Fish & Feathers: Upriver River Rats arrested

<I>RON MALAST photo</I><BR>A 44-pound upriver bright Chinook, taken by Mark Rublin of Encino, Calif., aboard the Big Dipper.

Upriver River Rats arrestedUpriver river guides posing as legitimate charter boat operators were arrested by Capt. Mike Cenci of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, his team of enforcement officers and the U.S. Coast Guard in a local sting operation in Chinook.

They will be facing criminal charges and forfeiture of their boats after taking undercover agents from WDFW on fishing trips without proper fishing licenses.

The Coast Guard released the charter names - Steve's Guide Service, Erik's Fishing Service and Tightline Guide Service - as the three operations face charges of numerous safety violations, ranging from lack of life jackets for passengers to documentation of required drug tests.

They were arrested Tuesday when they could not produce valid charter boat licenses after guiding fishing trips in the Buoy 10 area.

These are upriver licensed fishing guides (large jet sleds). Only licensed charter boats can take paying customers below the Lewis and Clark Bridge. The big difference is that charter boat operators pay a heavy fee and are required to have much more experience than a "Mickey Mouse" guide boat.

These upriver guide boats attempt top take advantage of the popularity of the Buoy 10 and ocean fishery to fill their pockets while jeopardizing their clients with open-bowed boats that aren't designed for the Lower Columbia, much less the ocean.

Upriver guide boats are also sometimes responsible for targeting oversize sturgeon as a sport fishery, thereby stressing the spawning female sturgeon population and consequently producing the present decline in the Columbia River sturgeon population. The season this year was closed in late June because the projected allowable catch was curtailed by the reproduction rate.

This is a crime in itself, in my opinion, and the sooner the stubborn Oregon game officials agree with the Washington game management officials and come to a reasonable understanding, the faster the situation will be resolved. I'm sure that most of the upriver guide associations are outraged with these allegations, but the vast majority of these so called "captains" are no more qualified to run a guide boat on the Lower Columbia and the ocean than to take their clients tuna fishing - let's call a spade a spade!

Here's hoping that the Washington state courts have the "cajones" to press for the maximum fines to put these guys behind bars. I'm not being biased: Think safety!

Big Fish at the Buoy 10 and ocean fishery

The Buoy 10 fishery has come into its own for the season with catches of coho and Chinook salmon becoming more productive with every passing day. The derby winners for this past week include Mike Elmore (23.7-pound Chinook), Steve Swift (34.5-pound Chinook), Harry Miller (32.6- pound Chinook) and John Nathon with a 36.2-pound Chinook. There were three fish brought in by private boaters that did not have a derby ticket and they weighted an even-50 pounds, 49.30 pounds and 39 pounds.

If you are thinking of trying out the Buoy 10 fishery, you should plan on leaving your fenders hanging over the side of the boat. The boat traffic in the river, even during the middle of the week, has been overwhelming. When viewed coming in from the ocean, you can envision what the defenders of the Alamo must have seen when they were charged by the whole Mexican army.

Conditions on the ocean on Friday and Saturday proved to be less than comfortable for charter boats and downright dangerous for private boaters. The Northwest swell, wind chop and wind made the ocean real cranky.

The fish were certainly there, around CR Buoy. Most charter boats limited (25-32 fish), by 8:30 a.m. The offshore winds also forced the cancellation of numerous tuna trips. The weather settled down Sunday and offshore trips resumed.

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