Outdoors: Steelhead fishing poor all over the place

YES, MY DEAR Peninsulites, things could be worse.

Just ask anglers around the rest of the state.

As mediocre as the current winter steelhead season has been here on the North Olympic Peninsula, things are just short of terrible elsewhere.

Just ask, Bob Gooding at Olympic Sporting Goods (360-374-6330) in Forks. He talks to about every outdoors publication in the state, and they all say the same thing to him: steelhead fishing just isn’t very good this winter.

“There’s just not any fish anywhere,” Gooding said. “The fishing out here isn’t very good, but it’s better than most.”

Sure, that’s kind of like being the most popular kid in the high school chess club, but at this point, I’ll take it.

West End rivers are for the most part on the low and clear side. And things don’t look to be changing any time soon.

Yes, unlike the previous three winters I’ve experienced on the Peninsula, we actually can’t get enough rain. I didn’t even know that was possible around these parts.

“[The Sol Duc] is pretty skinny and pretty clear,” Gooding said. “It’s been such a cold year that the water is cold and stayed that way.

“Steelhead don’t move around well in cold water. All of those are conditions that are not conducive to good fishing. Consequently, we have not had good fishing.”

Bob Aunspach at Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles said he’d heard of some success coming out of the Lower Hoh. But he wasn’t ready to give it a full-fledged endorsement. Nor was Gooding.

“Compared to what it has been, a guy could get excited [about the Lower Hoh],” Gooding said, “but it’s like finding a dime. I’d rather find a 50-dollar bill.”

With the Sol Duc running at only two boards, however, the Hoh is probably the best option.

The Calawah has seen little to no action, the Bogachiel Hatchery run is pretty much dead (I even wrote its obit last week) and the Elwha isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire either.

I’ll leave it up to Gooding to sum it up perfectly: “A good day right now is what would probably be an average day [normally]. What would usually be a really good day just ain’t happening. That’s the way it is. I would change it if I could.”

So would the rest of us.

Derby nears

Anglers have only one week left to gear up for the Discovery Bay Salmon Derby next Presidents Day weekend.

The three-day derby, set for Feb. 14-16, will stretch across waters in both Marine Area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet).

With Area 6 not open to salmon fishing until the first day of the derby, only the Area 9 anglers have had a chance to do a little scouting in recent weeks.

As Brian Menkal at Swain’s Outdoor (360-385-1313) in Port Townsend tells it, things have picked up a tad. There was even news of a 16-pounder caught on Wednesday.

“It’s nothing really hot, but guys are getting a few fish out here,” Menkal said. “Not that many people have been out, but the guys that are out there are getting some fish. There’s not huge amounts, but there are some fish to be had.”

Aunspach said he heard of a few fish being reeled in near Lip Lip, and a few other places, “but it’s a little spotty.”

Heartless mistake

The five people who read last week’s column might have noticed a slight error in regards to the new “Valentine’s Day Sweetheart” prize to be offered at the Disco Derby.

As it turns out, Valentine’s Day actually falls on Feb. 14, not Feb. 16.

Obviously, a fact that slipped my mind since I hadn’t celebrated the deplorable day for several years.

That means the $500 “Sweetheart” prize will go to the woman, or girl, who turns in the largest salmon on Saturday, the first day of the derby, not Monday.

The bonus prize is part of the largest prize list ever offered for the Discovery Bay Derby.

The top fish in the three-day derby will bring in $5,000, second place $2,000 and third $1,000. The total prize list is expected to exceed $16,000.

Tickets cost $30 and are available at many local merchants, and also online at www.swainsinc.com. All proceeds support Jefferson County Volunteer Fire District No. 5.

For more details, including information about discount moorage, hotel specials, and reduced launch fees for participants, visit the derby Web site at www.DiscoBaySalmonDerby.com.

Ridge news

Hurricane Ridge remains stuck in a holding pattern.

Without any significant snowfall, about three feet to be exact, no work can be done on the north side of the Ridge to get the Poma lift up and running.

That means skiers and snowboarders will have to remain happy with the intermediate and bunny hills this weekend, unless they enjoy a backcountry hike back up the mountain.

