then left onto Champion Haul Road. Drive approximately four miles to the park entrance.
An alternate route from Tacoma is to take Highway 7 south to Morton. At Morton, turn left onto Highway 12 and drive 5 miles. Turn right on Kosmos Road, then left onto Champion Haul Road. Drive approximately four miles to the park entrance.

Categories: Boating/Kayaking, Fishing, Keatons Out and About, Outdoors, Parks, RV/Camping, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lake Wynoochee, Washington

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Lake Wynoochee (Photo by Brandy Kirkendall)

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Beautiful Wynoochee Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tucked away just 30 minutes from the town of Montesano, Washington, lies the small pristine body of water called Lake Wynoochee. Located in the southern part of the Olympic Peninsula and created when the Wynoochee Dam was built to provide a reservoir, the lake is exactly what you expect of the northwest – deep blue and surrounded by a thick forest.

We decided to go up and check out the Coho Campground and take our boat (lovingly named “Lawn Art” since it sits as a decoration on our lawn more than we would like.) We headed west to Montesano and right past the exit to the town was Devonshire Road. We headed 34 miles up the twisting narrow road, then made a left when we saw the sign for the campground. Important note: cell phone service ends about 4 miles up Devonshire.

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(Photo by Brandy Kirkendall)

Pulling into the campground, there were two options for sites. Loop B can be reserved online. We didn’t have reservations so we headed into Loop A which is first-come, first-serve sites and there were plenty available. The cost was $20 a night. There are also walk-in sites for $16 a night. There are pads for RVs but no hookups. Three yurts are also available for rent. There is a campground host, but no amenities. There are normally regular restrooms but unfortunately, they were closed due to a septic failure, so there were port-a-potties and hand-washing stations set up.

The weather cooperated pretty well and while it wasn’t warm and sunny, it didn’t rain while we set up camp. Then we jumped in the truck and took Lawn Art out on the lake. So this is where I have to tell you that we rarely do anything that doesn’t involve an adventure. There is no dock on the lake. We had to back the trailer into the lake, Josh then pulled away from the ramp and had to nose up to the bank so David could jump on. That worked pretty well actually. Until we pulled away and out into the lake. All of a sudden I looked that the floor and said, “Oh, we’re taking on water!” My 9-year-old grandson, Anden, started freaking out – “We’re gonna sink, we’re gonna sink!” I told him, “No, we’re fine, you have your lifejacket on and we’ll get back to shore.” Meanwhile I was thinking, “We’re gonna sink, we’re gonna sink!” I really hate it when I have to be the adult and act calm! So we had to quickly nose back to the bank so David could jump off and run and get the truck and trailer, while we then pulled back around to the ramp. David admitted, “I think I put the plug in the wrong hole.” Yes, dear, you did.

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Trail to Day Use Area

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Boating on Lake Wynoochee

Since fishing on the boat was too traumatic to do again that evening, Josh and Anden went to the day use area of the park and were able to do some fishing there. The day use area has the swimming area, picnic tables, and trails where you can get to the lake away from the swimming area.

Back at camp we ate dinner and made S’mores. That always makes life better. The next day dawned sunny and clear. I was worried Anden wouldn’t want to go in the boat again, but he was fine. The lake was like glass and while we knew there had to be other boats out there, there were none in sight. We really liked the fact that this lake is a lot less populated than other lakes that we usually go to. We fished awhile and didn’t catch anything, so headed back in to meet up my daughter, Brandy, and her fiancé, Jason. After they arrived, we went back out in the boat twice, fishing, puttering around, and just plain enjoying the sun and the company. A few more boats were out in the afternoon but still nowhere near enough to feel crowded.

Another evening back at camp eating dinner and S’mores and enjoying visiting. The best part about camping at Lake Wynoochee was the time alone with family. No cell service, no internet, no TV, no interruptions. Truly rustic. If you really want to get away from it all, there are several levels at Lake Wynoochee – RVing, tenting in the campground, walk-in sites in the campground, yurts, or even places where you can take your boat to isolated spots along the shoreline.

It’s not too far away from a town yet far away enough away from it all to remember what is really important – unforgettable, precious time with family.

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Brandy, Anden, Nancy (Photo by Brandy Kirkendall)

Categories: Boating/Kayaking, Fishing, Outdoors, Parks, RV/Camping, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lake Scanewa, Lewis County, Washington

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Beautiful Lake Scanewa is great for boating as well as fishing! (Photo credit: David Keaton)

Lake Scanewa (sku-NEE-wuh) is a 610-acre reservoir located in Lewis County, Washington, south of Hwy. 12 between the towns of Morton and Randle. It was created by the Cowlitz Falls Dam and is stocked with trout and hatchery salmon. Cowlitz Falls Day Use Park is located on the east end of the lake. By the way, don’t go looking for the falls – they don’t exist anymore. There is a boat launch, picnic tables and restrooms (although not much better than port-a-potties).

