Outdoors

Razor clams added to full fall calender

A prospective calendar of razor clam digging opportunities this fall on Washington’s central and south ocean coast beaches has been announced by the state fish and wildlife department.

Six different, multi-day openings, totaling 41 dig days over three months and involving four beach management sectors, are now on the docket from October through the end of December.

Department shellfish managers say there are plenty of razor clams to be unearthed and they set up and announced the entire fall slate early so would-be participants in this exceeding popular personal use endeavor could begin now to plan their fall forays.

There is one proviso, however.

The chief caveat concerning each of these clamming sequences is that they are not actually cemented in regulatory stone until an official health clearance (assuring that marine toxins along the coast are within food safety parameters) is issued immediately prior to each first date.

Testing of sampled clam tissues is done by the state health department just before each dig series. Clammers must be alert for announcements issued within about a week before each prospective opening that either give the go-ahead for or order cancellation of the upcoming dig.

At present marine toxins (that cause either paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP, also known as red tide) and amnesiac shellfish poisoning ASP)) in clam tissues are below actionable or closure levels on all beaches.

However, blooms of the marine micro-organisms that produce these natural compounds can occur rather quickly. The clams ingest the plankton in their feeding with a resulting build up of the toxic compounds that otherwise do not harm the clams themselves.

Over this entire coming schedule, the Long Beach and Twin Harbors razor clam management sectors, located south of Grays Harbor, will be open on all 41 days. In each of the six series of digs, the Mocrocks and Copalis zones north of Grays Harbor will be available on a more limited basis. The Morocks sector is slated to open a total of 19 days overall, Copalis just seven days.

The northern-most sector, Kalaloch Beach, under park service jurisdiction, will not be open this fall.

The fall 2014 razor clam digs will unfold as follows:

-Tuesday, Oct. 7 for six days

-Wednesday, Oct. 22 for seven days

-Tuesday, Nov. 4 for eight days

-Thursday, Nov. 20 for seven days

-Wednesday, Dec. 3 for seven days

-Friday, Dec. 19 for six days

All digs are on the evening low tide cycle in which harvesting is legally allowed only between noon and midnight. All beaches are closed during a.m. hours.

A variety of Washington personal use licensing documents will make legal razor clam seekers and each participant must have their own separate container for keeping the first 15 razors they unearth. High-grading is not permitted and to the extent to which diggers illegally ‘throw back’ clams will adversely affect (shorten) the overall clamming season.

Diggers also should be prepared with lighting equipment to dig during hours of darkness and inclement weather, both of which are certain to be encountered.

PHEASANT HUNTS UNDERWAY

Saturday morning, Sept. 27 saw the opening of the two-month general pheasant hunting season throughout Western Washington including designated release sites here in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

Regularly ‘stocked’ dedicated bird hunting sites for this ‘general’ season here in Whatcom County are the Intalco-Alcoa, Lake Terrell and British Petroleum (BP) Cherry Point units of Whatcom Wildlife Area, west of Ferndale.

In neighboring Skagit and Snohomish counties the Bow Hill site, north of Burlington, and Smith Farm/Leque Island unit of the Skagit Wildlife Area, west of Stanwood will be routinely fortified with birds each week until season’s end in November.

A basic hunting license is not required to kill ring-necks west of the Cascade Mountains. Instead, hunters must have some version (short or full term) of a Western Washington Pheasant Permit to hunt both on and off designated release sites. The season-long ring-neck chit for Washington residents is $84.50, while the three-day one is $40.50.

Among regulations applying to this opportunity is the requirement that bird hunters must carry and use only non-toxic shot-charged ammunition while on all state fish and wildlife department owned or leased/managed lands.

Significant penalties can be imposed upon conviction for having lead-shot ammo even on your person let alone in the magazine or chamber of your firearm while on these WDFW lands. See page 17 of the 2014-15 Washington State Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet for a list of approved types of non-toxic shot and the zones where their use is required.

Pheasant pursuits also are limited to the hours between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily.

During the general pheasant season, from 8-10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings on designated release sites, entry to the field is governed by the even or odd numbered calendar date system to forestall crowding.

When hunters purchase their Western Washington pheasant permits they will be asked to make the even or odd (refers to numeric days of the week) selection, which will be noted on the permit. Families and friends who hunt weekends must synchronize their choice to enable all to get an early start as a party Saturdays and Sundays.

After 10 a.m. on weekends fields are open to all permit holders.

