Thursday, October 13, 2016

2016 Fall Mushroom Forecast



This article appeared in the October 2016 issue of Northwest Sportsman Magazine

Several early rains this summer have brought success for hunting Fall mushrooms as early as mid July. At this rate, the season is on track for a stellar showing of edible wild mushrooms. Dry weather stalled last year's crop, but still showed signs of life as early as August, particularly with lobster mushrooms. 2015's fall chanterelles were not nearly as plentiful as the following 2016 winter crop, but if rains fall early and frequent, a low yield year can potentially be followed by a significantly higher yield the next.
Early harvests of sulphur shelf, or “Chicken of the Woods,” along with lobster mushrooms, and the ever popular white and yellow chantrelles are easy to find once the rains appear. Pigs ear and bolete mushrooms also rise through the substrate of the forest floor later in the fall.
Chantrelles are perhaps the most widely sought after variety, and there is an abundance of them along the coast range at higher elevations. When you happen upon one, stop and pay attention to your surroundings. It’s not uncommon to trample several mushrooms in one area while overcome with the excitement to pluck the first one you lay eyes on. Look for mossy areas under old growth, evergreen debris, where salal and Oregon grape grow.
While moisture from the rain is key to activating the mcyelium, you will find that some of the mushrooms that are more exposed to the elements tend to deteriorate, become soggy and inedible. The best days for harvesting are during periods of warmer weather after rains have saturated the soil enough that it still remains damp. When the ground is really wet, look underneath the gaps of fallen logs that have made contact with the forest floor. The areas in which the log shields the ground from rain creates a dryer environment that will produce firmer mushrooms that tend to keep longer. If there's frequent wet weather, you'll also find better quality mushrooms on south facing slopes. On the contrary, if the rains are few and far between, north facing slopes, shady areas, and flat spots on hillsides will hold more moisture and provide more productive habitat.
Be sure to use these tips when hunting mushrooms…
-Being aware of your surroundings is vital to enjoying your outdoor experience; keep in mind that’s it’s fairly easy to wander into private property on accident. Check your local regulations on harvesting and entry permits for public lands.
-Do not consume any mushrooms you can not identify with confidence; lots of lookalikes out there have made people pretty sick over the years. A good place to pick up some resources for identification is at our very own Saturday Market.
-If the quality of your find is in question, the general rule of “When in doubt, toss it out” applies.
-While on your hike, keep track of time and your path so you don’t get lost in the woods after dark. If you are unsure about how long your hike will be, bring a headlamp or flashlight.

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Big River Smallmouth Tactics

