MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS: Low rivers keep steelhead at bay

STEELHEADERS ARE WELL known for their complaints.

Rarely, however, does it have anything to do with a lack of rain.

But for whatever reason — I’ll blame El Niño’s belligerent uncle El Tío — that’s where we find ourselves as the sparkly specter of Christmas looms.

Nearly all of the West End rivers are low and clear, and the steelhead are growing understandably wary of the camouflaged kooks scattered across river banks.

“The word is that everything is coming to a screeching halt,” Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles said.

“Everything is getting low and clear.

“We’re getting to the point now where we just flat need the rain.”

Yes, I think it’s safe to say this has been a bit of an odd season so far.

August is usually the time when river anglers find themselves looking to the heavens in hopes of some wet stuff.

Now they find themselves in the same untenable Tebow position as rivers continue to dry up out west.

“The Hoh has still be the best place. Everything else is super low and clear,” Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim.

“It’s like August levels basically.”

Thankfully, there is some rain at the end of that tunnel.

The long-term forecast predicts a fair amount of precipitation coming to the area in the near future.

If such is the case, expect hordes of anglers to hit the Bogachiel and Calawah one final time before the hatchery run does its typical January decline.

The Bogachiel Hatchery reported only 96 additional adult steelhead reaching its traps this week, putting the season total at 641.

Those desperate to go after some steelhead can still go out to the Hoh, which has easily been the most productive river so far this steelhead season.

One might think about tying on a bobber and jig setup and heading to some slow-moving water.

“Float-and-jig guys should be able to clean up,” Menkal said.

“Go down to a 1/16 ounce jig and use your small floats like you do in the summertime.

“Any run will be good in the slower pools. That would be the ideal way to fish.”

Menkal will once again host a two-session steelhead fishing class this coming Tuesday and the next.

The class is free to attend and will go from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. both nights at the Sequim shop, 542 W. Washington St.

To sign up, contact Menkal at 360-683-1950.

Ridge update

Relax, my dear Peninsulites, the snow will come.

It does every year at one point or another.

This year just happens to be a wee bit late.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center website reported 30 inches of snow atop Hurricane Ridge.

A look at Olympic National Park’s webcams, however, revealed a patchy snowpack that likely needs another two or three feet of powder.

“Obviously [mountain manager] Craig Hofer is on the job. He is there ready to go as soon as we get enough snow,” Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club President Lori Lynn Gray said.

“We’ll get some snow, we just have to be patient and wait for it.”

The rope has already been set up and strung for the bunny hill.

After the requisite amount of powder gathers on the intermediate slope, Hofer and his crew will get to work on that as well.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that will happen in time for organized winter sports to get up and running during the holiday week.

Olympic National Park will still offer guided snowshoe walks today and Saturday at 2 p.m.

To sign up for the 90-minute walks, visit the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center information desk 30 minutes prior to the walk.

For more on ski and snowboard activities at the Ridge, including Ski School information, visit hurricaneridge.com.

All vehicles, including four-wheel-drive vehicles, must carry tire chains when traveling Ridge Road above the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station.

All Points Charters & Tours provides twice-daily van service from downtown Port Angeles to the Ridge from Wednesdays through Sundays. Phone 360-460-7131 or email tours@goallpoints.com.

Road and weather condition updates are available at www.nps.gov/olym or by phoning the park’s road and weather hotline at 360-565-3131.

Bird activity

The weather cooperated for birders at last week’s two Christmas bird counts.

As a result, they were able to spy record numbers of species during one-day tallies at Dungeness Valley and Quimper Peninsula.

While the Dungeness count produced an unofficial species total of 150, the Quimper tally saw 115 different species.

Both would be count records, with the former even breaking the state record of 149 held by the Grays Harbor region.

“It was a excellent year. We had perfect weather, and lots of people in the field,” Sequim count leader Bob Boekelheide said.

“We ended up with lots of unusual birds that we didn’t really expect.”

Among the unexpected discoveries in the Sequim count were a handful of yellow-billed loons, three snowy owls and an unidentified hawk.

The most unusual bird in the Quimper count, according to organizer Dick Johnson, was a brown pelican.

“This has been such a benign fall,” Boekelheide said.

“When we get one of those big nasty storms it may decrease the survival of many individuals.

“It just makes it hard for them to get through the tough times, so having this benign weather has probably helped some birds survive.”

Birders can participate in one more count on the Peninsula this winter.

There will be one for the Port Angeles area on Saturday, Dec. 31. The cost to participate is $5.

To sign up, contact Barb Blackie at 360-477-8028.

Also . . .

■ If you hurry up and jump in the car, you might be able to make in time to participate in some razor clam digs on the coast.

Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks all open to afternoon digging today, with the latter the closest and most productive of the four beaches.

■ Crab season is set to come to a close at the end of the month.

Crabbers have until Feb. 1 to submit catch record cards to the state or find themselves the subject of a $10 fine when they purchase a 2012 crab endorsement.

Cards can be mailed to WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. Catch data can also be reported online at http://tinyurl.com/yhjxf79.

■ The state Department of Fish and Wildlife will accept Mater Hunter Permit applications Jan. 1 through Feb. 15.

Master hunters are enlisted for controlled hunts to remove problem animals.

They also participate in volunteer projects involving access to private lands, habitat enhancement and landowner relations.

For more information on the program, visit http://tinyurl.com/y8exnhr.

■ The Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby is set for Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 18-20.

The blackmouth derby spans 500 square miles of fishing with five weigh stations and a $10,000 first prize up for grabs.

For more information, visit gardinersalmonderby.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.

__________

Matt Schubert is the outdoors columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column appears on Thursdays and Fridays.

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