LEE HORTON’S OUTDOORS COLUMN: Another salmon season arrives

By Lee Horton

Peninsula Daily News

MANY ANGLERS HAVE taken their boats out of the water for the year, but those who haven’t can harvest salmon again starting Saturday when the blackmouth fishery opens in Marine Area 6.

Blackmouth season isn’t necessarily a big-time season on the North Olympic Peninsula, but it has created excitement nonetheless.

“It’s a big deal because [anglers] haven’t been able to fish blackmouth in December in like 10 years,” Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles said, adding that in previous years the season began on Feb. 16.

Aunspach said there are a few other changes this year.

The limit has been increased from one to two blackmouth (resident chinook) but only hatchery fish can be harvested.

Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim said the blackmouth fishery used to be big draw in the area, but it has slowed down.

“In the old days, it was a pretty good season,” he said.

“There’s not as much pressure these days. It’s colder and the water is rougher. A lot of people don’t want to deal with that.”

With the winter bringing some of the roughest winds, Menkal recommends checking the weather forecast before taking a boat out.

“The big thing is the weather,” he said. “You’ll want to do your homework.”

Anglers who do hit the Strait of Juan de Fuca this month could enjoy success.

“It’s as good as you’ll find in the state,” Aunspach said.

He added that Freshwater Bay and the Winter Hole will be some of the most frequented spots on the Strait.

Here are the specifics for the Marine Area 6 (Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) blackmouth season:

■ Open: Saturday to April 10, 2013.

■ Daily limit: Two salmon; release wild chinook.

■ Size: 22-inch minimum

■ Dungeness Bay closure: The waters of Dungeness Bay inside of a line from Dungeness Spit Lighthouse to the No. 2 Red Buoy and then to the Port Williams boat ramp, are closed to salmon fishing.

Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) is the only other area on the Peninsula that opens to salmon harvest beyond this weekend.

The Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) salmon fishery ends today.

All other saltwater areas of the Peninsula remain closed to salmon fishing until 2013.

Rivers still slow

The story remains the same as it has been on the West End rivers since at least spring.

It’s slow.

Or, as Bob Gooding of Olympic Sporting Goods (360-374-6330) in Forks said, “It’s going OK.”

Menkal said steelhead have started showing up on the Bogachiel River last week.

“So, there is definitely fish in the Bogey,” Menkal said.

Gooding said most of the steelies taken on the Bogachiel and lower Calawah, another hot spot for winter steelhead, have been hatchery fish.

And they can be unpredictable.

“It usually starts around Thanksgiving and gets progressively better,” he said.

“But you never know with hatchery fish. For instance, the silvers never came [this year].”

Aunspach wonders if the fish will come around at all this year.

He remembers about three years ago when he said a lot of fish died “for whatever reason,” causing the season to never get off the ground.

He wonders if this year will be similar.

“It could be one of those long, tough years,” Aunspach said.

“The fish just aren’t showing up. They’re supposed to be [in the Bogachiel River system] by now, but they aren’t.”

Let it snow

Frank Crippen, president of the Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club and owner of North by Northwest Surf Co. (360-452-5144) in Port Angeles, said the Hurricane Ridge ski area should be ready to open when there is enough snow accumulation.

He said the bunny and intermediate lifts should be up and running by next week or the week after, but the Ridge still needs about two feet of good snow.

Winter crab

Menkal said those going after crab are still getting them.

The winter crab season is open until Monday, Dec. 31.

Menkal class

Menkal is going to hold a fly fishing class on Tuesday.

The class is usually a two-parter, but depending on how many people show up, he might end up getting through all the information in one session.

Menkal said this will be his last class of 2012.

He also said that he is planning on charging a fee for classes next year, so this will likely be the last time he’ll be giving his knowledge away for free. (He did say the fee would be nominal, though.)

Tuesday’s class lasts from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at at Brian’s Sporting Goods and More at 542 W. Washington St. in Sequim.

If there is a second session, it will take place Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the same time and same place.

Bring a pen or pencil, a notebook and a chair to the class.

For more information, contact Menkal at 360-683-1950.

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.

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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: November 29. 2012 5:47PM
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