All posts by Andy Walgamott

Meeting Asked For On Baker-Skokomish Sockeye Egg Transfer

Washington’s oldest fishing club wants WDFW to hold a public meeting before more North Sound sockeye eggs are sent to Hood Canal, where a boundary dispute is keeping state anglers off a popular salmon river.

The Steelhead Trout Club says the agency needs to detail the program before signing an agreement with the Skokomish Tribe, Tacoma Power and others to continue supplying fertilized eggs from Baker River fish.

“Given the Skokomish tribe’s (sic) hard line anti-sport fishing stance we oppose any further sockeye egg transfers, especially as the brood stock used to secure the eyed eggs is likely to come from fish that should have been placed in Baker Lake for the recreational fishery — as happened last year,” STC president Al Senyohl wrote in an April 19 letter to WDFW Director Jim Unsworth. “We ask that the department stand up against the tribal assault on sport fishing opportunities.”

Senyohl says 2016’s initial egg transfer added “insult to injury” — the closure of river fishing for plentiful hatchery Chinook and coho returning to the state’s George Adams Hatchery on the Skokomish, which led to an angler protest in late July.

It was closed after a federal solicitor issued an opinion that the entire width of the river was part of the Skokomish Reservation. The tribe posted no trespassing signs on trees above the south bank and WDFW advised anglers to heed the closure of the state fishery on the river.

A SIGN POSTED ALONG THE SKOKOMISH RIVER BY THE SKOKOMISH TRIBE WARNS ANGLERS AWAY FROM THE BANKS AS 2016’S RETURN OF CHINOOK TO THE STATE HATCHERY FILLED THE RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Fast forward to 2017 and nontribal anglers will again not be able to fish the river, as the Skokomish and WDFW were unable to reach an agreement during this year’s North of Falcon salmon negotiations.

That has left Senyohl, whose club traces its origins back to the 1920s, and others like longtime fishing advocate Frank Urabeck believing that for all intents and purposes, the recreational fishery on the Skoke is now “gone forever,” leaving them very disappointed.

Kyle Adicks, a salmon manager at the Department of Fish and Wildlife, sounds more optimistic.

He said the agency was disappointed there wasn’t a resolution through NOF, but it “does not signal we’re walking away from the issue.”

With help from Governor Jay Inslee’s office, WDFW says it plans to continue working with the Skokomish Tribe to “resolve the matter.” A well-informed source has told Northwest Sportsman they believe there’s hope in 2018.

Meanwhile, Adicks says WDFW is trying to keep the river boundary dispute and sockeye egg issues separate, and it does not sound like a meeting in Mt. Vernon, as STC is calling for, is being planned.

He says that continuing to help build new salmon runs in southern Hood Canal will benefit not just the tribes but other fishermen.

“The state’s been supportive of the program and wants to see it move forward,” Adicks says.

As part of licensing its dams on the North Fork Skokomish River, Tacoma Power is upgrading fish passage around them as well as building a pair of hatcheries to rear as many as 2 million sockeye and 375,000 spring Chinook, plus some steelhead and coho.

Eggs for the sockeye program are coming from 400 adults annually collected at the Baker River trap and which represent an equal split between state and tribal shares. Last year, over 24,000 returned to the trap, with more than 16,000 lifted into Baker Lake for fishing and spawning needs.

Eggs for the spring Chinook program are coming from WDFW’s Marblemount Hatchery.

Tacoma Power and the Skokomish Tribe are footing the entire bill.

Update From Olympia: Elk Hoof, Beaver Bills Signed, Others On Inslee’s Desk

The first of two elk management bills to pass the Washington legislature this session was signed into law Thursday.

With a stroke of Governor Jay Inslee’s pen, Washington State University was given the lead to monitor hoofrot-stricken wapiti in the state’s southwestern corner, as well as look into the causes and possible solutions to the disease that’s leaving the animals limping.

