MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS: Steelhead counts look promising for Christmas weekend

WHO CARES IF the fat man didn’t leave a new band saw under the Christmas tree?

The rivers are coming back in shape — and nothing says happy holidays quite like a fresh fillet of steelhead.

So as long as you can get the significant other to sign off — no doubt, the little tykes are entranced with their new toys anyway — now is the time to rig up a rod and head to the rivers.

As the Bogachiel Hatchery’s latest report attests (729 returning winter steelhead in the last week), there are fish around.

And they should be primed to hit eggs, spoons, shrimp and drift bobbers this weekend.

“It was good, really good” before this last spat of rain, Randy Lato of All-Ways Fishing (360-374-2052) in Forks said.

“There were a lot of hatchery fish, and there was even a few natives in the Sol Duc showing.”

Indeed, with Christmas day here at last, anglers find themselves approaching a steelhead crossroads.

The bulk of the hatchery winter steelhead run has just two or three weeks to go before it peters out, and the wild run should be just starting up.

That means just about every river is game, so there’s no need to bunch up on the banks of the Bogachiel if that doesn’t suit your palate.

Stake out the Sol Duc if you must, cast about the Calawah if you want, even hop along the Hoh if that’s your thing.

Just make sure to cover some water, because it’s cold out there, and these fish are finicky.

“I think everything is looking pretty good again at the moment,” said Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store in Port Angeles (360-452-2357).

“You might have to look everywhere, but it’s the season.”

One other place you might consider taking off the list — the Dungeness.

Its hatchery reported only four steelhead reaching its traps this week.

That puts the season total at a whopping seven steelhead.

I’d say that’s the piscatorial equivalent of a lump of coal.

Disco done?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news on this most joyous of days.

But it appears the Discovery Bay Salmon Derby, which returned to existence just six years ago, has once again been cancelled.

The popular blackmouth derby drew more than 800 anglers to the North Olympic Peninsula last February and has contributed more than $50,000 to Gardiner’s local fire department since 2006.

Unfortunately, a conflict over rights to the event could not be resolved in time to ensure its survival this year.

According to a news release put out by derby volunteer Dan Tatum, the disagreement is between Jefferson County Fire District No. 5 and Gardiner volunteers.

Residents petitioned to change Gardiner’s emergency response district this past year, leaving Jefferson County’s district for Clallam County Fire District No. 3 and its new fire station in Blyn.

The Gardiner volunteers expected to continue running the annual derby, but that was contested by Jefferson County Fire District No. 5.

“We apologize to all our loyal supporters that we couldn’t resolve this situation,” Tatum said in a news release.

“And we apologize to the volunteers who already did so much work this year.

“We should have dealt with this last summer, but we never expected the problem because the derby association was a local organization independent of the fire district.”

The derby first began in 1973 as a local fundraiser.

It returned each Presidents Day weekend through 1998, expanding to Sequim and Port Townsend from the Gardiner Boat Ramp.

The derby routinely drew between 700 and 800 anglers in its hay day.

When it returned in 2003, 734 anglers participated.

Those numbers remained steady during the next five years.

Now it remains to be seen whether it will return again.

Expect more on this in future outdoors columns.

Did I hear Poma?

The winter sports season did something it rarely does at Hurricane Ridge last weekend — start on time.

Now, the only question left for skiers and snowboarders is when to expect the Poma lift to be up and running.

According to mountain manager Craig Hofer, that might take some time, not to mention a few more inches of powder.

“I got down there [last week], and that’s a start, but we definitely need some more snow,” Hofer said of the north side of the mountain.

“We only have maybe four inches of snow since the big rain [earlier this week], so at this point I don’t even think I can work on it.

“I just don’t think anything is going to happen over there for a while.”

The intermediate and bunny rope tows began operating last weekend, making Olympic National Park’s scheduled start date for the first time in recent memory.

Both rope tows should be running once again Saturday and Sunday, with all-day lift tickets costing $20.

Half day tickets can be purchased for $18 starting at 1 p.m.

Single season passes cost $200 and a family pass $400.

That includes access to all lifts, including the Poma, for the entire season.

For more information on skiing and snowboarding at the Ridge, visit www.hurricaneridge.com.

There are several other winter activities available atop the Ridge.

A story on Page C1 of today’s PDN details those options.

Dog, don’t hunt

Venison fans have but one week left to bag a buck.

The late season for archery deer in the Coyle and Pysht GMUs (Game Management Units) comes to a close after Dec. 31.

Any prospective hunters looking to get in on the action next fall can attended one of five separate hunter education courses offered in Port Angeles and Sequim in the coming months.

