Olympic National Park A dearth of snow can be seen in this image captured Thursday by the Hurricane Ridge webcam. The Ridge needs at least 36 inches of snow to begin winter sports operations.

Olympic National Park A dearth of snow can be seen in this image captured Thursday by the Hurricane Ridge webcam. The Ridge needs at least 36 inches of snow to begin winter sports operations.

OUTDOORS: Ridge nowhere near ready for snow sports

Coho theories; join Waterfowl Advisory group

ONLY THE FAINTEST reminder is left over from the first significant snowfall of the season on Hurricane Ridge last week, a bummer for those hoping for Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area to hit its opening day target of Sunday.

It’s not for a lack of effort by Ridge volunteers.

“All lifts are up and inspected, groomers are ready, employees hired and we are ready to go when the snow hits,” a post on the ski area’s Facebook page said.

“Dec. 8 is our first scheduled day of operations, [but] we are still a long ways away from having enough snow to operate, though.”

Ridge operators have said that a 36-inch base is needed for full operations.

During the winter season, Hurricane Ridge Road is open to uphill traffic from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday through Sunday and some holidays, weather and road conditions permitting.

All vehicles are required to carry tire chains and must be below the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station by 5 p.m.

Hurricane Ridge Road will be closed Christmas Day.

Let it snow, but only on the highest of hills and the ridge.

Predictions off

Last week the outdoors column recapped an online open house with state Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind and Region 6 Director Larry Phillips.

Phillips had some interesting comments on the disconnect between preseason coho forecasts which predicted abundant returns of silvers and the reality of low returns encountered late this summer and fall.

Quilcene’s Ward Norden, a former fisheries biologist and owner of Snapper Tackle Co., weighed in with his reaction.

“It was interesting to read your article about the ‘experts’ going back to the drawing board,” Norden said. “My prognostications for this past season were off as well and I think I know why.

“The past two summers — and particularly last summer — produced huge plankton productivity but also huge competition for the young salmon dependent directly on plankton abundance (coho, pinks, chum, sockeye, and steelhead).”

Whale of a tale

With all that prey around, migrating whales decided to spend some time in our neck of the sea.

“Both summers saw an influx of great whales to feed on the plankton here rather than going all the way to Alaska waters all summer,” Norden said.

“My friends among the Makah [Tribe] remarked that no one could remember seeing so many humpbacks. Many finback whales were also seen and there were even unconfirmed sightings of blue whales.

“These great whales not only feed on plankton, but anything among the plankton, such as juvenile coho, pinks and sockeye. This competition, even for a huge plankton resource, changes the mortality equation for several species of salmon.”

Norden said he’s hopeful for chinook stocks.

“Fortunately, on the other hand, chinook salmon are not nearly as effected by the great whales because they can feed on other things in deeper water,” Norden said. “Both blackmouth and adult chinook should be available in excellent numbers this coming season.”

With all the uncertaintly surrounding silver stocks, Norden said he’s not going to wade into the prediction game for coho this time around.

“This winter I won’t even make an attempt to predict how many coho will be available in the Straits to anglers — other than the normal number of resident coho in Puget Sound,” Norden said.

Perspectives series

David Ingram of the International Dark Sky Association and Matt Jordan will speak at Tuesday’s Olympic National Park Perspectives Series event

The free talks take place at 7 p.m. at the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St., on the second Tuesday of each month through April.

Ingram and the association say that 80 percent of the world’s live under light-polluted skies.

This amount of light can rob us of our night skies, disrupt sleep patterns, and endanger nocturnal habitats.

This talk explores the need to preserve night skies and ways to combat light pollution.

Waterfowl group

Waterfowl hunting is a less-appreciated but still productive pasttime for area hunters, so the news that Fish and Wildlife is seeking applicants for its Waterfowl Advisory Group hopefully may draw some interest from the North Olympic Peninsula.

The citizen group advises the department on waterfowl management issues.

Members will serve three-year terms beginning Feb.1.

“We’re looking for several new candidates, with diverse backgrounds, who can effectively present their views on waterfowl management to WDFW and the public,” said Kyle Spragens, Fish and Wildlife waterfowl section manager. “This group provides important input on hunting regulations, hunter access programs, and state duck stamp wetland enhancement projects.”

The Waterfowl Advisory Group holds at least one single day meeting each year. Members are eligible to be reimbursed for travel expenses to attend meetings.

The application deadline is Jan. 3 at 5 p.m.

To apply, fill out the application at wdfw.wa.gov/about/advisory/wfag.

Candidates can submit applications email at [email protected] or via regular mail at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 43141 , Olympia, WA 98504

For more information, contact Spragens at 360-902-2522.

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Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected].

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