MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS COLUMN: A perfect morning for king fishing

THE SCENE COULDN’T have been more perfect Thursday morning.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca was glassy calm, the clear sky above it tinged a bright orange by the rising sun coming out of the Cascade Mountains to the east.

As Port Angeles resident Bob Aunspach and I swept around Ediz Hook’s jutting finger, a large king salmon greeted us with a couple of splashes before a convoy of seabirds escorted us to our fishing hole on the Flats just south of the Winter Hole.

“It doesn’t get any better than this right here,” said Aunspach, who knows better than most, having fished the area for more than 30 years.

“These are the fun days.”

Indeed, postcard moments like Thursday come along maybe a handful of times each year in the Strait.

You take them when they come . . . gratefully.

Thus, even as wads of jellyfish continually jammed up our line, and the salmon silently swam circles around our coho killers and cut plugs, few complaints came from me.

A day on the water like Thursday, as fishless as it turned out to be, justifies the 4 a.m. wake-up call by itself.

(Especially when it ends with a crab pot crammed full of crustaceans.)

Strait dope

The salmon story didn’t differ among the hordes of chinook hunters around Area 6 (eastern Strait).

While the conditions may have been perfect the past couple of days, the fishing has been far from it.

As one of the forlorn anglers lamented over Aunspach’s radio on Thursday morning, “Fishing is spotty . . . real spotty.”

The numbers provided by the state’s fish checker — one salmon for seven boats as of 10 a.m. ­ ­– certainly backed up the gloomy assessment.

For whatever, the kings just haven’t cooperated since last week’s rod-bending salmon opener (178 chinook for 156 boats on July 1) in Area 5 (Sekiu) and 6.

“That last few days it was kind of slow,” Adam Jannausch of Van Riper’s Resort (360-963-2334) in Sekiu said.

“People are catching fish in the morning. It seems to have improved a little . . . I still can’t say it’s blazing hot, though.”

Jannausch said the best results for Sekiu anglers have come between Mussolini Rock and the Can (the green buoy off Slip Point).

Port Angeles-area anglers seem to have found a fair amount of luck fishing the Flats as well, said Aunspach, who also runs the sporting goods department at Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357).

Freshwater Bay, on the other hand, has yet to live up to last year’s promise.

“It’s been kind of hit and miss,” said Jannausch. “If you’re out there at the right time with the right gear, you’re going to catch some fish.

“I’ve seen a couple of 20-[pounders] today. A lot seem to be in the 6- to 10-pound range.”

Coastal salmon

Slowly but surely, coastal king fishing continues to pick up steam in Area 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay).

The state raised the daily limit for kings to two fish (hatchery or wild) Thursday, giving a slight jolt to a fishery that had been mediocre at best in June (when it was hatchery retention only).

“We’re starting to get some kings,” Randy Lato of All-Ways Fishing (360-374-2052) in LaPush said.

“You’ve got to travel [away from LaPush], but I’ve wasted so much time on the other spots, it’s just worth it to cruise out there [20 miles northwest] and get some kings.

“Now that we’ve got a two-king limit, it’s the best place to go to get your kings. There are a few coho around, too. We just kept everything deep going for the kings.”

The LaPush fishing contingent actually outdid its Neah Bay counterparts during the holiday weekend (see “Fish Count” on Page B4).

Yet few of those fish came out of the Rock Pile, according to Lato.

“If you’re not willing to travel, you’re not getting [poop],” he said.

Instead, many of the fish appear to be up north near the Strait.

A few are even peaking their heads around the corner in Neah Bay as well, according to Joey Lawrence at Big Salmon Resort (360-645-2374) in Neah Bay.

“The king fishing is starting to pick up gradually,” he said. “We’re getting some king salmon anywhere from Spike Rock to Umatilla Reef in 20 to 60 feet of water,

“And there’s been an early morning king bite off the green buoy right at the entrance [to the Strait].

“We’ve seen some in the low 20- and upper 20-[pound range]. There seems to be more wild fish on the coho, but there’s plenty of hatchery around.

“You’ve just got to work through them. Have some fun, just catch, catch, catch and finally get your good fish.”

Crab news

Pity those poor Dungeness crab.

In many ways, they are mere victims of their own desires (and feeble brains).

They see their buddy munching on a fish head, and they can’t help but shuffle over for a bite of their own.

Never mind the fact he’s trapped in a cage with four other fellas.

Such has been the plight of many a covetous crustacean during the first week of crab season on the eastern half of the Peninsula.

From Freshwater Bay to Quilcene Bay, crab are cramming themselves into pots at their own expense.

Just not quite at the rate some of us would like.

“I see a lot of people coming back with crabs,” Eric Elliott of the Fishing Hole in Port Townsend said.

“It’s not limits, but there’s smiles on their faces.”

Port Angeles Harbor and Dungeness Bay have been similarly fair. There are reports of a few limits mixed in with so-so results.

My own skunky salmon excursion on Thursday at least came with a wonderful booby prize: A gaggle of crab pulled out of Port Angeles Harbor.

All it cost us was four hours of uneventful fishing and one cellphone . . . lost to the harbor in a desperate pot-pulling panic.

Chalk that up as a moral victory for the crab.

Surf’s up

Little dudes (and dudettes) in waiting need not linger any longer.