AN ELK’S HOOF AFFECTED BY THE CONDITION. (WDFW)

Second Substitute Senate Bill 5474, which was sponsored by Sen. Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe), was unanimously approved by the Senate and House, and also bars moving elk out of areas with hoofrot.

“It is my hope that with the expertise of the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, working with agency officials, our Tribal leaders, sportsmen, and landowners that we can begin eradicating this horrible pestilence,” said Pearson, chair of the Natural Resources and Parks Committee, this morning.

WDFW will continue to be heavily involved in the effort the agency began in 2009 with the collection of hooves from diseased animals.

Those were sent to WSU and four other university and federal institutions, and in 2014 preliminary results suggested it was caused by treponeme bacteria, a type of dermatitis found in livestock and unfortunately considered highly infectious among free-roaming elk.

That makes it very difficult to control, though an early version of the bill would have licensed state hunters to shoot limpers on site. That was removed after objections from sportsmen and WDFW.

While the question of funding WSU’s elk work remains unresolved as of this writing, WDFW was happy with the final bill.

“We think more effort on elk hoof disease is needed,” said the agency’s legislative liaison Raquel Crosier.

As for the other elk legislation, SHB 1353 directs WDFW and the Department of Transportation to come up with a project to reduce the number of collisions between the Colockum herd and vehicles on area highways.

It calls for a three-pronged approach: increasing general season hunting ops and depredation permits, barring feeding elk by anyone but WDFW, and using cattle grazing to keep elk away from roads and homes.

The bill was delivered to Inslee’s desk April 21 but has not been signed.

Other fish- and wildlife-related bills that have come through the legislature and have been signed by the governor include:

HB 1257, which allows WDFW to move Western Washington beavers around the Westside, where before the dam builders could only be translocated to the Eastside or had to be put down, and;

SB 5761, which exempts the release of certain information about tribal fishermen and shellfish growers from public records act disclosure requests.

The beaver bill has the potential to really benefit salmon and steelhead habitat, as well as provide other wildlife benefits.

Bills sitting on Inslee’s desk include:

HB 1464, request legislation from WDFW and cosponsored by Rep. Brian Blake and others, it aims to expand recreational access to private lands by modifying immunity laws to protect owners WDFW signs agreements with from liability;

HB 1465, shielding the identities of those involved in nonlethal wolf work or depredation investigations from public disclosure requests, and;

HB 2126, which creates a grant program and account for those grants to help fund nonlethal wolf-livestock management in Northeast Washington.

The regular session of the legislature ended last week without a budget deal, but has since reconvened in a special session.

While WDFW’s fee bills — licenses, aquatic invasive species, Columbia endorsement, hydraulic permit approvals — are still alive, their fate largely may not be known until after legislators agree on an operating budget.

On the license side, Republicans in the Senate favor a General Fund infusion where the House preferred a fee hike because of McCleary funding.

There are two other bills of note out there, though action this session seems unlikely now:

Sen. Maralyn Chase’s Senate Joint Memorial 8009 calls on Congress to fund NOAA’s review of hatchery genetic management plans. While a no-brainer for you and I, some lawmakers may have balked at the downstream cost of those approved HGMPs — increased state monitoring of fisheries, which costs money.

And though it was a bit late for this go-around, Senate Joint Resolution 8206, which would add the right to hunt and fish to Washington’s constitution, is still alive for another push next year.

Hanford Site Shed Antler Hunters Charged

The lure of recently shed big buck and bull racks in off-limits land may have been too much for three Tri-Cities men charged with illegally collecting deer and elk antlers on the federal Hanford Nuclear Reservation this past winter.

A local newspaper reports that Isaac Hampton Case, 38, Daniel B. Charboneau, 32, and Stephen M. Dearinger Jr., 31, told a WDFW game warden at the Ringold boat launch Feb. 12 that they were just heading out to “learn” the Columbia River’s Hanford Reach.

THE HANFORD AREA IS KNOWN FOR ITS LARGE, BUT OFF-LIMITS BULL ELK. (USFWS)

But as tipped-off state as well as federal officers watched from concealed locations, the trio allegedly made four excursions onto the well-marked Department of Energy site, bringing back five pairs of deer antlers and one elk rack, according to the Tri-City Herald.

