All posts by Andy Walgamott

Support For Lake Washington Sockeye Restoration Assessment At Meeting

With a show of hands last night in Renton, anglers and others asked a longtime Lake Washington sockeye advocate to request WDFW look into what it would take to recover the salmon stock and restore the fabled metro fishery.

ANGLERS AND SOME CEDAR RIVER COUNCIL MEMBERS RAISE THEIR HANDS IN SUPPORT OF HAVING FRANK URABECK (STANDING AT LEFT) ASK WDFW TO ASSESS WHAT IT WOULD TAKE TO RESTORE LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It’s a long-shot proposition with seemingly all factors now lined up against the fish, and two of the people who’d gathered in the Red Lion conference room supported just throwing in the towel instead.

But nobody was in favor of the status quo, which is modeled to lead to the extinction of the run in 40 years time — perhaps as few as 30 with this year’s lowest-ever forecast of just 15,153 back to the Ballard Locks is any indication, according to the local state fisheries biologist.

“The reality is, it’s going to be very, very, very tough to get all the players to do something,” acknowledged Frank Urabeck before calling for the vote from the 40 or so members of the public and 10 members of the Cedar River Council.

Not everyone held up a hand for any option, but Urabeck’s plan is to approach WDFW Director Kelly Susewind and ask that the agency conduct a feasibility assessment on what can be done and how much it would cost to bring sockeye back to fishable numbers.

Urabeck said it would likely require “a massive effort, a huge amount of money.”

But even as predation on smolts in the lake grows and more and more adult sockeye are dying between the Ballard Locks and the Cedar River, there are still some glimmers of hope.

The meeting followed on a similar one last year but which did not include Seattle Public Utilities.

Last night, SPU was at the table in the form of watershed manager Amy LaBarge, who gave a presentation about the utility’s Landsburg mitigation hatchery, completed in 2012 with a capacity of 34 million sockeye eggs, but which has only ever been able to collect 18 million due to low returns.

And since that 2018 gathering, Urabeck indicated that there had been talks going on behind the scenes too.

“I can’t say if I’m optimistic, but there has been dialogue,” he said near the end of the two-hour meeting.

Other players in the issue include the Muckleshoot Tribe and WDFW, the latter of which operates the sockeye hatchery for SPU.

Brody Antipa, the regional hatchery manager for the state agency, was in house and he talked about how he began his career as the guy who “lived in a trailer down by the river” at the old temporary facility on the Cedar, which was opened in the early 1990s over concerns that the run at the time was faltering.

The system produced reliably high returns of as many as 400,000 spawners into the river in the 1960s and 1970s, at the end of the era when Lake Washington was thick with blue-green algae that hid the smolts from predators.

Following cleanup efforts, water clarity went from as little as 30 inches in 1964 to 10 feet in 1968 to up to 25 feet in 1990, according to WDFW district fisheries biologist Aaron Bosworth.

Native cutthroat and northern pikeminnow primarily but also nonnative bass, yellow perch and other species suddenly had the advantage over the young sockeye.

The years of 400,000 reds on the redds were over just as anglers had figured out how to reliably catch sockeye in the lake with just a plain old red hook.

In the 1990s, Antipa said that testing at the hatchery determined that feeding the young sockeye was helpful before turning them loose to rear in the lake a year to 14 months.

By the early 2000s, fisheries went from once every four years to once every other year — 2002, 2004, 2006.

But since then there’s been nothing but a string of increasingly bad years, with last fall seeing just 7,476 of the 32,103 sockeye that went through the locks reaching the Cedar, despite no directed fisheries and only a small biological sampling program operating at Ballard.

IF WE DON’T GET OFF OUR COLLECTIVE ASS, THAT FLAT LINE REPRESENTS THE FUTURE OF LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE, BUT A FEW ARE READY TO THROW IN THE TOWEL WITH THE ENORMITY OF THE JOB AND CHALLENGES THE FISH FACE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The rest died from prespawn mortality caused by fish diseases that may have become more deadly and prevalent due to warmer water in the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

During last night’s question-and-answer period, the audience and Cedar River Council members focused on tweaking the hatchery operations — whether or not Baker and Fraser sockeye could be used to reach full eggtake capacity; if the facility was able to hold the fry longer for a feeding and later-release programs that show promise; and if it could be used to just raise coho and Chinook instead.

The short-term answer to all that was “no” — the current management plan that the hatchery operates under doesn’t allow it.

