Outdoor Outlook: Time to get after those winter steelhead

  • By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
  • Wednesday, December 21, 2011 9:40pm
  • Sports

The Christmas weekend has become a sort of marker for the midpoint of top winter steelhead fishing on many Western Washington rivers, and reports indicate that in spite of too low, too clear water conditions, now’s the time to be gettin’ after ‘em.

Top dawg is the Bogachiel, over on the Peninsula, putting out a bunch of fish even though it’s so low and bony that boat fishermen are dragging their craft in a couple of spots. “It’s been very decent, considering we need some water pretty bad,” said Bob Gooding at Olympic Sporting Goods in Forks. “The light rain we’re having off and on this week should help, and it may be a hot weekend.”

Gooding said the Hoh, known to blow out of shape if someone in Forks leaves a faucet on, has benefited from the dry fall and early winter.

“We’re usually lucky to get five or six fishable days on the Hoh in December,” Gooding said on Tuesday, Dec. 20, “but so far we’ve had 20.”

More Forks-area fishermen each year are going to float/jig rigs, he said, tipping jigs with eggs or a shrimp tail.

Excellent steelheading on the Bogy is borne out by the numbers. State creel checks over the weekend counted 103 fish, wild and hatchery, either kept or released by 66 fishermen. That included 88 hatchery fish kept. On the lower Hoh, a crowd of 457 anglers Saturday and Sunday reported a total of 384 steelhead, including 310 hatchery fish kept.

On the Calawah it was 23 fishermen with 23 hatchery fish, and on the Sol Duc, 10 with three hatchery fish.

Down on the Cowlitz there are fish available, and fishing was good up to about a week ago, then the dam releases were cut, the river dropped, and action slowed. It’s still pretty good, according to Marshall Borsom at Fish Country Sports in Ethel, but folks are having to work a little harder at it.

“It’s been better the past few days from Blue Creek on down toward Toledo, as opposed to up by the trout hatchery,” Borsom said. “But the touch of rain we’re having should get ‘em moving again.”

State biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver said the Kalama is putting out decent steelheading, and so is the Lewis, particularly near the salmon hatchery.

In the upper Skagit valley, the Cascade is producing for those willing to fish at night with glow balls, according to Stuart Forst at Holiday Sports in Burlington. He said the river is so low that at daylight those fish are gone.

Steelheaders on the Stillaguamish system were having a better than average winter season until the crick dropped, according to Darrell Kron at Hook Line &Sinker in Smokey Point. Not much going down right now, he said, but it had been pretty good.

“Some real nice fish, too,” he said, “including a 19-pound, 9-ounce hatchery summer-run caught a while back below Fortson.”

Popular setups include float/jig rigs in pink or peach.

Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood said the Skykomish has been relatively good so far this winter season, particularly the Reiter Ponds area which produced an excellent bite over the weekend.

“I’d say fishermen on the Snohomish system generally have been having a little better season than they’ve had in several years,” Chamberlain said. “The upper Sky has been spotty, but hot on occasion for those using light gear to match the water conditions — small, one-sixteenth or one-eighth-ounce jigs.”

Local blackmouth

OK fishing for blackmouth down at Jefferson Head in Area 10, and at places in Saratoga Passage locally. Best in the San Juans, although the winter season may not be as good there as in the past couple of years.

But some nice-sized fish and getting bigger in the islands, said Forst, with a good sprinkling in the 12- to 15-pound range, and lots of bait showing. Try Tide Point or Thatcher Pass, Forst said.

State checks over the weekend at the Washington Park launch in Anacortes showed 41 fishermen with 11 blackmouth on Saturday, and 20 with four on Sunday.

Clam dig

State razor clam manager Dan Ayres in Montesano said tides aren’t right this year for the traditional, very popular, New Years dig, but tides today and tomorrow on coastal beaches are okay and health authorities have approved this pre-Christmas harvest. Tides are at 4:40 p.m. today, and 5:29 p.m. on Friday, and four beaches — Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks — are open.

The next dig at Kalaloch, which has been closed because of a low amount of clams, will probably be April 7-9, Ayres said.

Crabbing closes

Those marine areas in Puget Sound still open for recreational winter crabbing will close Dec. 31, and all sport crabbers with a winter license will then have until Feb. 1 to report their catch. Failure to submit a winter catch report, even if no crab were taken, will result in a $10 fine tacked on their 2012 crab endorsement.

Crabbers can send their catch record card to WDFW by mail or file online. The mailing address is WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia 98501, and the online reporting system, available Jan. 1 to Feb. 1, is https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html.

For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.

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