Case allegedly made four trips ashore, Dearinger three and Charboneau one.

If convicted of the misdemeanor offense, they face maximum penalties of a $1,000 fine and three months in jail, according to the paper.

If Charboneau’s name and Hanford rings a bell, it’s because he’s been in trouble before for being at the site.

In October 2012, he shot and killed a very large elk along the banks of the reservation in a no-hunting area, while a friend, Brock Miller, shot and killed two in an upland area nearby shortly afterwards.

As subcontractors working at Hanford, they would not only have known that monster bulls hang out there but also that nobody is allowed onto the federal property with guns or without permission, and hunting is forbidden.

Charboneau pleaded guilty to hunting big game without the right tag, while Miller pleaded to unlawful hunting while trespassing, hunting without tags, and using someone else’s tag. They were both fined $6,000.

Charboneau kept his job, but according to Herald reporter Annette Cary’s story yesterday, while he was listed as employed at the same company in February, he no longer is.

Case is no stranger to fish and wildlife officers either, having had his hunting license suspended for 10 years after a big game violation in the Blue Mountains, the paper reported.

Under a bill signed into law in 2015, antler collectors convicted of illegally entering private property to retrieve deer and elk racks can no longer keep them. Before then, paying the fine for trespassing was considered the cost of collecting sheds that could still be sold for profit.

Hunting, Fishing Groups Bristle At Monument Review Announcement

THE FOLLOWING IS A JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM BACKCOUNTRY HUNTERS AND ANGLERS, NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION, TROUT UNLIMITED AND THE AMERICAN FLY FISHING TRADE ASSOCIATION

National fishing and hunting groups today expressed concern about an administration decision to review recent use of the Antiquities Act to conserve public lands and waters, warning that efforts to reduce in size or otherwise diminish U.S. national monuments could harm fish and wildlife, reduce hunting and angling opportunities and negatively impact cherished American landscapes. The Trump administration’s executive order directs the Interior Department to study dozens of national monuments covering tens of millions of acres that have been designated since 1996 and gauge whether their size, boundaries and scope conform to parameters established in the Antiquities Act.

Signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used by 16 presidents – eight Republicans and eight Democrats – to safeguard millions of acres of exceptional public lands and waters, including outstanding fish and wildlife habitat that provides some of the best hunting and fishing in the nation.

LIST OF MONUMENTS DECLARED SINCE 1996 AND NOW BEING REVIEWED

The sportsmen emphasized that responsible use of the Antiquities Act can permanently conserve important cultural sites and scientific resources as well as outdoor opportunities prized by sportsmen and women and other recreationists. These places and the opportunities they offer play a key role in sustaining America’s robust recreation economy and our outdoor heritage.

“The process outlined in this executive order starts us down a path that could jeopardize protected public lands important for hunters and anglers, such as Berryessa Snow Mountain and Rio Grande del Norte National Monument,” said Corey Fisher, senior policy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “These are places that sportsmen and women have worked tirelessly to protect. Hunters and anglers will watch this review carefully and strongly oppose any efforts to roll back national monuments.”

“This attack on monuments is an affront to all Americans who know darn well there were, and are, very good reasons to protect these special landscapes so they’ll continue to provide habitat, beauty and economic benefits for the surrounding communities well into the future. The landscapes are the gift that keeps on giving – for sportsmen, hikers, outdoorswomen, wildlife watchers, bikers and other recreationists,” said Aaron Kindle, the National Wildlife Federation’s Western sportsmen’s campaign manager. “As long as we honor the will of the American people and do right by the fish and wildlife that make their homes in these areas, we will continue to reap the rewards. Anything less would be biting the hand that feeds us.”

“The actions taken today by the administration are a thinly veiled attack on fish and wildlife cloaked under the guise of a review of the Antiquities Act,” said Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. “The Antiquities Act has been used by Republican and Democratic presidents to protect some of our nation’s most cherished landscapes. Our concern is a review will only lead to reduced protections of these national treasures.”