So, asked a member of the council, how do we change that plan?

LaBarge, the SPU staffer, said that would need to go through stakeholders to get buy-in.

“The conversation is starting about that,” she said.

Another issue is all the predators in Lake Washington.

Antipa said that where once just getting 40 million fry into the lake all but guaranteed a fishery a few years later, the 70 million that swam out of the Cedar in 2012 didn’t result in anything.

Partly that’s due to the circular feedback of PSM issues affecting how many eggs are available at the hatchery and in the gravel , but rock bass have joined the suite of piscovores, along with walleye and at least one northern pike.

A bill on its way to Gov. Inslee’s desk would require WDFW to drop daily and size limits on largemouth and smallmouth in Lake Washington, along with all other waters used by sea-going salmonids in the state.

Realistically that won’t do diddly to bass populations, but gillnetting efforts the Muckleshoots have begun more seriously next door in Lake Sammamish might.

TWO THUMBS UP FOR SEATTLE SOCKEYE FROM THIS ANGLER DURING THE 2004 SEASON. (RYLEY FEE)

Before the show of hands, Max Prinsen, the chair of the Cedar River Council, recalled how in 1979 he came north from California at a time when bald eagles and condors were “gone” in the Golden State.

“But with changes we made as a society we brought those species back,” he noted.

After Urabeck’s vote, he spoke again.

“These fish aren’t just important as a fishery, but as a part of Northwest life,” Prinsen said. “I think it’s important to conserve this resource. It’s great to see this much interest.”

I would quibble with his use of the word “resource” — by chance this morning on the bus while proofing our Alaska magazine I read a quote from the author Amy Gulick about a Tlingit woman in Sitka who taught her that “The word ‘resource’ implies an end product, a commodity. But ‘relationship’ is so much deeper and multi-faceted. If you have a relationship with salmon, then you also have a relationship to a river, a home stream and the ocean. And you probably have relationships with people in your community connected to each other by way of salmon. We show gratitude for healthy relationships because they make our lives richer.”

But Prinsen was also among those who’d raised their hands, and I’ll bet something along the lines of a relationship with the sockeye was what he meant anyway.

SW WA, Lower Columbia Fishing Report (4-23-19)

THE FOLLOWING REPORTS WERE TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Preliminary Washington lower Columbia River mainstem sport sampling summary

April 20-21, 2019

Bonneville bank anglers: 101; kept adult Chinook: 7
Camas area banks anglers: -; kept adult Chinook: –
I-5 area bank anglers: 1; kept adult Chinook: –
Vancouver area bank anglers: 25; kept adult Chinook: 0

Bonneville boat anglers: 23; kept adult Chinook: 1
Camas area boat anglers: 24; kept adult Chinook: 0
I-5 area boat anglers: 39; kept adult Chinook: 0
Vancouver boat anglers: 171; kept adult Chinook: 2

A SPRING CHINOOK ANGLER IN THE WESTERN COLUMBIA GORGE HOPES FOR A BITE DURING A RAINSTORM. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Fishery Reports:

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 39 bank rods released 3 Chinook and kept 1 steelhead..

Above the I-5 Br:  15 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.  25 boats/80 rods released 2 Chinook and kept 8 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 432 winter-run steelhead adults, 13 spring Chinook adults and one cutthroat trout during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 27 winter-run steelhead adults and one cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and they released 21 winter-run steelhead adults and two spring Chinook adults into Lake Scanewa located in Randle.

Tacoma Power tagged and recycled 114 winter-run steelhead adults to the lower river.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,990 cubic feet per second on Monday, April 22. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 47.8 F.

Kalama River – 27 bank anglers had no catch.  10 boats/18 rods kept 3 Chinook and released 2 steelhead.

Lewis River – 9 bank anglers had no catch. 1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Wind River– 1 bank angler had no catch.  10 boats/15 rods kept 1 Chinook and released 1 Chinook.

Drano Lake – 16 boats/27 rods kept 1 Chinook.

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Catchable Trout Plants:  

Lake/Pond                           Date Species Number    Fish/lb Hatchery

Horseshoe (COWLITZ)            April 17, 2019     Rainbow 3,360           2.80 Mossyrock

Kress Lake (COWLITZ)            April 17, 2019 Rainbow 3,080           2.80 Mossyrock

Battle Ground (CLARK)          April 15, 2019 Rainbow   2,000 1.90 Vancouver

Sacajawea (COWLITZ)            April 15, 2019 Rainbow 3,375           2.51 Goldendale

Deer ‘Poaching’ Call In Central Cascades Turns Up Felon, Firearms

Washington game wardens are investigating a bizarre incident involving a dead blacktail deer literally pumped full of lead, five people found a few miles away, and the recovery of numerous firearms with missing serial numbers or without any at all.

