OUTDOORS: West End rivers likely to drop, setting up good steelhead fishing conditions

A FORECAST CALLING for a drop in temperatures and the potential of lower river levels await steelhead anglers on the West End.

“It should freeze up in the mountains and that will slow the snow melt down and the rivers should be dropping into form nicely,” said Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim.

And in even better news there are hatchery steelhead to catch and keep in those waters.

“The fish came in right before Thanksgiving, but then we got all that rain and wet and they blew up. But there are fish in the Calawah and the Bogachiel, and the Sol Duc, of course.”

Menkal’s coworker Eric Brenner agreed.

“The water was so stinking high it was pretty tough, but they were definitely getting steelies coming in off the Bogey and Calawah. There are fish, no question about that.”

Steelhead are the primary focus right now, but anglers received a bonus in the form of a two-week extension for hatchery coho on the Sol Duc River downstream of the hatchery.

Hatchery coho retention was scheduled to end earlier this week, but the state Department of Fish and Wildlife added some extra time.

Coho broodstock needs at the Sol Duc Hatchery have been met, and there are surplus hatchery (adipose-fin clipped) coho in the Sol Duc River below the hatchery.

The Sol Duc is open for trout and steelhead fishing, and this action allows anglers to retain hatchery coho along with trout and hatchery steelhead.

Anglers are limited to two hatchery coho of a minimum size of 14 inches. Release all wild steelhead, coho and chinook.

Menkal said he had some luck early on last December on the Bogachiel.

“That’s a pretty nice thing,” Menkal said of the coho continuation.

“Last year with Pat Neal we got two coho and two steelhead on the Bogachiel the first week of December, so you never know, you may get a pleasant surprise if you fish the Sol Duc for steelhead.”

Blackmouth opener

The annual blackmouth chinook fishery has opened in Marine Area 6 (Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca). Anglers can target hatchery chinook in the area until April 15, or the season guideline is attained, whichever comes first.

Both Brenner and Menkal heard of some opening-day success in the eastern end of the Strait.

“These guys had to work for it, had to sort through a couple of shakers, but they all got something they could take home,” Brenner said.

The fish were found off Protection Island, typically one of the better spots to target chinook in the winter.

“And you can do the combination there, throw the crab pots, go out and search for some salmon and double your chances there,” Menkal said.

Check in today on Ridge plans

Hurricane Ridge was deluged with about 4 feet of snow over the Thanksgiving weekend, enough snow that the Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area tentatively planned to open for the first time this season on Sunday.

Make sure to check the Ridge’s Facebook page at facebook.com/HRWSC/ for the latest update on an opening. Members of the Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club plan on offering an update on potential ski operations today.

Ski bus registration

Registration will be held Saturday for the annual Snow Sports program sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Port Townsend.

Registration will run from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. downstairs at the Port Townsend Rec Center, 620 Tyler St. The program is open to the first 50 adults or students in grade 7 or higher who sign up.

Participants who are in sixth grade and younger must be accompanied by a paid adult or guardian on all trips.

Transportation is provided from Port Townsend to Stevens Pass on six trips beginning Saturday, Jan. 7.

The cost of the program is $130.

Lift ticket prices are an additional fee. For more information on lift tickets, visit tinyurl.com/PDN-StevensPass

For further information, email [email protected] or Helen Brink at [email protected] or phone 360-385-1327.

River fishing class

Menkal will offer a two-part Introduction to Salmon and Steelhead River Fishing course at his store, 609 W. Washington St., No. 21 in Sequim, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday with part two following at the same time Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Menkal knows a ton of tips, tricks and locations and offers the course for $35 per person.

His class can help anglers ranging from beginners to experts find the fish.

To reserve a space, phone 360-683-1950.

________

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

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