~ Lingcod season opened West of the Sekiu river/ Area 4 this week and the guys from “Team Ling Hammer ” assembled for a couple days of camping and fishing on the West end. Most of the accommodations at Sekiu are still closed with the halibut opener yet a couple weeks away but Chris from Van Ripers Resort was gracious enough to let our team set our headquarters up in their great waterfront campground. Wind and weather cooperated enough to get out most of the day Monday and then again Tuesday morning and the fish did not disappoint. Many lingcod were caught and released during both days with the kept fish averaging 30″ and up . Cabezon, seabass and rockfish showed as well. Kasey took honors of the trip pot with three lingcod all over 30lbs and the biggest ling topping out at 40 lbs. Big Hammer swimbaits fished on 65# braid and shock leaders in 40-60 feet of water was the top bait– plus Braid thumper squid, live greenling and a variety of Chris Englehart custom lures took fish as well. It was a great Sekui opener and we’re all very excited for the prospects of the local lingcod and halibut openings in the rest of the Strait/ Sound that first week of May.
~ The onset of the warmer spring rains have brought out one of our favorite little critters on the property and the namesake of our Cabins– the Pacific Tree Frog. The night is alive with sounds of these little guys calling to their mates from the woods and wetlands. Since we don’t hear much from crickets here in the wet Northwest these guys bring a welcome chime to the evening and let us know that spring is well underway.
~ Well it’s not quite spring yet around Port Townsend but there has been the occasional sun break and with the weather improving on our way into spring it’s motivated us out of the cabin and down to the local shoreline for some great clam digging excursions. Those small Manila and littleneck “steamer” clams are the prize and if one can dig enough of them you will have the makings of a very delicious dinner for your entire family. (the sport limit is 40 per digger and this is seldom a problem on our healthy local tidelands) Served simply, clams are the key ingredient to a great meal. In a shallow, covered pot briefly steam them in vegetable broth, garlic, fresh herbs and a splash of your favorite Port Townsend Brewery ale. Wait until just after the clams fully open and enjoy them with a loaf of artisan bread. Fresh steamed clams are a treat to enjoy this time of year.
Western Washington finally got its dose of winter weather this past week. Well over a foot of the white stuff fell here in Port Townsend and over 2 feet in surrounding areas. My buddies Doug and Sean from Saskatchewan were up for the challenging weather– heck they’re from Sask., this is nothing for them ! Roads and highways were a mess w/ many closed, snowed in and couldn’t get the big boats out of our road here but we persisted with the skiff and the big green Ford 4×4 to get us around and were rewarded with some great end of the season hunting. The guys took a nice mix of salt ducks. The NE wind blew us off the water by mid-morning, but the gunning was fierce while we were out. Good am flight in the blizzard with plenty of puddlers around looking for sheltered waters with the regular mix of sea ducks. One more week to go out here. the snow if melting off but the weather still blustery and WET. Great duck weather for the final week.
The weather finally provided enough of a break for heading offshore to set a big oldsquaw rig on a few hundred birds we had spotted feeding the ledge this past few weeks. Birds were diving in 60-90 feet of water so we had to get creative on the dekes and longlines. Dawn broke and the long-tailed ducks consistently buzzed the rig all morning. Alot of hens and juvies were passed on, but our hunter from North Carolina held strong and before too long took a few dandies. Pat McGruder at Avian Arts, Dallas has some amazing taxidermy work planned for these prime drakes.
There isn’t anything better this time of year than a crisp morning in the blind waiting on the sea ducks to fly… and all the while the crab pots soak and fill with delectable winter Dungeness Crab. After the hunts we pack up the gear and trophy birds from the morning shoot then head back to cabins and shop, put on the boil pot of fresh Bay seawater and give those crabs a little Jacuzzi. This last group of hunters from Minnesota polished off a nine crab lunch in record time. The smiles say it all… It’s good living in the Pacific Northwest!
Our first significant storm of the season blew in today as the tail end of a whopper that hit Coastal Alaska dipped down into Salish Sea waters on its way out. The incoming storm made for a dramatic sunrise over the decoy rig this morning. Before the majority of heavy rain and wind hit, our crew was safely off the water with our birds by mid-morning. Heavy rain and wind over 45+ kts affected the area throughout the afternoon and early evening hours. Temps were near 60 degrees w/ sun the day prior… what a difference a day can make in the weather around here this time of year!
Those beautiful black and white ducks from the North have arrived ! Barrow’s and American ( Common) Goldeneye ducks showed up in many of our hunting areas this week. Characterized by their distinctive flight noise both species of “whistlers” make for great sport on the wing and handsome trophies for the taxidermist. Watching a flock of these birds drop into the decoys is something every waterfowler should enjoy.
Jewels of the Pacific Northwest, the harlequin duck is one of the most prized waterfowl species. A unique sea duck– the blue plumed harlequin combined with dramatic white stripes, spots and red flank feathers are a sight to behold. Wintering harlequin duck populations average approx. 10,000 birds in Salish waters thus wildlife managers and sea duck hunters are conservative with harvest rates. Here in Washington we have a unique opportunity as the only state within the lower 48 to hunt these birds with consistency. Local populations of wintering harlequin ducks on the Olympic Peninsula are the highest in the state and opportunities are very good for our hunters. Our guide services focus on each of our hunters taking a prime drake over the hand carved harlequin decoy rig on their hunts with us.
In between squalls this morning the boys spotted something peculiar as a migrating flock of robins pecked their way for bugs out on the house lawn. Mixed in with the other dozen or so birds was a truly “white” robin. Spare a few black markings on the wing tips and around the eyes it was a snow white bird. This would be the second leucistic bird of the year for us– Maybe it’s going to be another cold winter !