What about that red algae bloom?Many have seen and asked about the red-purplish color of the water in the Lower Columbia River and in the Ilwaco Harbor basin, saying it doesn't look healthy.

On Sept. 15, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife closed the 60-mile fjord surrounding Hood Canal to all fishing except salmon and trout because of low levels of oxygen. Marine biologists believe a sunny summer and nutrient-rich pollution caused a large bloom of algae in the canal. The problem arises when the algae die; they decompose and suck oxygen from the water.

In the Hood Canal area, hundreds of dead fish have been found on the shoreline. Dead shrimp, blennies, gunnels, rockfish, and striped perch - all floaters. Scuba divers found dead flounder and Pacific octopus underwater.

The fix for this condition is a flush of rainwater and windy weather to mix the water and replenish the oxygen.

In the case of the Columbia River, when the river flow is low and we have no rain, the algae condition develops.

No dead fish have been reported in the Lower Columbia or the Ilwaco basin. But charter boat skippers carrying live bait for tuna trips have had a rough time keeping the bait alive overnight when the bait is obtained from the live bait dock in the harbor and the water circulated through the live-wells comes out of the harbor. There just is not enough natural water circulation in the harbor to promote healthy bait for any period of time.

Outdoor ActivitiesPossible clam dig Oct. 24, 25 and 26 (Thursday - Saturday). Based on test levels, it looks good.

Pheasant season opens Oct. 18 in eastern Washington, and reports of a good spring hatch look encouraging.

The quail population is booming in the Yakima-Toppinish area of eastern Washington and reports of birds in many areas where they haven't been in years is encouraging.

It is also the start of birdwatching season as many species move through our area during their migration south. If you are going to put out bird feeders, make sure you put them out of reach of bears, which find them a tasty treat. Also avoid accumulations of wet or decaying bird seed, as it can produce bacteria deadly to birds.

During the past couple of weeks there seem to be raccoons and chipmunks everywhere. You are advised by WDFW not to leave pet food outside in pet dishes because raccoons can transmit disease to your pets by eating out of the same dish.

Nautical OriginsSkyscraper - A small triangular sail set above the skysail in order to maximize effect in a light wind.

Slush Fund - A slushy slurry of fat obtained by boiling or scraping the empty salted meat storage barrels. This stuff called "slush" was often sold ashore by the ship's cook for the benefit of himself or the crew. The money so derived became known as a slush fund.

Taken Aback - A dangerous situation where the wind is on the wrong side of the sails pressing them back against the mast and forcing the ship astern. Most often this was caused by an inattentive helmsman who had allowed the ship to head up into the wind.

Ron Malast is the owner and captain of the charter boat Big Dipper, operating out of Pacific Salmon Charters in Ilwaco. For questions about the outdoors call 665-3573.

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