MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS: Get out there, just for the halibut

INDULGE THAT HALIBUT hunting habit if you must this weekend.

Today’s season opener in Marine Area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) pretty much demands it.

Just don’t lose sight of Saturday’s spot shrimp opener across Puget Sound and the Strait.

After all, anything that inspires the masses to descend upon Brinnon and Quilcene is surely not something to be ignored.

Not that one necessarily needs to hit Hood Canal to score a cluster of crustaceans, according to Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles.

“We have plenty of shrimp in [Port Angeles] Harbor, and you can get limits of the big spots here,” Aunspach said.

“This area here will always produce X amount of shrimp. I usually get my limit on a two-pot pull if I’ve had it down for any length of time.”

One can find shrimp scattered across much of the North Olympic Peninsula saltwater.

Discovery Bay, Port Angeles Harbor, Port Townsend Bay and other parts of the Strait have been known to produce plentiful pulls.

No area is more productive on the Peninsula, however, than Hood Canal, which is considered by many to be the best shrimping spot in the state.

The Canal’s waters are home to scores of the tasty little scavengers.

The biggest trick to getting them to crawl into your pot is to bring the right bait.

And that, according to Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim, is dependent upon how oily it is.

“If something is really solid it doesn’t work as well,” Menkal said.

“Anything that’s got a good slick or oil that gives off scent, that’s what works the best. That’s what those things trigger on.

“A guy with a good bait will do better than a guy with poor bait in a prime area, just because the tidal flow takes that scent out.”

Getting catty

While fish-flavored cat food is still popular with some, there are many other enticements that work as well.

Some like to grind up various pieces of seafood into a paste, stick it into a jar and poke holes in the jar’s lid, and the scent will slowly milk out into the water.

Others, like Aunspach, will use salmon carcasses or herring.

“The same stuff you use for crab you can use for shrimp,” Aunspach said.

“I like to leave them over night if I can.”

Unfortunately, not all shrimpers have that luxury on the Peninsula.

The way seasons are set up in some shrimp districts — Hood Canal and Discovery Bay, for example — harvesters have only a few hours to soak their pots.

Shrimp can be found anywhere from 125 to 300 feet. A lot of times, they can be seen as little “balls” on one’s depth finder.

Butch Williams of Brinnon once said he generally checks from 180 to 260 feet at the beginning of each season in the Canal.

“There’s been years where big masses have been out at 300 [feet], but that’s not real common,” he said two years ago. “When that sun is out, they will stay down a little deeper.

“Whatever the way the tide is going, they are going to ball up. They kind of tumble down the beach in big balls.

“When the tides are really strong, that’s when you look for those little crevices [in the ocean floor to drop your bait near].”

Aunspach said the tide plays a much smaller role inside the harbor.

“I usually got my spot set out here in about 160 feet,” Aunspach said.

“The same places where we drop all of our crab pots, same exact places, there are shrimp.”

Here are the shrimp seasons for the Peninsula:

■ Hood Canal — Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 7, 11, 14 and 25.

■ Discovery Bay — Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 7, 11 and 14.

■ Area 9 — Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 7 and May 11.

■ Areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, and 6 — Open daily beginning Saturday at 7 a.m.

Additional dates may be added to certain areas if enough quota is available.

________

Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at matt.schubert@peninsuladailynews.com.

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