HARD TO BLAME the salmon for feeling a little embarrassed.
It’s hard enough trying to find love in this mess of a world we call singledom.
They’ve got to do it while clans of Carhartt-covered corky carriers take turns swinging hooks in front of their faces.
So take it easy on returning kings and silvers.
They might be putting on some color as fall salmon season winds down on the North Olympic Peninsula, but I’d be blushing, too, if droves of voyeurs looked on while I tossed out pickup lines.
Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Color is just one of the problems West End river anglers are running into these days.
The other: some serious salmon lockjaw.
For while there are plenty of fish swimming around the Quillayute system and Hoh River, many won’t open their mouths for any old piece of yarn.
“As the water gets clearer and clearer, it happens,” Bob Gooding of Olympic Sporting Goods (360-374-6330) in Forks said.
Unfortunately, that’s what’s happening out west.
Sol Duc Hatchery technician John Larson said his facility did not report any new returners during the past week.
And the ones that he has seen taken out of the river recently aren’t exactly gourmet fare.
“They seem to be hanging out,” Larson said of the coho. “There’s got to be some fish here below the hatchery.
“I just saw a half dozen get packed out of here right now. I wouldn’t eat any of them . . . but maybe I’m fussier than most.
“There’s probably still some fresh fish lower in the river, but we’re looking at taking our first egg take next week and they are getting past their prime.”
The hatchery has had 1,700 coho adults return to its traps so far this fall. Another 3,000 or so jacks have also arrived, Larson said.
The latter might be a good sign for 2011.
“It appears to be a state-wide thing,” Larson said of the increased jack numbers. “That’s a good thing.
“A certain segment of the population is going to be jacks, so if we have a lot of jacks coming back this year, that’s a good sign that we’re going to have a lot of adults coming back next year.”
The Dungeness River coho fishery looks to be on the downslope as well, according to Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim.
“People are still getting fish,” Menkal said. “Not a lot of fish, but fish are being taken.”
Fall salmon season typically begins wrapping up around this time of year.
A couple of weeks from now anglers will start turning their full attention toward winter steelhead.
Already, there’s been a couple of reports of steelies showing up in the Bogachiel and Quillayute rivers.
But by no means would one say the run has begun in earnest.
The traditional kickoff for that is Thanksgiving.
Elk wind down
The big bulls have gone into hiding.
Still, hunters have managed to pick off a few brush racks during the first week of modern firearm elk season on the Peninsula.
“I’ve heard of guys getting some,” Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles said.
“I’m not hearing of anything real big, but they are definitely getting some of those 3-by-4 [and] 4-by-4’s.
“They are finding them feeding in these big thick clear cuts. They hang in that thicker stuff.
“Those guys that are willing to get in there and work it hard are finding them.”
Hunters have through Tuesday to track down a bull in the Hoko, Dickey, Pysht, Sol Duc, Goodman, Clearwater, Matheny and Coyle (except for elk area 6071) Game Management Units (GMUs).
After that, the focus turns to bucks with the late modern firearm deer season set for Nov. 18-21 in all nine GMUs.
Reports varied for deer during the first few seasons.
While some fared well near the Port Angeles and Sequim areas in October, the West End story wasn’t quite so sunny (like it ever is).
“[The late modern firearm season] is a great hunt when it goes,” Menkal said. “I heard of a lot of deer taken in the early hunt, so how many more are out there, I do not know.”
Added Gooding, “They didn’t’ shoot a lot of deer in the early season, but they shot enough. There were some nice bucks taken that I saw, but not lots.”
The chill of winter has arrived on the Peninsula.
Time to celebrate? Fine.
Winterfest returns to Vern Burton Community Center, 308 E. Fourth St, in Port Angeles next Friday and Saturday.
The two-day fundraiser is put on by the Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Education Foundation to aid skiing activities at Hurricane Ridge each winter.
This year’s event will include the traditional “Dinner and a movie” extravaganza Friday, Nov. 19, starting at 5 p.m.
There will be live and silent auctions, prime rib dinner and a showing of Teton Gravity Research’s movie “Light the Wick.”
Tickets cost $40 and are available at Swain’s General Store, Necessities and Temptations and Browns Outdoor Store.
A limited number of tickets will be available at the door for $45.
There will also be a ski swap and second movie showing on Saturday at Vern Burton.
The story stayed about the same during the second set of razor clam digs at Kalaloch Beach.
Diggers cleaned up under decent digging conditions on Friday (14.5 clams per digger).
The Saturday set, meanwhile, slogged its way through a so-so scene (4.2).
Kalaloch diggers ended up harvesting 3,860 clams out of 340 digger trips (an average of 11.3). Obviously, most of the success could be attributed to Friday’s effort.
Mocrocks had the highest digger success of the five ocean beaches at 14.3 clams per digger.
The next set of digs at Kalaloch are set for Dec. 4 and 5.
Also . . .
• Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) are both open to blackmouth fishing, while nearly all of Area 12 (Hood Canal) is open to all salmon fishing.
Angler activity appears to be sparse at best, so those looking for some me-time might look into heading for the salt.
• Admiralty Audubon’s Dan Waggoner will lead a field trip looking for waterfowl in the Quilcene/Brinnon area on Saturday.
A group will meet at Haines Place Park and Ride across from Safeway in Port Townsend at 8:30 a.m. Stops include Quilcene Bay, Quilcene River and Dosewallips State Park.
To register for the trip, contact Waggoner at 360 301-1788 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Anne Shaffer of the Coastal Watershed Institute will discuss Elwha nearshore fish habitat at the Puget Sound Anglers-North Olympic Peninsula Chapter’s monthly meeting next Thursday.
The meeting begins at 6:45 p.m. at the Trinity Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., in Sequim.
• Washington Trails Association will gather an all-day volunteer work party at Dosewallips State Park in Brinnon on Sunday at 8:30 a.m.
There will be tent camping at a large group site with a turkey barbecue on Saturday night.
Volunteers must pre-register 48 hours in advance.
To pre-register, contact Washington Trails at 206-625-1367 or visit www.wta.org.
• Fish and Wildlife will conduct a public survey to help assess the agency’s Enforcement Program through the end of 2010.
The survey, available on Fish and Wildlife’s website at http://tinyurl.com/23weqw8, consists of about 20 questions concerning the program’s performance in the field. It takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.
Those who would like the survey mailed or faxed to them should contact Jonathan Neville at 360-902-8358 or email@example.com.
• 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.
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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.