MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS COLUMN: Great time to fish West End rivers

APRIL CAN BE a mighty fine month for West End river buffs.

The out-of-town crowd begins to tail off as interest in the winter steelhead scene wanes.

The weather starts to become (somewhat) pleasant.

And just as the number of wild steelies entering area rivers starts to thin out, in comes the beginnings of the spring chinook run.

Hit things just right (and I mean just right), and you might score the most coveted combo there is in West End river fishing — a steelhead and springer in one trip.

With reports of steelhead still coming out of the Sol Duc, as well as a few springers, perhaps this is the weekend to do just that.

“The rivers are looking pretty darn good,” Donna Ingram of Three Rivers Resort (360-374-5300) in Forks said. “There’s still a little bit of color in them, but [this week’s rain] didn’t bring them up very much.

“The Sol Duc has been doing a little bit better than the Bogachiel the last few days. Who knows what the weekend is going to look like?”

The Hoh closes to fishing after today, so the focus will be on the Quillayute system, including the Sol Duc and Bogey.

There should still be a few bruising steelies swimming around.

Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim said he’d heard of a 20-pound steelhead being caught near the Sol Duc Hatchery just last week.

There have also been a few reports of 10- and 12-pound fish passing through Three Rivers the last few days, Ingram said.

The springers that have been caught have been running in the high teens to low 20s.

“The hatchery high [in the Sol Duc] has still got some good steelhead in there and there’s some springers down in the bottom,” Menkal said

Lake warm-up

The lowland lakes opener is only two weeks away (April 30).

Between now and then, anglers can brush up on their lake fishing tactics by fishing a few year-round basins.

Leland and Teal in Jefferson County, and Sutherland and Wentworth in Clallam, should all start livening up as the area starts to soak up more and more sunshine.

Obviously, since that has been at a minimum so far this spring, things might not be red-hot this weekend.

That being said, anglers have options.

“[There’s] not a lot of hatches happening, but the fish have got to feed,” Menkal said.

“They are going to be looking for food all the time and foraging toward the bottom is going to be your best opportunity.”

Leland received 300 cutthroat plants in March and is slated to get thousands more trout sometime this month.

Teal is also scheduled to receive 30 triploid rainbow trout (averaging 1½ pounds in size) in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Wentworth is likely the only lake in Clallam that will get any plants (3,000 8-12 inch rainbows) in April.

“I heard some guys going out [to Leland] with mixed results,” Menkal said.

“I’ve had some guys getting one or two fishing out there, and that’s about it.”

In related news, fishing was a bit of a struggle at the Port Angeles Kids Fishing Derby last Saturday.

Changes in water pressure at the Lincoln Park ponds made the fish a little skittish, according to Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles.

Out of the 800-plus trout planted in the two ponds, less than 30 were actually reeled in Saturday.

That just means the kids should have plenty of fish to target in the coming months — the ponds are open year-round to anglers ages 14 and younger.

More genetics

For those who missed Thursday’s outdoors column, I wrote about a recent joint study concerning steelhead genetics on the Peninsula.

The study was done cooperatively by Olympic National Park, the Hoh tribe and state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists.

One of the main focuses of the study was to see how much inter-breeding was going on between hatchery and wild steelhead on the Hoh. The answer: not much.

Here are a few other interesting findings from the study:

■ Wild fish found in the Hoh were not found to be genetically distinct from their counterparts in the Sol Duc, Bogachiel, Queets, Salmon and Calawah.

This suggests native steelies may move around more than we think.

■ On the opposite end, hatchery fish were genetically distinct from one river to the next.

There is also a detectable trace of wild ancestry in the hatchery fish, indicating that natural-origin fish have been used as broodstock.

■ Hatchery fish were less genetically diverse than their wild counterparts.

This is, of course, little surprise to most anglers given how similar one hatchery fish looks to the next.

Adios Ridge

The snow came, but the people did not.

Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club will not open for an additional weekend after falling short of its ticket sales requirement last Saturday and Sunday.

The club sold 75 tickets last Saturday — just below the break-even point of 100 per day — then decided to cut the ropes Sunday morning after some nasty weather showed up atop the Ridge.

Competing outdoor activities in the area, as well as confusion over a possible government shut down, ended up keeping many people away during the bonus winter sports weekend.

“We were hoping to get everybody up there with all the new snow but it didn’t work out,” club operations manager Russ Morrison said.