A SCREENSHOT FROM A USGS MAP SHOWS THE GENERAL LOCATION OF WHERE THE DEER WAS KILLED AND THE FIVE INDIVIDUALS ENCOUNTERED NORTH OF NORTH BEND AND SNOQUALMIE. (USGS)

“We still don’t know for sure what happened,” said WDFW Sgt. Kim Chandler this afternoon. “They either flat-out poached a deer or, according to them, hit it with their car and shot it 100 times.”

“I don’t know if it was 100 times, but there were shell casings from three different weapons,” he said.

What is known is that last Friday four men and a woman whose ages and hometowns weren’t immediately available apparently drove up the North Fork Road outside North Bend east of Seattle for whatever reason and at some point 3 to 4 miles from the end of the gravel they encountered the deer.

Chandler said that there was a small crack and some deer hair on the bumper of their car, and that the deer had a broken leg, which might suggest it was run into.

But he also said the leg could have been broken due to the “dozens of dozens of rounds” of .223 and 9mm ammo shot at the animal.

The carcass was butchered — “They obviously didn’t know what they were doing,” the officer said — and put in a cooler, and the quintet apparently continued to the end of the road in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest for the night.

On Saturday, a hiker came upon the remains of the deer “in the middle of the road” and called it in as a poaching, according to Chandler.

A WDFW officer dispatched to the scene found it and in trying to figure out what had happened, called in another warden to help.

As they searched the area past the carcass and shells in the road they came across two men and a woman asleep in a car, with one of the men “on top of all kinds of AR-15s,” said Chandler.

After the trio were woken up, one of the firearms — a 9mm AR-15 pistol — came back as stolen, while others — which Chandler described as “AR-15 build-it-yourself weapons” — didn’t have serial numbers whatsoever.

When they were asked who the vehicle belonged to, they gave a name of a man who was not present and who they said had gone hiking.

As the officers were talking with the three, that man apparently came down the trail while carrying a .380-caliber handgun, along with a fifth person carrying an “assault rifle,” Chandler said.

“They did a double take, saw all the police, and headed into the brush,” he said.

That precipitated a call for backup to the King County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol and a canine unit, which caught the attention Living Snoqualmie, which first reported the incident.

Once the officers were all assembled, a public address system was used to call in the two individuals who’d run off.

The man who allegedly owned the car came out, though not with the handgun he’d been carrying, nor with the fifth person, who never came out, Chandler said.

The end of the North Fork Road is about 24 miles from North Bend.

As things began to get sorted out, it was discovered that one of the men who’d been asleep in the car with all the ARs was a convicted felon who wasn’t supposed to be around guns at all.

He was subsequently booked into King County Jail, Chandler said.

Chandler said he’s seen a lot of cases in his years with WDFW but this turned out to be among the more unusual ones.

“At the very least, it’s a violation of the (roadkill) salvage law. You have to wait for an officer to dispatch” struck and injured animals, he said.

“These guys didn’t have a clue about the salvage law, but now they do.”

While happy that the situation wasn’t anything like it seemed like — the parade of police vehicles heading up the North Fork Road sparked a rumor that a WDFW warden had been shot, Chandler said — and that nobody got hurt, it’s still an active investigation.

“It turned into a whole lot more than a poached deer,” he said. “Some serious stuff there. The ATF is very interested in all the guns without serial numbers.”

He said the state crime lab might also be able to raise those that had been filed off one weapon.

WDFW License Bills Moving Again As End Of Regular Legislative Session Nears

After hibernating for the past two months, WDFW’s fee bills have woken up and are moving again, but what will emerges from the den that is the Washington legislature remains to be seen.

Both the House and Senate versions include the 15 percent increase to fishing and hunting licenses and extend the Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsement, but also contain sharp differences that will need to be reconciled before the end of the session.

“This is pretty intense, from zero bills moving to two bills moving,” said Raquel Crosier, WDFW’s legislative liaison, this morning.

The upper chamber’s bill would sunset the angling fee hike after six years, extends the endorsement two years instead of four like the House, and would not allow the Fish and Wildlife Commission to impose surcharges to keep up with rising costs.

