All posts by Andy Walgamott

WDFW Launches New Mobile App For Anglers To Check Waters’ Regs

Evergreen State fishing managers are starting to put out word that they’ve launched a new app to help you figure out the regulations for the water you’re on or headed to.

The free Fish Washington Mobile App is available now for downloading onto iOS and Android devices.

Doing so early this afternoon, I learned that the Duwamish River, which flows maybe 80 yards from my desk, is “currently closed to fishing.”

I could’ve figured that out, of course, by looking through WDFW’s 130-some-odd-page 2017-18 rules pamphlet, but this app will be a valuable one for those exploring Washington’s rivers and streams, lakes and beaver ponds, ocean and inside saltwaters without a copy of the regs tucked in their door panel.

“WDFW has been working on this for quite some time, both in Olympia with the app development team and by regional Fish Management Division staff across the state to populate the geo-database with the current rules for waters across the state,” said John Easterbrooks, who oversees fisheries in South-central Washington, in an email message this morning. “As this new tool is refined and expanded, we believe it will largely replace the need for a hard copy rules pamphlet for anglers who carry a smartphone.”

The app actually first became available about two weeks ago, and staffers were handing out info on it at last weekend’s Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show in Pasco.

Easterbrooks says that the soft launch will be followed by a more official release before the big lowland lakes trout opener on the fourth Saturday in April.

He says the app is meant to complement WDFW’s Fish Washington page.

With GPS mode turned on, a geodatabase matches waterways with the regs.

“Tap on a lake or river/creek segment and it will be highlighted in light blue and the current regulation will pop up (drag up to see the full regulation),” says Easterbrooks. “Notifications and emergency rule changes are updated to the database that feeds the app in real-time — useful to the angler who is on the water and wants to check the current rules at his/her location.”

Messing around with the map, I had to chuckle when I saw that a water hazard at Jackson Park Golf Course just down the street from my house is defined as open to year-round fishing under statewide rules.

But just as quickly my jaw dropped upon seeing that Thornton Creek, which flows through said golf course, is open in summer to juvenile anglers.

Hey, I’ve got two juvenile anglers!

The crick is said to hold cutthroat and there is access here and there, though we’ll need to be careful about wading because of the mud snail infestation.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, yeah, WDFW’s app.

I don’t know if this was operator error or what, but I did get an error message not long after downloading it to my phone, something about my Gmail crashing.

So far the app has a 3.5 rating at the Google Play Store, with basser Brent Davis commenting on Jan. 10, “Great idea, but its super buggy right now. After more developing Ill re rate but for now I’m having problems with it crashing every time I open it.”

On iTunes, Mr. TXSmith gave it five stars, noting, “It’s off to a good start! I like it. It’s a little slow sometimes, but it’s not a big deal. Can’t wait for a hunting app!”

In the meanwhile, the fishing regs app is available, “nearly complete and is useful now,” according to Easty, so check it out when you get a chance.

WA Fish Commission Adds Another Meeting On Sound King Plan, OKs Some Reg Simplifications

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a package of simplified sportfishing rules for Washington’s rivers, streams and lakes during its Jan. 18-20 meeting in Ridgefield.

 

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), also was briefed on proposed updates to a management plan for harvesting Puget Sound chinook salmon.

Commissioners decided to continue to discuss – and potentially provide guidance on – the proposed Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan during a special conference call on Tuesday, Jan. 23. The commission will convene the call at 8:30 a.m.

The public can listen to the work session, but there will be no opportunity for public comment. More information about the call will be posted Monday on the commission’s website athttps://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2018/.

State and treaty tribal co-managers initially submitted the plan to NOAA Fisheries on Dec. 1, 2017. NOAA has already informed the state and treaty tribes that the plan is insufficient, noting that several key salmon stocks would not meet new — more restrictive — federal conservation objectives.

The plan is required by NOAA for the state and tribes to hold fisheries affecting wild Puget Sound chinook, which are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. The proposed 10-year plan, along with feedback from NOAA, is available on WDFW’s website athttps://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/chinook/.

During the meeting in Ridgefield, commissioners approved rules aimed at simplifying sportfishing regulations for freshwater species, including steelhead, trout, warmwater fish, sturgeon, shad and carp.

These rules – which apply to freshwater throughout the state, with some exceptions – will go into effect July 1, 2018. Some of the rules adopted by the commission include:

·       Reducing the number of exceptions to the year-round lake season.