Single-day lift tickets cost $20 for the intermediate and bunny lifts, and $18 for a half day. All-day and half-day bunny lift tickets are $10.

Skis are available for rent at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Snowboards can be rented from North by Northwest Surf Co., 902 S. Lincoln St. in Port Angeles.

Other activities on the Ridge include snowshoeing, tubing and sledding (weather permitting) and cross country skiing.

Free ranger-led snowshoe hikes, lasting about 90 minutes, are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Since space is limited, participants are encouraged to register at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center information desk 30 minutes beforehand.

Organized group snowshoe walks are also available at 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and last 90 minutes. To schedule a group outing, call 360-565-3136.

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 phoning 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.

Razor clam digs

The state gave clam diggers the thumbs up for this weekend’s set of evening digs at Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Long Beach.

Harvesters can hit Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks today through Sunday, while Long Beach is open on Saturday and Sunday.

As with previous openers, digging will be allowed only during the hours between noon and midnight. Yet unlike most of the openers this year, the tides will come early enough that diggers can look forward to harvesting during daylight hours.

The last set of digs came in January, with harvesters averaging about 12 clams per person. Harvest numbers have pretty much hovered around that all season.

The evening low tides are as follows for this weekend:

• Today ¬­– -0.1 feet at 3:55 p.m.

• Saturday ¬­– -0.4 feet at 4:50 p.m.

• Sunday ¬­– -0.6 feet at 5:39 p.m.

More digs are likely to be scheduled in the spring, with harvesting to be done in the morning.

Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park will remain closed but may open for a spring dig if the clam population grows to harvestable size.

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

Boater safety

Flotilla 42 Coast Guard Auxiliary will be offering mandatory courses on boating safety in February and March.

All boaters in the state born after Jan. 1, 1955, will be required to take a boating safety course within the next six years.

The requirement goes into effect in five-year increments, beginning last year with those 20 and younger. (So those 25 and younger must have one this year, 30 and younger in 2010, and so on through 2014.)

The first set of classes are scheduled for Feb. 16 and 18, both from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the second floor of the Pease Building at the Coast Guard Group on Ediz Hook.

Classes are also set for March 13 (6:30-9 p.m.) and 14 (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) at the same location.

The cost is $25, including the boating safety book, or $35 if two people share a book.

Pre-registration is required. To pre-register, contact George Sipes at 360-504-2272.

Also . . .

• Waters West Fly Fishing Outfitters will host a free fly-tying seminar at its shop in Port Angeles at 140 West Front St., on Saturday at 10 a.m.

More free seminars are scheduled for Feb. 21, and March 7 and 21. For more information, contact Waters West at 360-417-0937.

• Waypoint Electronics owner Hank David will discuss getting the boat ready for the new season at the monthly meeting for the Puget Sound Anglers, North Olympic Peninsula chapter at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., in Sequim at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 19.

• Birders of all sorts of feathers can participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count during Presidents Day weekend.

The nation-wide count asks people to tally birds in their backyards and everywhere else to assess how populations are changing in North America.

For more information on the count, as well as how to participate, visit www.birdcount.org.

• Dungeness River Audubon Center Director Bob Boekelheide will lead an owl prowl through the northeastern Olympic foothills on Saturday from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Pre-registration is required for participation in the trip, and can be done by contacting the River Center at 360-681-4076. Cost is $30 per person.

• Hunters have until March 13 to purchase and submit applications for a 2009 spring black bear hunting permit.

A drawing will be held in mid-March for 295 permits in western Washington and 225 permits for hunts east of the Cascades.

Hunting licenses, bear transport tags and bear permit applications may be purchased online at http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/, by calling 866-246-9453, or at any license vendor in the state.

• Port Angeles hunter education courses will be offered in March, May, June and August.

Classes will be at the Veterans Center, 261 S. Francis St., in Port Angeles in March, June and August, while Sunnydell Shooting Grounds, 292 Dryke Road, in Sequim, will host classes in May.

To register for classes, or for more information, contact Darrell Spidell of Hi-Caliber Guns at 360-417-0300, or send an e-mail to lisa@pahuntered.com.

• The East Jefferson chapter of Puget Sound Anglers will hold its monthly meeting in the Hudson Point Complex in Port Townsend on Tuesday at 7 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 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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