Despite dry weather, steelhead season underway

  • Kirby Arnold / Inside the Clubhouse
  • Wednesday, November 22, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Bob Gooding at Olympic Sporting Goods in Forks was commenting on the too cold, too clear water conditions in the steelhead rivers of the northern Olympic Peninsula.

“Normally this time of year we’re up to an elephant’s hind end in water,” he said. “Not this time around, though. We’re about ready to dry up completely and blow away.”

Despite not enough water to really pull early winter steelhead in from saltwater, Gooding said some fish are being taken.

“Actually, it’s about what we could expect for the Thanksgiving weekend,” he said. “That’s our rule-of-thumb start of the winter season around here, and they’re picking up a few fish down on the Hoh, and on the Bogachiel, both at the mouth of the Calawah and below the hatchery.”

Anglers who don’t mind fishing elbow to elbow might also consider hitting the Cowlitz this weekend. That good, early run of hatchery fish which comes in around Thanksgiving and provides excellent fishing until about Dec. 10 is in and looking for lunch. State Fish and Wildlife Department checks showed better than a fish for every two rods among boat fishermen late last week and over the weekend, mostly below Blue Creek.

What looks like a solid start to the winter steelhead season is also being reported locally. Jim Strege at Triangle Beverage in Snohomish weighed his first winter fish from the Snohomish system two weeks ago, and anglers brought five more fish into the shop last weekend, he said. Two of those fish were over 15 pounds.

“Most of them were taken by plunkers,” he said, “and a couple were from the Skykomish.”

  • Local chinook: Only one weekend left for what has been a short but excellent winter blackmouth season in areas 9 and 8-1. The season closes Nov. 30, not to reopen until Feb. 16.

    WDFW checks at the Edmonds sling on Sunday showed 44 anglers with 11 fish, averaging 6 pounds, from Possession Bar, Point No Point, and Double Bluff. Checks at Camano State Park tallied 50 anglers with 24 fish, averaging 8 pounds, mostly from the Baby Island area across Saratoga Passage in Area 8-1.

    Fishing in the southern San Juan Islands has also been good. Catch averages of about one blackmouth for every four anglers have been reported at the Washington Park ramp, averaging a nice 10 pounds per fish. Area 7 also closes Nov. 30.

  • Chum salmon: The Hoodsport beach fishery is pretty much over now, but the last checks at Kennedy Creek, farther down-Sound, showed 44 anglers with 42 fish, averaging 12 pounds.

  • Razor clams: The two razor clam tides this weekend on the ocean beaches will probably be a couple of the most crowded of the fall/winter season, according to state shellfish managers. But Dan Ayres in the WDFW’s Montesano office says there are plenty of clams left. All clam beaches will be open for the late afternoon tides which are a minus 0.2 feet at 5:24 p.m. Friday, and a minus 0.4 feet at 6:07 Saturday.

    There seems to be a considerable discrepancy in ocean tide data this year, among the various tide books available, Ayres said, but the ones above are supplied by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and should be accurate.

    Ayers said clams are largest at the south end of the coast, on the Long Beach Peninsula, and generally get smaller the farther north a digger goes. Those at Kalaloch are definitely on the small side, he said.

    Earlier digs this fall have drawn considerable pressure, and a lot of clams have already been dug, but a limit shouldn’t be too hard to find if the digger has any experience at all and if weather and surf conditions cooperate. Unfortunately, Ayers said, the NOAA long-range forecast shows a substantial swell showing up about Friday.

  • Waterfowl: Duck and goose hunting in the Columbia Basin has been excellent recently, according to Wally Hoch of Ducks Inn Guide Service in Ephrata (509-754-9670). Large populations of northern ducks have come in with the cold snap, and overall concentrations are higher than normal for this time of year. Smaller ponds are frozen, and so is much of the still water on the larger lakes and reservoirs, Hoch said.

    Moses Lake was still open over the weekend, with large rafts of waterfowl using both the extreme north and south ends of the lake. That includes ducks and a larger than normal number of geese, as well

    “Goose hunters have had very good shooting in harvested fields within flight distance of Moses Lake,” Hoch said, “but that means scouting to see what fields are being used and securing permission to hunt.”

    Some of the better areas, at least while cold weather lasts, include Banks Lake, Alkali and Lenore lakes, north Soap Lake, the Crab Creek side of Potholes Reservoir, and anywhere there are concentrations of birds on the Columbia River.

    “Until all the fields, and feed, get covered with ice and snow, the birds should stick around,” Hoch said. “Simply look for open water and you should find birds.”

  • Westside pheasant: The Western Washington pheasant seasons ends Nov. 30, and most WDFW game managers save a good number of birds to release prior to the Thanksgiving weekend. Dry weather and generally favorable conditions have made for a quality hunting experience so far this year on the westside formal release sites, and birds in good shape.

    In Eastern Washington, native ringnecks have been difficult to come by, but halfway through the eastside season there are still pen-raised birds left to plant to supplement wild stocks. Most will be put in the field before the end of November, according to WDFW spokesman Tom Keegan in Olympia.

    Keegan said one of the better general areas for a mix of wild and pen-raised birds is the 10,000 acres of posted Feel Free To Hunt properties within the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project in Grant County. Call the WDFW’s Ephrata office at 509-754-4624.

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