·       Eliminating mandatory steelhead retention.

·       Standardizing the daily limit and minimum size requirements for bass, walleye and channel catfish in the Columbia River (downstream of Chief Joseph dam) and its tributaries, including the Snake River and its tributaries. This change aligns regulations on several rivers with a previously adopted rule that eliminated daily limits and size requirements for these species in most of the region.

WDFW staff withdrew a few proposals that had been put forth during the public review process. One such rule would have allowed chumming statewide while another would have eliminated special rules for panfish statewide. Another rule that was withdrawn would have eliminated a provision that requires anglers using bait to stop fishing for trout after landing the daily limit for that species, regardless of whether the fish are kept or released.

More information on the simplified rules can be found online athttps://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2018/01/agenda_jan1818.html.

In other business, the commission directed WDFW staff to initiate a public process to strengthen the conservation and protection of the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, which has been classified as a threatened species under state law since 1998. Commission members said they favored elevating the level of protection to endangered, which could increase the likelihood of the species’ survival and recovery.

In the 1800s, the sharp-tailed grouse was the most abundant game bird in eastern Washington, with its highest densities in relatively moist grassland and sagebrush vegetation. But with much of its habitat converted to cropland, and in the wake of major fires in 2015, the population has declined to an estimated total of less than 600 birds.

In the coming weeks, WDFW will seek public comments on the proposed change within a timetable that will enable the commission to make a final decision later this year.

A draft report on the bird’s status is available at https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/endangered/status_review/.

The commission also voted to make changes to rules for compensating commercial livestock owners for animals killed or injured by wolves. One of those changes establishes market value for the loss of livestock and guard dogs. Another requires livestock producers to exhaust all available compensation from non-profit groups before receiving payment from the department.

Additionally, commissioners approved the purchase of 1.3 acres of floodplain in Whatcom County to restore habitat and 115 acres of land in Ferry County, which includes 3.4 miles of undeveloped shoreline on the Kettle River. The Ferry County acquisition will protect habitat and allow for public access to the river for a variety of non-motorized recreational activities and wildlife viewing.

Minutes and audio recordings of the commission meeting will be available online early next week athttps://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/minutes.html.

ODFW Sets Jan. 30 Meeting In Newport To Talk 2018 Halibut Seasons With Anglers

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

ODFW will be asking for public input on the upcoming spring halibut season for the central Oregon coast at a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 30 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the ODFW Marine Resources Program conference room, 2040 SE Marine Science Dr., Newport.

OREGON HALIBUT ANGLERS ARE BEING ASKED FOR INPUT ON THE 2018 FISHERIES OFF NEWPORT — WHERE JESSICA HERBORN CAUGHT THIS NICE ONE IN 2016 — AND ELSEWHERE ON THE CENTRAL COAST. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

ODFW staff will give an overview of the results of the International Pacific Halibut Commission Annual meeting and the resulting quotas.  Then meeting participants will be able to provide input on the number and timing of “fixed” and “backup” dates for the Central Oregon Coast Subarea (Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain) spring all-depth halibut season.

People who cannot attend the meeting in person can still participate in one of two ways:

·        Join the meeting via GoToMeeting (see details below).

·        Complete an online survey, which will be posted on the ODFW halibut webpage. (Both the online survey and background materials for the meeting will be posted by mid-afternoon on Monday, Jan. 29 on the ODFW halibut webpage http://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/finfish/halibut/index.asp.

·        Anglers may also provide input by contacting Lynn Mattes (lynn.mattes@state.or.us) or Christian Heath (Christian.t.heath@state.or.us) at the ODFW Marine Resources Program, (541) 867-4741.

GoToMeeting DETAILS 

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/554636005

You can also dial in using your phone.

United States: +1 (872) 240-3412

Access Code: 554-636-005

With Passage Of Capital Budget (Finally!), $74 Million For Hatcheries, Habitat, Access On Way To WDFW

With Washington’s 2017 Capital Budget finally approved by lawmakers yesterday and now on Governor Inslee’s desk for his signature this afternoon, tens of millions of dollars worth of repairs and upgrades to Washington hatcheries are set to begin.