The seventh annual Surfing and Traditions surf extravaganza, including a free youth surf camp, returns to LaPush this weekend.

Children ages 6 to 18 are welcome to attend one of two free one-hour surf lessons, scheduled for 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., this Saturday.

Spots are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, with each group limited to approximately 20 surfers, according to event organizer Frank Crippen.

“They try to take care of everybody, but there’s only so much gear,” Crippen said.

“They try to limit it to two per kids per instructor, dude. The good coaches actually give them a little on land/dry land lesson. It depends on the ability [of the kids].

“Some are a little scared, and some are super gung ho, so you just kind of play it by ear.”

A volunteer beach cleanup is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sunday, followed by surf and stand-up paddle contests from noon to 3 p.m.

The contests are open to anyone willing to compete, with winners getting to pick from a prize bag full of schwag (and we’re not talking about compact bricks).

A salmon bake will be held on Saturday and Sunday at the Lonesome Creek Clubhouse at 3 p.m. The cost is $10 per person.

For more information on the event, contact North by Northwest Surf Co. in Port Angeles at 360-452-5144.

Tidal talk

Shellfish have nowhere to hide this weekend (unless, of course, they can shimmy their way over to Clallam County).

Severe minus tides Saturday through Tuesday will expose beaches throughout the eastern Peninsula, providing harvesters ample opportunity to pick up a few clams or oysters.

I’d personally recommend hitting up either Oak Bay County Park near Indian Island or Duckabush in Hood Canal.

Each is open to clam and oyster harvesting, and, unlike many other beaches around the Peninsula, neither is under any sort of foreboding health advisory.

(Although, it should be noted that the state recommends that you cook all shellfish harvested from those two spots. Of course, if you’re not doing this already, you’re crazy.)

It is always best to get out on the beach at least one hour before low tide. Here are the morning low tides for both beaches:

• Oak Bay — Saturday: -2.67 feet at 9:52 a.m.; Sunday: -3.04 feet at 10:37 a.m.; Monday: -3.06 feet at 11:22 a.m.; Tuesday: -2.68 feet at 12:06 p.m.

• Duckabush — Saturday: -2.94 feet at 10:23 a.m.; Sunday: -3.46 feet at 11:08 a.m.; Monday: -3.57 feet at 11:54 a.m.; Tuesday: -3.19 feet at 12:39 p.m.

A full map of beaches, including descriptions, is located at wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/beachreg/.

To get up-to-date information on beaches around the Peninsula, call the state Department of Health’s shellfish hotline at 800-562-5632.

Also . . .

• Bobbers and red jigs seem to be doing the trick for anglers targeting sockeye on the Sol Duc River.

Given the current low and clear conditions, however, anglers have an extra incentive to hit the banks before daybreak.

“If you want to go catch fish you better be there pretty early in the morning,” Bob Gooding of Olympic Sporting Goods (360-374-6330) in Forks said. “They are getting fish still, but it’s tough.”

• A new cycling event, Ride the Hurricane, will challenge riders to take on the 12-mile uphill ride from Heart O’ the Hills to the top of Hurricane Ridge on Aug. 1.

Participation is limited to 200 riders. Cost is $25, with payment due by July 15 to the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce.

For more information, contact Russ Veenema, the chamber executive director, at 360-452-2363 (ext. 13).

• Spots are available for a hunter education course in Quilcene that will run July 12-24.

The class will meet six nights at the Quilcene Yacht Club, with a live fire and walk-through test held July 24.

To register for the class, contact Swain’s Outdoor (360-385-1313) in Port Townsend, Just Ask Rental (360-344-3443) in Port Hadlock or Rick Olson (360-765-3947).

• The Dungeness River Audubon Center will host a pair of Protection Island puffin dinner cruises on July 16 and 17.

The Glacier Spirit will circumnavigate Protection Island, giving viewers a chance to see tufted puffins, rhinoceros auklets, gaucous-winged gulls and other seabirds.

The trip will go from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night. The cost is $65 per person.

Contact the River Center (360-681-4076) to reserve a spot.

• The Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society will lead a field trip to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery this Saturday.

A group will meet at 9 a.m. at Washburn’s Store, 1450 Bayview Ave., in Neah Bay before heading out to view returning shorebirds and seabirds in the area.

For more information on the outing, contact Bob Iddins at 360-681-2840.

• Fisheries biologist Jeffrey June will talk about derelict crab pot removal during the Puget Sound Anglers-East Jefferson Chapter monthly meeting Tuesday.

June is a biologist with Natural Resources Consultants of Seattle. He will speak shortly after the meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Marina Room at Hudson Point Marina in Port Townsend.

• Troy Hatler will give a presentation on fishing the Sea of Cortez at the Puget Sound Anglers-North Olympic Peninsula chapter monthly meeting on Thursday.

The meeting begins at 6:45 p.m. in the Trinity Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., in Sequim.

For more information, call 360-582-0836 or visit www.pugetsoundanglers.org.

• Several fish management issues will be discussed at the Coastal Conservation Association-North Olympic Peninsula chapter monthly meeting July 22.

Among the fisheries up for discussion are Peninsula salmon, steelhead, halibut and rockfish.

The meeting begins at 6:45 p.m. in the Sequim Library, 630 N. Sequim Ave.

Send photos, stories

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.

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

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