We like to go to the day use park because you can do so many things right there. You can fish (starting June 1) from the bank for salmon or trout. There is a small lagoon where kids can swim plus it is blocked off at the beginning of fishing season and stocked with trout for kids to catch. This year’s Kids Fishing Derby will be on Saturday, June 8.

Often you can see the trout jumping and the silver flash of huge salmon rolling around in the water. But nothing is more exciting than hooking that amazing salmon and slowly reeling it in and landing it. And nothing is more heart-breaking than when it gets loose…

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He said his was bigger. But I think he just measured wrong…

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My first salmon! (Photo credit: David Keaton)

 

You can launch your boat from the boat launch and troll around the lake or up the river, with hopes of increasing your chances of catching that big salmon.

 

 

 

 

But to really get up close and personal with the area, a kayak is the ideal method of transportation. You can get right in to the shallow tight spots that you can’t get to any way else. We even found a small stream just slightly wider than the kayaks and took a ride up it until it got too tight and we had to turn around. You feel very intimate with nature when you can do something like that.

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Another fun thing to do is watch the fish delivery. To stock the lake, Tacoma Power employees must go downriver to capture the fish near Barrier Dam and load them into a big truck. They then transport the fish past the dams, which have no fish ladders, and stock them at various sites including Lake Scanewa. You can also check out Tacoma Power’s website at http://www.mytpu.org/tacomapower/fish-wildlife-environment/cowlitz-fish-report.htm to see how many and what kinds of fish they stock each week.

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Tiny islands (Photo credit: David Keaton)

Tacoma Power releases the fish several times a day, including on the weekend. It’s fascinating to watch the truck back up to the boat dock, open the hatch, and dump out hundreds of fish. It’s quite the sight – and quite the tease for fishermen!

 

 

 

Getting there: From Morton, take Highway 12 east to Savio Road (If you get to Randle, you’ve gone too far). Turn right and go to Kiona Road. Turn right and follow Kiona Road to Falls Road. Turn right and continue to the Day Use Park on the left.

From Yakima take Highway 12 west past Randle to Savio Road (if you get to Morton, you’ve gone too far). Turn left and go to Kiona Road. Turn left and follow Kiona Road to Falls Road. Turn right and continue to the Day Use Park on the left.

Categories: Boating/Kayaking, Fishing, Outdoors, Parks, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tilton River State Park (The “Don’t Blink, You’ll Miss It” State Park)

Hwy 508 runs east-west through Lewis County, Washington, winding through hills and valleys and even an intriguingly-named “Bear Canyon”.  Along the way, part of it parallels the Tilton River, named for a territorial surveyor, James Tilton.

At milepost 27, look to the north and don’t blink! You will literally miss the turn off for Tilton River State Park. It is simply a pull-off on the side of the road with room for two, maybe three cars. No road signs, no ranger booth, no port-a-potty.

Tilton River State Park Entrance

You have to get out of your car and face north and then at the start of the trail, off to your left, you will see a plaque on a rock noting that the land was donated in 1994 to the State of Washington by twin brothers, William and Otto Studhalter.

The Studhalter boys were somewhat influential in the Morton area. Born in 1901 in Tacoma, sons of a Swiss father and German mother, the whole family moved to Bremer, eight miles west of Morton, when the boys were young. The twins were loggers as well as owners of a sawmill where ties were cut for the army in WWII. They donated an old steam donkey (a steam-driven winch for logging) that had been used around 1918 for the annual Morton Logger’s Jubilee. This steam donkey can be seen today in Gust Backstrom Park in the town of Morton. There is also a Studhalter Road a few miles west of the park.

William died in 1993 and Otto followed in 1997. Otto donated the 110 acres to the State of Washington for use as a state park. Later, six more adjoining acres were bought to add to the donation.

By now, you would like to see the rest of the “park” and the river.  Just take a walk down the fairly well-defined trail for about ¼ mile. Careful, there are small obstacles such as tree roots. But when you reach the end of the trail and emerge from the canopy of firs, red cedar, maple, and Oregon Ash, you will see a scene right out of an old TV show – a simple rocky beach, a twisting, lazy river (known as “The Studhalter Fishing Hole”, and handmade fire pits. A beautiful place for picnics, relaxing , fishing or watching the kids play in the water. Very serene and peaceful.

But enjoy it while you can. According to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, they have decided not to further develop the park and are planning to either sell it or have another agency take over management of the land. A place that holds summertime memories for many local residents could be closed down or built up. But maybe, just maybe, the new owners will honor the last intentions of the Studhalter brothers, and leave the property as is, accessible and natural, for future generations of families to enjoy.

Getting there: From north or southbound on Interstate 5, take exit 71 and head east to milepost 27.

Categories: Historical, Outdoors, Parks, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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