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Goldeneye ducks. Striking, beautiful black and white ducks that migrate into our waters from the Boreal forests of the North. We enjoy two species of them in the West– the Common or American and the Barrow’s Goldeneye. Common’s are plentiful in the rivers, lakes and tidewaters of our state with wintering populations in the tens of thousands– Barrow’s are a special Western bird – far less plentiful than the Common’s with 8-10,000 of them wintering on our Coastal waters here in Washington. We start to see both species of Goldeneye after Halloween, mostly juvenile birds and hens arriving first– then as the breeding areas get frozen up North a better push of birds start showing up November thru the late season. The older drakes arrive in our wintering areas already sporting their best plumage. We just wrapped up a few days hunting with repeat clients from Mississippi that wanted to target both species on their hunts with us. Cliff had never shot a mature Goldeneye drake before last season and was lucky enough to take a hybrid Common X Barrow’s last December as his first– what luck !
Barrow’s X Common hybrid
Good hunts were in store for them again this season as both Cliff and Will took some fine drakes of both species over the past few days. They will look great on the walls of both their trophy rooms. It’s shaping up to be another fantastic Goldeneye season around here !
As we head into the Labor Day weekend and the final fishing charters of the season I have been reflecting on some of the great fishing days we had this year. Good calm weather throughout the spring and summer got us out on the water quite a bit. Charters started in May with the halibut, lingcod and spot prawn openers. Although we ended up releasing more halibut than we kept ( very limited possession days ) this halibut season will go down in the books as a decent one with ‘buts running in the 45- 80lb range. The lingcod followed suit w/ good fishing throughout May and part of June. Several BIG oversized fish were carefully released and plenty of the slot limit sized fish taken home for fish and chips. Spot prawns was a blink w/ only 4 open days this year , but we limited the boat on the few days we fished them. Summer crabbing in Port Townsend Bay was very good, as the Dungeness crab were on the large side w/ 7-8 inch shells and plentiful most days. In July we found a new hotspot for some really nice rock sole in the 2-3lb range. The Summer combo Crabbing/ Bottomfishing charters were a lot of fun– as were the post-charter crab boils and fish fry’s back at the Cabins ! A couple more days left of Summer Crab and some September coho fishing … then it’s headlong into our hunting seasons. Can’t wait !
~ Elliott and Capt. Dave spent this calm late season morning practicing the art of sculling one of our local bays. I’m not talking about rowing one of those fancy Ivy League skiffs, this is scull hunting ! A tradition that was born over a hundred years ago from the ingenuity of East and West Coast market gunners that wanted to take advantage of rafting flocks of waterfowl. Gunners are tucked up under the gunnels of this very stealthy craft propelled only by a single oar out the stern. The rower paddles slowly in a figure 8 motion until you can get close enough to the birds for a shot, then one or both gunners raise for the shot. When it works you could almost reach out and touch the ducks. Sculling is an extremely exciting way to hunt, especially in the late season when the high pressure sets in, the bays calm down and there are plentiful rafts of full colored waterfowl out there. Long gone are the days of laying down a hundred duck raft for market with a the punt gun… now it’s about the quality of the birds and not quantity. Often a great day sculling requires a lot of hard work and maybe only a bird or two in the bag. On this mid- January morning we enjoyed a long scull on a flock of unsuspecting puddle ducks and E started us off with a great shot on a really nice drake pintail , followed by an exciting scull into an openwater flock of over a thousand greater scaup. Only a few days left to hunt the 2013/2014 waterfowl season, this year has been full of some fantastic hunts and great memories.
~ One of hunters took a unique Goldeneye on a hunt this past week. What we thought was a primo Barrow’s Goldeneye drake upon closer inspection appears to be a mix of the two species– Common, American Goldeneye X Barrow’s Goldeneye. This uncommon hybrid has the attributes of both species w/ the partial crescent moon pattern of a Barrow’s, green and purple iridescent head color w/ the back and scapular feathers of the American plus a wing coloration being a mix of both species. This drake is destined for the wall of this lucky hunter from Mississippi along with a dozen other species they took on their 3 days of hunting with Peninsula Sportsman this week.
One of our hunters took a really nice whitewing drake on a scoter hunt this
morning, and whatdya know … it was wearing BLING ! congrats Scott. The stainless leg band was still dime bright even though this scoter was banded as a
3 year old bird wintering here in Washington 2005. That’s a 10 year old bull drake !
