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Big Quilcene River (Jefferson County) Fishing Report
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Name: TyeeMatt Date: August 24, 2013 Rating:
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I went to the Quilcene on Saturday morning and will never go back. The entire stretch I fished from 101 down a couple miles was pocked with snaggers and unfriendly locals. I fished the deepest pools I could find on the low river for 5 hours. I fished mostly spoons and spinners, and lost the two fish I had on at the bank as I tried to tail them.
During this time I witnessed a horrifying poop-show of flagrant regulation violations, courtesy, sportsmanship, and ethics. I watched a kid wade waist deep into the middle of the pool I was casting into and slap his line across mine in an effort to snag the fish I was trying to get interested in my legal offering. I gave him a little lecture, and even let him trade off “casts” with me. It was surreal agreeing to share the hole with a snagger, but I figured this was the way he was taught to fish, and figured one lesson in taking turns might be enough to get him started on the road to proper fishing. Turns out he needs a lot more help than I can give him. As I was hiking out and way upstream, my buddy spotted him on the bank and said,”Looks like our friend has his limit on” We waited and watched to see where he hooked it and sure enough he’s got the belly hooked Coho on shore. Before I can ponder if he’s gonna let it go or not, he takes a river rock and bonks it. Horrifying. I yelled from the trail, “You can only keep fish hooked in the mouth!!” and he gave me a sheepish look. There was a guy fishing with his kid right there too, watching the whole thing.
I also got to see two guys stand in four inches of water for almost two hours destroying fish after fish with their “Quilcene set-up”. They whipped those fish in ankle deep water, pulling up over a dozen on to the bank until they were happy with four that were big enough to keep. At one point one of them shouted to me as he realized he had a native, non-clipped fish on his string, “Hey man, do you know if I can keep a native?”, I said I doubted it, and he took the dead fish off the string, threw it into the water, and said, “Sweet! I can get another then!”…and back to snagging he went. In the many schools I watched go by me on what should have been an epic day, dozens were suffering from fresh wounds; whole fins pulled off, tails and bellies with huge pink chunks taken out. I tried not to think of all the other snaggers downstream of me beyond the bend that I couldn’t see.
My final impression of Quilcene was the final straw as I when was hiking out I noticed a man and his daughter crossing the highway to the hatchery lot with four Coho on a stick. I proceeded to my car and changed and said my goodbyes to my friend. Pulling out of the lot I noticed the same man and daughter heading back down to fish some more. I rolled down my window and asked him if he caught his limit? He nervously said yes. I asked him why he was fishing some more and he pointed to his daughter and said, ‘We’re going to get hers.” She was maybe 6 years old and definitely wasn’t carrying a fishing rod.
This river needs to be closed if WDFW can’t enforce it. I called the poaching hotline and then 911 as I was leaving to report what I saw and see if they could get an officer into the lot to at least check people’s catches. I reported a description of the man I saw with this daughter and the license plate of the kid who I saw bonk the belly-hooked fish. It was his mother’s car. She was hiking with him all day and helped him get his waders off in the parking lot. The volume of violations I saw and the large geographical area that they covered was heartbreaking. It seemed that the entire fishing culture of the river revolved around a fishing method that was illegal and…not really fishing. I saw multiple generations of people using this same set-up and I can’t help but think that the locals were unfriendly because we probably looked out of place with the flashy spoons on our casting rods and the BC floats on the float rods. We were likely considered to be undercover WDFW ourselves.

Close the Quilcene to fishing. Keep the hatchery operating. It’s a beautiful river with an amazing run that is being destroyed by an accepted culture of snagging that is being passed down to younger generations and that is seemingly ignored by those assigned to protect it.

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#1 Brat Bonker says:
August 25, 2013 10:40 PM
I am sorry for your bad time, maybe you should try egg fishing in there with me sometime, you probably passed me, I was done by 9am and they were biting like crazy on eggs and plain beads. nothing on twitching jigs or spinners. plus you should expect that from there, it is a meat fishery and will always be meat fishery, I a glad you didn't join in on the illegal actions though
#2 TyeeMatt says:
August 26, 2013 02:26 AM
Thanks Brat Bonker. My buddy had some eggs from some pinks, but the cure was a little off so they weren't staying set on the hook right. I love tossing metal and was getting bites. I did get a couple on with patience. I hate that I have to "expect" that snagging from there...seems wrong and I don't see it changing without drastic changes
#3 kingfisherman1 says:
August 26, 2013 11:38 AM
Sounds like the Quilcene, alright. Its a good thing you didn't go down to the Rodgers Street would have had a heart attack! I live 20 minutes away and go almost every day. I was there Saturday but left before the big rush of fish. I managed one on a spinner. This morning I watched a guy snag two and then leave. When he came back I asked him "Back for more?" "Oh, yeah, just had to put those two in the car and get my next two then I'm done." Yeah, right! The further down river you go, the more obvious people are about snagging. I was under the bridge once and there was a guy with a treble hook snagging fish and he was obviously very high on meth. My favorite story (or saddest) from the Quilcene is from last year. I was fishing under the bridge and this guy and woman had about 3 or 4 young kids with them and a dog. The kids were running around screaming and the dog and kids were all up in my fishing gear. She kept yelling at them like "Come here, stupid." They had two sticks with about 10 fish on each stick and the guy turns to me and says "Gotta get the kids' limit." I was absolutely in shock but the best part was yet to come. The woman and one of the young girls left to the parking lot with a stick of fish. I was done fishing and followed a few minutes later. When I came out from under the bridge I noticed a little four year old boy following me. He asked "Have you seen my mom?" I said no, and that he should get back down to his dad on the river. He says "That's not my dad." "Well," I said, "you should go back down there anyway." Down in the parking lot I was putting away my gear and noticed that the "Not Dad" and the rest of the crew had come back down to the car. They put the 4 kids (no car seats or seatbelts) and dog in the back seat of a Kia and then tossed about 20 fish on their laps! Anyway, not everyone down their is a snagger, but I'd bet 90% are. There are a decent 10 percent who fish legally. Hopefully I see you down there sometime to toss spinners/eggs and twitch jigs.
#4 fisherben says:
September 27, 2013 09:13 AM
A while ago I saw the reports from last year on this river and it looked like a nice place to try tossing a spinner. It's saddening to hear the level of idiocy on the Quilcene and now I'm not so sure I want to go there. I can't understand how someone could waste a wild salmon like that, even if it was hooked illegally. the child incident kingfisher mentioned clearly represents the corrupt nature of the area. Law enforcement seriously needs to rough up the place.
#5 TyeeMatt says:
September 27, 2013 05:57 PM
Thanks for the story kingfisherman1. WDFW is obviously understaffed over there. When I called to report what I saw the officer that called me back (almost immediately to his credit), said that all his guys were up on another river that was closed and that it was tough for him to get down to the Quilcene. I suggested he just go to the hatchery parking lot and wait...he wouldn't even have to get out of his truck to see what I saw being loaded into cars. Bums me out.
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