By Wayne Kruse Herald Columnist
The last pheasants for the year have been released day at the designated hunting sites in this area, according to Belinda Schuster, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife manager of the various units making up the Skagit Wildlife Area. On the upside, the plants Tuesday evening (for hunting Wednesday) and Wednesday evening (for hunting today) were roughly 30 percent larger than usual.
Saturday is the final day of the Western Washington pheasant hunting season.
Two of the most popular hunting areas with wing shooters here include Ebey Island (east of Everett, off U.S. 2), and the “Smith farm,” just west of Stanwood, Schuster said. There are two parking areas to access the Ebey Island release site; one just as you get off the trestle onto Homeacres Road and the other down Homeacres road to the second 90-degree turn. At that point, facing Everett, turn into the spot where the bike lane lands on the island.
To reach the Smith Farm release site, head west from Stanwood toward Camano Island on Highway 532, cross the bridge, immediately turn left and drive south to a dead end at the farm.
Marine areas 6 and 7 (the eastern Strait and San Juan Islands) reopen Sunday for winter blackmouth season and Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said the outlook is rosy. Most of the usually productive spots along Rosario Strait were putting out fish at the end of last season, and should be good bets for the reopener. Popular spots include Obstuction Pass, Thatcher Pass, Eagle Bluff, Lopez Flats and Cypress Flats, John said.
“If the weather permits, some will head out to the banks, particularly the guys entered in the Resurrection Derby,” John said. “Salmon Bank will be popular, because you can duck back in, out of the wind if it kicks up, and both Hein and MacArthur banks will be holding fish.”
John likes to fish bait in the winter because dogfish are less likely to be a nuisance. Small spoons are also popular: Coho Killers and 3-inch Kingfishers, in UV white lightning, Army truck and Irish cream. All the gear is fished right on the deck in 80 to 150 feet of water, John said.
The state has approved an evening razor clam dig on ocean beaches starting Saturday and running for eight days on the lowest tides so far this season.
“We’ve had some great digs so far this season, but this one could be truly exceptional,” said state coastal shellfish manager Dan Ayres. “If the weather cooperates, most diggers should be able to get their limit in record time.”
The tides and open beaches are as follows: Nov. 30, minus 0.1 feet at 4:28 p.m., all beaches except Kalaloch; Dec. 1, minus 0.9 feet at 5:13 p.m., Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks; Dec. 2, minus 1.4 feet at 5:59 p.m., Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks; Dec. 3, minus 1.7 feet at 6:44 p.m., Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks; Dec. 4, minus 1.7 feet at 7:30 p.m., Twin Harbors and Long Beach; Dec. 5, minus 1.4 feet at 8:17 p.m., Twin Harbors only; Dec. 6, minus 1.0 feet at 9:05 p.m., Twin Harbors only; and Dec. 7, minus 0.3 feet at 9:56 p,n,, Twin Harbors only.
A reader in Arlington, who’s retired and enjoys fly fishing, e-mailed that there’s a new steel gate on C-Post Road just off SR 530 that blocks a very popular fishing and family fun area on the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.
I spoke to Allen McGuire, acting assistant regional manager for state lands, at the Department of Natural Resources Northwest Region office in Sedro-Woolley. McGuire said a group of private landowners in the area, on both sides of the river, paid to have the gate installed, specifically to discourage partying, shooting, garbage dumping, road damage and rampant vandalism around the C-Post Bridge across the North Fork, and beyond.
McGuire said the private landowners chose the location of the gate, and the DNR gave permission to install it on DNR right of way, not far off the highway and a long walk from the river.
“The shooting was particularly unacceptable, with residences close by, upriver and down,” McGuire said. “We worked with the Sheriff’s Department and our own enforcement people, but couldn’t deal effectively with the problem that way.”
The C-Post bridge accesses the Mount Higgins trailhead. McGuire said the landowner on the far side of the river is allowing walkers to cross his property.
“That could change, if he keeps getting phone calls or if other problems don’t stop,” McGuire said.
He said walkers on the DNR right of way were on “trust land” essentially, a different critter from public land, and that anyone straying off the road would be trespassing on private property for several miles until they came to DNR trust property.
The North Fork Stilly is one of this area’s best fly fishing streams, and was at one time a major summer and winter steelhead producer. But public access to the North Fork (granted, with all its attendant problems) is becoming scarce, and the C-Post area is just the latest loss to hikers, swimmers, fishermen, dog walkers and all the other decent folks who simply want to recreate.
So who argues on the public’s behalf in a discussion of this sort? It seems that an enforcement problem is an enforcement problem, not an access problem, and that simply gating the public — the good along with the troublesome — away from public land or a concrete bridge built with public funds (the DNR would say “trust funds”) is just a band-aid approach to a serious situation.