Classes will be offered in February, March, May, June and August.

Each course is divided into five class sessions a piece, with the final class held out in the field.

The Port Angeles classes will be held at the Clallam County Veterans Center, 261 S. Francis St., and the Sequim class in May will be at Sunnydell Shooting Grounds, 292 Dryke Road.

The actual class dates are as follows: Feb. 2, 4, 9, 11 and 13; March 2, 4, 9, 11 and 13; May 4, 6, 11, 13 and 15; June 1, 3, 8, 10 and 12; and Aug. 3, 5, 10, 12 and 14.

All first-time hunters born after Jan. 1,1972, must complete a Hunter Education course in order to qualify for a hunter license.

To register, contact Darrell Spidell at Hi-Caliber Guns (360-417-0300), or e-mail Lisa Gouveia (lisa@pahuntered.com).

Razors are safe

Unlike grandma’s eggnog, coastal razor clams are safe to consume.

Fish and Wildlife gave the final approval earlier this week for evening digs at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch during the New Year’s holiday.

All five beaches will open to digging Dec. 31 through Jan. 1, and every beach except for Kalaloch will open Jan. 2.

Twin Harbors will also be shovel-ready on Jan. 3.

Harvesters have been quite successful this season when digging conditions have been good.

So as long as the surf stays calm, things should be quite productive.

“New Year’s razor clam digs are very popular,” state coastal shellfish manager Dan Ayres said in a news release.

“We’re pleased that the tides allowed us to offer another holiday dig this year.

“For safety’s sake, make sure to check the weather and surf conditions before heading out.”

Additional digging dates in 2010 will be announced in January, following review of harvest data, Ayres said.

Here are the tides for each opener:

• Thursday, Dec. 31 — -1.1 feet at 6:16 p.m.

• Friday, Jan. 1 — -1.8 feet at 7:01 p.m.

• Saturday, Jan. 2 — -1.6 feet at 7:45 p.m.

• Sunday, Jan. 3 — -1.2 feet at 8:29 p.m.

For more information on coastal razor clams, visit http://tinyurl.com/oyekj.

Also . . .

• The last of the holiday bird counts will be held in Port Angeles on Jan. 2

The contact for that tally is Barb Blackie (360-477-8028).

There is a $5 participation fee for each, with proceeds supporting field analysis of the collected data.

That fee also entitles counters to the Christmas Count issue of American Birds.

• Washington Trails Association announced the winners of its annual Northwest Exposure photo contest this month.

The photos are all included in the latest edition of Washington Trails magazine.

My personal favorite was John D’Onofrio’s shot of North Cascades National Park. It took second in the Wilderness Landscapes competition.

• There’s only one week left in the recreational crabbing season, with Marine Areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) set to close after Jan. 2.

Licensed crabbers will then have 13 days (Jan. 15) to submit their catch record card, or face a $10 fine the next time they purchase a state crab endorsement.

Crabbers can report via mail or the Internet.

The mailing address is WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

The online reporting system will be available Jan. 3-15 at http://tinyurl.com/yhjxf79.

• Olympic National Park will hold a free avalanche awareness class on Jan. 7.

The class runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and will be at the North Olympic Library System in Port Angeles, 2210 S. Peabody St.

For more information, contact North by Northwest Surf Co. at 360-452-5144.

• Public comment on the Puget Sound rockfish draft conservation plan will be taken through Jan. 4.

The plan is available on Fish and Wildlife’s Web site at http://tinyurl.com/yjs8d7o.

Those who would like a copy of the plan in print can call 360-902-2844.

Comments can be submitted by e-mail to SEPAdesk2@dfw.wa.gov, by FAX to 360-902-2946, or by mail WDFW SEPA Desk, 600 Capitol Way N. Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

• The Klahhane Club is taking on new members for its year-round hiking group on the Peninsula.

Hikers must do four “get acquainted” hikes, meet a sponsor for the membership application and complete six “qualifying” hikes within six months of applying.

Dues are $12 annually — $9 if you receive the newsletter via computer — with a one-time initiation fee of $13.

For more information, visit klahhaneclub.org.

Stories welcome

Want your event listed in the outdoors column?

Have a fishing or hunting report, an anecdote about an outdoors experience or a tip on gear or technique, why not share it with our readers?

Send it to me, Matt Schubert, Sports Department, Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362; phone, 360-417-3526; fax, 360-417-3521; e-mail matt.schubert @peninsuladailynews.com.

__________

Matt Schubert is the outdoors columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column appears on Thursdays and Fridays.

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