All posts by Andy Walgamott

‘First-of-its-kind’ WA Waterfowl Hunt For Kids, Vets, Soldiers/Sailors Coming Up

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) reminds youth, veterans, and active military that a special one-day waterfowl hunt is scheduled statewide on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020.

(CHAD ZOLLER)

This special hunt includes all regular season opportunities, including coot, all ducks, and all allowable geese including brant in Clallam, Pacific, Skagit, and Whatcom counties.

“The chance for our veterans and active military to hunt with their kids is pretty special,” said Kyle Spragens, WDFW waterfowl section manager. “There are few times when people get to hunt with fewer hunters on the landscape, so we’re excited to be able to offer this chance.”

All bag limits will be the same as those allowed during the regular season with a single day possession limit. All species with a special authorization and mandatory harvest report card requirement still apply. Consult the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons hunting pamphlet at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations.

WDFW wildlife areas that allow waterfowl hunting access will remain open to access for this special hunt. Many of our private land access opportunities will also be available, so check the website for site availability, locations, and reservation opportunities at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/locations/private-lands#.

Additionally, the following USFWS national wildlife refuges in Washington will remain open in designated areas. Contact specific refuges for details:

Eastern Washington:

  • Columbia
  • Conboy Lake
  • Hanford Reach National Monument
  • McNary (including Wallula, Peninsula, Two River, Burbank Slough Units only)
  • Toppenish
  • Turnbull – Youth only; (please contact refuge to obtain a letter of authorization prior to hunt)
  • Umatilla – Washington-side only

Western Washington:

  • Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually
  • Julia Butler Hansen – Washington-side only (Hunting and Price Islands)
  • Ridgefield
  • Willapa

“This hunt is a first-of-its-kind opportunity in the Pacific Flyway and came because of a provision in the John Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act,” said Spragens. “It’s an opportunity to build memories and mentorship for Washington’s waterfowlers, and a small way of thanking those that have and continue to serve our country. We’re grateful to our partners at the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) refuges for ensuring their waterfowl hunting areas would remain open during this date.”

Youth waterfowl hunters must be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old who is not hunting, unless that individual is a veteran or active military.

Active duty military includes members of the National Guard and Reserves on active duty (other than for training). Veterans must have served in the active military, naval, or air service, and discharged or released under Honorable conditions. Hunters are encouraged to have one of the following, or a copy of, during the hunt: DD214, Veteran Benefit Card, Retired Active Military I.D., or Active Duty I.D. card.

This special hunt date is specific to Washington state. WDFW reminds waterfowl hunters to familiarize themselves with local regulations and boundaries. Specifically, hunters are advised to consult the rules and regulations associated with allowable waterfowl hunting areas of the above-mentioned national wildlife refuges.

Information on species bag limits and special hunting authorization requirements are available in WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons hunting pamphlet at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations.

Spokane Newspaper Reports Range Rider Allegations

WDFW wolf managers are asking a Westside prosecutor to file second-degree theft charges against several range riders after an agency investigation found they were allegedly not on the job in Northeast Washington when they said they were.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE OPT PACK TERRITORY, OUTLINED IN RED, IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (WDFW)

The Spokane Spokesman-Review‘s Eli Francovich broke the story yesterday and it’s based on documents filed in a separate legal matter involving wolves and WDFW, and were forwarded to the paper by wolf advocates.

The contracted riders are accused of claiming to have worked a combined 40 hours over four days during September 2018’s depredations by the Old Profanity Territory Pack, which ultimately led to the removal of two members, but according to the story were instead allegedly buying building materials at a Spokane home improvement store and staying in a fancy downtown hotel.

The OPTs were destroyed last summer after again attacking cattle in northern Ferry County’s Kettle Range.

According to the article, the alleged theft amounts to $2,000.

One of the riders, Arron Scotten, a fifth-generation rancher and retired from the Navy after 20 years’ service, told Francovich that he “disputed pretty much everything” when confronted by WDFW Detective Lenny Hahn, who began his investigation in October. 2018.

The case includes phone records tying the riders to locations outside the mountains, but Scotten says he loans his phone to others.

Scotten also claims wolves are being “used as a weapon to try to remove grazing on public lands,” the article states.