THE JUST-PASSED 2017 CAPITAL BUDGET INCLUDES $2 MILLION FOR IMPROVEMENTS AT THE WALLACE SALMON HATCHERY NEAR GOLD BAR WHICH REARS COHO, SUMMER CHINOOK AND STEELHEAD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The package also includes $5 million to improve the health of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s forestlands, $1.5 million for Tucannon River floodplain restoration, $1.2 million for elk-damaged fencing, $1 million for Lake Rufus Woods access and $600,000 for waterfowl habitat across the state, among other projects.

“We very much welcome the Legislature’s action,” said Tim Burns, who heads up WDFW’s Capital and Asset Management Program. “The budget includes $74 million in direct appropriations and grant authority that will enable WDFW to continue making major improvements at our hatcheries, wildlife areas, and other facilities across the state.”

The budget wasn’t passed last year due to disagreements over how to address the state Supreme Court’s Hirst Decision and its impacts on rural landowners.

But this week saw a breakthrough compromise from lawmakers. It involves a mix of limiting how much water new small wells can withdraw, $300 million for inbasin conservation work and shifts the onus of permitting back to the Department of Ecology instead of counties, per the Tacoma News Tribune.

Among WDFW’s fish hatcheries that will benefit from the deal and the work it funds:

Naselle: $8 million for renovations
Minter Creek: $6.5 million for work on intakes
Clarks Creek: $6.35 million for rebuilding
Hoodsport: $4.756 million for holding pond renovations
Forks Creek: $2.425 million for work on intakes, diversion
Wallace: $2.001 million for replacing intakes, holding pond
Soos Creek: $2 million for renovations
Eells Spring: $1.4 million for renovations
Kalama Falls: $816,000 for work on raceways
Dungeness: $615,000 for replacing main intake
Samish: $350,000 for work on intakes

The Capital Budget also includes grants for habitat, recreation and fish passage barrier removals, including:

South Coast: $7.242 million for 14 Coastal Restoration Initiative projects
Buford Creek (Asotin Co.): $4.7 million for a fish passage barrier removal project
Lower Chehalis River: $4.079 million for surge plain protection project
Chico Creek: $3.875 million for fish passage barrier removal project
Woodard Bay: $3.233 million for wetland restoration project
Big Bend Wildlife Area: $3 million for critical habitat project
Cowiche Watershed: $3 million for critical habitat project
Klickitat Canyon: $2.4 million for critical habitat project
Simcoe Wildlife Area: $2.14 million for critical habitat project
Kennedy Creek: $2.111 million riparian project
Sinlahekin Wildlife Area: $245,000 for a campground project
Samish River access: $182,000 for parking, recreation project

If OKed, Skagit-Sauk Steelhead Fishery May Not Open Till Spring

Between the hopes, the vow, the disappointment, the so-so run forecast, the budget and the feds, will anybody be happy with a wild steelhead fishery on the Skagit-Sauk if we get one this year?

However long it might last.

Whatever shape it might take.

Whenever it might get approved.

AN ANGLER CASTS A LINE ON THE SKAGIT RIVER AT THE MOUTH OF THE SAUK EARLIER THIS MONTH. (CHASE GUNNELL)

THE VOW

In early December, the National Marine Fisheries Service put WDFW and local tribes’ proposed fisheries on the North Cascades river system out for final comment.

Two days later, during open public input at WDFW’s December 9 Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Olympia, Leland Miyawaki of Occupy Skagit — which has long been a driving force behind reinstating the catch-and-release season — spoke once again in support of it.

WDFW DIRECTOR JIM UNSWORTH DURING THE DEC. 9, 2017 FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION, TELEVISED ON TVW, WHERE THIS SCREEN GRAB CAME FROM. (TVW)

As he finished his testimony, Commissioner Jay Holzmiller from Anatone, in the opposite corner of the state from the Skagit, asked WDFW Director Jim Unsworth if he could get Miyawaki some answers.

Unsworth went one better.

“If we get the approval, it’s going to happen,” he said right then.

THE DISAPPOINTMENT AND THE BUDGET

The “if” really isn’t a question, but Unsworth’s vow confidently glossed over a crucial unresolved issue: finding the funding to monitor and enforce the rules during a federally permitted fishery over what is an ESA-listed stock, albeit the strongest one in Puget Sound.

When WDFW rolled out its Wild Futures fee increase proposal last year, the cost to hold a Feb. 1 to April 30 season on the Skagit between Concrete and Rockport and the Sauk from its mouth to Darrington was modeled at $110,000.

Wild Futures went nowhere in the state Legislature.

