LEE HORTON’S OUTDOORS COLUMN: Strait salmon slowing down

By Lee Horton

Peninsula Daily News

WITH SALMON FOCUSED on making their way up area rivers to spawning ground, where does that leave saltwater fishing?

Tough to say, really.

Port Angeles should have a fair number of coho, but it appears the pressure has tapered off considerably.

“There should be some silvers moving from Sekiu,” Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim said.

“There were tons at Neah Bay before it started raining.”

That may very well be the case, but anglers haven’t been flocking to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to catch coho.

“It has definitely slowed way down,” Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles said.

“Most guys have bailed. There are just a handful still fooling around out there.”

Aunspach said the coho fishing is no longer about the quantity of fish, but the quality.

You should be able to catch some nice-sized silvers this late in the season, even if pulling in your limit is more difficult than it has been.

According to Aunspach, many of the anglers who are venturing out on the Strait might work for coho for a little while, but then shift their focus to blackmouth.

This isn’t the prime time to catch these immature chinook — the December salmon fishery is — but there are some blackmouth around.

Whatever the case, it appears we are at the tail end of a strange saltwater salmon season.

Sekiu was off-the-rails crazy for much of the last few months, but now barely anyone is heading that way.

Van Riper’s Resort closed a few weeks ago, and Donalynn Olson said Olson’s Resort (360-963-2311) is open until the salmon fishery ends Wednesday, but that they aren’t getting much business.

Port Angeles was dead during Sekiu’s salad days, then had a big burst that disappeared as quickly as it arrived.

Sequim never really seemed to get going.

Port Townsend had a nice chinook season, but once that fishery ended hardly anyone took their boats out there.

But the beach casters have had a lot of coho success, especially near Fort Flagler.

“It has really been a bizarre year,” Menkal said.

Getting chummy

Ward Norden, a fishing tackle wholesaler and former fishery biologist, reports chum salmon are starting to move along in large numbers.

But they put up a fight.

“In my opinion, chums are far and away the hardest fighting of all the salmon,” Norden said.

“They combine the brute strength of chinook with the speed of coho.”

Norden said the best chum fishing happens on Admiralty Inlet and Hood Canal.

“The real action on chums for the Olympic Peninsula occurs down at Hoodsport in front of the hatchery,” he said.

“It is a beach or anchored boat-casting affair, with the most common rig being a chartreuse yarn fly on a leader behind a light sinker and a steelhead casting rod and reel.

“That Hoodsport fishery is combat fishing at its finest. It’s a big deal. People travel hundreds of miles for it.

“Marine Area 9 [Port Townsend] has produced a lot of chums for sport anglers over the years, whenever anglers could figure out what the chums would bite on.”

Norden recommends trying a slow-trolled purple squid or bait.

Chum can also be caught on some rivers — but the Quilcene is not among them — where they usually go for anything green.

Hunting notes

Aunspach said the pressure decline could be a result of anglers giving their fishing rods a rest.

“Most of them are hunters, too,” Aunspach said.

“They probably filled their freezers with fish, and now they’re trying to track some fur.”

But so far the hunting has been tough, as both Aunspach and Menkal have experienced first-hand.

“I finally saw my first buck, but it was 10 feet from timber,” Aunspach said.

“By the time I figured out it had horns, it was too late.”

Menkal went out last week; he hardly saw anything move and he didn’t hear one shot.

Perhaps the strangest part of the young season is that he hasn’t heard about much success.

Usually, hunters will tell him about their buddy, or their buddy’s buddy, who got a 2- or 3-point buck, but such hearsay hasn’t been going around so far.

But leave it to Norden, who is also an expert hunter, to come up with some fascinating tidbits:

■ “On the duck hunting scene, there are good numbers of local birds around the bays on Hood Canal and Discovery Bay, but I haven’t yet seen much sign of northern birds migrating in yet.

“This is normal [near Quilcene] where the northern birds — dominated by wigeon, pintails and ringneck ducks — usually don’t arrive for another three to four weeks.

“When the wigeons show up, we will know the northern birds are on the move to the Olympic Peninsula. So far, not yet.

“The ducks are mostly mallards and teal with a sprinkling of pintails.”

The duck season opened last weekend.

■ “The snowshoe hares up in the Olympic Mountains are about to change their color phase from brown to white in the next week or so.

“For hunters who wish to hunt them for a fine dinner, this is when they are the easiest to see, at elevations between 2,500 and 3,000 feet.

“Snowshoe hares are significantly larger than the local cottontail rabbits.”

■ “The rut should begin [soon]. The does go into estrus and the bucks get stupid looking for the hot does. It usually happens to our local black-tailed deer about this moon phase.

“The primary rut lasts about 10 days, and there is a secondary rut at the end of November.”

■ Finally, Norden reports that many of the logging roads on the Coyle Peninsula that were closed to hunting earlier this month due to fire danger are now open again.

Clam digs approved

Marine toxin tests have confirmed the razor clams on area beaches are safe to eat, so the digs scheduled for Saturday through Tuesday have been officially approved.

Here are the days, times, low tides and participating beaches:

■ Saturday: 5:57 p.m., +0.2 feet — Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks.

■ Sunday: 6:36 p.m., -0.1 feet — Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks.

■ Monday: 7:12 p.m., -0.3 feet— Twin Harbors.

■ Tuesday: 7:46 p.m., -0.4 feet— Twin Harbors.

State coastal shellfish manager Dan Ayres recommends that diggers carry a lantern or strong flashlight during night digs.

Send photos, stories

Have a photograph, a fishing or hunting report, an anecdote about an outdoors experience or a tip on gear or technique?

Send it to sports@peninsuladailynews.com or P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.


Outdoors columnist Lee Horton appears here Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at lhorton@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 25. 2012 5:32PM
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