Chris Bachman of The Lands Council, which provided documents to the Spokesman-Review, called for range riding protocols to be standardized, with specific benchmarks for using it as a nonlethal conflict prevention measure.

WDFW considers range riding to be one of two “critically important tools for mitigating wolf-livestock conflict” and if employed and attacks happen and are likely to again, state managers can consider lethally removing members of an offending pack.

Last fall Governor Jay Inslee waded into wolf management in the Kettle Range, telling the agency to “make changes in the gray wolf recovery program to further increase the reliance on non-lethal methods, and to significantly reduce the need for lethal removal of this species.”

However, Inslee’s 2020 supplementary budget proposal did not fund additional options WDFW identified to carry out that program.

Boater Safety Or Gov. Overreach? Bill Would Require Anglers, Others Aboard Small Craft To Wear PFDs

Editor’s note: Updated Jan. 28, 2020, 10:30 a.m.

In the beautiful, bucolic though also slightly cramped Nanny State of Andy Walgamott — location: King County just north of Seattle, naturally; population: 4; form of government: fathertarianism — camping out in the left lane as well as not using your vehicle’s @$#%@$ turn signal are capital offenses, and everyone is required to wear lifevests while boating.

LIFE JACKETS AWAY USE BESIDE A LAKE ON LOPEZ ISLAND IN NORTHWEST WASHINGTON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Doesn’t matter whether it’s just 4 feet deep or you can swim like Michael Phelps, if you’re in a float tube fishing for bass on a lake, plugging for winter-runs out of a drifter, or crabbing in a bay boat, I better see a PFD strapped to your person or I’m writing you up big time, Mister.

Granted, the Nanny State of Andy Walgamott, or NSAW for short, currently does not exactly have jurisdiction over any actual bodies of water (let alone highways, streets or intersections).

But as soon as I finish processing the State of Washington’s application to secede to NSAW, as its High Lord Governor and Protector of People Who Don’t Want Protection From What Literally Can Kill Them, I will have rivers, lakes, reservoirs, inlets, bays — and how.

THAT SAID, TWO OF MY LOCAL LAWMAKERS have taken up the cause of lifejackets for all this legislative session, and while you’d think I’d be donning my personal flotation device to jump on board with them, I’m actually not sure I can support them at this time.

Earlier this month, Reps. Cindy Ryu and Lauren Davis (both D-Shoreline) introduced a bill that would require teens and adults aboard all watercraft less than 19 feet long to wear Coast Guard-approved life vests while the boat is underway.

Broadly speaking, currently only kids 12 and under are, though a PFD per person needs to be available on board.

Last week HB 2443 had a hearing in Ryu’s Housing, Community Development & Veterans Committee.

“We’ve had some members of a church who lost their family members years ago, but also more recently, and any time you lose a child, even if they’re grown up, it’s devastating to their family and they mourn for that loss for years and years, if not forever,” said Ryu, the prime sponsor. “Just like the seat belts, if we can save a life — probably a lot more — by making sure that everyone who possibly can is wearing a life jacket when they’re on a ship, especially a smaller vessel or even a paddle board, a canoe, then I think it’s definitely worth all the money and time in the world.”

REP. CINDY RYU (CENTER IN RED) SPEAKS DURING AN INITIAL PUBLIC HEARING ON HER BILL THAT WOULD REQUIRE EVERYONE TO WEAR LIFEVESTS ABOARD BOATS LESS THAN 19 FEET LONG. (TVW)

During public comment, Jim Virgin of the Paddle Sports Advisory Committee for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission said he was in favor of the bill.

“Simply stated, life jackets save lives,” Virgin said, adding, “I also do dive recovery down in Vancouver, Washington, and I’ve seen the direct impact of dealing with recoveries as it happens. I’m hoping to get myself out of that job.”

Representing the parks commission itself, Owen Rowe said his agency appreciated Ryu bringing the bill forward.

“Wearing a life jacket or a PFD is the most important thing that boaters can do to prevent accidental drownings, and the majority of recreational-related drownings occur on smaller vessels and without the use of PFDSs,” Rowe stated.

But he also considered it a conversation starter, not a done deal.

