MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS COLUMN: Rain to keep anglers home for Christmas

I COME BEARING bad news my dear Peninsulites.

It appears you’re actually going to have to spend time with your family during the holidays.

The way the steelhead fishing scene is shaping up this next week, there will be few chances to get away from grandma and the gang.

So sit back, choke down a few extra glasses of egg nog and nod vacantly while Aunt Mary recalls her recent trip to Niagara Falls.

Just remember, you will be rewarded for this eventually.

It’s called inheritance.

Be steel my heart

Santa Claus must be a rainmaker.

His arrival on the North Olympic Peninsula appears destined to be a wet one.

And with rivers already on the rise due to constant rainfall the past few days, steelheading prospects are looking awfully dim this weekend.

“I don’t know when we’re going to be fishing again, but it ain’t going to be for a few days,” Bob Gooding at Olympic Sporting Goods (360-374-6330) in Forks said.

“You could still fish the Sol Duc [Thursday], but it wouldn’t have been very good because it’s coming up.”

Yes, rising rivers rarely result in good fishing around these parts.

Fish just don’t want to bite in such conditions for whatever reason, be it because they’re traveling so fast upriver or they are simply unmotivated.

Thus, a five-day forecast like the one we’re looking at right now — rain followed by more rain — doesn’t bode well for anyone looking to hook a holiday steelie.

“This is a time you tie more leaders, clean your reels [and] do your maintenance stuff,” Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim said.

“That’s about all you can do. It’s just going to be totally wiped out.”

That’s quite a shame considering all of the fish that have flooded West End rivers in recent weeks.

A steady trickle of winter steelhead have entered the Bogachiel Hatchery traps since early December, with 732 counted since Dec. 9.

Even more have been seen around the Calawah and Sol Duc, including a few Snyder Creek fish.

Yet even plunkers will have a hard time hooking one during the next week.

“If it rains every day from now through Tuesday [as forecasted], that might not be in the cards,” Gooding said. “The rivers came up [Wednesday] and they are coming up still.

“It just depends on how much it rains.”

The lazy man’s fishery tends to be popular during the high water holiday season.

Set up a fire, drop a Spin-N-Glo into the river and start ripping off the beer curls. That’s plunking in a nutshell.

As long as you can hold your booze well enough to occasionally get up and check your line, you can be an accomplished plunker.

Unfortunately, the conditions likely won’t be decent enough for that holiday tradition to continue this year.

I suppose egg nog and snore-inducing slide shows will just have to do this time around.

Ski season arrives?

There is one thing that should be available to the snow sport inclined.

As long as the weather cooperates — a bit of a concern given the extended forecast — skiers and snowboarders will have the chance to hit Hurricane Ridge this weekend.

The intermediate and bunny rope tows are expected to be up and running for the first time this winter Sunday and Monday.

“We are scheduled to make it all happen this weekend, but who knows if it will,” mountain manager Craig Hofer said.

Rather than use “the phrase that shall not be uttered,” I’ll just say this:

Pay attention to the weather reports leading up to Sunday and call Olympic National Park’s road and weather conditions hotline (360-565-3131) if there’s any doubt.

Obviously, anything Ridge related can be touch-and-go during the winter.

As for the Poma lift on the north side of the mountain, Hofer declined to put a timetable on when it might start operating.

Given all of the work that still needs to be done to make that happen — including a complete re-wiring of the lift — it doesn’t sound like it will become a reality until mid-January at the earliest.

And that’s assuming there’s even enough snow (approximately five feet) for Hofer and his crew to get started in the next week.

For more information on winter activities at the Ridge, see the story on Page C1 of today’s PDN.

Crab capper

Crabbers have one week left to stock their freezer.

Marine Areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 12 (Hood Canal) all close to crabbing Jan. 2.

Reports have been hit or miss along the Strait during the past couple of weeks.

While there has been some decent news coming out of the Dungeness Bay area, some in Port Angeles have come across molted crabs recently.

“Crabbing has been good for a lot of people out here,” Menkal in Sequim said. “As long as the wind isn’t too bad [that could continue].”

State rules require all sport crabbers to submit catch reports for the winter season to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife by Feb. 1 — even if they did not catch any crab.

Those who fail to meet the deadline must pay a $10 fine when they purchase their 2011 crab endorsement.

“By submitting their catch data, crabbers play an important role in managing the Puget Sound crab fishery,” Fish and Wildlife shellfish policy leader Rich Childers said in a news release.

“We need to hear from everyone who was issued a winter catch card — including from those who didn’t catch any crab.”

To submit catch reports, crabbers may send their catch record card by mail or file their report on a special webpage on the department’s licensing website.

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

The online reporting system will be available Jan. 3-Feb. 1 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html.

Also . . .

• Who needs champaign when you can have razor clams?

Kalaloch Beach is scheduled to open to afternoon digging Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 for those looking to ring in the New Year with a sack full of shellfish.

Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks will also open around that time.

• The last of three area Christmas bird counts comes to Port Angeles on Jan. 2.

The Sequim-Dungenes area and Quimper Peninsula counts were already held earlier this week. Now counters will look for birds in and around Port Angeles.

To participate in the count, contact Barb Blackie at 360-477-8028.

• Big game hunting season is set to say goodbye with the coming of a new year.

Archery deer season on the Coyle and Pysht Game Management Units are all that’s left. Both areas close after New Year’s Eve.

• Peninsula Trails Coalition will hold a slideshow fundraiser each Friday night in January at the Port Angeles Senior Center, 328 E. Seventh St.

Presentations will include subjects like Midway Atoll, building Spruce Railroad and travels through Mongolia.

Admission is $5, with funds going toward supplies and lunches for volunteers working on Olympic Discovery Trail.

For more information, phone Gail Hall at 360-808-4223.

• Hunters who report this year’s hunting activities for black bear, deer, elk or turkey by Jan. 10 enter themselves into a drawing for nine special hunting permits.

All hunters, whether successful or not, are required to submit hunting reports for those species by Jan. 31.

Hunters can report by phone (877 945-3492) or the Internet http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov.

• Fish and Wildlife is seeking nominations for the Anadromous and Marine Resources Sport Fishing Advisory Group through the end of 2010.

The group provides guidance to the state on issues affecting recreational fisheries for salmon, rockfish and other marine species.

Nominations may be submitted to Pat Pattillo by mail: Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA, 98501. Or e-mail Patrick.Pattillo@dfw.wa.gov.

For more information, contact Pattillo at 360-902-2705.

• Presidents Day weekend will once again be accompanied by a salmon derby on the Peninsula.

The Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby — formerly known as the Discovery Bay Salmon Derby — comes to the eastern Strait and Admiralty Inlet on Feb. 19-21.

The top clipped salmon in the ladder will take home $10,000. For more information on the event, visit gardinersalmonderby.org.

• Anyone with a little extra Christmas cash can make a donation to Washington Trails Association.

The trail conservation group takes donations online at 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; 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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