COLUMBIA ESTUARY - This past week I received e-mail from Bruce Vanderhoef, with whom I have had the immeasurable pleasure of sharing 25 years of hunting and fishing companionship. Bruce lives just south of Morro Bay, Calif., and frequently fishes the ocean for tuna, kelp fish, salmon and halibut in this immediate vicinity.

He writes, "There was a fatal boating accident just off Morro Bay involving a whale. Apparently the whale "breached" directly in front of a 22-foot Radon boat, locally made mostly for commercial divers - expensive, $85,000, and very heavily constructed. The whale flattened the hard top (taking out all electronics) split the hull and pitched the owner/operator overboard. Because of the fog, they were doing only 10 mph but the other three passengers in the boat could not locate the skipper of the boat. The remaining three survivors were rescued and the boat was eventually towed into port. The deceased skipper's body was found several hours later. There was speculation that he may have been unconscious before hitting the water."

Bruce writes, "I can't tell how many times I have purposely positioned my boat in the ocean, to intercept migrating whales - never again!

Actually, no one from the area had ever recalled anything like this happening. The boat shop was quoted as saying that they had never seen that much structural damage to a boat and said further that you couldn't cause that much damage if you dropped it upside down from 20 feet onto a parking lot. Even whales make mistakes, a sad but true story."

Ilwaco ocean extended through Sept. 15  The ocean will be open for hatchery coho (clipped fin) through Sept. 15. All Chinook and "wild" coho, must be released. There are many hatchery fish right off the mouth of the Columbia waiting for the rain, some of which started falling this past Sunday. The Buoy 10 fishery has turned out to be an extremely frustrating experience for many a fisherman. The fish are there, many times you can see them rolling on the surface and taking bait or jumping for the sheer joy of it, but getting them to bite is another matter.

The amount of live bait in the river is incredible, at times thousands of birds can be seen diving on bait-balls in only what can be described as nature at it's best. The fishing is only bound to improve as more coho start to move into the river.

WDFW information indicates that as of Sept. 1, 70,684 angler trips produced 18,374 Chinook and 4,300 hatchery coho on the lower Columbia.

Sturgeon  Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam has yielded an estimated 36,000 sturgeon caught through July 1. The 2002 sport fishery will be managed for a catch of 36,500 fish not to exceed 38,500 fish. It is scheduled to re-open for retention, Oct. 1.

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