“Understanding that it’s difficult to craft a one-size-fits-all policy related to manage mandatory PFD usage, we are interested to hear from recreational boaters about their positions on this legislation,” Rowe said.

Members of the local boating industry said the bill had caught them off guard.

“Frankly, we’re really proud of the importance of safety as placed in our culture at NMTA,” said Peter Schrappen of the Northwest Marine Trade Association [full disclosure, a Northwest Sportsman advertiser]. “The last thing we want is for people to think that boating is not safe. That would deter them from going on the water. I definitely appreciate your leadership on this issue, Rep. Ryu, but was caught flat footed when this was bill was dropped.”

“I’m looking forward to working with you as we move forward,” Schrappen added, “but to echo my colleague Doug’s comments, this would cast a very large net in a short amount of time and I don’t think we’re quite ready there.”

Doug would be Doug Levy of the Recreational Boating Industry of Washington.

“We take a backseat on safety to nobody. We were the ones that brought you the boater education card and worked on it for four years, and that boater education card has brought the level of fatalities down, per State Parks data,” Levy said. “This is an emotional topic and we never like to see any lives lost, but this is a really breathtaking change, folks … This is not just 13 and under; this is whether you’re 23, 43, 63.”

“We design the legislative process to be thoughtful and to get out and talk to people and work issues out and have a lot of vetting of them,” Levy added.

Even as Thomas O’Keefe of American Whitewater pointed out some pretty grim statistics that support PFD use — “Three-quarters of boating fatalities are due to drowning and Coast Guard data shows that 84, 85 percent of those people were not wearing life jackets and that the use of alcohol was a leading contributing factor” — he questioned whether the focus should be legislation or education.

I think it’s critical that this body continues to fund and support those efforts [state parks boating programs] because at the end of the day, we can have a law on the books but what really matters is the education and outreach on this stuff,” he said.

Outside the halls of power, the bill also caught the eye of avid — and safety conscious — Puget Sound and river angler Chase Gunnell.

“On my 16-foot drift boat I’m a stickler about informing guests of PFD locations, throw cushions, throw bag use, and boat reentry immediately upon boarding. And PFDs are mandatory at the captain’s discretion, depending on the guests and water conditions,” he said.

“But for the state to require adults to wear PFDs pretty much all the time on all waters is unnecessary overreach that would be a significant change for river anglers in particular,” Gunnell added.

That is language that will resonate strongly with Washington fishermen, an independent bunch that doesn’t like anyone telling them how to rig their rods or what lures to use, let alone mandating wearing a life jacket on waters they may have fished without a problem for years or decades.

THE CHIEF COOK AND BOTTLEWASHER OF THE NANNY STATE OF ANDY WALGAMOTT, DUDDED UP IN HIS LIFEVEST, SHOWS OFF A BUOY 10 COHO. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

I HAVE SPENT MORE THAN A LITTLE TIME on the state’s waters in pursuit of its salmon, steelhead, Dungeness, rainbows, largemouth and other species, and to me a few select moments spotlight the importance of always wearing a lifejacket.

Three drift boat incidents on Westside rivers … drunken outings aboard canoes during my younger days that I look back on now and shake my head about … sharing a boat with the memory of a drowned angler a few years ago.

Camping with my family on Lopez Island over the Fourth of July, I had a few hours to break away and fish Hummel Lake. As I hadn’t brought my kayak, I asked the plunkers at the launch if it was OK to use any of the half-dozen rowboats and canoes scattered around the parking lot.

They said sure, go right ahead — and also strongly recommended I grab a life jacket from the Washington State Parks-inspired life-jacket loaner program kiosk. I was going to anyway, as I’ve worn one every time I’ve been out on the water for the past 15-plus years.

But as I loaded my gear I found out why they were so adamant: I was taking out the same canoe another angler had earlier in the season, but who had fallen in.

A MEMORIAL FOR AN ANGLER WHO DROWNED WHILE FISHING A SAN JUAN COUNTY LAKE IN 2016. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

They told me it took a week before the body of Salvador Gallegos was found, by a remotely operated underwater vehicle outfitted with sonar to see among the weeds.

