By Wayne Kruse Herald Columnist
If you bet on the razor clams Sunday evening, you lost.
The latest coastal razor clam season drew 7,800 recreational diggers Saturday afternoon, about an average turnout for this time of year according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife shellfish manager Dan Ayres in Montesano. On Sunday’s evening low tide, however, the number had dropped to 600 lonesome diggers, even though the weather was good, the surf down, and plenty of clams still available.
So where were the missing 7,200 folks? Yeah, you hit it.
That was the final dig for a while, by the way. Next up, tentatively, will be a three-day opening Feb. 26, 27 and 28. Ayres said the last dig resulted in an excellent average of 14.6 clams per person, nearly limits (15) around, with Mocrocks carrying probably the highest population density but Twin Harbors and Long Beach slightly larger clams.
Just one more Seahawks reference, then I promise (woo, woo) I’ll quit.
Reader Kathy Atwood emailed a photo of her brother’s creation, a “12th Man” fly.
“My brother Hans Solie tied it,” she said. “He lives in Yakima and is a Lieutenant in the fire department there. Our dad, Jerry Solie, is an amazing fisherman and I’m proud to see my brother following in his footsteps.
“I thought the fly might be newsworthy in light of our Super Bowl victory,” she said.
Solie’s handiwork appears in Swing the Fly magazine, and you can view it at the link http://chiwulff.com/2014/01/28/tie-one-on-hans-solies-seahawk-12th-man/.
A good winter blackmouth season in the San Juan Islands slowed the past few days, and Kevin John blames it on a persistent north wind. John, manager of Holiday Sports in Burlington, said “My theory is that a north wind tends to move the bait around, and chinook with it. It makes boat travel a little more difficult too, in some places. It’s just generally disruptive.”
He said the north side of the islands was showing a higher percentage of wild chinook, and slightly smaller fish than the south side. Thatcher Pass, Obstruction Pass, and Speiden Channel have all produced, but the banks have probably been best, weather permitting.
Small herring and small spoons, such as the 2-inch or 3-inch Kingfisher Lite or Coho Killer have been popular setups, John said, in greens and UVs. Fish have been running 7 to 8 pounds on the average, up to 12 or so, and a 16-pounder came from Thatcher Pass last week.
Hopefully, action will pick up again for the Roche Harbor Salmon Classic, today through Saturday, an upscale, big money, team event which draws many of the best salmon fishermen in the north Sound area. Guaranteed cash awards totalling $25,000 are the draw, and the event sold out its self-imposed limit of 100 boats this year, at an entry fee of $700 per.
Last year’s big winner, Derek Floyd, nailed the largest chinook in the derby’s history and carted off a total of $22,000.
The Roche Harbor Classic is not a non-profit event, according to coordinator Debbie Sandwith and, because of that, some area anglers wonder why the derby doesn’t kick something back to the resource, as do most of the other Western Washington events, run by fishing clubs.
The fact is, they do. Sandwith said they contributed $1,000 after last year’s tournament to Long Live the Kings, and plan to do the same this year. Long Live the Kings’ states “Our goal is to restore wild salmon and steelhead, and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest.”
The group runs Glenwood Springs Hatchery near Eastsound on Orcas Island, and another on Hood Canal. Carol McGrath, LLTK associate director of development, confirmed that the Roche Harbor derby did indeed donate $1,000 and has told the group they will again this year.
Sandwith said anyone wishing more information about management of the Roche Harbor Salmon Classic can call her directly, at 360-378-5562.
A light-snow winter has allowed elk herds on the east slopes of the Cascades to remain at higher elevations so far and, as a result, the state’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area is not feeding elk as it does most every year. The recorded phone messge thus discourages visitors to the popular event, at least for the time being.
“We would normally have started feeding in mid-December, a spokesman at the WDFW’s Yakima office said, “and there’s the possibility that it just won’t happen this year. There have only been a handful of times folks can remember since the program began that we didn’t feed all winter.”
The phone number at the Yakima office is 509-575-2740.
The first verified spring chinook was caught Tuesday in the lower Columbia River, probably a Willamette fish according to state biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver. The run will gradually build but the recreational fishery probably won’t really get hot until March.
Anticipating a strong return of springers this year, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon have set the 2014 fishing season to run through April 7 on the lower river. Fishing is currently open on a daily basis from the mouth upstream to the I-5 bridge. The legal fishing area expends upriver to Beacon Rock on March 1, and for bank anglers on up to the fishing deadline just below Bonneville Dam.
Based on pre-season projections, some 227,000 upriver fish bound for rivers and streams above Bonneville will return this year. That compares to a return of 123,100 springers in 2013.
Fishery managers were meeting Wednesday afternoon to review the stock status of Columbia River smelt, and to consider mainstem commercial and tributary recreational smelt seasons. The fish (more properly, eulachon) were listed as threatened by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2010, but a large return last year raised hopes the run has come back enough to allow a fishery.
Abundance indicators have been mixed this winter, but so were they last year, said state biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, who was optimistic there was at least a chance a dipnet season might be opened in the Cowlitz.
If a season is set, it would likely be very conservative: Cowlitz only; dip nets from the bank only; 10 pounds per person; 6 a.m. to noon; Saturdays only, Feb. 8 through March 1