By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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“The longer it goes, you start to wonder if [the run] will come,” Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim said.
Bob Gooding of Olympic Sporting Goods (360-374-6330) in Forks is a bit more definitive in his pessimism.
“If they do [make their run], it’s going to be a miracle,” Gooding said.
“It has been pitiful.”
It appeared the only thing holding the steelhead back was less-than-ideal water conditions.
At this point, though, it appears there is more to it.
“It hasn’t been very wet,” Gooding said.
“And the rivers are down. But there is enough water for the fish to come.”
Gooding said there has been a small increase in success, but nothing remarkable.
Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles went fishing on the West End earlier this week, and he and his fishing partner both caught a fish.
“There are fish, but you gotta work hard,” Aunspach said.
Aunspach said the lower Hoh River has been the most consistent river recently, in part because the water holds its color even in low conditions.
He added that fishing during incoming tides is best because they bring the fish up into the river.
Both Gooding and Menkal said they couldn’t recall the last time the steelhead’s winter run was this late.
“It’s strange . . . it’s weird,” Menkal said, “that’s all I can say right now.”
Gooding already has an eye on the native steelhead run, which opens to fishing Feb. 16.
“I hope the native [steelhead] fishing is better,” he said.
Of course, one major difference between native steelhead and hatchery steelhead, is that anglers can keep three hatchery steelies per day and only one native steelhead per year.
Another major difference, and an important one for those who like stay on Johnny Law’s good side, is the hatchery fish have a clipped adipose fin near the tail and a healed scar where the fin was.
Blackmouth a little better
Anglers have found more success on the saltwater recently, but blackmouth fishing is nowhere near hot.
“We’ve had some really good water days,” Aunspach said.
This week, Aunspach said the fishery has been hampered by morning incoming tides — they are good for fishing near the mouth of a river, but not so much for saltwater fishing — but the tides should switch by the end of the week.
Here is the final Port Angeles Salmon Club monthly derby results for December:
■ Winner: Lyle Newell with an 11-pound, 3-ounce blackmouth.
■ Second: Kurt Madison, 10.13 pounds.
■ Third: Nick Eshom, 10.08 pounds.
■ Fourth: George McDonald, 9.12 points.
Ward Norden, a fishing tackle wholesaler and former fishery biologist, checked in with some hunting tips.
There aren’t many hunts open right now, but it’s a good time for ducks.
“There are plenty of ducks on the [Hood Canal bays], but about 90 percent are widgeon, which are a shy skittish bird,” Norden said in an email.
“Don’t know where the pintails and mallards went to lately.”
Predators such as coyotes, bobcats and cougars are in season, and the winter conditions can make them easier to hunt.
“This is also the prime time of year for predator hunting on the North Olympic Peninsula,” Norden said.
“Leaves are off and the grass is laying down, so the predators are the most visible all year.
“This is also ‘hungry time’ for predators, so they are on the move a lot to find food and keep warm.
“If you are new to predator calling, avoid the most common calls on the market — jackrabbit — and instead use low-volume mouse and cottontail calls, which are more natural for this area.
“It is a shame that most of the coyotes in our area have some degree of mange disease, making the hides worthless, since they are quite beautiful.”
And though it is months away, it’s never too early to prepare for the deer hunt.
“Now is actually a very good time to scout for concentrations of local blacktail deer,” Norden said.
“Biologically, our local deer are similar to the blackmails of southeast Alaska in that, during the winter, to conserve energy, they move around very little, sometimes laying in one spot for a week or more.
“If you are out and about in the clear cuts this time of year and see more than two sets of tracks in a location, it is a sure sign of a significant concentration, therefore a good place to watch next hunting season.”
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Sports Editor Lee Horton’s outdoors columns appear here Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.