“We were going to try for Sunday, but the weather was just a little too poopy and we went up there and took everything apart and called it a season.”

Serious snow addicts still have the option of getting in a little back-country action in the coming weeks.

A few more inches of fresh snow fell on the mountain during the past five days.

But without the rope tows and Poma lift in operation, anyone looking to revel in the virgin powder will also have to do a little hiking.

To those who do, I salute you.

Saltwater stuff

In past years, anglers would be getting into some slabs right about now.

Unfortunately, now that halibut season has turned into a May fishery for much of the Peninsula, the only option for the saltwater set is either on the coast (lingcod) or Hood Canal (salmon).

In other news, state and tribal co-managers agreed on a package of salmon fisheries Thursday at a Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting in San Mateo, Calif.

The biggest piece of news to come out of the meeting: a 44.8-percent decrease in the chinook catch quota for the state’s ocean fishery.

Despite an expected increase in chinook abundance, the number dropped to 33,700 fish for this summer (27,300 less than last year).

The lower chinook quota is necessary to further protect wild salmon stocks and meet conservation goals, Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson said in a news release.

“The chinook quota is down from last year, but the number of fish available for this summer’s ocean fishery should still provide good fishing opportunities for anglers,” Anderson said.

The PFMC also adopted a quota of 67,200 coho for this year’s recreational ocean fishery, the same number as last year.

This year’s ocean fishery will begin June 18 with a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in all ocean areas, including Areas 3 and 4.

The fishery will run seven days a week, with a daily limit of two salmon, through June 25 or until 4,800 hatchery chinook are retained.

Recreational ocean salmon fisheries for chinook and hatchery coho will continue June 26.

Seasons inside the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound will be relatively similar to last year, with the exception of bonus bag limits for returning pink salmon.

Specific fishing seasons and regulations will be available next week on Fish and Wildlife’s North of Falcon website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Also . . .

■ The Washington Coast Cleanup is set for next Saturday, April 23 along the state’s pristine coastlines.

There are still several volunteer opportunities for those interested in lending a helping hand. For more information, visit www.coastsavers.org.

■ Fish and Wildlife approved a set of razor clam digs at four ocean beaches next Tuesday through Saturday, April 23.

Long Beach and Twin Harbors will open for digging the first four days until noon, plus April 23 until 1 p.m.

Copalis and Mocrocks will be open for digging Thursday and Friday until noon, and April 23 until 1 p.m.

Kalaloch will not be included in the digs because of concerns over the beach’s clam populations.

■ Puget Sound Anglers-North Olympic Chapter will hold its monthly meeting next Thursday night in Sequim.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Trinity Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave. Details on the guest speaker were unavailable as of Thursday.

■ Richard Stoll will be the featured speaker at a Port Ludlow Fly Fishing meeting at the Port Ludlow Bay Club, 190 Spinnaker Place, this Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Stoll is a well-known fisheries biologist, certified casting instructor and writer who also owned two fly shops in the area.

He has a new book, expected to be published soon, about salmon and what they see and eat.

■ Olympic National Park is looking for citizen scientists to help monitor the status of Olympic marmots within park boundaries.

Volunteer groups will visit designated survey areas to gather information about population abundance and distribution.

Volunteers must be capable of hiking to and camping in remote areas, be comfortable navigating off trail and be able to work on steep slopes.

Application deadline is May 1.

For more information, visit tinyurl.com/48pw4jx.

■ Waters West Fly Fishing Outfitters will host an introductory fly tying class at its Port Angeles shop at 140 W. Front St. next month.

The four-session class will meet on successive Tuesday nights from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with the focus on trout nymphs, streamers and dry flies.

All tools and materials can be provided. To sign up, call 360-417-0937 or email info@waterswest.com.

■ Dungeness River Audubon Center will host a six-week beginning birding class beginning May 3.

Taught by River Center volunteer and newspaper columnist Dave Jackson, the class will meet six straight Tuesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the River Center, 2151 Hendrickson Road.

The cost is $40 for River Center partners and $60 for non-members.

To registers, contact the River Center at 360-681-4076.

■ Washington Trails Association will gather an all-day volunteer work party at Peabody Creek Trail on Tuesday, April 26.

Volunteers must pre-register 48 hours in advance. To do so, contact Washington Trails at 206-625-1367 or visit www.wta.org.

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; email matt.schubert
@peninsuladailynews.com.

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