We may never know why that canoe overturned the day he took it out — perhaps due to the same buffeting winds that made it hard to control when I fished — but the San Juan County Sheriff’s report noted simply, “He wasn’t wearing a life preserver.”

It’s hard to understand why not, what with so many available at the launch. But then, why hadn’t I worn one for so many years?

I guess that boats and belief in our own fallible skills provide a false sense of safety. It’s a bravado that occasionally leads to death.

All it takes is a gust of wind, a mistimed lean, cold water, weeds too thick to swim through …

HUMMEL LAKE CANOE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

LAST FRIDAY, REP. RYU PROPOSED AMENDMENTS to her bill.

Those include limiting it to “human powered” watercraft, i.e., canoes, pontoons, drift boats, row boats, kayaks; deleting the requirement they be less than 19 feet long; and exempted competitive paddlers, squirt boat riders, and those using stand-up paddle boards while tethered to one by a leash or practicing yoga 100 feet from shore from having to wear PFDs.

Though no action was subsequently taken on them by the full committee last week, the bill is slated to again be considered by the Housing, Community Development & Veterans Committee this Friday starting at 10 a.m.

In this short, 60-day session, the deadline to pass non-budgetary bills out of committee in their house of origin is Feb. 7.

Even though I wear a life vest and think others should too, I also think the best approach here is to have a wider, longer conversation that includes Washington’s small boaters, especially anglers, while continuing productive outreach efforts on boating safety.

After all, we live in a democracy, not the (though still great) Nanny State of Andy Walgamott.

Meanwhile, these are the rules as they apply to boating and life jackets on Washington waters, per State Parks:

All vessels (including canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle board) must have at least one U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket (PFD) for each person on the boat. In addition to that requirement, one:

  • Coast Guard-approved throwable flotation device must on board vessels 16 feet or longer. Canoes and kayaks are exempt from this requirement.
  • Children 12 years old and younger must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times when underway in a vessel less than 19 feet in length, unless in a fully enclosed area.
  • Each person on board a personal watercraft (PWC) and anyone being towed behind a boat must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket

11 Million Trail Cam Pics Later, IDFG’s New Wolf Count Technique Yields Estimate Of 1,541 In 2019

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

Idaho Fish and Game has a new estimate of the statewide wolf population through its new survey method using game cameras and mathematical modeling, which will be repeated annually and fine-tuned during the next few years.

At the Fish and Game Commission meeting on Jan. 23 in Boise, staff reported there were an estimated 1,541 wolves in the state during summer 2019. The estimate represents the peak population shortly after pups were born.

AN IDAHO WOLF CAUGHT ON A TRAIL CAMERA. (IDFG)

Fish and Game biologists have not estimated the statewide wolf population in Idaho since 2015. From 2006 to 2015, Fish and Game’s wolf monitoring program remained under federal oversight. During that time, the department maintained enough radio collared wolves to show there were more than 15 breeding pairs in the state and more than 150 total wolves. Those surveys were intended to show the wolf population exceeded targets needed to remove them from federal protection and oversight.

Biologists cautioned that comparing the 2015 estimate of 786 (reported in early 2016) to the current estimate would be misleading because previous estimates were based on different methods and represented winter counts when the population was closer to its lowest point of the year.

Annual wolf mortality ramps up during late summer, fall, and into winter with hunting and trapping seasons, along with management actions to remove wolves that prey on livestock. Natural mortality is also a factor.

After completion of the camera survey, there were 327 wolves known to have been killed through hunting, trapping, management actions, and other human causes. Researchers were also able to estimate that an additional 208 wolves died of natural causes based on previous research. These mortalities were not reflected in 1,541 population estimate.

How the population estimate was generated

During the spring and early summer of 2019, Idaho Fish and Game staff deployed 569 cameras specifically for estimating wolf abundance, which took about 11 million photos over the course of a few months. Of the 569 cameras, 259 of them detected wolves.

AN IDFG BIOLOGIST HANGS A TRAIL CAMERA FOR THE NEW SURVEY. (IDFG)

Aided by recognition software to rapidly determine photos of animals, wildlife technicians identified species of animals in the photos and biologists and university scientists applied mathematical modeling to produce the wolf population estimate.

