The weekend storm front and its heavy rains didn’t produce the major influx of fresh steelhead from saltwater that winter anglers had hoped for, according to reports from around Western Washington.
An exception – and this could bode well for local rivers somewhere down the line – was on the coast.
“Yeah, it’s been pretty decent around here,” said Bob Gooding at Olympic Sporting Goods in Forks. “We finally got some water and some fish at the same time. The Bogachiel and Calawah have been the best, but the Hoh has also put out some pretty good fishing since it came back into shape.”
Gooding said he would classify the winter steelhead season in his area as average so far, or perhaps a little better, based on only sketchy results.
Much of the Stillaguamish system was still too dirty for best results Wednesday, but Darrell Kron at Hook, Line &Sinker said the fresh water apparently did produce a few mint bright fish. Anglers on the North Fork have also been hitting a lot of very late coho, some surprisingly bright, which must be released.
The Skykomish came up a foot after the rain, according to Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood, but dropped right back down to low and clear conditions.
“It didn’t seem to do too much for the fishing,” Chamberlain said, “except to maybe consolidate a few scattered fish around the hatchery areas.”
One local fishery that apparently did pick up after the rain was on the upper Snohomish River bars. Plunkers there started hitting fish on Saturday and Sunday, according to Jim Strege at Triangle Beverage in Snohomish.
“We’ve seen three or four fish a day here at the store since then,” he said, “which is definitely better than it was. There seems to be more people out fishing, too.”
Most of the winter steelhead have been 6- to 8-pound hatchery fish, he said, although he weighed one 12-pounder.
Well publicized electricity demand caused water releases from the Cowlitz River dams, starting at mid-week last week, which made fishing difficult for boaters over the weekend. Before the releases, bank anglers were averaging a fish for every 4.3 rods and boaters were hitting at a rate of a fish for every 2.5 anglers. River levels have since dropped back down to about 6,300 cubic feet per second.
A few fish are being taken on the Lewis, and a few on the westside Whidbey Island beaches.
The Snohomish County Sportsmen’s Association is looking to establish a facility on the upper Pilchuck to raise steelhead from fingerling to smolt size, in an attempt to bolster what has become a weak run in recent years. Anyone between Ray Gray Road and Purdy Creek with a good water source and access to electric power, willing to grant the organization access, is invited to call Bob Heirman in Snohomish, at 360-568-4083.
The outlook for this winter is mixed, according to biologist Joe Hymer of the state Fish and Wildlife Department in Vancouver. On the pro side, improving ocean survival may benefit the run, but on the con side, the parent brood runs in 1997 and 1998 were small.
Wally Hoch of Ducks Inn Guide Service in Ephrata (509-754-9670) says the major concentration of mallards in the Columbia Basin now is on the Columbia River, and advises gunners to hunt the sheltered coves on the lee side of the river. Hoch says huge decoy spreads aren’t necessary; that three or four dozen will work, especially with a motion decoy or two.
“One of my favorite hunts this time of year is to walk and jump-shoot along the irrigation canals, creeks and wasteways,” he says. “You’re usually all by yourself and it can be very productive, particularly on cold, windy days.”
Levi Meseberg and Shelby Ross are providing guided Columbia River water hunts for ducks and geese, through MarDon Resort on Potholes Reservoir. The fee is $200 per hunter; call 1-800-416-2736.
Elk have been fed in this area since 1945, both to help the animals through severe winters, and to prevent crop damage on adjacent agricultural land.