"We need a good shot of water to bring the fish in," said Bob Gooding at Olympic Sporting Goods (360-374-6330) in Forks. "The guys are taking a few, but the first good rain should really open things up."
Gooding said early action has been primarily on the Bogachiel, where Forks Hatchery fish are scattered up and down the river.
Down on the Cowlitz, another top early season steelhead river, state creel checkers tallied 85 bank fishermen last week with three steelhead and one coho kept. Some 27 boaters had five steelhead and two coho. Most of the catch came from the trout hatchery area.
A good Cowlitz contact is the Barrier Dam Campground, Don and Karen Glaser (360-985-2495). Karen Glaser said the Blue Creek area is the place to go for early winter steelhead, and that successful fishermen are using Corky and yarn, jig and bobber, and some spinners.
Coho fishing remains a draw at the barrier dam, she said, and now's the time to hit one of those big, native, hook-nose coho going 16 to 18 pounds. Boaters are casting plugs, while bank anglers are tossing an egg/shrimp combo or a jig topped with a piece of cured prawn or shrimp.
Over on the middle Columbia, the Ringold steelhead fishery has started out slowly. State Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Paul Hoffarth in Pasco said both catch and effort were well below both last year's numbers and the 10-year average. Steelheaders are averaging about 20 hours on the water per fish, he said, with bank anglers doing a bit better than boaters.
And speaking of steelhead, the state will stop planting hatchery steelies in three tributaries of the lower Columbia -- the East Fork Lewis, North Fork Toutle/Green and the Wind. The agency says it "is seeking public comments on a proposal to formally end releases of hatchery steelhead" in the three streams, and says it, "plans to plant 35,000 steelhead smolts currently earmarked for the East Fork Lewis in the Washougal River, and 20,000 in Salmon Creek. The department is still looking for a place to relocate the 25,000 smolts scheduled for the North Fork Toutle/Green system."
Does that sound like our fish managers are really, really "seeking public comments?"
If it does, your input will be accepted through Dec. 13 at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01559.
The reason for the elimination of hatchery plants on the three rivers, according to the state's Regon 5 fish manager, Cindy Le Fleur, is to create "wild stock gene banks" where pure, unadulterated wild steelhead won't have to cohabit with those inferior, weak-kneed hatchery stocks.
Le Fleur pointed out that lower Columbia wild steelhead have been listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act since 1998 and that the gene bank is one of the strategies being used to address the listing.
The San Juan Islands area, one of the state's best blackmouth fisheries, opened for the winter season Saturday and action should be good from the get-go.
Jay Field, Dash 1 Charters owner, said Rosario Strait is traditionally good during the early season - usually better than the west side of the islands. Try Humphrey Head, Obstruction Pass, Point Lawrence or the west side of Cypress Island for larger fish, or Lopez Flats and Waldron Island for numbers.
Either way, Field said the current cold northerlies and high pressure tend to shut down blackmouth fishing.
He likes to have a bait down on at least one rod, either a strip or a whole herring, and then a flasher, 4 to 6 feet of leader, and a Kingfisher spoon in glow or UV, chartreuse and green. Another good rig, he said, is to shorten the leader to about 28 inches and go to a needlefish hoochie.
Marine Area 9 closed at the end of November, but areas 10, 8-1 and 8-2 remain open. Gary Krein, owner of All Star Charters in Everett, said that, unfortunately, the close to home water has been very slow and the best bet by far is the longer run down to Area 10. He did pick up one small blackmouth of about 6 pounds Sunday in Elger Bay, but said 8-1 and 8-2 have been "tough fishing."
Both the Kingston area and Jefferson Head, in Area 10, put out pretty fair fishing over the weekend.
"Area 10 typically produces decent fishing during the Christmas time frame," Krein said, "and an alternative plan would be to drop a couple of crab pots in areas 9, 8-1 or 8-2, all of which are open to crabbing, then run on down to the Kingston area."
Cornet Bay has been the best choice of late for a smelt-jigging trip. The Oak Harbor Marina has been slow.
For more outdoor news, read Wayne Kruse's blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.
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