The wolf monitoring is part of a larger statewide project using game cameras to estimate populations for a variety of species. Recent monitoring of deer populations in Southeast Idaho using game cameras while simultaneously using traditional aerial surveys produced almost identical results, which showed wildlife managers they could get valid population estimates for certain species using the camera method.

The method of estimating wildlife populations using remote cameras is a new innovation. As time goes on, the modeling will continue to be refined as biologists use this technique to generate annual population estimates. Going forward, they will also have a better baseline for comparing populations from year to year.

Steelheader Group Calls On Washington Pols, DNR To Block OKed Fish Farm’s Lease

Wild steelhead advocates are calling on two of Washington’s highest elected officials as well as a state agency to block a Canadian company from farming the sea-going trout in Puget Sound pens.

It follows yesterday’s news that WDFW had granted Cooke Aquaculture a five-year permit to rear sterile female steelhead in at least four of its netpens, and possibly as many as seven.

THE WILD STEELHEAD COALITION SAYS THAT GIVEN ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT LISTINGS FOR PUGET SOUND SALMON AND STEELHEAD STOCKS, COOKE AQUACULTURE’S PLANS TO FARM STERILE FEMALE STEELHEAD NEEDS MORE REVIEW. (CHASE GUNNELL)

“Given the disease, pollution and other risks associated with open-water fish farms, Endangered Species Act listings in place to protect Puget Sound’s native salmon and steelhead, and Cooke’s clear history of operational failures, we believe this application requires more thorough oversight,” the Wild Steelhead Coalition said in a press release.

WDFW’s approval came after a State Environmental Policy Act review, but the coalition says it should have done an Environmental Impact Statement, which covers projects that are likely to have “significant” impacts on the environment.

“Washington tribes, agencies, non-profits and everyday citizens have worked for decades to clean up Puget Sound, and recover the wild fish, orca whales and priceless marine life that depends on these waters. For our state to continue to permit a Canadian corporation with a tarnished record to operate disaster-prone industrial fish farms in our marine waters would be a massive step backward,” the coalition stated.

In comments submitted last November, the group said there was a “high likelihood” that diseases could spread from the netpens as foraging wild stocks feed on scraps drifting through the mesh.

Fish farming has been a hot topic in the Northwest, especially following the collapse of Cooke’s Cypress Island pens in August 2017 and which led to the escape of some 300,000 Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound.

Over 100 tons of mussels and other sea life that weren’t cleaned off the nets allowed them to effectively act as sails in the current and become unmoored, spilling the fish, a state report found.

WRECKAGE OF COOKE AQUACULTURE’S CYPRESS ISLAND NETPEN WHICH HAD HOUSED 300,000-PLUS ATLANTIC SALMON BEFORE BREAKING. (DNR)

While the East Coast imports fall under the banner of being an aquatic invasive species, WDFW’s website also states that “the evidence strongly indicates that Atlantic salmon aquaculture poses little risk to native salmon and non-salmon species.”

It says that after considering Cooke’s application, rearing steelhead in the company’s saltwater facilities instead “pose a similarly low” risk.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF COOKE AQUACULTURE PENS IN PUGET SOUND. (WDFW)

In that material, WDFW does acknowledge that not all sterile, or triploid, fish are in fact unable to breed and that if a similar accident as Cypress to occur, dozens to around 100 fecund females could be on the loose, though they “would need to migrate into a steelhead spawning river, without homing instincts or cues to enter a specific river, at the correct time of year, dig redds, and attract mates, all of which we assume would have a low probability of occurrence.”

“Therefore, we consider the risk to be low that domesticated all-female, triploid steelhead stocks cultured in Puget Sound net-pens will affect adversely the genetic structure of Washington’s steelhead populations,” WDFW states.

A HALF YEAR AFTER ESCAPING, SOME ATLANTIC SALMON WERE STILL BEING CAUGHT, THIS ONE BY ERIC BELL ON THE SKYKOMISH RIVER AT SULTAN IN EARLY JANUARY 2018. (ERIC BELL)

The Wild Steelhead Coalition, which is not to be confused with the  highly litigious Wild Fish Conservancy though both groups are against netpens, points to results from 2018’s legislature which banned farming Atlantics and, in their words, “was a clear expression of the people’s desire to prioritize our public waters and native fish over private polluters.”