“There’s more to this decision than meets the eye,” said Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Conservation Director John Gale. “Neither sportsmen nor other public lands users would stand in the way of an objective attempt to ensure the integrity of recent monument designations. Yet the administration’s announcement could create unintended consequences that jeopardize important fish and wildlife habitat on public lands and invite unproductive dialogues that distract us from enhancing management of our public lands and waters.”

25-Clam Limit For Long Beach As Digs OKed There, Elsewhere

THE FOLLOWING ARE A PRESS RELEASE AND AN EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Razor clam diggers can look forward to a six-day opening starting tomorrow (April 26) on various ocean beaches and will have an increased daily limit of 25 clams at Long Beach.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has approved the dig on morning tides at four ocean beaches after toxin test results show the clams on those beaches are safe to eat.

LED BY THEIR “RAZOR CLAM MASTER” GRANDFATHER, WALLY SANDE (LEFT), CORBIN, LEXI AND AUSTIN HAN, THEIR PARENTS JERRY AND BRITT, ALONG WITH WALLY’S WIFE CAROL, ENJOYED A GREAT DIG A COUPLE APRILS AGO NEAR WESTPORT, LIMITING IN JUST HALF AN HOUR OR SO. AFTERWARDS, JERRY ALSO ENJOYED CATCHING REDTAIL SURFPERCH ON CLAM NECKS. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

State shellfish managers agreed to increase the daily limit for this dig at Long Beach, which has been closed much of the razor clam season due to elevated marine toxin levels, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. 

“We wanted to provide diggers with some additional opportunity at Long Beach since we know there are plenty of clams there for harvest,” Ayres said.

The increased limit of 25 clams per day applies only at Long Beach, Ayres said. Diggers at Twin Harbors, Mocrocks and Copalis can harvest the typical limit of 15 clams per day. Diggers are required to keep the first 15 clams (or first 25 clams at Long Beach) they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

Ayres noted the opening coincides with the annual Long Beach Razor Clam Festival, which is held April 29 and 30. For more information, visit the festival website at http://longbeachrazorclamfestival.com/.

The upcoming dig is approved on the following beaches, dates and morning low tides:

  • April 26, Wednesday, 7:09 a.m.; -1.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach
  • April 27, Thursday, 7:55 a.m.; -1.5 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach
  • April 28, Friday, 8:42 a.m.; -1.8 feet, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach
  • April 29, Saturday, 9:32 a.m.; -1.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach
  • April 30, Sunday, 10:24 a.m.; -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach
  • May 1, Monday, 11:20 a.m.; -0.8 feet; Long Beach

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2017-18 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

State health officials recently requested additional toxin tests at all four beaches after increased amounts of the algae that can cause domoic acid were observed in ocean waters. A natural toxin, domoic acid can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities.

“The latest round of test results indicate we’re in the clear for digging at all four beaches,” Ayres said.

A decision about possible additional dates in May will be announced following another round of toxin tests next week.

State wildlife managers urge clam diggers to avoid disturbing snowy plovers and streaked horned larks. Both species nest in the soft, dry sand on the southern section of Twin Harbors beach and at Leadbetter Point on the Long Beach Peninsula. The snowy plover is a small bird with gray wings and a white breast. The lark is a small bird with a pale yellow breast and brown back. Male larks have a black mask, breast band and “horns.”

To protect these birds, the department asks that clam diggers avoid the dunes and areas of the beach with soft, dry sand. When driving to a clam-digging area, diggers should enter the beach only at designated access points and stay on the hard-packed sand near or below the high tide line.

More details on how to avoid disturbing nesting birds can be found on the WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

………………………………………………

April 25, 2017

Razor clam digs approved April 26 through May 1

Action: Opens Razor clam season

Effective date: 12:01 a.m. April 26 through 11:59 a.m. May 1, 2017

Digging is only allowed from: 12:01 a.m. through 11:59 a.m. each day.

