By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
State fishery managers have approved an end-of-the-year razor clam dig over four evenings, leading up to and including New Year’s Eve.
“Razor clam digging on New Year’s Eve has become a tradition for many Washingtonians,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. “The tides aren’t conducive to a holiday dig every year, but they’re with us this year.”
In past years, as many as 20,000 people have descended on ocean beaches to dig razor clams on New Year’s Eve, Ayres said.
The following beaches will be open for digging on the following schedule and evening low tides:
· Dec. 28, Friday, 6:42 p.m., -0.3 ft., Twin Harbors
· Dec. 29, Saturday, 7:15 p.m., -0.3 ft., Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks
· Dec. 30, Sunday, 7:47 p.m., -0.2 ft., Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks, Copalis,
· Dec. 31, Monday, 8:20 p.m., 0.0 ft., Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks, Copalis
Ayres noted that the best digging occurs one to two hours prior to low tide, no digging before noon.
Clam diggers are limited to 15 razor clams per day, and are required to keep the first 15 clams they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.
All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2012-13 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.
Razor clam digs tentatively scheduled through February 2013 are Jan. 8-14, Jan. 25-27, Feb. 7-12, and Feb. 23-24.
Barbless Hooks on Big C, Jan. 1
Starting New Year’s Day, anglers will be required to use barbless hooks until further notice when fishing for salmon, steelhead and cutthroat on a large section of the Columbia River.
The rule issued by WDFW will affect sport fisheries from the mouth of the Columbia River – including the north jetty – upstream to the state border with Oregon, 17 miles upstream from McNary Dam.
Under the new rule, anglers may still use single-point, double-point, or treble hooks in those waters, as long as any barbs have been filed off or pinched down.
State fishery managers said the immediate need for the rule is to make Washington’s fishing regulations consistent with those in Oregon, where that state’s fish and wildlife commission recently approved a broad-based measure that prohibits Oregonian license holders from using barbed hooks on the Columbia River starting Jan. 1.
“Fisheries can be very difficult to manage under two different sets of rules,” said Guy Norman, WDFW southwest region director. “The two states have worked together for nearly a hundred years to maintain regulatory consistency on the river that serves as a common boundary.”
In recent months, both states have been discussing a ban on barbed hooks as part of broad-based policy to restructure Columbia River fisheries to promote the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead. As a conservation tool, barbless hooks are easier to remove than barbed hooks, reducing the likelihood of killing or injuring the fish, Norman said.
“That’s especially important on the Columbia River, where anglers are required to release fish from a number of protected runs unharmed,” he said.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, which sets policy for WDFW, is scheduled to take action next month on the new draft policy that includes a ban on barbed hooks and a variety of other management changes.
A vote on the draft policy, which also includes phasing out the use of gillnets by non-tribal fishers in the mainstem Columbia River by 2017, is scheduled Jan. 12 during a public meeting in Olympia. More information about the draft policy is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/lower_columbia/.
On the Water
If the weather reports hold true, local rivers may be dropping back into shape fairly quickly.
“The Skookumchuck is still running high,” said Charles McElroy, a sporting goods clerk at Sunbird Shopping Center, “but they’re still letting a lot of water out up there. The 5-day forecast is calling for dryer weather, the coastal stream should come into shape soon, if they aren’t already. Everything above 1,000 feet is snowed in, so there isn’t much in the way of new water flowing down.”
The fish are concentrated between the Blue Creek boat launch and the mouth of the Blue Creek on the Cowlitz River.
“The glo-ballers fishing at night are doing better than the bankies and boaters during the day,” said McElroy.
Last week Tacoma Power recovered 112 coho adults, 13 jacks, 191 winter-run steelhead and two summer-run steelhead during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
A total of 16 coho adults, five jacks and 12 winter-run steelhead were released into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton during the week.
They also released 22 coho adults, 7 jacks and three winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa above Cowlitz Falls Dam at the Day Use Site and they released 14 coho adults and one jack into the upper Cowlitz River at Packwood.
River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 10,200 cubic feet per second on Monday, December 24. Water visibility is seven feet.
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website The (Almost) Daily News (almostdailynews.com), find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason – The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email email@example.com.