They say the Department of Natural Resources, as well as its director Hilary Franz, and Governor Jay Inslee should deny Cooke the leases it needs to operate the pens in state waters.

“We also expect the Department of Ecology to thoroughly scrutinize Cooke’s proposal in consideration of pollution impacts,” the coalition adds.

The fish farmers need a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit from DOE and a transport permit from WDFW before any of the steelhead go into any netpens.

New Technique Turns Up ‘Concerning Levels’ Of 8 Chemicals In Sound’s Nearshore Waters

Researchers recently identified eight chemicals in different Puget Sound waters found at “concerning levels” for fish and other marine life, requiring more investigation.

They include two that come from tires or other vehicle parts; a pair of herbicides, one of which is used to control algae and weeds; Venlafaxine, an antidepressant drug; and PFOS and two compounds found in plastics.

COMMENCEMENT BAY — COLORED UP BY GLACIAL SILT POURING OUT OF THE MOUTH OF THE PUYALLUP RIVER — WAS AMONG THE SITES STUDIED. (WASHINGTON DOE VIA UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON)

That’s according to a University of Washington press release out yesterday.

It said that all totaled, researchers using a “‘non-targeted’ approach” in 2018 sampled 205 different chemicals, including 64 never seen before in the inland sea’s waters, in 18 diverse shoreside locations from Port Townsend to Everett to Hood Canal to Olympia from April through October.

Sites included polluted waterways such as Seattle’s Smith Cove and the Thea Foss Waterway in Tacoma, but also a “relatively clean” spot halfway down the canal.

“With such a wide range, we hoped to see a link between contamination and land use,” said coauthor Zhenyu Tian, a research scientist at UW’s Center for Urban Waters.

A UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON MAP IDENTIFIES THE 18 STUDY LOCATIONS ALONG THE SHORES OF PUGET SOUND. (UW)

Previous studies looked at known chemicals in Puget Sound, but this one used a new technique, high-resolution mass spectrometry, to confirm 75 of the 205 compounds, and those included families you would expect to see — best illustrated by 2016 The Late Show skit with Sammy the (Stoned) Salmon — alongside a suite of other “contaminants of emerging concern,” or CECs — pesticides, herbicides and chemicals in tires.

Particles wearing off tires are also being eyed as suspect in why coho are dying in urban streams before they can spawn.

Of note, the octet were found in specific hot spots, and they didn’t always turn up in repeated sampling.

According to C. Andrew James, another Center for Urban Waters researcher and coauthor, their goal is to identify what compounds matter most from “a biological perspective — how a fish or a shellfish will react” and better understand why those eight are where they are.

Their work was published in late December in the journal Environmental Science & TechnologyCoauthor Edward Kolodziej, a UW associate professor, notes that a “huge fraction” of what Pugetropolites consume ends up flushing down the rivers into the Whulge.

“Everyone thinks chemicals hit the ocean and disappear because there’s so much water in the ocean that the concentrations go way down,” Kolodziej said in the press release. “But if you took the concentration of a chemical in wastewater effluent or storm water, it’s not like you can just divide by total water volume of Puget Sound, and that’s the concentration you’d detect in Puget Sound. The concentration in the nearshore is a lot higher because there hasn’t been enough time for mixing to occur. So exposure levels for aquatic organisms in the nearshore can be much higher than you might expect.”

Nearshore environments are very important habitat for young salmon and their forage.

A separate 2018 study by federal and university researchers on CECs not screened out by wastewater treatement plans found that exposure to medications “may result in early mortality or an impaired ability to compete for limited resources” among, most notably, Chinook.

Oregon Fishing Report Highlights (1-23-20)

THE FOLLOWING IS FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE RECREATION REPORT FOR JAN. 23, 2020

Highlights from this week’s Recreation Report:

Hunters have just one week to report their 2019 hunts

Hunters have until Jan. 31 to report their 2019 hunts. If you purchased a tag, reporting is mandatory even if you didn’t hunt or harvest an animal.

Ways to report your hunt.

