OUTDOORS: Fresh powder greeting final two events at Hurricane Ridge this month

HURRICANE RIDGE REFUSES to go out with a whimper.

The North Olympic Peninsula’s lone winter sports paradise will close out the season with a pair of events the next two weeks, not to mention some fresh powder.

If only that had come a few months ago, we might be basking in some Poma lift pleasure as well.

No matter, this weekend’s Brad Stenger Memorial Citizens Races, set for Saturday and Sunday beginning at 11 a.m., should provide more than enough entertainment.

The slalom ski and snowboard competition is open to whomever dares brave Hurricane Ridge’s intermediate slope.

There will be medals awarded each day for several age groups as well as a trophy for the fastest boy and girl. Entry fee is $15 per racer per day.

A free T-shirt and barbecue lunch will be provided with each race ticket.

Fully baked

Of course, all this is just a precursor to the biggest event of them all: Strapless Weekend on March 28-29.

Yes, the event formerly known as the Hurricane Ridge Almost Legendary Baked Slalom survived “general laziness” for the third straight year in returning to the Peninsula.

There will be a park-jam format snowskate contest on March 28 followed by the running of the Hurricane Ridge Almost Legendry Baked Slalom on March 29.

Those new to the snowskate scene, (think skinny snowboard minus the bindings), can demo models for free all weekend.

Brands on hand will include Lib Tech, Florida Powder Skates, Chiller Decks, Fuse, Ralston and Minus 7.

Just like the week before, barbecue and T-shirts will be given to all competitors. There is a $10 entry fee per day or $15 for both.

The event begins at 11 a.m. both days, with a skate jam at the Port Angeles Skatepark from 5-7 p.m. on Saturday.

Hurricane Ridge Road is open today through Sunday, weather permitting, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. All drivers are required to have tire chains on their tires or in their cars.

Always check road and weather conditions before your trip by calling the park’s 24-hour road conditions hot line at 360-565-3131.

Information on weather conditions at the Ridge is also available at www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/hurricane-ridge-current-conditions.htm.

Rivers rise up

Some much needed rain tickled the West End terrain this past week.

The resulting uptick led to a modest improvement for steelhead on Peninsula rivers, according to Bob Gooding at Olympic Sporting Goods (360-374-6330) in Forks.

“I just talked to some guys that fished with [West End river guide] Bob Ball [Thursday],” Gooding said.

“One of them caught eight and the other caught one. So I guess it depends on which side of the boat you’re on. I’m sure this rain drug some fish in.”

It also colored up the Hoh a little bit, making the popular river a bit touch-and-go this weekend for anglers.

The true hot spot is the Sol Duc, which was running at about five boards on Thursday morning. That’s a welcome change for a river that has run low during a large portion of steelhead season.

“It’s going to be mostly the Sol Duc,” Gooding said. “The [Bogachiel], it’s got a fair amount of color in there. You could still fish it, but at least when we were there [Thursday afternoon] it was getting more and more colored. If it quits raining, it will be OK.

“[The Calawah]’s still fishable. It’s got some color in it, but it still doesn’t have a lot of water in it.”

Salty seas

As anyone behind the wheel of a Hummer will tell you, size matters.

Luckily, compensation need not be limited to the world of automobiles. Anglers can always dip in the waters of denial.

And right now might be the perfect time to do just that, especially in and around the saltwater in front of Port Angeles.

The way Bob Aunspach at Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles tells it, there’s all sorts of quality blackmouth to be had, even if the quantity is lacking.

“I don’t think we’ve had the numbers we had last year, but the average size has been considerably larger,” Aunspach said.

The Port Angeles Salmon Club’s monthly salmon derby ladder tells the same story. The top fish are pushing upwards of 18, 17 and 16 pounds.

“The smallest fish I’ve weighed in this month is 13 [pounds], 8 [ounces],” he said. “Our ladder looks like a summer ladder, not a winter ladder.”

Port Townsend anglers have even made the jaunt over to Port Angeles to get in on the action, according to Brian Menkal at Swain’s Outdoors (360-385-1313) in Port Townsend.

That’s mostly because fishing off the Quimper Peninsula has been mediocre to middling of late.

