Beware another poor steelhead season

  • Wayne Kruse / Outdoor Writer
  • Wednesday, December 13, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

The scenario goes like this: Optimism and high hopes early in the season. A few fish caught on and after Thanksgiving. Declining catches and excuses, such as “the rivers are too low and clear to give a real indication, but we’re hoping a good rain will bring more of ‘em in.” Worries about the strength of the winter run.

Then, finally, resignation. Another bum steelhead season.

The sad and sour scenario seems to happen year after year after year these days, discouraging all but the most avid winter steelheaders. Regardless of whether or not the picture is accurate, regardless of the reasons, it seems to be playing out again this winter. And it really gets old, after a while.

Reports locally have been poor recently, perhaps because the rivers ARE too low and clear, but perhaps because there aren’t many winter steelhead coming. There were at least fair numbers of fish being taken on the Forks-area rivers, the past few weeks, but those streams have become too bony for top action as well. More fish coming over there? Who knows.

Down south, the Cowlitz has offered fair December fishing, but not the bonanza being hyped earlier by state steelhead managers. WDFW biologist Joe Hymer, at the Vancouver office, says, “Cowlitz River steelhead fishing has not lived up to expectations to date. Hopefully things will improve with a good rain.”

Well, maybe they will. But after a while you almost get to the point where you really don’t care any more.

Almost, but not quite.

There are at least a couple of bright spots in an otherwise dreary picture. Guide Sam Ingram of Arlington reports perhaps one of the best days of the season so far at Lagoon Point on the west side of Whidbey Island. “A couple of fishing friends of mine live right there,” Ingram says, “and they said there were eight guys fishing on Tuesday at the tide change, six of them hooked fish, and four were landed. That’s not bad, and they said the fishery has been slowly getting better.”

Sometimes the scale of action on the Whidbey beaches is a predictor of fish heading this way.

Another decent report comes from the North Fork Stillaguamish, where John Martinis, owner of John’s Sporting Goods in Everett, caught two nice fish Tuesday morning. The North Fork is so low and clear, Martinis says, that the secret is to fish below the slide area where visibility is maybe two feet or a little better.

“There was no one else around, and not even any footprints on the beach,” he says. “And the river is full of Dolly Varden, which you have to release, of course.”

  • Smelt: Jigging is underway for smelt and herring at both Cornet Bay on the north end of Whidbey Island, and on the Everett waterfront, in the Marina boat basin along Marine View Drive. Cold temperatures have kept most jiggers at home, but there are fish available.

  • Ice fishing?: Mike Meseberg at MarDon Resort on Potholes Reservoir, Grant County, said single-digit temperatures early this week brought ice to the sand dune area of the reservoir, but just enough to hinder duck hunters, and not enough to offer ice fishing.

  • Crab: Recreational crabbing reopened Saturday in marine areas 8-1 and 8-2, scheduled to last through the end of the month. Area 7, the San Juan Islands, remains closed. WDFW shellfish manager Norm Lemberg, in the La Conner office, said the reopening was to address a quota imbalance between tribal and non-Indian crabbers. Tribal fisheries will also be open during the month, and Lemberg said a non-Indian commercial opening may also be allowed. Contact Lemberg at 360-466-4345, ext. 240, or Steve Burton at the Mill Creek office, 425-775-1311, ext. 126.

  • Waterfowl: The latest overflight of waterfowl areas in northwest Washington showed a total of 228,375 dabbling ducks – a decrease of 21 percent from last year’s comparable flight. The species breakdown was 143,000 mallards, 77,000 widgeon, 57,000 pintail, and 11,000 green-wing teal. Samish Bay held the highest number of ducks, followed by Skagit Bay, Padilla Bay, and Livingston Bay.

    With ponds and small lakes in the Columbia Basin now frozen, Wally Hoch of Ducks Inn Guide Service in Ephrata (509-754-9670) says the only consistent shooting he’s been able to find recently has been on the Columbia River around Vantage. Potholes Reservoir isn’t holding many birds, Hoch says. Moses Lake is, but they’re mostly inside city limits.

    Hoch says there’s still fair hunting in the Tri-Cities area. On the McNary NWR, try the Peninsula Unit, just across Highway 12 from the refuge and south of the town of Burbank, he says.

    “Goose numbers remain high,” he says, “but daily scouting is necessary to locate where they’re feeding. With lower temperatures, both ducks and geese will need to feed twice daily to maintain condition, and geese will become more dependent on corn, versus wheat.”

  • Goodbye Hershey, old friend, good friend. Fare you well indeed. Somewhere, I know, the sun is shining, the grass is soft, and there’s a boy with a stick.

    He’ll throw it for you, if you ask politely.

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