Strobe lights, glow balls, propane lanterns and midnight beach fires opened the new millennium winter steelhead season at Fortson on the North Fork Stillaguamish late last week, as the river switched from flies-only to winter gear.
As sometimes happens at Fortson, late-arriving anglers utilizing the first full light of morning found more steelhead on the bite than their brethren who had been in the water at the midnight changeover.
“There were quite a few fish at Fortson, it seems,” said Richard Anderson at the Sauk River Trading Post in Darrington, “but we didn’t hear that they really killed ‘em; at least early.”
Darrell Kron at Hook, Line &Sinker in Smokey Point said fishing in the dark wasn’t very good, and that “the bite apparently came on about 8 a.m. One of our employees was there and said a couple of dozen fish were taken after that. He was a little miffed, in fact, that he had to leave and come to work when the action was really getting started.”
Anderson said customers indicated to him that there also were fish holding in the North Fork above Fortson, in the vicinity of the Swede Heaven bridge. “And, we’re getting reports of both native and hatchery fish already in the Sauk, as well,” he said.
Kron said the main Stilly also is putting out fish. “We weighed a nice, bright 14-pounder Tuesday from the Blue Stilly area,” he said.
But generally around Western Washington, the early results are spotty, at best. State Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Curt Kraemer, speaking about the Snohomish system, said, “We had a nice little bunch come in about Thanksgiving, and fishing was pretty good for a while, but that seems to have petered out. I hope the slow fishing recently is due to low, clear water conditions rather than the assumption there aren’t many more fish coming.”
Out on the coast, Bob Gooding at Olympic Sporting Goods in Forks says, “Well, the catchin’ ain’t grand, but it’s all right. It’s good enough so I’d go out myself if someone would watch the store.”
He ranks the fishing about average for this point in the season, considering low water conditions, but says the two-salt hatchery steelhead are a nice, healthy, 6 to 8 pounds. Most of the pressure now is on the Bogachiel and the lower end of the Calawah, and it can get pretty crowded at times, he says.
Down on the Cowlitz, where southwest WDFW biologists had, if not predicted, at least intimated, a good upcoming winter season, a fishery that should be smokin’ is only adequate. The first 10 days of December are often the peak of the Cowlitz winter season.
“It’s not hot, but it’s not all that bad, either,” said WDFW spokesman Joe Hymer at the Vancouver office. “Boat fishermen below Blue Creek have been averaging about a half-fish per rod.”
Hymer said the Lewis and Kalama have been slow, although the number of fish already in the trap at the Lewis hatchery is good for this early. The Elochoman has also been slow.
Long Beach and Twin Harbors will be open to digging from noon to midnight Friday, Saturday and Wednesday. Kalaloch will be open on the same afternoon schedule, from Friday through Thursday.
According to WDFW shellfish biologist Dan Ayres in Montesano, there’s a possibility more openings could occur after the first of the year, but must wait on an analysis of December harvest data.
“We have 12 new ice augurs in the tackle shop that haven’t moved in eight years,” Meseberg said.
Call 509-346-2651 for ice conditions, or go to www.mardonresort.com on the Internet.
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