The $110,000 evaporated.

That meant the money has to come from elsewhere in WDFW’s coffers.

Sure, their wolf people tamer just got a new $425,000 contract extension, but the reality is this money could never come from that pot. Instead, local staffers would need to be retasked from their important stream surveys, work at hatcheries and crunching data to do creel sampling.

Anglers like you and I might accept that as a good tradeoff, though ultimately it could cost us down the road in other ways.

Anyway, with Unsworth all but guaranteeing we’ll fish, when WDFW held the first of two recent public meetings with steelheaders to help shape a fishery, managers said they had located enough funding — roughly $30,000 — for a two-week season.

Er, two weeks?

Having not been able to fish the Sauk and Skagit in prime time — February, March and April — since 2009, it would be fair to say that 14 days is not exactly what many anglers such as myself had in mind.

The federal plan allows fishing from as early as Feb. 1 to as late as April 15 or 30. (It’s unclear which is meant — both are listed as end dates in different areas of the document.)

So … JUST TWO WEEKS?!?!

That’s like … a freshwater halibut season, man!

A mad rush to the river, overcrowded boat ramps, 20 drifters or sleds side-drifting every run and lumberyard, fly guys and spoon chuckers and bobber lobbers lining the banks, Howard Miller packed to the gills.

It didn’t go over so well with some.

Subsequent to that first meeting was a second, and afterwards Occupy Skagit reported on Facebook “there was talk from the presenters at Sedro Woolley that the entire season may well be funded.”

Setting aside what “the entire season” might mean for just a moment, it wasn’t clear where those additional dollars were coming from, though it’s possible Unsworth — who is an eager river angler himself — took some words from Commissioner Kim Thorburn to heart.

“Director, you can do double duty, doing the monitoring while you’re fishing,” the Spokane birder said at the Dec. 9 meeting.

THE FEDERAL REALITY

Regardless of how much spare change Unsworth et al have found underneath the agency’s assorted cushions, how long we’re able to fish the Sauk and Skagit in 2018 boils down to when Barry Thom literally signs off on it.

Thom would be NMFS’s West Coast administrator in Portland. His minions put the fishery proposal out for a 30-day comment period starting Dec. 7 and ending Jan. 8.

During that time, NMFS received somewhere around 120 missives, according to spokesman Michael Milstein.

So now of course those have to be gone through for their merits.

I imagine many are legit — clearing up that confusing double end date deal, say — while others may be more about delaying or even scuttling a 2018 season altogether.

I want to be clear that this doesn’t work for me What. So. Ever, but an argument can be made to just take a deep breath and get everything in order for a full February-April fishery in 2019.

Spread out the pressure, maybe there will be more fish than the 4,000 to 6,000 expected this year, down from recent years’ average spawner escapement of 8,800.

But with 2017’s North Sound salmon fisheries (LOL) and all this with the Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan and its potential impacts if king forecasts are low, getting area anglers something — anything — is pretty damned important.

So it’s good to hear that federal overseers are busting their butts to potentially get us on the river.

“We have put extra people on this and expect a decision this spring, but we don’t have a date. It won’t be January, but we’re moving quickly so Barry can make a decision as soon as possible,” NMFS’s Milstein says.

“This spring” technically means anywhere between March 20 and June 21, though an approval in the latter half of the period is utterly useless in terms of a fishery this year.

Trying to buy us some more time, I pointed out to Milstein that, according to University of Washington weather blogger Cliff Mass, the Westside’s meteorological spring actually starts “the third week in February.”

He didn’t respond.

Maybe he’s helping review all those comments.

California Sea Lions Meet Key Population Goal, Say Federal Researchers

California sea lions have reached a high enough level that West Coast states could begin to take over management.

The National Marine Fisheries Service reports that the pinnipeds are at their “optimal sustainable population,” a triggering point in the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

SEA LIONS CROWD THE DOCKS AT ASTORIA IN SPRING 2015. (WDFW)

Graphs produced by researchers at the federal Alaska and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers for the first-ever comprehensive assessment of the species show sea lion numbers are at their habitat’s carrying capacity, around 275,000 animals.

They first hit that benchmark around 2008, rising to 306,000 before The Blob took a bite out of their lunch, but then rebounded.

“The population has basically come into balance with its environment,” said Alaska-based research biologist Sharon Melin in a NMFS story announcing the news. “The marine environment is always changing, and their population is at a point where it responds very quickly to changes in the environment.”

