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FINS, FUR & FEATHERS: Dry weather hampers activities
The dry conditions we have been having across the state are making things difficult for both anglers and hunters here in the state. If Mother Nature will cut us a break, we may be able to start enjoying some of the good times this time of year has to offer.
No matter what you pursue, it seems as though the current conditions are making it very difficult for you out there. First, for the anglers the water levels are at very low levels. So low in fact that some of the rivers on the peninsula are closing in order to protect returning stocks. With the low levels, snagging of fish becomes a problem. Whether incidental or intentional, the fish are being caught in a way that places them under extreme stress and closure is needed to protect these stocks for future generations. So far there have been no closures on local rivers, but make sure you check the departments web page for any and all emergency closures.
While it is unlikely that the Skagit will fall to levels that will make the fish so concentrated they are in danger of being snagged, the lack of rainfall has made the water very clear. With this clear water, presentation is key. The visibility makes it easier for fish to spot their prey and they are more selective of a lure/bait that does not appear to be natural. With the low water levels, cutthroat fishing should be pretty good. Use natural bait like a nightcrawler for best results. Currently the coho run appears to be winding down. There are a few fish being taken, but nothing with any great regularity.
On the horizon, according to test fisheries off Vancouver Island, it appears that this should be an exceptional year for chums. These dog salmon are big and fun to catch. They fight like heck and if taken care of properly are quite good on the grill/smoker. If fishing for them from area beaches, try suspending a herring under a bobber. Once they get to the rivers, use your favorite steelhead rig and have fun.
Fishing for perch and bass has begun its annual slowdown. If you are targeting these fish, you need to slow down your presentation. They are not going to expend a great deal of energy chasing their next meal. Trout activity is picking up.
Deer hunting results are showing that fewer deer are being taken, and many are attributing this to the dry conditions in the field. The underbrush is like walking on corn flakes, making stalking and still hunting deer near impossible. Small creeks and streams are at low levels, making water a premium for these animals. The best bet would be to find some sort of water source, preferably near cover, and set up a stand there. You will need to get up well before first light and stay put once you get there. With enough people moving about the woods, they should do a fine job moving deer into your area.
There have been some reports of increased harvest. Once again, the northeast corner of the state is showing good numbers of deer taken, with more mature two and three-year old bucks being taken. Historically these counties have some of the highest hunter success ratios in the state and this year looks to be no different. If you have an unfilled tag and are having trouble finding deer over here, take a look across the mountains.
The low water conditions are making the waterfowl hunting extremely hard. With the lack of rain, the fields are not even close to flooding, meaning most of the birds are rafting up out on the big waters. While the mild conditions mean the birds will stick around the area, they are hard to get to because unless you have a boat and are set up for the proper type of hunting. You may be able to do some scouting and find the paths between where the birds are feeding and resting and catch them as they fly off to the water in the morning, or return for the evening. The same goes for the geese. Ample numbers abound, but conditions are making for some difficult hunting.
The other side of the state is not faring any better. While the pothole country of south central Washington is not as dependent on the fields flooding, the mild conditions are not making for an easy hunt.
The one bright spot is the pheasant hunting. The dry conditions have not put a real damper on the hunting. Ample birds are being planted at all release sites and good hunting should continue for the next few weeks. The only down side is the dry conditions do tend to make the scent harder for dogs to pick up.
Regardless of what the weather is, I am still getting out there. It beats work!