That’s different from the Senate’s Operating Budget proposal, released earlier this month without any fee increase or the endorsement and which leaned on General Fund instead.

The lower chamber’s bill, which like the House Operating Budget proposal had the hike and endorsement, would limit the commission’s fee-raising authority to only cover costs lawmakers add to WDFW’s gig and no more than 3 percent in any one year.

Though the Senate version presents something of a fiscal cliff in 2025, the fee increase would produce $14.3 million every two years, the endorsement $3 million.

As for WDFW’s big hopes for a big General Fund infusion to pay for its myriad missions, improve its product and dig out of a $31 million shortfall, any new money it receives will likely be allocated for orcas instead, and that is putting the onus squarely on passing a license increase.

The sudden activity on the fee bills after February’s twin hearings comes with the scheduled Sunday, April 28 end of the session and follows a House Appropriations Committee public hearing yesterday afternoon and an executive session in the Senate’s Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee this morning.

During the House hearing on HB 1708, representatives from the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Northwest Marine Trade Association and Coastal Conservation Association along with some anglers — all still smarting from the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Columbia fishery reforms vote early last month, some at louder volumes than others — voiced opposition to the fee bill though generally said they wanted a fully funded WDFW.

NMTA’s George Harris was among those trying to “thread that needle,” saying he couldn’t support the increase because he didn’t believe the agency had followed through on the reforms or mark-selective fisheries.

SPEAKING IN OPPOSITION TO THE FEE BILL DURING THE HOUSE HEARING ON MONDAY APRIL 22 WERE JASON ZITTEL OF ZITTEL’S MARINA NEAR OLYMPIA WHO SAID THE BURDEN OF FUNDING WDFW COULDN’T CONTINUE TO BE PUSHED ONTO LICENSE HOLDERS WHEN THE PROBLEMS ARE STATEWIDE … (TVW)

… AND CARL BURKE, REPRESENTING NMTA AND NSIA, WHO SAID THAT WHILE ANGLERS PROVIDE SIGNIFICANT FUNDING TO WDFW, “THAT DOESN’T SEEM TO MATTER.” (TVW)

Speaking in favor of full funding, however, was Ron Garner, statewide president of Puget Sound Anglers, member of the WDFW budget advisory group that did a deep dive into the agency’s finances and part of the governor’s orca task force.

“This is not enough money for the agency, and one of the problems is, if we do take this $30 million hit or don’t get the $30 million, what hatcheries are going to get cut next?” Garner said.

WDFW has identified five that could be and which together produce 2.6 million salmon, steelhead and trout.

He said where other state agencies had recovered from General Fund cuts due to the Great Recession, WDFW hadn’t.

“To keep them healthy and the outdoors healthy, we really need to fund it,” Garner said.

RON GARNER OF PUGET SOUND ANGLERS VOICED SUPPORT FOR A FULLY FUNDED WDFW DURING THE HEARING … (TVW)

… AND TOM ECHOLS OF THE HUNTERS HERITAGE COUNCIL SAID IT WAS THE FIRST TIME IN HIS SEVEN YEARS WITH THE UMBRELLA ORGANIZATION THAT IT WAS SUPPORTING A FEE BILL, SPECIFICALLY THE HUNTING SIDE, SAYING THEY BELIEVED IT WAS “TIME TO SUPPORT THE DEPARTMENT’S DIRECTION.” (TVW)

Both committees ultimately gave their versions do-pass recommendations after adopting several amendments, which overall mainly dealt with fallout from the Columbia vote.

The House bill now tells the citizen panel to work with Oregon’s to recover salmon and steelhead in the watershed and WDFW to “work to maximize hatchery production throughout the Columbia River, reduce less selective gear types in the mainstem of the Columbia River and improve the effectiveness of off-channel commercial fishing areas.”

“I support fully funding WDFW so that we can restore hatchery production and restore our fisheries,” said prime sponsor Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) this morning.

And in his natural resources committee earlier today, Chair Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) substantially altered the Senate fee bill, SB 5692, to address those Columbia issues.