Melin and her coauthors’ work was published today in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

The story notes that the tripling of sea lion numbers from fewer than 90,000 in 1975 has not come without consequences including chowing down on ESA-listed Chinook, steelhead and other stocks.

NMFS permits Northwest states to take out problem pinnipeds at Bonneville, and the story says that “the species maintained OSP levels even when small numbers of adult males were being removed to protect salmon runs in the Columbia River and climate events were depressing growth.”

To Melin, that means such removal programs are not all that likely to impact the species’ overall population, according to the story.

ODFW is currently asking NMFS for permits to remove sea lions from Willamette Falls, where they’re feasting on winter steelhead like their ancestor Herschel did at the Ballard Locks.

Dalles Pool Sturgeon Retention Closing After Friday

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The recreational sturgeon season in The Dalles Pool (The Dalles Dam upstream to John Day Dam) will close effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, under rules announced today by fishery managers from Oregon and Washington.

WHILE KEEPER SEASON IN THE DALLES POOL IS CLOSED AS OF JAN. 20, CATCH-AND-RELEASE FISHING CAN CONTINUE. KATIE CRAIG CAUGHT THIS DALLES POOL STURGEON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The states decided to close the sturgeon sport fishery based on catch projections which indicate the 100 fish guideline will be achieved by Friday evening.  Catch rates have been high since the season opened Jan. 1, with an estimated 69 fish kept through Jan. 14.

 Sturgeon fishing remains open in the Bonneville and John Day pools, where the guidelines are 325 and 105 fish, respectively.

Retention sturgeon fishing is closed below Bonneville Dam and below Willamette Falls under permanent sport fishing regulations.

Except for specific sanctuaries, catch-and-release sturgeon fishing remains open in all of these waters, even when retention seasons are closed.

Olympia Update: Fishermen Support Boosting Salmon Production For Orcas; More Bills In Play

Top Washington fishing organizations lent strong support to a bill that would raise 10 million more Chinook and other salmon a year — for orcas.

Leaders and representatives from Puget Sound Anglers, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Fish Northwest and Coastal Conservation Association, the salmon fishing ports of Ilwaco and Westport and commercial fleets all spoke in favor of House Bill 2417, which provides $1.55 million in General Fund revenues for the bid to benefit the state’s struggling killer whale population.

A MEMBER OF A SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALE POD FLICKS ITS TAIL. (CANDACE EMMONS, NMFS, FLICKR, HTTPS://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-NC-ND/2.0/)

It’s one of two major proposals this session to ramp up salmon production, the other being in Governor Jay Inslee’s budget, which also features fixing up hatcheries to support the goal and increased patrols to protect the marine mammals.

During yesterday’s public hearing on HB 2417 before the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, PSA’s Ron Garner called orcas “one of the neatest animals in the world” and shared up-close encounters as the whales chased salmon against his fishing boat to catch their dinner.

“I think this is a time when all of us to come together — the tribes, the commercials, the recreationals — all of us can come together because we need to save our precious orcas,” said Garner. “It’s a way of life, our fishing, and if we’re able to fish more with it, that’s great, but we can’t let our orcas go extinct on our watch. I think that’s an important thing. I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t support helping our orcas out.”

Butch Smith, representing both the Ilwaco and Westport Charterboat Associations, said, “The ocean salmon fishermen do not want the orca to go extinct, especially when we have the ability to produce salmon to help the orca whale.”

Steve Westrick, skipper of the Westport-based Hula Girl, said that diminishing hatchery production had put orcas close to a tipping point.

“The whole world’s watching us,” said Greg King of Friends of the Cowlitz. “Are we going to let these orcas die and have that blood on our hands? I don’t think we want that, and I support two four one seven.”

The bill also drew support from two representatives from the commercial fishing industry, Greg Mueller of the Washington Trollers Association and Dale Beasley of the Coalition of Coastal Fisheries.

But some like NSIA also called on prime sponsor Rep. Brian Blake, Democrat of Aberdeen, to expand it to include hatcheries in Puget Sound and bump up production goals.

And Garner pointed out that strong harbor seal predation on Chinook smolts also needs to be addressed.

Under the bill’s initial version, the salmon would be raised at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Kalama Falls, Beaver Creek, Naselle, Humptulips, Skookumchuck, and Lake Aberdeen hatcheries.