Species affected: Razor clams

The specific low tides for this opener:

April 26, Wednesday, 7: 09 a.m., -1.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach

April 27, Thursday, 7: 55 a.m., -1.5 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach

April 28, Friday, 8: 42 a.m., -1.8 feet, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach

April 29, Saturday, 9: 32 a.m., -1.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach

April 30, Sunday, 10: 24 a.m., -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach

May 1, Monday, 11: 20 a.m., -0.8 feet; Long Beach

Locations:

Copalis Beach, which extends from the Grays Harbor north jetty to the Copalis River, and includes Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Ocean City and Copalis areas.

Long Beach, which extends from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point.

Mocrocks Beach, which extends from the Copalis River to the southern boundary of the Quinault Reservation near the Moclips River, including Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Pacific Beach and Moclips.

Twin Harbors Beach, which extends from Cape Shoalwater to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor.

Reason for action: Harvestable numbers of razor clams are available.

Other Information: The daily limit for razor clams has been increased to 25 clams at Long Beach only and from April 26 to May 1, 2017 only.

Information contact: Dan Ayres (360) 249-4628, Region 6 Montesano

Springer Catch Stays Below Quota But Doesn’t Look Like Enough For Reopener

That good springer fishing on the Lower Columbia that wrapped up Sunday evening was the last on the big river for awhile, at least till a runsize update that’s now not expected until mid-May.

State managers estimate that the recently concluded four-day opener brought the catch to within 423 fish of the upriver quota, and after release mortalities on wild Chinook are factored in and visual stock identifications are double-checked against coded-wire tag data, it’s unlikely there will be any more time on the water for several weeks.

KEVIN GRAY NABBED THIS SPRING CHINOOK OUT OF THE LOWER COLUMBIA ON SUNDAY, THE LAST DAY OF FISHING FOR CHINOOK UNTIL, AT THE VERY EARLIEST, MID-MAY’S RUNSIZE UPDATE. GRAY WAS USING A FLASHER WITH A HERRING BRINED IN GRAYBILL’S SCENT, RUN ON BOTTOM. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

“We’ve got between 350 and 360 fish available for harvest prerunsize update below Bonneville Dam, and that’s not enough to have any kind of opener,” says WDFW’s Ron Roler in Vancouver.

According to the latest stats, from April 20-23 we caught 6,355 adult kings, of which 5,784 were kept, with 75 percent of those coming from the constraining above-Bonneville stocks.

That brought the season totals to 8,947 kept Chinook, including 6,482 upriver fish, over 61,020 anglers trips.

The quota for before the run size is updated is 6,905 Chinook headed for Eastern Washington, Central Idaho and Northeast Oregon streams.

“We were concerned we were going to be over,” says Roler. “That number turned out to be a relief for me and Oregon.”

Nearly all of this season’s salmon have been caught in April, with an estimated 7,772 for boaters, 750 for Oregon bankies, and 379 for Washington plunkers.

Over the final four days, best catch was in the western Columbia Gorge, where 1,192 were brought over the rails of jet sleds fishing above the eastern tip of Reed Island to the boat deadline below the dam.

“I think we’re done in the lower river until the runsize update — that may not be till mid-May,” says Roler, pointing to high, muddy, cold water that gives springers “no reason to hurry” upstream.

The dam count sits at 1,732 through yesterday, just 6 percent of the 10-year average.

Roler does say that it’s likely there will be talks about the springer fishery above Bonneville to the Oregon-Washington border, which is slated to otherwise wrap up May 5.

 

Linn Co. Man Who Poached Acquaintance’s Elk Fined Heavily

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON STATE POLICE FISH AND WILDLIFE DIVISION

On April 24, 2017, 53 year old Jeffrey Allan McCRAVEN of Lebanon, was found guilty in a Linn County Court of one count of Taking, Angling, Hunting, or Trapping in Violation of Wildlife Law or Rule, a Class A Violation.

