OUTDOORS: Steelhead fishing, clamming and crabbing, oh my!

THE WEATHER SHOULD cooperate this weekend to help ring in the New Year for outdoors enthusiasts.

Cold but clear and dry conditions are making the rivers better for winter steelhead fishing while shellfish lovers can flock to the ocean beaches for two days of digging for razor clams.

This is also the last weekend for crabbing until the middle of summer.

And of course clear conditions could make it a winter wonderland on Hurricane Ridge.

In addition, hunting seasons for ducks and geese run through Jan. 30 in most areas.

So take your pick of activities North Olympic Peninsula outdoors lovers and start 2011 on the right foot.

Fishing for steelies

Finally, the rains have stopped, the rivers have dropped and it’s a good time for anglers to hit the rivers for winter steelhead.

“All rivers are dropping, which makes it really good for steelhead,” Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Good and More (360-683-1959) in Sequim said.

“It’s cold but the river conditions are getting better.”

The hatchery steelhead run is slowing down but should still be good for a couple of more weeks, Menkal advised.

The native or wild steelhead run starts in middle January, just about the time the hatchery run is petering out.

“The hatchery run is still on but is slowing down while the big boys, the wild steelhead, are posed to come in,” Menkal said.

“There is a good last week or so for hatchery steelhead, but then it is time to get ready for natives.”

Kirt Hughes, regional fishery manager for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said winter hatchery steelhead fisheries are in full swing at a number of the region’s streams.

“If the weather cooperates, steelhead fishing should be good throughout January,” he said.

Anglers fishing the Quillayute and portions of the Bogachiel, Calawah, Hoh and Sol Duc rivers on the West End have a daily limit of three hatchery steelhead.

Hughes reminds anglers that they will not be allowed to catch and keep wild steelhead on eight North Olympic Peninsula rivers until mid-February.

In early 2010, the annual opening date for wild steelhead retention was changed from Dec. 1 to Feb. 16 on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers.

Those eight rivers are the only waters in Washington where wild steelhead retention is allowed.

The change, adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission last February, was made to protect the early portion of the run, Hughes said.

He noted, however, that anglers will still have an opportunity to catch and keep a wild fish during the peak of the return.

Dungeness medal

The Dungeness River, not known for its fishing, gave up a couple of steelies this past week.

“There’s not many steelheads, or any fish, in the Dungeness,” Menkal said. “But a couple were caught recently, which bucked the odds.

“That was quite a feat. If medals were given in fishing, they should get them for catching those steelhead.”

Last shot at crab

As was mentioned in this column on Thursday, the crab fishery closes at sunset Sunday.

This is not a good time for crab fishermen to be sitting around, thinking about what they got for Christmas.

“Get out there because now is your last chance for crab for seven months,” Menkal said.

“If the weather is decent, and the wind is not blowing, this is your last chance for crab until July.

“Give it a shot even if the weather’s not that good. Seven months is a long time.”

Crabbers are reminded that they are required to report their winter catch to WDFW by Feb. 1.

Reports are due for the season running Sept. 7 to Jan. 2, whether or not crabbers actually fished or caught Dungeness crab.

To submit catch reports, crabbers may send their catch record card to WDFW by mail or file their report on the department’s licensing website.

The mailing address is WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

The online reporting system is available Jan. 3-Feb. 1 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html.

Clam chowder

Razor clam diggers can get their fill today and Saturday at Kalaloch and four other ocean beaches in the evening.

The dig has been approved at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch beaches.

Opening dates and evening low tides are:

• Today — 3:40 p.m., (0 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch.

• Saturday — 4:31 p.m., (-0.4 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch.

• Sunday — 5:18 p.m., (-0.7 ft.), Twin Harbors.

Clam diggers are reminded that they should take lights or lanterns for the nighttime digs and to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out.

“Preparation is essential for any outdoor activity, especially in winter,” said Mike Cenci, deputy enforcement chief for WDFW.

“Check the weather conditions, river conditions and road conditions – and let people know where you’re going before you head out.”

And, of course, wear warm, waterproof clothes.

“We don’t get a lot of T-shirt weather in January,” Cenci said.

All good advice for the hardy souls planning to to dig razor clams on ocean beaches during New Year’s weekend.

“Digging razor clams on New Year’s Eve is a Northwest tradition,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

“Last year, more than 22,000 people marked the season by digging razor clams.”

No digging will be allowed before noon on any of the five razor-clam beaches.

Harvesters are allowed to take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition.

Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2010-11 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach.

Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

Opportunities to dig clams at Hood Canal increase Saturday, when Belfair State Park in Mason County opens for littleneck, butter, manila and other clams.

Recent surveys indicate that the clam population will support a fishery at the park.

For more information on clam-digging opportunities in Hood Canal and elsewhere, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/beaches/.

Winter hunting

Most big-game hunts in the area will be closed by the start of January, although waterfowl hunters still have time to bag ducks and geese.

Hunters have through Jan. 30 to hunt for ducks in the region.

Waterfowl hunters should check the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for details.

Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk or turkey are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31 for each 2010 tag purchased.

Hunters can file a report by calling 877-945-3492, or by the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov.

Those who miss the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can purchase a 2011 hunting license.

On the other hand, hunters who submit their reports by Jan. 10 will be entered into a drawing for five deer permits and four elk permits in various areas of the state.

New this year, WDFW is requiring hunters to file separate reports for general-season hunting activities and for special-permit hunts for deer, elk, black bear and turkey.

That change will give game managers more information about hunters’ success during both kinds of seasons.

Whether reporting online or over the phone, hunters should follow the prompts until they receive a confirmation number for each report.

White New Year’s

Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoe walking and just plain fun in the snow should be available this weekend on Hurricane Ridge.

More snow fell on the winter wonderland this week and clear skies should make it a good weekend for snow lovers.

Before going, though, call Olympic National Park’s road and weather conditions hotline at 360-565-3131.

Also . . .

• The East Jefferson Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers will hold its annual potluck dinner and silent auction fundraiser on Tuesday, Jan. 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Marina Room at the Hudson Point Marina in Port Townsend.

• The Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Club’s upcoming meeting Monday will feature Norm Baker from Sequim, who will be talking about the Marine reserves in our area and how they may be changed (enlarged).

These marine reserves have been developed to preserve habitat for certain endangered marine species. Even though the preserve does cut down on fishable areas of the marine areas, they help preserve under-represented species.

In addition, Joe Hudon will do a fly tying demonstration of the Adams Irresistible fly.

• The Puget Sound Anglers — North Olympic Peninsula Chapter will be holding the club’s annual fundraising auction and dinner on Thursday, Jan. 20. The proceeds from this auction provide the majority of funding for the annual Olympic Peninsula Kids Fishing program held at the Sequim water reclamation pond.

The auction/dinner is held at Sequim’s Guy Cole Convention Center, Carry Blake Park. Doors open at 5 p.m. A spaghetti dinner will be served starting at 5:30 p.m. Water is provided with the meal or bring your other beverage of choice. Donations for the dinner will be appreciated.

A silent auction for a wide assortment of merchandise runs through the evening.

The key event, the live auction, will be held following dinner. The live auction items include fishing trips with renowned guides on North Olympic Peninsula rivers for salmon and steelhead. Also, saltwater trips offered by club members departing out of Port Angeles, Sequim or Sekiu for salmon or halibut.

For more information, call Herb Prins at 360-582-0836.

••• The last of three area Christmas bird counts comes to Port Angeles on Jan. 2.

The Sequim-Dungenes area and Quimper Peninsula counts were already held a week ago. Now counters will look for birds in and around Port Angeles.

To participate in the count, contact Barb Blackie at 360-477-8028.

•• Peninsula Trails Coalition will hold a slideshow fundraiser each Friday night in January at the Port Angeles Senior Center, 328 E. Seventh St.

Presentations will include subjects like Midway Atoll, building Spruce Railroad and travels through Mongolia.

Admission is $5, with funds going toward supplies and lunches for volunteers working on Olympic Discovery Trail.

For more information, phone Gail Hall at 360-808-4223.

•• Hunters who report this year’s hunting activities for black bear, deer, elk or turkey by Jan. 10 enter themselves into a drawing for nine special hunting permits.

All hunters, whether successful or not, are required to submit hunting reports for those species by Jan. 31.

Hunters can report by phone (877 945-3492) or the Internet http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov.

•• Presidents Day weekend will once again be accompanied by a salmon derby on the Peninsula.

The Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby — formerly known as the Discovery Bay Salmon Derby — comes to the eastern Strait and Admiralty Inlet on Feb. 19-21.

The top clipped salmon in the ladder will take home $10,000. For more information on the event, 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 Matt Schubert, Sports Department, Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362; phone, 360-417-3526; fax, 360-417-3521; e-mail matt.schubert @peninsuladailynews.com.

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