Penny Becker, WDFW diversity manager, said her agency was in favor of HB 2417.

“We’re committed to ramping up hatchery production to try and deal with this issue of prey availability for southern residents as possible,” she said.

Becker said WDFW was working with Blake on production goals and cautioned that Endangered Species Act issues, Hatchery Review Scientific Group recommendations and broodstock requirements needed to be considered.

Some of those concerns were echoed by retired WDFW Director Phil Anderson, who now sits on the Pacific Salmon Commission and is chair of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, and who also called the bill a “great start.”

“As we’re putting these packages together, looking at all available resources and facilities, that we keep in mind there can be multiple benefits coming from this additional production,” said Anderson. “Orcas is the primary and we ought to be looking and selecting stocks that are most likely to increase the prey base for southern resident killer whales. But we can also build into that strategy looking for economic opportunities in terms of reinforcing recreational and commercial fisheries as we make those selections.”

Nobody spoke against the bill.

Rep. Vincent Buys, a Republican who represents most of Whatcom County outside of southern Bellingham, asked WDFW Hatchery Division Manager Eric Kinne if the state still had the facilities to ramp up production.

“We have taken out some of the infrastructure but most of that infrastructure still exists,” Kinne said.

AGENCY-REQUEST LEGISLATION

As you might expect, HB 2417 isn’t the only fish-, wildlife- and habitat-related bill active in Olympia. Between state legislators and Department of Fish and Wildlife-request bills, there is a host of other proposals out there to flesh out.

Raquel Crosier, who is WDFW’s very busy legislative liason, provided a rundown on three bills the agency has asked for state representatives’ and senators’ help on.

They address sportsman recruitment, ADA accommodations, and a bill that would “fix” another from last year that delivered a “disproportionate” impact on instate guides.

Through the lens of our old friend the Olympia Outsider here’s a look at those and others in play:

Hunting and Fishing Recruitment Bill: With Washington sportsmen aging dramatically, House Bill 2505 and its companion in the Senate, SB 6198, aim to increase participation in fishing and hunting through a multi-pronged approach.

“It raises the youth age for fishers to 16, provides a hunter education graduate coupon of $20 on your first hunting license, and provides the department authority to develop bundled discount license packages (like multiyear or family packages),” Crosier says.

It would also let anglers buy a temporary license to fish during April’s lowland lakes opener instead of requiring a more expensive year-round one.

Recruitment is a big problem for fish and wildlife agencies, and WDFW is no different. According to handout Crosier forwarded, the average age of the state’s hunters and anglers has increased from 46 for both groups in 2007 to 52 and 54, respectively in 2015.

Prime sponsors: Rep. Brian Blake, D, South Coast, Sen. Dean Takko, D, South Coast

Bill status: Public hearing at 8 a.m. Jan. 17 before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: Anything that makes it easier and cheaper to get more people on the water in the woods, thereby helping conservation and, yes, our industry, is a good thing.

ADA Accommodations Bill: HB 2649 aims to make it “easier for disabled hunters and fishers to get into the sport and (improves) the department’s service delivery and accommodations process,” Crosier reports.

“(It) condenses multiple disabled hunting and fishing licenses and permits into one special use permit and expands who can sign disabled hunter and fisher reduced rate and accommodation forms,” she explains.

Prime sponsor: Rep. Andrew Barkis, R, Pierce County

Bill status: Public hearing at 8 a.m. Jan. 17 before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: Another good bill to pass.

Fishing Guide Fee Fiasco Fix Bill: While Washington hunters and anglers were spared fee increases last year, not so with fishing guides. Instate operators saw their license costs more than double, while out-of-state guides received a dramatic price break.

HB 2626 and SB 6317 aim to reverse that.

“The fishing guides got a disproportionate increase compare to other commercial license types,” says Crosier. “Also, we were tracking a court case on nonresident rates as session was going and didn’t quite get the nonresident commercial rates in line with the court-approved model. We are looking at increasing the nonresident rates to set them at the court-approved rate ($385 above the resident rates) and using that savings to reduce the resident fishing guides rates.”

Under the bill, a resident food fish guide license would be reduced from $280 to $210 (it was $130) while the corresponding nonresident fee would go from $355 to $595 (it was $630).

A resident game fish guide license would drop to $305 from $410 while the nonresident one would increase from $485 to $690.