OREGON WILDLIFE TROOPERS SAY THAT AFTER JEFFREY A. MCCRAVEN HELPED AN ACQUAINTANCE LOOK FOR A LARGE BULL ELK, HE FOUND IT THE NEXT DAY AND TRIED TO CLAIM IT AS HIS OWN. (OSP)

Subject to the guilty verdict, McCRAVEN was required to:

-Forfeiture of the elk meat and antlers; Ordered by the court to be released to the victim.
-Forfeiture of Bow and Arrow seized during investigation.
-Pay $15,000 in restitution to ODFW.
-Pay $435 for the violation of Take/Possession of Bull Elk.
-Pay $279.23 for meat processing.
-Pay $500 to the OHA TIP fund.
-Hunting privileges suspended for a period of 3 years.

The charges stemmed from an investigation by the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division Mid-Valley Team, which concluded McCRAVEN engaged in the unlawful take of a trophy 6×6 bull elk in East Linn County on September 11th, 2016.

JEFFREY ALLEN MCCRAVEN. (OSP)

The investigation revealed that the bull elk was legally shot and mortally wounded by the victim who is an acquaintance of McCRAVEN. A search party, which included McCRAVEN, could not locate the bull that day. The following morning, McCRAVEN located the expired elk and he shoved and shot arrows into the bull to make it appear as if he had lawfully harvested the bull. McCRAVEN then validated his archery elk tag, and then tried to convince others that he killed it.

More Than A Dozen Invasive Green Crabs Found At Dungeness Spit

As if 2015 didn’t deliver enough devastating consequences for Northwest fish and wildlife, it may also be to blame for more than a dozen invasive crabs discovered in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca this month.

Allen Pleus at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife suspects that the 13 European green crabs found at Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge since April 12 were rafted across the straits as larvae during that wretchedly hot, drought-stricken, conflagration of a summer, probably from Sooke Harbor, 25 miles to the west-northwest on the south end of Vancouver Island.

EUROPEAN GREEN CRAB. (WASHINGTON SEA GRANT)

What’s worrisome is that this is the largest group found since the first one was discovered in Washington waters late last summer, at Westcott Bay on San Juan Island, and along with others that turned up in a mainland estuary, it is beginning to suggest a potentially widespread invasion by the unwanted species.

The news couldn’t come at a worse time, either.

According to Pleus, state funding for monitoring could dry up after June 30.

And the agency that’s been getting everybody on the same page about the problem, Washington Sea Grant, could be closed down at the end of this month as federal programs are targeted for elimination in national budget proposals.

THE DISCOVERY of the crabs at Dungeness Bay by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was predicted.

A Sea Grant map shows the waters around the spit are one of dozens upon dozens of nearshore habitats with a “high probability” of hosting the crabs that first arrived on the US East Coast in the 1800s and “dramatically” affected the Maine clam harvest and damaged kelp beds from their digging.

A WASHINGTON SEA GRANT GOOGLE MAP SHOWS LOCATIONS NEARSHORE HABITATS IN PUGET SOUND AND THE STRAITS WITH HIGH (RED STAR) AND MEDIUM (ORANGE TRIANGLE) SUITABILITY FOR EUROPEAN GREEN CRABS TO TAKE HOLD. THE WHITE CIRCLE REPRESENTS THE LOCATION OF THE 13 CRABS FOUND THIS MONTH, AT DUNGENESS SPIT. (WSG)

The worry here is what the crabs could do to eelgrass pastures — so important for our salmonids and other fish — and clam beds, if they establish a sustaining population.

That appears to be what has happened in Sooke Harbor, where one was found in 2012.

Dungeness is the third spot in Washington the crabs have been found in just the last eight months.

Not long after the discovery at Westcott Bay, one was literally turned up “by chance” by beach walkers at Padilla Bay in mid-September. Three more were subsequently trapped there.

