Fresh snow is falling and the lift at Ferguson Ridge Ski Area is back in operation, creating a perfect combination for a great weekend of late-season skiing and snowboarding.
Eagle Cap Ski Club completed the installation of the lower bull wheel on Sunday and, after cranking up the counterweight at the top of the hill, tested the lift for a couple hours in the afternoon.
Completion of the repair is timely and now gives the ski club an option of operating during spring break, which begins next week. Eagle Cap Ski Club spokesman Charlie Kissinger says that Fergi will operate as much as possible, but the actual number of days may depend on snow and will depend on the number of skiers and snowboarders that show up on the weekend and during midweek operation. If there is sufficient turnout of skiers and snowboarders the ski area intends to operate everyday next week.
Last weekend there was sufficient snow on the hill with two feet of base snow at the top and complete coverage at the bottom. The snowline early this week was below the base of Fergi, so the hill accumulated more fresh snow on Monday and more snow is forecast later in the week.
With the lift in operation again planning resumed for Fergi Fest, which will be held Saturday, Mar. 29. Activities at the annual fun day at the hill will include many of the traditional races, including the legendary Lawn Chair Race. Live music by Black Horse and a barbeque potluck are also part of the day's events.
Experienced steelheaders must have had mixed emotions last week as they watched northeast Oregon rivers begin rising early in the week. Knowing that rising water makes little difference for fishing, but is bad news for catching, the majority of the anglers were reluctant to give up precious vacation time to such poor odds. When river levels exceeded anything that in the past was reasonable for having any success at catching, they must have been patting themselves on the back. But there are always a few that have the time and the occasion to go and prove the naysayers wrong. Such was the case this weekend.
The Grande Ronde and Imnaha rivers mirrored each other with the Grande Ronde exceeding 10,000 cfs and the Imnaha exceeding 1,000 cfs, which I evaluate at identically unfishable conditions. Each river peaked in the first few hours of Sunday morning and from there fishing improved steadily. Each river produced some success on Friday and Saturday, while the water was rising and contrary to historical results. The explanation must be that there are so many fish in the river that even in the worst conditions, anglers couldn't avoid them.
The creel survey for the Grande Ronde produced an average of seven hours per steelhead caught for Mar. 10, 16 and 16. But Farrell Vale at Boggan's Oasis fine tuned those figures, reporting that on Saturday, Fish Johnny, the creel checker, calculated 13 hours per fish and on Sunday the rate improved to about four hours per fish and she said that Monday's fishing was even better. Fish Johnny added that the best corkie colors have been pink, orange and red and that small was better than large.
The creel survey on the Grande Ronde River near in Oregon near Troy revealed the results that might be expected for the entire river - not a single anglers during the week's creel check.
The Imnaha River shows similar results with a little success on Friday after the river had a day of rising, but once the river peaked and began to recede the catching began to improve. The creel survey produced an average catch rate of about six hours per fish for the 50 anglers checked that reported catching 17 hatchery and 13 wild steelhead. Each angler averaged less than four hours of fishing.
The Wallowa River produced a dismal catch rate of nearly 27 hours per fish with only 29 anglers checked with three hatchery and no wild steelhead landed. Even though the Wallowa system was the most stable in the region, it didn't produce the number of fish that might be expected. Steelhead have been filling the trap at Wallowa Hatchery for a couple weeks, so the explanation isn't entirely a lack of fish.
Rondowa anglers produced even worse statistics, reporting no steelhead caught among six anglers checked.