An effect statement says his amendments:

  • Specifies Columbia River fishery reforms including improving the selectivity of recreational and commercial fisheries, prioritizing main stem recreational fisheries, and transitioning gill net fisheries to enhanced off-channel areas.
  • Restricts main stem gill net fisheries, effective July 1, 2019, to not exceed six days per year for salmon and steelhead below the Bonneville dam.
  • Directs the DFW to establish an observer program to monitor at least 10 % of the nontribal gill net salmon and steelhead catch on the Columbia River.
  • Directs the DFW to fund activities that maintain or enhance current recreational and fishing activities with fees from recreational fishing and hunting, and expires the requirement on July 1, 2025.
  • Authorizes the DFW to approve trial fisheries for the use of alternative gear for the mark-selective harvest of hatchery-reared salmon and to establish permit fees by rule for alternative gear fisheries.
  • Authorizes the use of pound nets to harvest salmon on the Columbia River and sets the license fee at $380 per year for a resident and $765 for a nonresident

Without getting too wonky and in the weeds, the differences between the House and Senate fee bills must be concurred on, passed by the legislature and signed by the governor before any hike goes into effect. It would be the first since 2011.

WDFW’s Crosier forecasted some “tough conversations in the coming five days” as lawmakers will have to come to an agreement on outstanding policy issues including the Columbia, hatcheries, predators and more, and how to fund her agency.

“I’m feeling optimistic,” she said. “I think this is the closest we’ve gotten. There’s motivation (by legislators) to get something passed, and fees will be a big part of it.”

And without getting too high up on my stump, the end package will also need to show hunters and anglers that there is a better future ahead from the negative malaise currently gripping the state’s sportsmen as more than a century and a half of habitat loss, hatchery production reductions, increasing ESA listings and fishery restrictions, social media, and, simply put, other legislative priorities have come home to roost, most obviously in the plight of starving southern resident killer whales that might also symbolize today’s opportunities.

Big Turnout, 4 Tons Of Trash Collected In Annual Yaquina River Cleanup

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE U DA MAN FISHING TOURNAMENT

On Saturday, April 20th, the U Da Man (UDM) Fishing Tournament, in conjunction with Oregon SOLVE, held its 3rd Annual Port to Port Yaquina River Clean Up.

This event is sponsored by the Ports of Newport and Toledo, Dahl Disposal of Toledo, Thompson’s Sanitary Service of Newport, JC Thriftway Market and Englund Marine & Industrial Supply of Newport.

PARTICIPANTS IN THE PORT TO PORT CLEANUP POSE WITH TRASH COLLECTED ALONG THE LOWER YAQUINA RIVER DURING LAST WEEKEND’S EVENT. (U DA MAN)

Fifty-two volunteers worked from boats and the road shoulders from the Port of Toledo airport boat launch starting at 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. This is the largest group of volunteers we have had for this event. Two 20-yard dumpsters were filled with an estimated 8,000 pounds of debris and trash by the end of the day.

Volunteers represented local community members, along with the many members of the Longview Hills Fishing Club, Central Coast Fly Fishers, students from the Newport and Toledo High Schools, Angell Job Corp, First United Methodist Church Youth Group of Corvallis, ODFW, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol, Depoe Bay Salmon Enhancement, Oregon Hunters Association and Oregon SOLVE.

The UDM group wants to thank all the sponsors and volunteers who assisted us this year. We simply could not have this much impact on the Yaquina River habitat without all the people power and donations provided for this yearly event.

Lower Skagit Opening For Springers May 1-31, First Fishery In ‘Nearly 30 Years’

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

For the first time in nearly 30 years, anglers will get the chance to fish for spring chinook salmon in the lower Skagit River next month.

State and tribal co-managers recently agreed to move forward with this year’s fishery, based on the number of wild and hatchery fish projected to return to the river, said Edward Eleazer, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“We’ve seen a sufficient number of spring chinook returning to the Skagit River in the last several years to allow us to open this section of the river,” Eleazer said. “This is essentially a new opportunity for most anglers. We hope it provides some great fishing this spring.”

The fishery will be open for hatchery spring chinook from May 1 through May 31. Anglers fishing this section will have a daily limit of two hatchery chinook, which are marked with a clipped adipose fin, but must release all other species.

The lower Skagit fishery includes the area from the Highway 536 Bridge (Memorial Highway Bridge) in Mount Vernon to Gilligan Creek.

Eleazer noted that the upper Skagit River, from the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to the Cascade River Road, will open June 1 to fishing for spring hatchery chinook, as will the Cascade River, from the mouth to the Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge. More details on those fisheries can be found in the 2018-19 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.

Lake Washington, Cedar River Sockeye Subject Of Tuesday Night Meeting

Lake Washington and Cedar River sockeye are on the agenda of an “important” Tuesday night public meeting that may help figure out where the troubled program goes from here.

