OUTDOORS: West End rivers reopen in time for early steelhead

Wild coho counts come in low

IN TIME FOR the earliest of early hatchery steelhead returns, the Quillayute River and tributaries, including the Sol Duc, Bogachiel, Dickey and Calawah, will reopen to recreational fishing Saturday.

This comes after an 18-day closure of all these streams to recreational and tribal fishing designed to protect wild coho returns, which were straggling in below wild escapement goals.

In-season hatchery escapement reports show the Sol Duc Hatchery had counted a return of 4,005 hatchery coho adults and 1,593 jacks through Nov. 20. Egg take was listed at 350,000.

The wild coho count, however, was just five adults as of Nov. 12.

To steal what I consider the best line from the TV show Mad Men, “Not great, Bob.”

Dungeness count

The Dungeness River Hatchery had counted 730 hatchery coho adults, including 360 on hand and 372 spawned out as of Tuesday. Two jacks also were counted.

The hatchery had taken 582,000 eggs.

Release Canal chum

Low chum returns also are a concern for fisheries managers, leading to the closure of the Hoodsport Hatchery Zone to all salmon fishing and the release of all chum in Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal).

The Hoodsport Hatchery Zone is defined as waters within a 2,000-foot arc seaward of the yellow marker buoys at the mouth of Finch Creek.

Hatchery returns are below projections. This conservation measure is necessary to ensure that hatchery broodstock goals are met.

Discovery Bay upgrade

The Clallam County portion of Discovery Bay received an upgrade to recreational shellfish harvest by the county Environmental Health division.

Discovery Bay is now closed to butter and varnish clams only. Previously, Discovery Bay was shuttered to shellfish harvest of all species due to the presence of biotoxins.

Halibut snag

Final 2020 halibut dates are still up in the air, but the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has modified the proposed openings for Marine Area 5 (Sekiu), lopping off three days of April fishing.

“… a concern was raised by WDFW Enforcement relative to the difference in season days of the week between Areas 4B [Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh Line) and 5,” said an email from Heather Hall, who works on intergovernmental ocean policy for Fish and Wildlife. …With regard to the enforcement issue, there has been increasing crossover in angler effort between Areas 4 and 5, whereby anglers are launching and returning to Neah Bay, but fishing Area 5 when it is open and vice-versa.

“This has created a significant enforcement issue when both areas are not open at the same time as our regulations include a port of landing restriction.”

Reed cited the Washington Administrative Code 220-314-030:

“It is unlawful to fish for, retain, possess, or land halibut into a port located within an area that is closed to halibut fishing. This does not include halibut caught in Canadian waters.”

Hall noted that 2019’s season dates were the same in Areas 4 and 5, so there wasn’t an issue.

“This change would reduce the original proposed season in Marine Area 5 by three days prior to Memorial Day,” Hall said. “As the amount of halibut that would be caught during the April opener is unknown, this change would also help ensure that there would be sufficient quota for Memorial Day and June.”

That last point, sufficient quota remaining in Marine Area 5 for Memorial Day and June, was a sticking point raised by representatives of Area 5.

“At this point, we are not proposing to revise the dates in Area 5 for Memorial Day weekend or the month of June,” Hall said. “We need to work with our Ocean Sampling Program to ensure there will be staff available to sample the halibut landed into Area 4 that were caught in Area 5 during the remainder of the Area 5 season.

“If that can be done, then we would follow up with a proposed revision to the WAC to specifically allow halibut caught in Area 5 to be landed in Area 4 on days that the halibut season in Area 4 is closed.”

Here’s what the proposed dates now look like:

 Marine Areas 6-10

Open Thursday through Saturday from April 16-May 16.

Open Friday through Sunday, May 22-24.

Open Thursday through Saturday from May 28 to June 28.

 Marine Areas 5

Open Thursday and Saturday April 30 through May 16.

Open Friday through Sunday, May 22-24.

Open Thursday through Saturday, May 28-June 28.

 Marine Areas 3 and 4

Open Thursday and Saturday, April 30 through May 16.

Open Friday and Sunday, May 22 and May 24.

Open Thursday and Saturday, May 28 through June 28.

Ediz Hook birds

A birding tour of Ediz Hook will be led Saturday by Judy Mullally of the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society.

Birders should meet at the far end of Ediz Hook near the boat launch and restrooms at 9 a.m.

The tour will feature returning winter seabirds and shorebirds of Port Angeles Harbor and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Bring binoculars, water, a snack and dress for the weather.

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

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