“While I am pleased that the crabs are not more abundant, it’s somewhat concerning that they are distributed so broadly,” P. Sean McDonald, a research scientist at the University of Washington and affiliated with Washington Sea Grant, told the Skagit Valley Herald last September, adding, “One crab doesn’t scare me. Two crabs really isn’t that bad. What’s scary is large numbers of crabs coming in and settling broadly throughout Puget Sound.”

Asked yesterday how alarming the latest discovery is, Pleus paused, then said it was hard to say.

It doesn’t mean there’s an established population in Washington waters yet, and none of those from Dungeness had eggs.

However, they were a mix of males and females, and it’s only a matter of time until waters warm enough for the spawn to kick off. Getting rid of as many breeders as possible is the key to keeping the crabs in check.

Growing to only about 3 inches across the back, there’s not much meat on them.

AS IT STANDS, Washington Sea Grant director Penny Dalton says that estimates to continue the monitoring program run around $180,000.

Even as her agency is in serious danger of elimination — and in part the subject of a scathing opinion piece in the New York Times today against cuts to it and NOAA’s budget — Dalton’s hopeful money can be cobbled together to keep the program running.

“We’re going to keep trying. We think it is really important. WDFW is too,” she says.

Dalton says WDFW’s Allen Pleus is working the Washington legislature to secure funding for the coming budget biennium.

With a very serious threat looming to the health of Puget Sound, this is no time for state or federal lawmakers to get crabby about funding this work to head off this invasion.

SW WA, Lower Columbia Fishing Report (4-24-17)

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION ORIGINATED WITH WDFW AND WAS TRANSMITTED BY JOE HYMER, PSMFC

Salmon/Steelhead

Cowlitz River – 29 bank anglers kept 3 adult, 2 jack spring Chinook and 2 steelhead.  23 boat anglers kept 2 adult spring Chinook, 4 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 371 winter-run steelhead adults, one winter-run steelhead jack, 505 spring Chinook adults, 26 spring Chinook jacks and two summer-run steelhead adults in five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power employees released 137 spring Chinook adults, nine spring Chinook jacks, and 17 winter-run steelhead adults into the Cispus River near Yellow Jacket Creek and 78 spring Chinook adults and three spring Chinook jacks into Lake Scanewa located in Randle.

Last week, Tacoma employees released 15 winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River located at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and 162 spring Chinook adults and ten spring Chinook jacks at Franklin Bridge in Packwood.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 13,300 cubic feet per second on Monday, April 24. Water visibility is five feet and water temperature is 44.6 F.

ALLEN HEAD OF PORTLAND OREGON CAUGHT THIS HANSOM CHINOOK FROM THE LOWER COLUMBIA ON WRAPPED PLUG WHILE FISHING WITH GUIDE MIKE KELLY. (VIA BUZZ RAMSEY)

Wind River – 4 boat anglers had no catch.

Drano Lake – 6 bank anglers had no catch.  18 boat anglers kept 1 adult spring Chinook.  ~ 25 boats here last Saturday morning.

Klickitat River – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – From last Thurs.-Sun. we sampled 3,129 salmonid anglers (including 1,021 boats) with 703 adult, 25 jack spring Chinook and 3 steelhead.  625 (89%) of the adult spring Chinook were kept.  We sampled 536 (86%) of the adult spring Chinook kept.  Based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI), 422 (79%) of the fish sampled were upriver stock.  All of the steelhead were kept.

A hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, April 19 at 1 PM via teleconference to review harvest and stock status and consider the recreational spring Chinook fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam.

The mainstem Columbia from Bonneville Dam to the WA/OR border is scheduled to remain open for hatchery Chinook and hatchery steelhead through Fri. May 5.

IDFG, UI Studying Brownlee, Snake River Smallmouth

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

A stunned smallmouth bass emerged from the flood-swollen Snake River. It was a slab by anyone’s standards – 19 inches and 4.5 pounds, mottled bronze with dark bars on its broad sides and as pot bellied as a sumo wrestler.