The full version of this article can be seen on the Wide Open Spaces website: http://www.wideopenspaces.com/big-river-smallmouth-tactics/ As the Willamette and Columbia begin to warm up with the return of consistent sunlight, dogwoods begin to bloom and lots of fishy activity goes on beneath the surface that most anglers in the Pacific Northwest tend to overlook. However, warmwater fisheries in the Northwest have a place on the map. Bassmaster Magazine has repeatedly listed the Columbia as one of the best bass fisheries in the country. The abundance of area, forage species, clean water, and little fishing pressure have developed a world class smallmouth bass fishery. Shad, smelt, pikeminnow, redside shiners, speckled dace, yellow perch, sculpin, bluegill, crappie, and even ESA-listed smolts are just a portion of the diet of these fish. However, the most common food source is crawfish. They're plentiful, easy prey, and always in season. Most bass spawn during the early spring, but as the water temperatures continue to rise, so do many of their forage species. As they bloom a feast of fishes into the system, those early spawning bass are recovering, and the late spawning bass are becoming protective of their territory. As they transition from protecting their nests, bass begin seeking out food to replenish the energy they've expended during the spawn. Many of the forage species often spawn on abandoned beds, and sculpins raid the territory, sneaking off with whatever they can grab. There are a number of small northwest tackle manufacturers that have zeroed on mimicking those food sources. Western Fishing Operations makes a soft plastic sculpin, and Willamette Weapon Lures custom paints lures to match the specifics of native forage species. While there are a wide variety of crawfish, bluegill and yellow perch patterns from numerous tackle manufacturers, keep in mind many of these fish have already seen them, and possibly fallen for them. Throwing something new and realistic in their path can often trigger strikes from reluctant feeders. When the female bass have dropped their eggs and moved off the bed to search for food, they'll feed on anything they can fit in their mouths. Slightly lethargic at first, they'll mainly target crawfish, then as they begin to gorge themselves and regain their energy, they'll move on to other forage species as their metabolism rises. During the post spawn, fish will often hang near ledges, current breaks, and cover, anything that provides them with a point to ambush and charge their prey. When it comes to big rivers, bass behavior isn't much different from salmon and steelhead. Bass will hang in fairly shallow water as long as deep water is close by. Deep, slow moving channels are like highways, and bass will stage in some areas where food will come to them. Bass gravitate to warmer water as much as cover, so fish anywhere something creates a shadow on the sunny side of the river. Cover like logs, boulders, and rockpiles that are standing in or creating a seam in the current will often hold fish. Rock or gravel bottoms will always hold more bass, while sandy bottoms are often deserts of silt, void of life all together. Having a depth finder will help locate schools of baitfish, rock piles, ledges, and other structure that bass will gravitate towards. More importantly, having a variety of presentations to offer the fish will better prepare you for adapting to where they are in the water column, and match whatever they are feeding on. Bass anglers are notorious for bringing a plethora of rods and reels rigged and ready to go. There's a good reason for this. Having a rod for soft plastics, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits is one thing, but having 3 rods for crankbaits to fish at various depths depending on where the fish are in the water column is a game changer. Having a squarebill that dives 2-4ft, a mid depth crankbait that dives 6-8ft, as well as a deep crank that can hit the deep side of ledges can make a difference, especially if you're not retying to adjust to where the bait is all day. While topwater bass fishing is mostly reserved for tossing frogs on lily pads, don't rule out injured bait fish imitations like a zara spook in open water. Fishing topwater over flats with moving water that rest above ledges with deep water can be very productive. As it gets later in the summer, smelt, and other smaller fish tend to get pushed out of that deeper water and onto the flats where the bass feed on them. Bait fish are also following bug hatches at the surface and the bass are simply following the food chain. Having a rod rigged up and ready to go when there are fish feeding on the surface can put you on fish that are looking to the sky and neglecting those bottom bouncing jig patterns.

Willamette Park in Oregon City is located at the mouth of the Tualatin River. Rock ledges, fallen timber, rocky points, boulders and shallow flats in the area all hold smallmouth. During the summer the fish will transition from spawning to feeding on baitfish, so if you find bait, you'll find bass by targeting ambush areas where they're staging to feed.

Just above the falls, Willamette Park in West Linn or Rogers Landing in Newberg holds fish on ledges and steep drop offs. Deep diving crankbaits and drop shot rigs dominate that deep water. The Cedar Oak ramp is a good lower Willamette River area with similar structure. Even the Multnomah Channel and Columbia Slough are excellent fisheries that are easily accessible from Cathedral Park.

Upriver, many of the larger tributaries like Hood River, John Day, and Snake River host populations of smallmouth that often stage at the mouth of the river to feed on outgoing smolts, shad, and other baitfish that are migrating to spawn. Even further upriver, the Coeur d' Alene and Clearwater fisheries produce consistent lunker bronzebacks.

While some of the sloughs and areas just off the beaten path of the mainstem are hidden gems, much of the big river habitat holds a lot of potential for successful fishing in both quantity and quality. These fisheries also hold a lot of potential for angling opportunity, consistently being included in Bassmaster Magazine's listings of the country's top bass fisheries. The diverse smorgasbord of forage species the Big C has to offer and the wide expanse of water with structure that is unique to smallmouth habitat, these are without a doubt world class fisheries worthy of the attention.

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