Up the Beach — Fall brings fish tales, jawboning and bellyaching

Jeesch! Clam season already, sturgeon stories, blue huckleberries and weather all seem to be topics of conversation on the beach now that the tourist season is over. Dan Ayres’ WDFW (Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife) announcement that the first clam season dig would be Oct. 13 and 14 for Mocrocks and Copalis had folks out scrambling through the garage or shed for boots, bags, and warm, waterproof clothes. Hopefully they made sure they found a lantern, too as the evening tides run into night digs this time of year.

WDFW is also taking public comments on the forthcoming season digs at www.wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/ season

Fishy business

Big fish seems to be the coffee talk for those not enamored of clamming at the moment. Sturgeon has been of interest since the Lower Columbia River white sturgeon population is viewed as declining.

Fisheries managers in both Washington and Oregon are suspecting next year will bring a big change in sturgeon season regulations. During the last three years, state quotas have been slashed 40 percent. Coastal and Puget Sound harvest levels have declined. This has begun to lead to the old sports vs. commercial fishermen arguments. Currently gillnetters are upset to find out they may only be allowed 20 percent of the harvest. All the talk reminds one of those “only in Grays Harbor” stories. Remember when a prolonged high water event led to problems at Sidney’s restaurant that then led to the discovery that a sturgeon had been living under the building long enough to turn white?

Rick Burgess at Coastline Sign can verify the true story. Naturally, as the story made the rounds of the fishers of the area, the sturgeon grew to monster proportions. If fall turns wet, perhaps someone should keep an eye on the building in case curiosity gets the best of a fisherman looking to poach a sturgeon. The Chinook season did bring some hefty fish to local folks but the real conversation piece is about the monster Chinook caught north at Rivers Inlet. Deborah Whitman Perry caught the 83 pound, 3 ounce trophy fish after battling an hour on a 30-pound test line. The Chinook, as big as an 11-year old boy, was quite a sight for photographers before it was released back into the ocean. Crab, shrimp and sardine landings were exceptional this year at Westport, with around 800 folks employed during the main season according to the Port of Grays Harbor. Westport is 13th in landings in the US with some of those numbers due to Quinault fishers. It has not been a good summer for the safety of commercial fishers with the latest accident occurring when then FV MAVERICK was hit and sunk by the FV VIKING STORM. Three MAVERICK crewman were saved with 32-year old Kelly Dickerson lost when he became trapped in the forward section of the ship as it quickly went down. The FV VIKING STORM rescued the other crewmen, including the vessel’s captain, father of Dickerson. The FV VIKING STORM was on its way to Grays Harbor with a130-pound full load when it struck the FV MAVERICK, which was carrying 1,800 pounds of black cod.

BB berries

There is more than a little grumbling by pie-land jam lovers over the bb-sized wild blue huckleberries still ripening on bushes. Just when the bushes were loaded like clusters of grapes, the dry weather cut the succulent treats down to seeds, skin and some very flavorful, but skimpy flesh. White and green berries are crowded onto branches, so hopes are that the recent rain will encourage Ma Nature to reward the faithful with some decent berries. Hopefully La Niña keeps away and El Nino conditions bring us a drier, warmer winter. Right now the researchers at the University of Washington are saying it is like the presidential election—too close to call. And one thing for sure is that an onset of rain will cause griping and groaning to break into bloom all up and down the beach. Going into town is going to be tougher with the Simpson bridge closure for work. The City of Hoquiam does a good job of getting the North Beach folks into town but, doggone, we are going to miss seeing the “sea monster” floating in the river as we drive by.

McBride missed

A person who is already missed is Marge McBride. Co-owner of Marjuli Gallery in Ocean Shores, she was a champion of beauty in the community — everything from city landscaping to providing the city with the best of art and artists for nearly the lifespan of the city.

Marge could be counted on to help out any school child with art supplies, medicine, clothing or something of beauty for the young person. She was classy, kind, witty and a good friend. She will leave a big hole in the heart of the community.

Critter capers

The return of the fall stellar jays has brightened the day for folks with bird feeders, even if they bully other birds. Finally, the last of the late fawns have shed their spots and are eating grass along the medians and shoulders of the roads. Raccoons that have been fed by summer visitors are going up and down streets looking for suckers to feed them.

Tiny, brown bunnies have made their appearance around the golf course and the sink area. Cute as they are, folks sure hope the fat and sassy coyotes will not make a meal from them. Making a meal of fresh clams, jawboning about big fish, and bellyaching about lousy berries is just what this part of October is all about.

Gene Woodwick may be reached at genewoodwick@coastaccess.com.