If you’re wondering “where does a smallmouth like that come from?” Idaho Fish and Game biologists and a University of Idaho graduate student are wondering the same thing, and they’re working to find out.

IDFG REGIONAL FISH PROGRAM MANAGER JOE KOZFKAY HOLDS A MOMENTARILY STUNNED SMALLMOUTH CAPTURED AS PART OF A STUDY OF BASS BETWEEN BROWNLEE AND SWAN FALLS DAMS. (ROGER PHILLIPS, IDFG)

The bass rose to the surface of the cold water because it was momentarily stunned by an electrical current, then netted, weighed, measured and surgically implanted with a pill-sized transmitter that will send a radio signal to receivers, which will track its whereabouts in the Snake River between Swan Falls Dam and Brownlee Reservoir.

Bass fishing in the river sections between Swan Falls and Brownlee Reservoir is inconsistent, Fish and Game’s Southwest Region Fish Manager Joe Kozfkay said. It’s good in some sections and poor in others, and same for tributaries. Biologists want to find out why.

THIS PILL-SIZED DEVICE WILL HELP FISHERIES BIOLOGISTS TRACK BASS DURING THE STUDY. (ROGER PHILLIPS, IDFG)

Because of smallmouths’ popularity and recreational importance, more information is needed to better manage the fishery. Most of the previous research focused on Brownlee Reservoir, largely due to the popularity of its smallmouth fishery, and also issues related to dam relicensing.

“Brownlee Reservoir is one of the better smallmouth bass fisheries in the West,” Kozfkay said.

By comparison, less is known about the bass upstream of the reservoir and in the Snake River tributaries, such as the Boise, Payette and Weiser rivers. Biologists want to learn whether those smallmouths are one large population, or independent populations, and if different, how should they be managed to enhance and/or protect the existing fishery.

Fisheries managers aren’t expecting any big surprises or anticipating major changes in current rules for bass fishing, but one never knows until the studies are undertaken.

“While the overall bass population seems to be doing very well, we have some real questions about how much smallmouth move around,” said Jeff Dillon, Fish and Game’s state fish manager. “Those movement patterns are key to knowing whether different harvest rules might be beneficial in some areas.”

A SMALLMOUTH AWAITS ATTENTION FROM KOZFKAY. (ROGER PHILLIPS, IDFG)

Biologists did a similar study decades ago on channel catfish and learned there’s a “giant swirling population” between Swan Falls and Brownlee dams where fish move up and down the river and can easily sustain harvest levels.

Evidence suggests that some smallmouths spawn in tributaries where they may be more susceptible to angler harvest. But is the current level of harvest sustainable, or is it detrimental to the population?

The study will determine ages, growth rates, mortality, age at maturity, and recruitment, then use population simulation models to see how different harvest regulations might affect the Snake’s smallmouth fishery.

Biologists have been capturing smallmouths this spring in different sections of the Snake River, and also in the Boise, Payette and Weiser rivers, and implanting more than 150 of them with tracking transmitters.

Crews will do multiple surveys throughout the year to see if fish seasonally migrate during spring, summer, fall and winter. Smallmouths will also be genetically tested to determine whether populations are interrelated or separate.

Lastly, 1,130 smallmouths have been marked with orange tags with a phone number and website where anglers can report where they caught the fish, and whether they harvested it or released it. Reporting the tag number and location will help biologists know where the fish was caught compared to when and where it was tagged, and how many fish are being harvested.

Based on previous research in Brownlee, biologists know about 25 percent of the legal-sized bass get harvested from that reservoir each year, which Kozfkay said is sustainable without decreasing the overall population.

If biologists determined there was a localized population in the Snake or the tributaries where 35  to 40 percent of larger smallmouths were being harvested, rule changes might be considered to protect some of them.

Kozfkay said he’d be surprised if harvest rate was high on the larger smallmouths prized by anglers, but one complaint biologists frequently hear is about a lack of fish exceeding the 12-inch minimum harvest size.

The study will help biologists determine if there’s actually a lack of fish in that size range, or if they are simply eluding anglers.