Saturday’s rally protesting the closure of the productive lower Skokomish River to recreational angling this season drew a good crowd who were told by organizers not to give up hope and to join conservation groups.
“We have not given up and will continue to fight to get the Skokomish River back open to recreational anglers next year, as was promised at the rally,” said Frank Urabeck in an email afterwards.
While the closure is linked to the Skokomish Tribe’s claim and Department of Interior’s opinion that the shifting river is entirely part of the Skokomish Reservation — which the state does not agree with — there’s worry that this is part of continuing trend that is chipping away at sportfishing opportunity.
“The major benefit from this hatchery is right here in the river. The sportsmen are paying for the fish and should benefit,” Hal Boynton of the Steelhead Trout Club of Washington told the gathering of 150 to 200 anglers.
According to Urabeck, 72 percent of the funding for WDFW’s George Adams Hatchery, which raises the Chinook for harvest, comes from the state, while 28 percent comes from Tacoma Power.
With Puget Sound Chinook a listed stock, fishing has become focused in limited, selective saltwater hatchery-only seasons, like Areas 9 and 10, and in terminal zones on rivers where fin-clipped fish are more numerous.
It’s a big issue that bears watching.
I’ve gotta get to work on my September issue, so I’m going to have to let my pictures from the rally do the rest of my yapping, but for more solid reporting from the event, see the Kitsap Sun article here.
About 150-200 people gathered at WDFW’s George Adams Salmon Hatchery around 1 p.m. July 30 to hear speakers from Puget Sound Anglers, Steelhead Trout Club of Washington and Coastal Conservation Association talk about the Skokomish River closure. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
More than a dozen people waved signs along Highway 101. Drivers honked and showed signs of support for the effort. The Skokomish River is a very productive and important fishery. According to one speaker, recreational anglers typically catch 5,500 Chinook a season while tribal fishermen catch 7,000. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
Anglers believe that because the salmon hatchery is funded 72% by state dollars and 28% by Tacoma Power that we the public should benefit from those fish that are raised there. Earlier this year, a federal solicitor’s opinion came down that a treaty made in the mid-1800s set aside the entire river and its bed as part of the Skokomish Reservation. The state did not agree but had to close the fishery to protect anglers from potential legal action by the tribe. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
The George Adams Hatchery raises 3.8 million Chinook annually as well as coho and chum salmon. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
Chinook are already returning to the hatchery. The fishery would have otherwise opened today, Aug. 1. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
As anglers hoist signs along Highway 101, a pod of salmon school in the hatchery behind them. The question is, will we be able to access these fish next year or the following year? Organizers of Saturday’s rally are hopeful. In the meanwhile, the Department of Fish and Wildlife doubled the limit on hatchery Chinook in the saltwaters of southern Hood Canal and allowed fishermen to use a second pole with the endorsement. All fine and dandy, but as some at the rally pointed out, that fishery requires a boat and they don’t have the means to buy one or all the gear needed for that. Skokomish Chinook are primarily caught by bank anglers in the river and tribal fishermen using nets. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
There were plenty of signs at the rally calling for fairness and equity in sharing the resource. Speaking of sharing, over the next few years WDFW will collect hundreds of thousands of eggs from surplus Baker Lake sockeye to help the Skokomish Tribe start a run of the salmon in Hood Canal. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
This year’s low forecasted returns of salmon to Puget Sound are a good reason to be cautious and conservative with seasons, especially for coho. But the Skokomish is one of the rivers forecast to see good returns of Chinook and coho, though sport anglers won’t be able to take advantage of that in large part. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
Spencer Ewing, the grandson of Frank Urabeck (left), recalled how his grandfather had called once and said there was a river that they could go catch multiple kings on in a day. He talked about camping along the river and hearing salmon jump at midnight and then after fishing going and getting ice cream at Hunter Farms. He said we were not allowed on the river this year but not because we took more than our fair share, calling it “a sad example of inequality.” He also said not to give up hope yet. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
Ron Garner of Puget Sound Anglers talked about a “dangerous trend” of rivers closing, nearly closing or rumored to be the next ones. He spoke about how commercial fishermen, recreational anglers and some tribes have worked together on recent hatchery battles. He said that anglers are better organized these day, but he and others have called for more of us to join groups like PSA, Coastal Conservation Association and others so we have a stronger voice in fisheries management and conservation. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
Meanwhile, not far away the Skokomish ran clear, cool — and with more than a few Chinook in already. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
One of a number of WDFW signs posted along the Purdy Cutoff by state fishery officials. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
And a new sign posted by the Skokomish Tribe. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)