Many of us, having been beaten severely about the head and shoulders by a series of massive storms over the past six weeks, are still wandering around in a zombie-like daze, trying only to retrieve some semblance of normality.
Fishing is way down the list of priorities.
Add in Christmas weekend, with its attendant duties, and it’s no wonder there haven’t been many anglers out and around in recent days.
“It was practically deserted,” guide and Arlington resident Sam Ingram said of his float on the upper Skykomish on Tuesday. “We got one nice little hatchery winter-run of 7 or 8 pounds, but there weren’t any other fishermen to check with, so I don’t know whether we did better than most, or worse.”
Ingram said there was probably four feet of visibility above the Sultan River, but only about a foot below. He landed the only fish he hooked Tuesday, pulling a bait diver with sand shrimp.
The Reiter Ponds area has been producing the occasional 20-fish day, Ingram said, but you almost have to be a daily regular up there in order to hit it just right between high-water periods.
The Cowlitz drew some pressure over the Christmas holiday and put out some fish, but it probably wasn’t as hot as it has been in past years. State checks last week showed 116 bank fishermen with 48 steelhead, and six boat fishermen with three steelhead. All were sampled at Blue Creek, along with two coho checked at the barrier dam.
The North Fork Stillaguamish is having a fairly good winter season, putting out a few fish on a regular basis, and some steelhead are being landed on the Whidbey beaches. Bob Ferber at Holiday Market Sports in Burlington said anglers on the Cascade are snaking five or six fish a morning out of the river, and he recommends a float/Dedfish drift weight/shrimp tail combo. Spoons in brass or copper also will work, he said.
A very good winter season continues in the Forks area, particularly considering the amount of rain and snow this year. Bob Gooding at Olympic Sporting Goods in Forks said fresh hatchery steelhead are still entering the Quillayute system. The hot spot is the Bogachiel, from the hatchery down to the mouth of the Calawah. The Sol Duc is just starting to show fish, he said, but the Hoh hasn’t been fishable more than a couple of days all season.
Gooding looks for the Bogachiel/Calawah to be productive through at least the middle of January.
Over the hump, it’s peak time now for steelheaders on the Grande Ronde and the Tucannon. Recent creel checks showed anglers needing less than three hours of fishing to bank a steelhead on the Tucannon, and three to four hours on the Washington and Oregon sections of the Ronde. On the Snake, averages have been running about 10 hours per fish.
Crabbing: The season ends Tuesday evening in those marine areas still open to recreational crab fishing (areas 9 and 10 locally), so that leaves one last shot at Dungeness in the pot. All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein said one of the better local spots has been the shoreline between Edmonds and the shipwreck, and particularly off the old Haines Wharf in Brown’s Bay.
“Commercial crabbers have told me, however, that you’ll be seeing a higher percentage of softshells now,” Krein said.
State shellfish policy coordinator Rich Childers, in Olympia, said recreational catch rates were down a little this year in Puget Sound, but that he expects recreationists to reach their 1.2 million-pound quota.
Now starts the oft-maligned and dreaded telephone survey to collect catch data from sport crabbers. The state’s plan is to touch bases with 6,000 of the nearly 200,000 fishermen licensed to take crab in Puget Sound this year. If you have your catch card handy and can quote from it directly to a phone interviewer, you will be eligible to win one of 10 free 2007 combination fishing licenses to be raffled, Childers said.
Smelt: The season opens on the Cowlitz on Jan. 6 (Saturdays only, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. through March 31) and the prediction for the run this winter is for another poor one. All other Columbia tributaries remain closed indefinitely. State biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver said an indication of the relative scarcity of the small fish is the price being asked for fresh smelt at outlets in Cathlamet: six fish for $5.99.
Cornet Bay is treating smelt jiggers to reasonably good catch rates, with successful fishermen saying either an incoming or outgoing tide is best. Action seems to slow on the slack, some have said. Gamakatsu jigs are popular, in size 4 or 5 chrome hooks, and a bag of commercial chum will draw fish.
Not much going on at the Oak Harbor Marina yet, but it should start putting out smelt by midmonth, if it follows traditional patterns.
Blackmouth: Fair fishing is available in Saratoga Passage, according to Gary Krein (above), with Elger Bay probably the best bet. Still too many shakers around, Krein said, and the legal fish being taken the past several days have been just legal. Rumors, by the way, that wind-downed trees in Camano Island State Park closed access to the boat ramp were true. The road to the launch was closed for about a day and a half and is now open.
Checks at the Everett launch on Friday were pretty good, showing 12 anglers with five blackmouth, but results fell off a little over the weekend.
Krein put some interesting data together from state creel check numbers, which show that the success rate last winter for blackmouth fishermen contacted at the Port of Everett ramp was almost identical to the rate last year at this time.
“Both rates were about 0.19,” Krein said, “which means that about 20 percent of the anglers in the area over that time frame got a legal chinook, per day.”
Hunter ed: It’s a slow time of year on the outdoor scene, a perfect opportunity to get the young person in your family lined out and legal for autumn hunts. Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1972, must pass a hunter-education course in order to purchase a first hunting license, and the majority of the classes offered in this area take place in the winter and spring.
The Seattle Rifle and Pistol Association offers two classes in this time frame: Class 1 on Feb. 13, 15, 20, 22 and 24; and Class 2 on May 15, 17, 22, 24 and 26, with live firing on both Saturdays. The location is the club’s Machias range (Evergreen Sportsman’s Park), and the hours are 7-9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Call Dick Abbey, 206-542-2792, for more information and/or directions to the range. Leave a message if there is no answer.
Classes at the Lynnwood Recreation Center will be held monthly, beginning Jan. 15, Feb. 19, March 19, and April 16. For information, call the Rec Center at 425-771-4030.
The Kenmore Gun Range schedule wasn’t available, but in the past, classes have been held weekly, beginning the second week in July and running through August. The range office number is 425-481-8686.
Whitefish: These bony, troutlike fish don’t appeal to everyone, but a fair number of folks like to make a trip or two to the eastside for a bucket of whitefish, and now’s the time, up and down the rivers and streams of the east slopes of the Cascades. Usually bound for the smoker, the 10- to 13-inch fish are a lot of fun to catch and can be taken in, among others, the Chewack, Entiat, Methow, Similkameen, Wenatchee, Sinlaheken Creek, Yakima, Naches, and Tieton rivers. The Columbia below Priest Rapids Dam is a hot spot this time of year, for both bank and boat fishermen, and Columbia River fish average a hefty 14 to 18 inches or better. Check the individual regulations, but the limit is most usually 15 fish per person.
Rig with a spinning outfit capable of handling an ounce or two of lead, buy a few bright whitefish flies, a container of maggots, some large split shot, and you’re in business. Drift a maggot-tipped fly, or a salmon egg, or a piece of worm, along the bottom of the deeper holes.
Mackinaw: Cold time of year to be fishing Lake Chelan, but it’s the peak of the Mackinaw season, according to Anton Jones of Darrell &Dad’s Family Guide Service (firstname.lastname@example.org). Jones said he’s been averaging upwards of three fish per hour, going 2 to 6 pounds, on T-4 and U-20 Flatfish in luminous chartreuse and Purple Glow, at 200-plus feet.