Winter storm watchers can get a bird's-eye view of nature's raw power off the southwestern Washington coast. Raging surf and strong winds rumble in from the Pacific Ocean during...

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Winter storm watchers can get a bird’s-eye view of nature’s raw power off the southwestern Washington coast.

Raging surf and strong winds rumble in from the Pacific Ocean during winter, and the Long Beach Peninsula offers many prime viewing points.

The peninsula has more than 20 unobstructed miles of ocean beachline on its west side, and is bordered by Willapa Bay on the north and east, and the mouth of the Columbia River to the south.

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“Our winter storms are thrilling and they’ve become a powerful draw to the peninsula,” said Una Boyle, executive director of the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau.

Here are some choice viewing sites along the southern coast:

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, at Cape Disappointment State Park (formerly Fort Canby State Park) near Ilwaco, is perched on the cliffs overlooking the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and Pacific Ocean.

From the center’s panoramic windows, viewers can watch the storms roll in off the Pacific Ocean, ships traveling up and down the Columbia River, and sea birds working the wind.

Waikiki Beach in Cape Disappointment State Park is particularly excellent when storms meet with high tides — these coincide with a new and full moon.

From driftwood-strewn breakwater, storm watchers will be awed by huge waves crashing into cliffs, which support the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. The waves can throw sea spray nearly 100 feet into the air.

The site can be accessed through the main gate of Cape Disappointment State Park, just a few miles out of Ilwaco.

The North Head Lighthouse is another good location to watch storms brewing off the coast, and the Beard’s Hollow parking lot is just a short walk away.

The Columbia River north jetty in the state park is accessible. Use caution because the huge rocks are very slippery and unseen waves come crashing along it.

Benson Beach is a long, wide-open shoreline that starts at the north jetty and heads north toward the North Head Lighthouse.

The beachside town of Long Beach also offers excellent places for watching winter storms.

Good vantage points are on the boardwalk that stretches along the beach dunes from Sid Snyder Boulevard to Bolstad Street in Long Beach.

The Discovery Trail, a new eight-mile long coastal trail stretching from Ilwaco to Long Beach, provides easy beach viewing access at several locations.

Columbia River smelt and sturgeon fishing seasons

State Fish and Wildlife officials set a slightly reduced sport smelt dip-net fishing season next year in the Columbia River and its tributaries.

Smelt fishing will be open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays only, from Jan. 1 to March 31 in Grays, Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis rivers. Daily limit is 10 pounds per person.

The Columbia mainstem will be open daily from Jan. 1 to March 31. Daily limit is 25 pounds per person.

“We are not as confident of the smelt return this year,” said Pat Frazier, a state Fish and Wildlife fisheries manager.

As for Lower Columbia River sturgeon, the sport season will be a mirror image to regulations in place this year.

Fish and Wildlife managers indicate that white sturgeon populations are believed to be stable or increasing slightly.

The sturgeon seasons in the Columbia mainstem (including Washington tributaries) from the mouth to the Wauna power lines are: Jan. 1-April 30 — Open every day, with a 42- to 60-inch size limit; May 1-May 13 — Open for catch and release only; May 14-July 4 — Open daily, with a 45- to 60-inch size limit; July 5-Dec. 31 — Open for catch and release only.

From the Wauna power lines to the Bonneville Dam, including Washington tributaries, the sturgeon seasons are: Jan. 1-July 31 and Oct. 1-Dec. 31 — Open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with a 42- to 60-inch size limit; Aug. 1-Sept. 30 — Catch and release only.

Notes

• Crab fishing closes today at 4 p.m. in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Catch Areas 4 and 5). This closure applies to all harvest methods. Only South Puget Sound (Area 13) is open until further notice.

• The Patty Wagon ski bus to Stevens Pass will operate Jan. 6 to Feb. 24 on Thursdays only. Morning pick-up points are North Seattle-Edmonds, Lake Forest Park, Bothell and Monroe. Cost for the eight-week package is $176 or once a week for $26. Details: 206-546-6717 or e-mail patty@pattysplaces.com.

• The Washington Fly Fishing Club is hosting an eight-week beginning fly-tying class starting Jan. 6. Pre-registration is required. Details: 206-932-4925 or 206-542-4623.

• The Tahoma Audubon’s Family Discovery Day at Morse Wildlife Preserve in Graham is 10 a.m.-1 p.m on Dec. 29.

Activities include nature-trail interpretation, discovering pond creatures and viewing birds at the preserve’s observation tower. Storyteller Rebecca Hom will also be on hand. Details: 253-565-9278.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com