THE WEST END turned into a parking lot last weekend.
The rivers were finally in fishing shape, hatchery steelhead were swarming like a plague of locusts and, of course, nobody wanted to go shopping.
“It was a zoo, I ain’t kidding you,” Bob Gooding of Olympic Sporting Goods (360-374-6330) in Forks said.
“My son and I were doing turnarounds [for drift boat anglers] . . . you couldn’t hardly find another parking space to put another rig.”
Such is the allure of the winter steelhead.
Once anglers got a chance to finally fish for them — rivers were punched Thanksgiving weekend — they did so with such vigor that everyone was worn out once it was all said and done.
That included the steelies, which could best be described as “battle weary” following last weekend’s trauma.
Throw in some cold temperatures, and things have gotten a bit tougher of late.
“If the water temperature gets real cold, steelhead shut their mouth and quit biting. They just get real lethargic,” Gooding said.
“There’s still enough water, but the water is pretty clear. The people who know what they are doing are still going to get fish. The people who don’t, they aren’t.”
As is always the case this time of year, the Bogachiel River is the epicenter of the hatchery steelhead movement.
Bogachiel Hatchery reported 255 adults reaching its traps this week, putting the total number for the season at 519.
Other rivers see a run of hatchery steelhead as well, including the Hoh River to the south.
In fact, that one might be worth a look this weekend if there isn’t much rain.
The Sol Duc has a special Snider Creek broodstock that returns each winter, but that doesn’t usually hit full stride until late December.
Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles said he had heard of some action on the Lyre.
There’s also whispers coming out of Dungeness.
“Fishing has definitely slowed down,” Aunspach said. “A good push of the hatchery fish have already come in as far as the Bogachiel is concerned.
“Things are starting to get low and clear, so we’ll probably need some rain to get things moving.”
Those new to the steelheading scene might consider taking a special two-session class on steelhead fishing offered by Brian’s Sporting Goods and More, 542 W. Washington St., in Sequim.
The class is free and will meet this Tuesday and the next from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. To reserve a spot, phone Brian Menkal at 360-683-1950.
Big-game hunting is winding down the same way it does every year: quietly.
While there are still a few bowmen and black powder buffs stalking deer and elk around the Peninsula, it isn’t what it was a few weeks ago.
“We had one real nice buck come in from Eastern Washington,” Aunspach said.
“Here the guys are definitely hunting. As far as elk goes, they are seeing a few, just not anything legal.
“They are seeing spikes and cows, they are just having a hard time finding the legal bull.”
Late muzzleloader and archery seasons remain open in select Game Management Units through Dec. 15.
Bird hunting will remain open for several more weeks, although that has yet to create much of a stir on the Peninsula.
While the state has predicted a great season for ducks and geese, that hasn’t translated into anything substantial here.
Grouse season has also been a bit of a disappointment, mostly because there aren’t many around.
Get ready and wait.
There is some snow sitting atop Hurricane Ridge.
Until we get another foot or two of powder, however, skiers and snowboarders will have to wait before any rope tows or lifts are up and running.
“The park won’t let me on the hill until we got three or four feet of snowpack,” said mountain manager Craig Hofer. “It is a good base what’s there.
“I don’t know what’s going to come next week. They say it could be snow.”
One thing that does begin this weekend is ranger-led snowshoe walks on the Ridge.
The walks are offered for individuals and families at 2 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays through April 1.
The first walks will be offered this Saturday.
Walks are one mile in length and last 90 minutes. Space is limited, so participants are encouraged to sign up at Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center 30 minutes beforehand.
There is a suggested donation of $5 for each participant to help repair and replace snowshoes. Those who choose not to pay it will forever be branded “cheapskates.”
Group snowshoe walks are also provided at 10:30 a.m. Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays.
Group reservations can be made by calling Olympic National Park at 360-565-3136.
For more information on organized winter sports at the Ridge, visit hurricaneridge.com.
Birders can warm up for the annual Christmas Bird Count with a special outing in Dungeness Valley this Saturday.
Birders will meet at Railroad Bridge Park in Sequim at 9 a.m. to cover birds of the forest before heading out to Dungeness Landing Park at noon to view saltwater birds.
For more information on the birding trip, contact the Dungeness River Audubon Center at dungenessrivercenter.org.
The Peninsula will host various Christmas counts during the next few weeks.
Admiralty Audubon will have a count on the Quimper Peninsula on Saturday, Dec. 17, while the Sequim-Dungeness Christmas Count will be held Monday, Dec. 19.
A Port Angeles area count is set for Dec. 31.
For information on those counts, visit http://tinyurl.com/2akvmdl.
Also . . .
■ Razor clam diggers can harvest shellfish at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks this Saturday.
All four beaches open to afternoon digging, with low tide expected for 6:30 p.m. Another two-day dig is tentatively set for Dec. 22-23 at the same beaches.
■ The Coastal Conservation Association-North Olympic Peninsula Chapter will meet Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Wine on the Waterfront, 115 E. Railroad Ave., in Port Angeles.
The results of the latest state chapter meeting will be discussed as well as an update on the Pacific Aquaculture Salmon Farm Proposal.
■ Puget Sound Anglers-East Jefferson Chapter will hold its monthly meeting Tuesday night in Port Townsend.
The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. in the Marina Room at Hudson Point Marina, 375 Hudson St.
■ There will be a special showing of the award-winning documentary “The Irate Birdwatcher” in the Port Angeles Senior Center, 328 E. Seventh St., tonight at 7 p.m.
The movie features Pacific Northwest writer and conservationist Harvey Manning as he tours some of Washington’s wildest places and explains his personal crusade to protect it for future generations.
Admission is $5. Proceeds benefit Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club.
■ Admiralty Audubon will host a special photo intensive concentrating on bird photography at Lower Oak Bay County Park this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.
Some of the area’s top wildlife photographers — among them Bob Whitney, Paul Happel, Stephen Cunliffe and Jeff Larsen — will answer questions on any aspect of outdoor photography.
Weatherproof clothing is suggested, including waterproof footwear.
To register, contact David Gluckman at [email protected] or 360-531-3325.
■ The Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby is set for Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 18-20.
The blackmouth derby spans the eastern half of the Strait of Juan de Fuca as well as a large portion of Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet).
For more information, visit gardinersalmonderby.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; email matt.schubert
__________Matt Schubert is the outdoors columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column appears on Thursdays and Fridays.