MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS COLUMN: Snider Creek steelhead review

THE CONTRACT IS almost up on the Snider Creek broodstock.

After nearly 25 years, the steelhead supplementation program for the Sol Duc River tributary is under review by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

As part of that effort, Fish and Wildlife will be gathering public comments through Dec. 15, with a meeting also scheduled Nov. 30 in Forks to discuss the issue with the public.

A joint project with the Olympic Peninsula Guides’ Association, the Snider Creek broodstock was created in 1986 to increase fishing opportunities for steelhead on the Sol Duc.

The 25-year contract for the program, which produces between 50,000 and 100,000 smolts each year, expires in June 2011.

Unlike most other supplementation efforts in the state, Snider Creek broodstock offspring come from wild steelhead caught by anglers involved in the program.

Now state fishery managers are re-evaluating the project, including its contribution to state and tribal fisheries and its effect on wild steelhead populations, regional fish program manager Ron Warren said.

“We are looking into the benefits of this program and whether it is consistent with current efforts to protect and restore wild populations,” Warren said in a news release.

“We’d like to hear from the public before we make a decision on whether to continue, modify or end the program.”

State estimates on annual run sizes for Snider Creek steelhead have varied the past 20 years.

Escapement figures have landed anywhere between 20 to 450-plus fish in a given year during that time.

The average annual escapement estimate the past 11 years is 250.

Comments on the program can be submitted by e-mail to snidercreek@dfw.wa.gov or by U.S. Mail to: Snider Creek, 48 Devonshire Road, Montesano, WA, 98563.

In addition, people can submit comments and discuss the program with Fish and Wildlife staff at the Nov. 30 public meeting at the West End Sportsmen’s Club, 243 Sportsmen’s Club Road. The meeting runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Information on the program is available on Fish and Wildlife’s website at http://tinyurl.com/2uqhc33.

The Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, which drives state management policies, is available at http://tinyurl.com/3xtsods.

Early returns

Anglers don’t have to wait until Black Friday to target winter steelhead.

With recent rains bringing a slew of fish into West End rivers this week, there’s already enough of the anadromous rainbow trout around to merit a toss or two.

“It isn’t going to be red-hot, but it’s going to be OK [this weekend],” Bob Gooding of Olympic Sporting Goods (360-374-6330) in Forks said.

“A couple of fellas did pretty well on them the other day, before the water went all gunnysack.”

The traditional kickoff to steelhead season is Thanksgiving weekend, when runs of hatchery fish begin to show up in numbers on Peninsula rivers.

Yet there’s always a few that arrive early, and this year is no different.

A few eager beavers have already been seen in the Quillayute system (most notably the Bogachiel) and a few Strait of Juan de Fuca streams.

Fall salmon continue to make some noise as well.

“There’s still some good [salmon] coming, and the lower rivers will be the best for a good one,” Gooding said. “The ones up higher are getting pretty dark.

“That rain kind of pushed all the salmon up toward the hatchery upstream, but it brought in some steelhead, too.”

So once the rivers drop down into shape (likely today or Saturday), anglers can divide their attention between steelhead and salmon.

“A few people saw a couple [steelhead] show up on the Lyre and Bogachiel already,” Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim said.

“But they were getting chromer salmon in the Sol Duc just three days ago.

“It should be done by now, but they are still getting some pretty bright fish on the Sol Duc.”

Rarin’ to go?

So did the bucks do their business already this year?

Hunters are about to find out this weekend with the return of modern rifle deer season.

The hunt will last through Sunday in all nine Game Management Units (GMUs). Whether or not hunters will be bolstered by some hot-and-bothered bucks, however, appears to be up for debate.

An early rut in late October has some thinking the thrill is gone.

“I think it’s pretty much over,” Ryan Gedlund of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles said. “I haven’t heard for sure . . . but it did start early.”

If such is the case, that would be too bad for those looking to bag a buck this weekend.

Rutting bucks tend to make for easier targets because their mind is focused on cozying up to a lady.

“Big bucks, most of them spend most of their life nocturnal,” Gooding said. “But now they are on the prowl and they are out there in the daylight hours.

“You could honk your horn and throw a rock at them and they don’t care.”

Gooding, for one, thinks that hunters still have a chance to reap the benefits.

“Different does come [into heat] at different times,” Gooding said.

“As long as there is one around [the bucks] are on the prowl.”

Winterfest

The kids call it “pow.” I refer to it as snow.

Whatever the nomenclature you prefer, white stuff continues to gather atop Hurricane Ridge.

Ski season can’t be too far behind.

To get things started, Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Education Foundation will host its annual Winterfest fundraiser tonight and Saturday at Vern Burton Community Center, 308 E. Fourth St., in Port Angeles.

The event begins with Friday night’s “Dinner and a Movie” extravaganza, starting at 5 p.m.

There will be live and silent auctions, prime rib dinner, an oyster bar and a showing of Teton Gravity Research’s movie “Light the Wick.”

More than 150 items will be up for bid in the silent auction, with another 16 on the docket for the live auction.

A limited number of tickets will be available at the door for $45.

Winter sports fans can also buy and sell used equipment at the ski swap in Vern Burton on Saturday.

Those looking to drop off gear can do so from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Items will then be up for sale between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Admission is $3 per person, or $7 for a family.

The ski swap will be followed by a second showing of “Light the Wick” at 7 p.m. Tickets for the movie cost $10.

For more information on the event, visit www.hurricaneridge.com.

Also . . .

• Blackmouth season remains pretty quiet in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet).

• Mum’s the word on the first week of the fall/winter recreational crabbing season.

Perhaps it was the wind, or maybe even a lack of crabs, but there just wasn’t much chatter accompanying this week’s openers in Areas 6 (eastern Strait), 9 and 12.

• Anyone desperate for fresh razor clams can make the trek to Long Beach or Twin Harbors this Saturday and Sunday.

The beaches open to afternoon digging both days, with minus tides hitting the beach at 5:39 p.m. on Saturday (minus 0.4 feet) and 6:17 p.m. on Sunday (minus 0.7 feet).

• The Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby — formerly known as the Discovery Bay Salmon Derby — hits the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca on Presidents Day Weekend, Feb. 19-21.

The derby will span 500 square miles of fishing, with launch ramps and weight stations in Freshwater Bay, Port Angeles, Sequim, Gardiner and Port Townsend.

First prize wins $10,000.

Tickets cost $40 and will go on sale the first week of January at numerous area merchants.

For more information, visit www.GardinerSalmonDerby.org.

• Washington Trails Association will gather an all-day volunteer work party at Peabody Creek Trail in Olympic National Park on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

There also will be a volunteer work party gathering at Mount Walker Trail in the Hood Canal Ranger District on Friday, Nov. 26.

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 jonathan.neville@dfw.wa.gov.

• Waters West Fly Fishing Outfitters in Port Angeles plans to hold a spey casting class Dec. 5 on the Hoh River (water levels permitting).

The class will meet at the Hoh at 9 a.m., with instruction geared toward beginning and intermediate spey casters.

Rods, reels and lines are provided. Steelhead fishing techniques will be covered as well.

Cost is $95.

To sign up, contact Waters West at 360-417-0937.

• Dungeness River Audubon Center will warm up for its annual Christmas Bird Count with a trip around Dungeness Valley on Dec. 11 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A group will meet at Railroad Bridge Park to view birds of the forests before heading to Dungeness Landing Park at noon to view saltwater birds.

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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