BUZZ RAMSEY SHOWS OFF A HATCHERY WINTER STEELHEAD CAUGHT ON ONE OF OREGON’S NORTH COAST RIVERS LAST WEEKEND. HE REPORTED LANDING 16 FISH OVER TWO AND A HALF DAYS OF FISHING, MOSTLY WILD STEELHEAD BUT THREE OTHER FIN-CLIPPED FISH TOO. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Last week for Zone 1 duck hunters

Zone 1 duck season ends on Jan. 26. Waterfowl success has been picking up thanks to recent stormy conditions. Given the current forecast, the last week of the season could be good.

Register your new hunter for a hunter education class/course

Hunters 17 years old and younger need to complete a hunter education course and field day before they hunt this fall. Traditional classes and field days are available now, and online courses can be taken anytime. Taking care of hunter education now will be one less thing to worry about as hunting season approaches.

Best bets for fishing

  • Steelhead fishing has been hot on the Chetco. Current conditions have been favoring anglers plunking from the bank.
  • Anglers have been catching steelhead on the lower Rogue using a variety of techniques, but plunking is the current favorite.
  • Anglers have been landing winter steelhead in the Galice area of the middle Rogue. With rain in the forecast, except steelhead numbers to increase.
  • Trout have been biting in the Holy Water, the stretch of the upper Rogue between the hatchery and the Lost Creek Lake spillway.
  • Bank anglers are catching some nice trout from the bank at Ochoco Reservoir, which also will get 100 brood trout this week.
  • The Crooked River continues to offer good opportunities for trout and whitefish up to 16 inches.
  • It’s getting to be prime time for winter steelhead on the Sandy and Clackamas rivers. Keep an eye on water levels and be ready to hit the waters as they begin to drop.
  • Ice conditions, and fishing, have been good on Chickahominy Reservoir.
  • Steelhead fishing on the Grande Ronde can be quite good in January and February, when flows cooperate. Look for uncrowded conditions and lots of open water.

Disease Kills Large Number Of Ringold Steelhead Smolts

A disease outbreak killed roughly 75 percent of the summer steelhead smolts being reared at a Hanford Reach hatchery, a blow to a fishery and program that have had a tough few years.

THE REYES BROTHERS — ISSAC, LEVI AND IVAN — SHOW OFF A SUMMER-RUN STEELHEAD CAUGHT IN THE HANFORD REACH IN MARCH 2015. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

WDFW reports that it was able to release somewhere around 50,000 of the juvenile fish from Ringold Springs into the cooler waters of the Columbia River to give them “a fighting chance,” but couldn’t find backup stock for the other 150,000 or so that were lost.

“We actively tried to find replacements, but it was too late in the rearing cycle,” said Brian Lyon, the state hatchery complex manager, this morning. “We would’ve replaced them if we could have, believe me.”

The news was first reported on WDFW’s Medium blog Jan. 13.

Crews first detected what is known as “Ich,” or Ichthyophthirius multifilis, in December and treated a 2.5-acre pond used to rear nearly 200,000 steelhead, but were unable to stop the outbreak, so after a week and a half released the survivors.

The disease, which is spread by a parasite and affects the gills and skin of fish, was also found in other ponds at Ringold that hold coho and rainbow trout, but treatments were successful and few of those fish were lost, according to WDFW.

AN IMAGE POSTED BY WDFW SHOWS WHAT THE FISH DISEASE KNOWN AS ICH LOOKS LIKE THROUGH A MICROSCOPE. (WDFW)

It wasn’t clear how the steelhead came to be infected.

Ich exists in the Columbia and could have been carried into hatchery waters by predators — Lyon says that if a bird ate an infected fish then pooped as it flew over the ponds, it could transmit the disease that way.

Otters might have also been to blame. WDFW says there are deterrents at the hatchery but sometimes hungry critters can worm their way in.

The last Ich outbreak at Ringold was 10 years ago, WDFW reported, but the 60-degree spring waters that feed the ponds are ideal growing conditions for the disease, according to Lyon.

Releasing the surviving steelhead into the cooler waters of the Columbia should have given them a “better” chance of survival, his agency reported. In December the big river was running in the upper 40s and it is now in the upper 30s below Priest Rapids Dam, at the head of the Hanford Reach.