Prime sponsors: Rep. Brian Blake, D, South Coast; Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D, Olympic Peninsula

Bill status: Public hearing at 8 a.m. Jan. 17 before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: Math has never been the OO’s strongest suit, but it should cost much more for nonresident guides to benefit from the state’s fish stocks. This corrects last year’s error.

ALSO PERCOLATING

Beyond those three agency-request bills, there are many more bills prowling the halls of power, including:

HB 2771: “Managing wolves using translocation”

Effect: Directs WDFW to immediately begin capturing and moving wolves from areas where they’re causing livestock depredations — for instance, Northeast Washington — to areas they’re not (yet).

Prime sponsor: Rep. Joel Kretz, R, Northeast Washington

Bill status: Referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: It’s clear Northeast Washington is bearing the brunt of wolf problems, but translocation bills haven’t moved much in recent years, and it’s possible this one won’t either.

HB 2276, SB 6315: “Concerning notification of wildlife transfer, relocation, or introduction into a new location”

Effect: Requires WDFW to hold a public hearing before moving critters to different parts of the state, and there must be 30 days advance notice of that hearing in the communities most affected.

Prime sponsors: Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R, North Cascades; Sen. Ken Wagoner, R, North Cascades

Bill status: Public hearing Jan. 11; subject of Jan. 18 House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee executive session.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: Inspired by word that the National Park Service and WDFW would like to move mountain goats from the Olympics to North Cascades, the bill still needs better definition so it doesn’t squelch releases of, say, pheasants or butterflies to state wildlife areas, or suburban-garbage-raiding bears into the woods.

SB 6127: “Improving the management of the state’s halibut fishery”

Effect: WDFW would need to “advocate” for halibut fishing openers to be on consecutive days instead of the opener’s Thursday, Saturday setup. Also sets the price of a halibut catch card at $5, which would go towards monitoring and managing the sport fishery.

Prime sponsors: Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D, Olympic Peninsula

Bill status: Referred to the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: The senator from the Straits has been itching to address halibut fishing for awhile, and now can as the chair of the committee that can hear this bill.

SB 6268, “Creating the orca protection act”

Effect: Requires WDFW to add extra marine patrols to protect baby killer whales, orca feeding areas and pods during the busiest whale-watching weeks of the year.

Prime sponsor: Sen. Kevin Ranker, D, San Juan Islands

Bill status: Referred to the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: Just so long as it’s funded and, say, everyone is policed evenly.

HB 2337: “Concerning civil enforcement of construction projects in state waters”

Effect: Would allow WDFW to issue a stop work order if hydraulic code or other rules were being broken and levy fines of up to $10,000 overall, up from $100 a day.

Prime sponsor: Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D, westernmost King County

Bill status: Public hearing Jan. 11; subject of Jan. 18 House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee executive session.

Olympia Outsider’s off-the-cuff analysis: From a salmon-friendly perspective, not a bad idea to put a little enforcement behind the rules.

HB 2175, “Concerning natural resource management activities”

Effect: Allows WDFW to sign off on a range of land management activities — brush cutting, grazing, firewood gathering and others — without having to prepare a state environmental impact statement.

Prime sponsor: Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, R, Northeast Washington

Bill status: Bill status: Public hearing Jan. 9; subject of Jan. 18 House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee executive session.

OTHER BILLS

In the wake of the Cypress Island netpen failure that led to the escape of upwards of 160,000 Atlantic salmon, a few of which are still turning up, three bills take on aquaculture in Puget Sound.

They would (HB 2418) study existing facilities and report back to the legislature before authorizing more to be built, bar the “cultivation” (HB 2260) of Atlantics in the state’s saltwaters, and prohibit DNR (SB 6086) from signing new or extending existing leases, effectively ending the farming of nonnative fish by 2024.

Of those, the last — sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D, San Juan Islands — has moved the furthest. It’s now in Senate Ways and Means.

An unresolved issue from last year’s lengthy legislative session, the Hirst Decision and its potential effect on rural landowners as well as salmon-bearing waters is the subject of two bills, HB 2740 from Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D, westernmost King County HB 2740 and SB 6091 from Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D, Olympic Peninsula.

The latter has made the most progress; a substitute bill was sent to the Senate floor and there were long negotiations with the legislature’s four main caucuses.