~ Here at Peninsula Sportsman Headquarters we’ve had the pleasure of hosting a father/ son duo from CA for the past few days. Dad Russ presented this trip to his son RJ as a graduation gift for completing college last year ( nice Dad ! ) Highlights of the trip–Day one RJ gets on the board early with a primo bull drake harlequin and a few other msc. greenheaded birds ( his co-workers back at Bass Pro Shops in Ca. will be envious ) It doesn’t take his Dad Russ long to take a near perfect match bird … these feather perfect drakes were brought down w/ single shots of #4 HeviShotand they both look almost tranquilized. Quite a mix of early season ducks on the log by mid-morning.
Day to brought a scoter hunt, the birds came quick and it didn’t take long to carve out some nice drake whitewings and surf scoters from the flocks. Father/ son each took good representatives then we watched as many, many, many more landed in the rig … luckily some black and white made a show with some of the first buff flocks and a really nice Barrow’s drake dumped in as a capper.
Three days hunting with these guys was a fun as it gets. Great company, and positive attitudes even when the weather shifted w/ 50kt winds yesterday and we were “forced” to hunt from the beach. Some really nice birds taken on their trip, their taxidermist back in CA is going to be busy.
~ The local summer Dungeness Crab season opened on the first of July and our crew set out to find where the crusty critters were hiding. Amidst beautiful July weather in the high 70′s pots were set in the morning and when we picked them a few hours later we were rewarded with some nice BIG Port Townsend Bay Dungies…The first crabs of 2013, hard shell bucks averaging 7-8″ across their carapace . Ooooooh Ya ! The first crab of the summer season are just that much sweeter !
Check out this video Spencer put together. We sunk the Go-Pro in one of the morning pots for some really cool footage… lots of action, enjoy !
Our inside Lingcod fishing season has been underway since the first of the month and with great spring weather we’ve also been enjoying some quality fish coming to the boat. Opening weekend saw many fish in the 30″ range and last weekend Patrick took big fish with a 35″ 18# fish off the inside reef with a 7 inch swimbait.
That fish stood only a week as Saturday Elliott took the top of the board with a 36″ 20# fish ( max retention length for the inside ) in 30 feet of water on a live greenling flylined above the kelp at slack tide. Two other keeper lings were caught with that same greenling, before it ultimately yielded 2 nice fillets for dinner– how’s that for conserving your bait !
~ One bonus of the Neah Bay trip was a pair of beautiful Tiger Rockfish ( Sebastes nigrocinctus ) caught while jigging Big Hammer swimtails and carefully released. These long lived rockfish are uncommon and striking with no two fish alike in color and pattern. Kasey took a handsome cream and orange fish on Tuesday then the Capt. caught another tiger banded one Wednesday. Our crew has been after one of these coastal fish for some time and were surprised to get them on a shallow 50′ reef. We’re hoping to get a reproduction taxidermy mount of each fish for the Peninsula Sportsman trophy wall.
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~ Area 4 Neah Bay opened for lingcod retention last Tuesday so the crew from F/V Siwash aka “Team Ling Hammer” headed West to get a crack at the first lings of the year. Camping in Sekiu courtesy of Van Riper’s resort we awoke to sunshine and calm seas Tuesday morning. Heading West into area 4 we started getting fish just after the river, while fishing the kelpline up to Sail rock. Tuesdays total was 6 quality lings averaging 26-37 inches for the boat. Didn’t get any of the “crocodiles” landed but had more than our share of followers in the 4 + foot range. Highlight of the morning was Kasey laying into a 70-80lb halibut hooked w/ his custom Seeker/ Avet rod on a Big Hammer swimtail. Kasey fought that fish for over 20 minutes while we chased it around on the kicker. Retention isn’t allowed for halibut until certain days June so we took some go-pro footage and gently released the beast back to its reef. Wednesday’s fishing brought more of the same with another 6 legal sized fish kept before the weather shifted and blew swell and chop out of the west. Heading back into Clallam Bay just before noon we spotted a young Gray Whale cruising the kelpline just offshore, a trio of Bull Sea lions and flocks of summer plumed oldsquaw, harlequin and scoters staging for their migration back up north. The West-end of the Olympic Peninsula is such a magical place.