“I had guys that were going out, getting a couple, but they are really working for them,” Menkal said. “The fish just aren’t here. It’s just been quiet and cold. A few have been taken, but very few.”

Just like their brethren to the east, those who actually hit the water in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) have seen some nice fish.

On Thursday, one angler brought a 14-plus pound fish to the docks.

“The ones that are going out are doing pretty well,” Val Olson at Olson’s Resort (360-963-2311) in Sekiu. “But there really hasn’t been too many boats.”

One other saltwater angling option: lingcod season is now open in Marine Area 3 (LaPush).

Halibut seasons

The state announced on Thursday what’s been expected for a while: reduced halibut seasons throughout the state.

That includes cuts to the North Coast (LaPush and Neah Bay) and Strait of Juan de Fuca fisheries, with the latter’s season set to begin two weeks later than last year on April 23.

Areas 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay) will open two days a week this year, instead of three, to stretch out the season, Fish and Wildlife regional director Michele Culver said in a news release.

As was stated in this column space last month, Puget Sound anglers caught more than 80,000 pounds of halibut in 2008, exceeding the 59,354-pound quota.

That catch overage, combined with a slightly smaller quota this year, led to cuts in the season for Areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet).

Recreational halibut seasons on the Peninsula are as follows:

• North Coast: Areas 3 and 4 will open on May 14, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 23.

If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen June 4 and 6. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 18.

The fishery will continue to be open as a priority in the offshore area.

However, if there is insufficient quota to open the fishery for one more day in the offshore area, the fishery will be open in the nearshore area only (Area 4B and shoreward of a line approximating 30 fathoms from the Bonilla-Tatoosh line south to the Queets River).

The 2009 quota is 108,030 pounds.

• Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 21 through July 3. Areas 6 and 9 will be open April 23 through June 5. These fisheries will be open five days a week, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

• Area 12 (Hood Canal) remains closed to fishing for halibut and a number of other species due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.

For additional information, visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/creel/halibut.

Razor clams

The early bird will get the razor clams during next weekend’s digging dates on the coast.

The three-day dig, tentatively scheduled for March 27-29 pending marine toxin tests, will feature three straight early morning low tides at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks. Copalis and Long Beach will be included on the last two digging dates.

Tentative opening dates and morning low tides in are:

• Friday, March 27 — 0.0 feet at 7:49 a.m.

• Saturday, March 28 — -0.4 feet at 8:29 a.m.

• Sunday, March 29 — -0.6 feet at 9:12 a.m.

For more information, visit www.wdfw.wa.gov.

Also . . .

• State recreational fishing licenses are set to expire at midnight on March 31.

• The Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association will host its annual Easter Ham Shoot at its trap range located at 112 Gun Club Road near Port Townsend on March 29 at 10 a.m.

The entry fee is $25 (which guarantees a ham) or a per-line fee of $5 (without guarantee). For more information, visit the Association’s Web site at http://jeffersoncountysportsmen.org.

• Flotilla 42, Coast Guard Auxiliary will host a boating safety class at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Sequim on April 3-4.

The cost is $25 per person or $35 for two people if they share a book. Students receive a boater’s education card, required for anyone 25-years-old or younger, upon completion of the course.

Pre-registration is required and can be done by contacting the Public Education Officer at 360-681-4671.

• Port Ludlow Marina is now accepting sign-ups for its upcoming “For Sale by Owner” boat show the weekend of April 25-26.

The show will feature privately-owned boats in the water and on trailers as well as a Marine Swap, offering a wide array of all things nautical.

Participants must pay a $20 fee per boat, with those not presently moored at Port Ludlow also required to pay moorage. Swap participants must pay $15 for an exhibit space.

To make reservations, contact the marina at 360-437-0513 or 800-308-7991.

• The Washington Coast Cleanup is set for Saturday, April 18, along a majority of the state’s coastline. For more information and to sign up, visit www.coastsavers.org.

• Volunteers will gather for a volunteer work party at Railroad Bridge Park and the Dungeness River Audubon Center next Thursday from 1-4 p.m.

Call us, photos welcome!

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, 417-3521; e-mail [email protected]

__________

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

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