Lyon said the smolts were about a year old at the time of the outbreak but unfortunately no surplus fish were available at other hatcheries, including Wells further up the Columbia.

The steelhead were being reared for return in 2021’s lower Hanford Reach fishery. Angling for summer-runs there has been poor in recent seasons, with the waters closed to retention this past fall and shut down early in 2018 to try and ensure that broodstock goals were reached.

Ich was blamed for the loss of about 6,100 wild and hatchery adult Chinook in Willapa Basin streams in 2015, while this past fall another naturally occurring disease, cryptobia, hit fall kings in rivers on Oregon’s North Coast.

WDFW said it is reviewing the Ich outbreak at Ringold “to determine whether measures can be put in place to prevent a re-occurrence.”

WDFW OKs Farming Sterile Female Steelhead In Cooke Sea Pens

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) on Tuesday approved an application from Cooke Aquaculture to farm all-female, sterile (triploid) rainbow trout/steelhead in Puget Sound.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF COOKE AQUACULTURE PENS IN PUGET SOUND. (WDFW)

The five-year permit applies to existing net pens in Puget Sound where Cooke holds valid aquatic land leases with the Washington Department of Natural Resources. This includes four pens currently operating near Rich Passage and Skagit Bay, but may later extend to three other net pens owned by Cooke.

WDFW approved the permit following an extensive State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) public comment period, which saw more than 3,500 comments submitted. WDFW created a detailed document addressing Cooke’s proposal that also serves, in part, as a response to those comments. That document, and other related information, can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/licenses/environmental/sepa/closed-final.

“We heard from a huge number of stakeholders on this issue, and we appreciate everyone who took time to make their voice heard as part of this process,” said WDFW Deputy Director Amy Windrope. “This permit was approved based on scientific review and is contingent on Cooke complying with strict provisions designed to minimize any risk to native fish species.”

Among those provisions:

  • A comprehensive escape prevention, response, and report plan;
  • Biennial inspections of net-pen facilities by a WDFW-approved marine engineering firm, to check for structural integrity and permit compliance;
  • Immediate reports to WDFW of any escaped fish, as well as a unique marking identifying all commercial aquaculture fish;
  • Sampling and testing of smolts before being transferred to marine net pens, to ensure that they are free of disease;
  • Annual fish health evaluation reports; and
  • Tissue sampling for genetic analysis of broodstock by WDFW.

These are just some of the conditions required under the permit. In addition, Cooke will have to obtain a modification to their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits from the Washington Department of Ecology, and a transport permit from WDFW prior to any steelhead trout being moved into net pens.

For the full list, see the “mitigating provisions” section in the justification document at https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2020-01/marine_aquaculture_permit_justification.pdf

Cooke first submitted an application to raise steelhead trout in January 2019 in an effort to transition from farming Atlantic salmon in the company’s existing Puget Sound net pens. The company submitted a completed SEPA checklist and supporting documentation to WDFW in July.

SW WA, Columbia Gorge Pools Fishing Report (1-22-20)

THE FOLLOWING FISHING REPORT WAS FORWARDED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Washington Columbia River and Tributary Fishing Report Jan 13-19, 2019

Mainstem Columbia River

Salmon/Steelhead:

John Day Pool – 4 bank anglers released two steelhead.

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool – Two bank anglers had no catch.  20 boats/59 rods kept six legal sturgeon and released 87 sublegal and one oversize sturgeon.

JACOB CULVER SHOWS OFF A BONNEVILLE POOL STURGEON CAUGHT SEVERAL SEASONS BACK. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

The Dalles Pool – Seven bank anglers released one sublegal sturgeon.  10 boats/25 rods kept four legal sturgeon and released 12 sublegal sturgeon.

John Day Pool – 20 bank anglers had no catch.  14 boats/31 rods released one sublegal sturgeon.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool – 1 boat/1 rod had no catch.

The Dalles Pool – 1 bank angler had no catch.

John Day Pool – 1 bank angler had no catch.  2 boats/3 rods kept three walleye.

Bass:

John Day Pool – One bank angler had no catch.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – Two bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 39 bank anglers kept 20 steelhead.  1 boat/2 rods kept two steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream – One bank angler had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br – Six bank anglers had no catch.

Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.