~ 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.
~ 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.
Sure is fun heading down to the tideflats on a spring day for some steamer clam digging… and the rewards for a half hour spent digging in the mud ? Good times and a heck of a clam dinner for the crew.
Tiffany’s Port Townsend Steamer Clams
- 2-3 limits fresh Manila or Native Littlenecks in shell ( approx. 3 lbs)
- 32 oz. organic vegetable broth
- fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- one can tomatoes, diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- sea salt to taste
- glass of chardonnay ( for the cook , dash for the clams )
Rinse and scrub clams. Combine broth, basil, tomatoes salt and garlic in a deep Paella pan or pot, cover and bring to a boil. Add clams and bring back to boil on simmer- clams are done when they have all opened fully. Serve clams in bowls with broth and slices of baguette bread for dipping.
Hunting from a layout boat is one of the more classic, challenging and rewarding ways to take trophy ducks. Nobody who has experienced layout hunting says it’s easy, it is not. The gunner’s laying down in the box 6 inches below the waterline with a shot window and swing that is narrow from the constraints and variables of a floating blind. Even on a calm day there is something to getting the timing right to rise, mark and shoot a duck that’s screaming in on the wing and often setting on your decoys only yards from the bow. Now add in some wind chop with swell and you have something that no sporting clays course could ever match. But gunning old school is rewarding, especially when you get duck you’ve been waiting a lifetime to achieve.