ODFW Reminding Anglers That Snake, Ronde, Imnaha Steelie Limit Back Up To 3

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Now that 2018 is here, anglers are reminded they are once allowed to harvest three hatchery summer steelhead per day in the Snake, Grande Ronde, and Imnaha Rivers, consistent with permanently-adopted regulations.

EMILY LAST NAME UNKNOWN SHOWS OFF A GRANDE RONDE STEELHEAD. (VIA ODFW(

Bag limits had been reduced during the fall through a series of temporary regulations as fish managers implemented conservative management actions for historically-low Columbia River steelhead run in 2017. The steelhead season began Sept. 1 with a one fish limit in Oregon tributaries, including catch-and-release only in the Snake River. Bag limits were increased to two hatchery steelhead per day in the Snake River and tributaries on Oct. 21 when forecasted returns exceeded expectations. The temporary regulations were allowed to expire on Dec. 31, thus reinstating the permanent bag limit.

Fishery managers decided to relax bag limit restrictions after monitoring the returns of Oregon’s Snake River hatchery steelhead, which suggested more than enough fish will return to support the hatchery program and provide normal harvest levels. Jeff Yanke, ODFW District Fish Biologist in Enterprise, attributes the change to conservative management early in the run. “We made justified decisions last fall to reduce harvest in the mainstem Columbia and Snake Rivers, including the tributaries,” said Yanke. “As designed, that allowed more steelhead to escape harvest and return to their natal rivers.”

Typically, about 65 percent of Oregon’s Snake River steelhead survive the migration between Bonneville and Lower Granite Dams but in 2017, over 70 percent survived the journey. Yanke estimates that approximately 1,500 Grande Ronde and 800 Imnaha steelhead will be surplus to production needs, after broodstock collection goals are met. “Now that our steelhead are closer to home, we can be more certain that further restricting angler harvest isn’t necessary,” Yanke said.

Increasing bag limits isn’t just about putting more fish in the freezer, Yanke explained, but is also an important conservation tool for wild steelhead populations. “Unharvested hatchery steelhead can miss their intended destination at hatchery facilities, straying into nearby streams and spawning with wild steelhead,” Yanke said. “Harvest is a tool we use to reduce that risk while achieving the harvest objectives of our programs.” Spring fisheries are important components of the Grande Ronde and Imnaha Rivers, representing 60-80 percent of the hatchery steelhead harvested annually.

While mangers are encouraging anglers to take full advantage of the reinstated harvest opportunity, caution is advised to handle any wild steelhead encountered with care. “Wild steelhead populations, like their hatchery cousins, are also returning at very low levels,” said Yanke. Anglers who catch a wild fish should use proper catch-and-release principles to ensure it arrives on the spawning grounds in perfect condition.

“This year, more than most others, each fish counts for the future,” said Yanke.

WDFW Holding Jan. 23 Workshop On Willapa Sport, Comm Fishing Priorities

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

State fishery managers will hold a public workshop Jan. 23 in Raymond to solicit public comments on priorities for upcoming sport and commercial salmon-fishing seasons in Willapa Bay.

WDFW WANTS TO HEAR FROM WILLAPA BAY SALMON FISHERMEN, BOTH RECS LIKE LAUREN SAELID, HERE WITH TWO 2015 KINGS, AND COMMERCIALS ABOUT UPCOMING FISHERIES THERE. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The workshop, sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. at the Raymond Elks Club on 326 Third St.

Annette Hoffmann, regional WDFW fish manager, said the department is currently seeking guidance on how to reconcile priorities for salmon-fishing opportunities established in the state’s Willapa Bay Salmon Management Policy.

That policy, approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2015, gives recreational fisheries priority in the Willapa Bay chinook harvest, while designating commercial fisheries as the priority for coho fisheries in the bay.

To meet conservation objectives, WDFW requires both fisheries to release any wild chinook salmon they encounter and manages fishing seasons to hold mortality rates for those fish within a prescribed limit.

Hoffmann said the department has asked the commission to provide greater clarity on ways to achieve those priorities, and wants to involve participants in Willapa Bay’s recreational and commercial fisheries in the discussion.

“The commission makes the policy, but we also want to hear from those directly involved in these fisheries,” she said.

Hoffmann said state fishery managers will convey comments heard at the workshop to the commission during a public meeting scheduled Feb. 9-10 in Olympia. The department will then look to the commission to provide guidance in setting fishing seasons for Willapa Bay in 2018 and future years.