A whole lot of happy clam diggers burned up Thanksgiving dinner calories late last week, as probably the largest crowd of the fall/winter razor clam season hit the coastal beaches Friday and Saturday evenings.
“Digging pressure was a little heavier than we had anticipated, but not overly so,” said state Fish and Wildlife Department shellfish biologist Dan Ayerst in Montesano. “We were generally happy with the abundance and average size of the clams taken, particularly south of Grays Harbor.”
Weather and surf forecasts for the two-day dig were borderline, at best, but weather conditions ended up much better than anticipated. The surf came up on Saturday, Ayerst said, leading to somewhat more difficult digging that evening.
Remaining digs this season include Dec. 8-9 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, and Kalaloch; Dec. 10-12 at Kalaloch only; Dec. 13 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch; and Dec. 14 at Kalaloch only. The best remaining minus tides are a minus 1.4 on Dec. 12, and a minus 1.3 on Dec. 13.
Ayerst said there should still be plenty of clams left for the remainder of the season.
Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood said one of his employees took an 11-pounder over the weekend at Reiter Ponds, and saw a couple of others caught. He said a few fish have also been reported from the Whidbey Island beaches, a sign that more steelhead are on the way.
“Most of these early fish we’re seeing locally have been three-salts to 12 or 14 pounds,” Chamberlain said.
Fishing has been good for a week or more on the Cowlitz, where checks of boat anglers below Blue Creek over the weekend showed better than a half-fish per angler average.
Predictions of a large return of hatchery winter steelhead to the Cowlitz have prompted fisheries managers to open the lower portions of both Blue (trout/steelhead hatchery) and Mill (salmon hatchery/barrier dam) creeks to steelhead fishing for the month of December. Blue Creek will be open from its mouth to the posted sign about 40 feet below the rearing pond outlet. Mill Creek will be open from the mouth to the hatchery road culvert. All wild steelhead and fish with a missing right ventral fin must be released during the one-month season, and both night closures and non-buoyant lure restrictions will be in effect.
There will be a special area set aside on Blue Creek for wheelchair-bound anglers at the rearing pond outlet. Additionally, anglers on Blue Creek will be able to keep sea-run cutthroat from what is developing into a record run of hatchery cutts. The regulation allows five trout from Blue Creek, only two of which may be over 20 inches. That means if you catch and keep a really big cutthroat, it will count as one of your two-steelhead limit.
WDFW spokesman Joe Hymer in Vancouver said this small-stream fishery is an experimental one, to see if anglers can comport themselves in an orderly fashion and obey the regulations.
There are still some tired chums available in area rivers, along with a scattering of fish that are in better shape. The chum run in south Puget Sound is also starting to drop off with the most recent WDFW checks on Kennedy Creek showing 13 anglers with 13 chums, averaging 10 pounds; 7 anglers on Perry Creek with 3 chums, averaging 9 pounds; and 18 anglers on McLane Creek with 4 chums, averaging 8 pounds.
Lone Lake on Whidbey Island, now managed as a trophy trout lake, has been providing excellent fishing this fall for rainbow of two general sizes – one age group going 13 or 14 inches, and a group of holdovers to 18 inches plus. Tackle shop owner Mike Chamberlain says the lake is particularly popular with fly fishermen, although it’s not flies only. He says fishing will slow with lowering water temperatures, and then should come alive again in late February or March.
Diving duck numbers should continue to increase with colder weather, Hoch said, concentrating on Wanapum and Wells pools.
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