Then, the third of four Saturday openings on the Cowlitz for recreational dipnetters resulted, again, in zero smelt.
Also, in the words of All Star Charters owner Gary Krein of Everett, local saltwater has been very slow for blackmouth.
And, 103 salmon/steelhead fishermen were checked by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife last week on the Columbia, downstream from the I-5 bridge, bank and boat, with no spring chinook.
There seems to be a pattern here, and one could say, with little opposition, that the period from late February through early March is a bummer.
But cleaning out the garage is not (shudder) an option, so we look for bright spots and find a gunnysack winter trout fishery on Lake Roosevelt. It's a bit of a drive, yes it is, but you'd be surprised how many local anglers make an annual winter trip to the big north-central Washington impoundment.
State fish and wildlife enforcement officer Dan Anderson said five-fish limits of sleek rainbow going 15 to 17 inches and larger have been common recently, for both boat and bank fishermen, from the Daisy boat launch south to Grand Coulee Dam. Boat anglers troll Needlefish, Wedding Rings, Rooster Tails, Rapalas, and muddler minnow flies, while bank fishermen toss Kastmasters, or stillfish with Power Bait or a marshmallow/worm combo.
Anderson said good fishing should continue on into spring.
Another interesting possibility is jigging through the ice on Fish Lake for a 25-fish limit of tasty yellow perch. Mike Chamberlain at Ted's Sport Center in Lynnwood said these are not large fish, as perch go, but if you get into a school it can be fun and games. Try a Swedish Pimple or Kastmaster, tipped with a maggot, or a perch eye, or a strip of perch meat, and jig it vertically. Crappie-type jigs are also good, in silver with a little mylar flash added.
Occasionally it's possible to clean the ice out of an existing hole, but an augur or spud is a good idea.
Fish Lake is northwest of Leavenworth, next to Lake Wenatchee, and the center of winter fishing activity is The Cove Resort. Call the resort at 509-763-3130 for current conditions
As always when prospecting for ice fishing possibilities, be careful that the ice is safe. The folks at MarDon Resort on Potholes Reservoir, for instance, admit that people are still participating in what has been a good ice fishing winter on the Lind Coulee arm, but that the ice is becoming iffy.
"Experienced ice fishermen may still feel comfortable, but we do not recommend it from a safety point of view. The Lind Coulee anglers that are still braving the conditions are pulling in some nice perch limits, with the occasional walleye and burbot," said Mike Meseberg, MarDon owner.
And catfish, Meseberg added. "Ron White of the Tri-Cities did it again with an even bigger channel catfish, caught through the ice in the Lind Coulee arm of Potholes Reservoir. This one weighed in at a whopping 28 pounds."
Must have been either a skinny cat or a fat hole.
See the photo at my blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing. Call the resort for current conditions at 1-800-416-2736.
While the first three Saturday openings of the smelt dipping season on the Cowlitz have put out no fish, March 1 could — emphasize could — produce. State biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver said water temps are positive, commercial netters were said to have had a very good opening on Monday in the Columbia, and that there has been at least moderate seal and bird activity in both the Columbia and Cowlitz — possible indicators of smelt presence.
Steelhead fishing on the Forks-area rivers has been fairly productive, particularly for large native-stock fish on the Sol Duc.
Both Pass Lake, north of the Deception Pass bridge, and Lone Lake on Whidbey Island are noted for good early-spring fishing. While lousy weather has kept most fishermen away so far, the lakes should break loose soon. Be sure to check special regulations in the state fishing pamphlet, free at all license outlets.
Pass Lake is fly fishing only, catch and release, and no gas motors allowed. Big rainbow and browns, multi-pounders, are the target for those fishing chironomids, or mooching slow and deep with sinking line, long leaders, and leech patterns, or green or olive streamers.
The Reel News goes to college
Our Lake Stevens-based monthly tabloid fishing publication, The Reel News, will be required reading for a new recreational fishing class this spring at the University of Washington. Under the aegis of the School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, the class — "Recreational Fisheries: Science, Management and Policy" — will add a dimension to the curriculum that has been missing since the late 1980s and the reign of renowned professor Dr. Gil Pauley.
"The enrollment expectation is about 150 undergraduate students, and TRN will be required reading to expose the class to the different perspectives associated with recreational fisheries," TRN publisher Jim Goerg said. "This is one of those blow-your-socks-off occasions and what a great way for TRN to celebrate its 30th anniversary in print."
Big razor clams
Plenty of fat clams await diggers at four of our coastal beaches during the current opening set to run through Monday. Razor clams sampled in recent days are noticeably heavier than those tested previously, state coastal shellfish manager Dan Ayres said.
"They seem to be fattening up earlier than usual," Ayres said.
Here are the tides and open beaches for the current dig:
- Today, minus 0.7 feet at 5:04 p.m., at Twin Harbors, Long Beach and Mocrocks;
- Feb. 28, minus 0.8 feet at 5:49 p.m., at Twin Harbors, Long Beach and Mocrocks;
- March 1, minus 0.7 feet at 6:32 p.m., at Twin Harbors, Long Beach and Mocrocks;
- March 2, minus 0.3 feet at 7:13 p.m., at Twin Harbors, Long Beach and Mocrocks;
- March 3, plus 0.3 feet at 7:53 p.m., at Twin Harbors only.
If you would rather dig steamers, or shuck a few wild oysters, than make the long drive to the coast for razor clams, there are a number of openings currently underway. Point Whitney, on Hood Canal, is the site of the state shellfish laboratory, and it offers two separate digging/gathering possibilities: clam digging at the Point Whitney Lagoon, through March 15, and oysters on the Point Whitney tidelands through June 30.
At Fort Flagler State Park, on the north end of Marrowstone Island out of Port Townsend, it's clams and oysters through April 15. And at Belfair State Park, south of Bremerton, it's clam digging through Aug. 31 and oyster gathering year-around.
Multiple-season hunt permits
Deer and elk hunters have only until March 31 to enter their name in a drawing for a 2014 multiple-season permit, which can greatly increase their chance for success in the field. The state will draw names in mid-April for 8,500 multiple-season deer permits and 1,000 multiple-season elk permits.
Those drawn will be eligible to purchase a special tag allowing them to participate in archery, muzzleloader and modern firearm general hunting seasons for deer or elk. Winners who purchase the elk tag by Aug. 31 can participate in general elk hunting seasons in both Eastern and Western Washington. Winners also may choose any weapon type when applying for the special permit.
"Rather than having to choose one hunting method over another, hunters drawn for a multiple-season permit who purchase the tag can partcipate in multiple seasons," state game manager Dave Ware said.
The multiple-season permit application may be purchased at any authorized license dealer, or by calling 866-246-9453. The permit application costs $7.10.
A 2014 hunting license is not required to submit an application, but those drawn must purchase one before they can purchase a multiple-season tag.
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