Pheasants will be released in Terrell and Intalco fields on one week-day evening as well as Friday and Saturday nights. BP Cherry Point hunting lands will get birds only on Fridays and Saturdays after 4 p.m.

Safe hunting boundaries remain the same as past years at all sites and bird hunters taking to the field especially on the BP Cherry Point unit should note and stay behind these red/white-diamond signed safety zone lines.

The Western Washington pheasant hunt ends in most designated release locales Sunday, Nov. 30, however a select number of westside dedicated ring-neck sites where there are no waterfowl hunting conflicts will remain open through the middle of December.

COMING UP IN OCTOBER

Being that October has so many hunting and fishing opportunities from which to choose, it’s perhaps the most challenging month, from a time budgeting standpoint, for outdoors enthusiasts.

In Northwest Washington, the early muzzleloader deer season straddles the turn of the month running into the first week of October. Local blackpowder stalkers have pretty much the run of the county (game management units 407, 418 and 426) in which to stalk black-tailed deer.

We’re also in the cycle of longest modern firearm general seasons with this year’s second Saturday of the October start affording a full 21 days of black-tailed hunting west of the Cascades.

For the main high-powered weaponry deer event that officially gets underway Saturday, Oct. 11 all GMU options in Whatcom and Skagit counties are on the table.

BIRD HUNTS IN THE OFFING

Also becoming fair game Saturday, Oct. 11 are ducks and geese with the immediate quarry composed of resident or local web-foot production. For these birds under reasonably balmy skies, a pro-active approach such as stalking or jump shooting yields the best results.

Following the now ended September stanza of bird hunts including the statewide youth, Western Washington seniors’ pheasant, early Canada goose, pigeon and dove hunts, the main 2014-15 bird hunting seasons unfold as follows:

Forest (ruffed, sooty (blue) and spruce (Franklins)) grouse statewide season continues through the end of December.

Western Washington general pheasant season opened Saturday, Sept. 27 and closes at the end of November.

Western Washington California and bobwhite quail general season opened Saturday, Sept. 27 and closes at end of November.

Eastern Washington California and bobwhite quail with chukar and gray partridge general seasons open Saturday, Oct. 4 and closes in Monday, Jan. 19.

Statewide duck, coot, snipe, coot and goose (light and dark except brant) general seasons open from Oct. 11-15 and from Oct. 18 to a closing Sunday, Jan. 25.

Eastern Washington general pheasant season opens Saturday, Oct. 20 and closes Jan. 11.

Pacific County and Skagit County brant seasons open in January on selected dates with the Skagit option contingent on population counts.

Swans (both trumpeter and tundra), ptarmigan (all species) and desert grouse (sharp-tailed and sage) seasons are closed statewide.

FROM BOAT OR BANK

Summer freshwater fishing enters its stretch run with, after today, 33 days remaining until the 2014 seasonal closure of many streams and lakes.

Given recent rains both lowland and foothills streams, which normally flow as trickles this time of year, may be full to their seasonal brim. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for fall fishers.

Lakes, too, especially those foothills and mountain waters transition for anglers with fall being an excellent _ if not the best _ time to visit them what with the cooling temperatures and shrinking daylight hours motivating trout to feed more aggressively.

Also this is the final month of the year in which angling visitors may pursue Ross Lake’s wild rainbows. A unique day-visit option exists at the reservoir’s south end at Ross Lake Resort, which, together with its comfortable accommodations, rents kicker boats by the day.

In the first full month of fall, river salmon angling in the Nooksack and other Northwest Washington mainstems transitions from late-returning chinook to newly incoming coho and wild chum salmon as well as sea-run cutthroat and bull trout.

Also on the seafood gathering menu, while the final summer crab tallies are not yet in, it’s likely that personal use catchers of Dungeness crab will get a ‘fall’ opportunity in one or a number of inland waters marine management zones. The official announcement could come early in October so, for crab louie lovers, penciling in now one or more crab forays on the bay is prudent scheduling.

SALTWATER HIATUS COMING

The summer saltwater salmon season in Marine Area 7 pauses at the end of October before sliding into the blackmouth fishery a month later.

However, for this last month of the summer fishery, except for the inner Samish Bay closure, all of its waters including Bellingham Bay and south Rosario Strait are open to the taking of salmon.

Bellingham Bay even has a two salmon a day bonus (of the four retained only two may be hatchery or marked chinook) until Halloween.

Though November is an off month in northern inland waters salmon fishers may legally shift their efforts to neighboring Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 and keep their salmon-catching proficiency honed straight through to the winter feeder chinook opportunity.

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