By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
State Fish and Wildlife Department shellfish managers, led by razor clam guru Dan Ayres in Montesano, held meetings, took public comment and tried to balance low coastal tides with weekend and holiday digging opportunities — all in an effort to come up with a tentative schedule of digs through the end of the year.
Ayres is the first to admit that the tides in the schedule announced last week are not the best this time around, but, hey, you work with what you have.
And Ayres has an ace as his down card.
There are so many razor clams nestled in the sand between the Columbia River and Moclips that not even the most avid digger will bemoan the absence of minus 1.5-foot tides. That may be an exaggeration, but not by much. Ayres said our coastal razor clam population is on such an up-cycle that even mediocre tide/surf digging conditions should provide decent results through the New Year’s holiday.
Take the opening dig a couple weeks ago for example. The tide on Saturday, Oct. 13, was a plus 0.3 feet, and Sunday, Oct. 14, only a little better at minus 0.5 feet. By Sunday the surf had come up and a howling gale was blowing clam buckets, beach chairs, small children and medium-size dogs in a roiling mass toward Vancouver Island.
Ayres said that despite the discouraging conditions, limits or near-limits of clams were the rule on most beaches for the surprisingly large group that stuck it out, even though the high surf forced diggers farther up the beach, where smaller clams are generally found.
So less than optimum tides but good results should be the rule for the rest of the year, Ayres said, starting with the four-day dig that opens Saturday and runs through Tuesday. Saturday leads off with a plus 0.2-foot tide at 5:57 p.m. on Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks. On Sunday, it’s the same four beaches at 6:36 p.m for a minus 0.1-foot tide; Monday, Twin Harbors only, minus 0.3 feet at 7:12 p.m.; and Tuesday, Twin Harbors only, minus 0.4 feet at 7:46 p.m.
Ayres said there will be a mix of clam sizes at all beaches, but that those looking specifically for size might want to concentrate north of Grays Harbor, particularly on the Mocrocks beaches.
He also warns diggers heading toward Copalis or Mocrocks of a traffic revision on eastbound U.S. 101 in Hoquiam involving emergency work on the Simpson Avenue Bridge. The work could delay travelers heading toward the beaches, he said, so diggers should allow extra time. Check the state Department of Transportation website for more info.
Other fall/winter digging dates, on various beaches and subject to state Health Department approval are Nov. 13-17; Nov. 26-Dec. 1; Dec. 11-16; and Dec. 28-31.
Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 open Nov. 1 for blackmouth and local fishermen are hoping for a repeat of the excellent fishing available in November last year. All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein of Everett said indications are that there’s a lot of bait in local waters and feeder chinook to be had. He likes the Possessison Bar/Point No Point/Double Bluff triangle early in the season, but particularly Possession.
“There’s a good strong outgoing tide on the opener, which makes the east side of the bar fish particularly well,” he said.
Krein said he would work at 90 to 150 feet, pulling white or mother of pearl Tomic plugs, or Kingfisher Lite spoons in black/white or red racer.
Areas 8-1 and 8-2 remain open for the next six months, while Area 9 closes at the end of November and reopens Feb. 1.
Lots of coho, a scattering of fall chinook — some still bright — and good numbers of sea-run cutthroat are on tap in the Cowlitz River, according to Marshall Borsom at Fish Country Sports in Ethel. No winter steelhead yet, but plenty of action on all the others, he said.
The barrier dam would be a good spot to cast for silvers running 6 to 10 pounds or so, drifting eggs or a float with eggs under. Spinners also have also been taking coho, Borsom said, particularly Blue Fox and Roostertails in pinks, reds, and purple, rigged with a single barbless hook.
Boaters are backtrolling diver/bait rigs or diving plugs along the current seams and edges, for coho and a few chinook going 12 to 18 pounds.
There are still tickets left through Royal Youth Boosters for hunting privileges (pheasant, waterfowl) on 25,000 acres of private farmland on the Royal Slope near Royal City in Grant County. The non-profit group raises funds to benefit Royal City-area youth, and also releases pen-raised pheasant to enhance stocks of native birds. Hunting land includes a mix of crops — corn, wheat, alfalfa — and plenty of elbow room.
The fee is $300 for the season or $120 for a three-day pass. Call MarDon Resort at 1-800-416-2736 for more information or to purchase tickets.
The Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club, in cooperation with Everett Parks and Recreation, presents its annual Steelhead and River Fishing Clinic from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Floral Hall at Forest Park in Everett. The popular event, in its 25th year, is free and covers material of value both to beginning and experienced steelhead and salmon anglers. For more information, call Everett Parks and Rec at 425-257-8300, extension 2.
Tickets are on sale for the third annual Resurrection Winter Blackmouth Derby, scheduled for Dec. 7-8 out of Friday Harbor. The event, part of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series lineup, offers a $10,000 first prize and has been scheduled to coincide with the opening week of the winter fishing season in the San Juan Islands.
It’s limied to 100 teams of up to four anglers per team, for an entry fee of $400 per team. The net proceeds go to local salmon enhancement projects.
For more information, visit www.resurrectionderby.com.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.