By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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With the late start to Sunday's NFC Championship Game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers (3:30 p.m.), a crafty angler could hit the water and be back in time for kickoff.
There are finally fishing opportunities throughout the North Olympic Peninsula.
First, the steelhead fishing on the West End rivers is primed to pick up.
The hatchery run has passed past, and it was a bust.
But, with the rivers coming down after blowing out last week, conditions might be prime for the kickoff of the native steelhead run.
“The rivers should fall back to perfect shape by [Thursday],” Bob Aunspach of Swain's General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles said.
“I'm expecting some good fishing on the West End rivers this weekend.”
Brian Menkal of Brian's Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim said many anglers are already heading out west to catch a wild steelhead.
“All that water should have brought a ton of fish,” he said.
“The idea is that these [steelhead] are the big boys. People come from all over world to fish these guys.”
Most anglers are fishing for the experience, and a photo, and not for the meat.
The experience comes from catching a big fish that puts up a big fight.
“You remember it so much more than the fish you ate,” Menkal said.
Only one native steelhead can be harvested per year on one of the following rivers: Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc.
Blackmouth picking up
Saltwater anglers are having more success in the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Port Angeles.
“You know, it has been pretty decent,” Aunspach said.
“A lot of the fish are being caught in the harbor.”
Aunspach said the coming change in tides will shift the success to outside the harbor next week.
Menkal said not many anglers are chasing blackmouth in the waters near Sequim.
The Port Angeles Salmon Club's monthly derby ladder has three fish on it.
Mike Jones is currently in the lead with an 10-pound, 3-ounce blackmouth.
George McDonald is second with an 8-pound, 8-ounce fish, and Kurt Madison, a consistent name on the ladder, is in third place with a 7-pound, 4-ouncer.
The fishing at Lake Leland isn't hot because the water is so cold.
“The water is 36 degrees and the bite is very slow,” Ward Norden, a fishing tackle wholesaler and former fishery biologist who lives in Quilcene, said.
“A few nice fish are caught [by] floating a bait just above the bottom, but boat anglers trying to troll are not having much luck.
“The fish are lethargic, so you have to put that [bait] right in front of their nose.
“In my experience, fishing will dramatically pick up when the water temperature gets to 44 degrees, which is likely a month or two away.”
Eagles vs. Ducks
Norden, also a duck-hunting expert, reports bald eagles might be hampering the duck hunt.
He went hunting earlier this week to “take advantage of the near perfect tides,” in Dabob Bay.
“Lots of ducks, but five bald eagles had taken up residence on the bay and were running attacks on the flocks of ducks,” Norden said.
“Late in the afternoon, I watched all the thousands of ducks leave the bay en masse. Needless to say, I didn't shoot anything.”
The next day, Norden went scouting for a planned Thursday duck hunt, and unfortunately, the eagles had left their mark.
“No ducks anywhere,” he said.
“The season is likely over on [Dabob Bay], even though it lasts another two weeks.”
River fishing class
Menkal is teaching his two-part river salmon and steelhead fishing class on Tuesday, Jan. 21, and Tuesday, Jan. 28.
Both sessions start at 6 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m.
The cost for the two-part class is $25. Bring a notepad, pen or pencil and a chair.
To reserve a spot or for more information, phone Menkal at 360-683-1950.
The classes are held at Brian's Sporting Goods and More at 609 W. Washington St. in Sequim.
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 email@example.com or P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.
Sports Editor Lee Horton appears here Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.