With increasing inlake predation on smolts and more and more returning adults dying before they can even reach the spawning grounds or hatchery, there hasn’t been a season on the big lake since 2006 and this year’s forecast of just 15,153 is the lowest ever.

LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE FACE AN INCREASING HOST OF PREDATORS, INCLUDING NATIVE SPECIES SUCH AS CUTTHROAT TROUT AND NORTHERN PIKEMINNOW, AND NONNATIVE ONES SUCH AS SMALLMOUTH, LARGEMOUTH AND ROCK BASS, YELLOW PERCH, AMONG OTHERS, WHILE RETURNING ADULTS ARE FAILING TO MAKE IT TO THE GRAVEL DUE TO RISING PRESPAWN MORTALITY. (MIKE PETERSON, IDFG VIA NMFS, FLICKR, CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0)

The “godfather” of the fishery, Frank Urabeck, says he’ll be asking anglers whether to just throw in the towel, maintain the status quo or request WDFW assess what could be done to restore the runs to harvestable levels.

That show of hands will follow presentations on the fish and hatcheries by WDFW’s Brody Antipa and Aaron Bosworth, and Amy LaBarge of Seattle Public Utilities, which operates a sockeye production facility on the system.

They will be speaking before the Cedar River Council, and during last year’s meeting on sockeye issues state research scientist Dr. Neala Kendall said that if nothing is done, her models said that the run could peter out in 20 years or so.

She said that restoring the fishery would be hard but it also wasn’t impossible.

Among the problems to overcome are smolt predation by native cutthroat trout and northern pikeminnow, as well as nonnative species such as largemouth, smallmouth, rock bass and yellow perch. Walleye and at least one northern pike are also in the lake and represent some level of threat to the young salmon.

Ocean conditions have been poorer for Lake Washington sockeye since 2006’s year-class enjoyed “insanely high” survival at sea, with one out of every two smolts that went out returning that year for an estimated Ballard Locks count of 472,000.

And in recent years a high percentage of sockeye have just disappeared between the locks and the Cedar — 77 percent last year, 80 percent in 2016 — likely victims of prespawn mortality.

The combination of too-warm water in the relatively shallow ship canal the fish have to transit before reaching the cool depths of the lake and preexisting diseases appear to be a one-two punch many aren’t surviving.

Potential solutions might include increased focus on removing piscivorous fish and trucking returning adults from the locks to the lake, but those would likely face headwinds from fans of those species and the cost.

Still, for how popular and productive the fishery once was, it would be interesting to know whether it’s feasible or not.

The April 23 meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Renton Red Lion, 1 S. Grady Way, which is exit 2 on I-405.

Hunter Pink Green-lighted For Washington’s Fall Hunting Seasons

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

During this year’s legislative session, pink has become the new orange. On April 10, the state House of Representatives passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (ESSB) 5148, a bill expanding orange clothing requirements for hunters to include fluorescent pink. The state Senate had already passed the bill Feb. 20; Gov. Jay Inslee signed it today.

SURROUNDED BY (LEFT TO RIGHT) CHALEE BATUNGBACAL AND DAVID WHIPPLE OF WDFW, AND PRIME SPONSOR SEN. LYNDA WILSON (R) AND HER LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT AMBER HARDTKE AND INTERN INNA VANMATRE, GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE SIGNS THE HUNTER PINK BILL. (STATE OF WASHINGTON)

 “Orange will always be the classic safety color, but I think our state’s hunters can appreciate something new and different – and because fluorescent pink doesn’t blend in with anything else in the forest or field, it also offers the excellent visibility we need for safety,” said Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, a longtime hunter who was prime sponsor of ESSB 5148.

“This idea received unanimous support in the Legislature, and I can see hunter pink being very popular with both women and men, especially because pink is also linked to the fight against breast cancer,” added Wilson, who has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer during the time that her idea has made its way into law. For more information about the bill go to http://lyndawilson.src.wastateleg.org/wilson-bill-to-let-hunters-wear-fluorescent-pink-headed-to-governor/.

Since the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) began requiring hunters to wear hunter orange, hunter injuries and incidents declined significantly in Washington. Fluorescent pink is considered equally visible to hunter orange, and nine other states have passed laws allowing hunters to wear pink clothing for safety.

“By adding fluorescent hunter pink, we are providing more choices to our hunters,” said David Whipple, hunter education division manager. “Women are one of the fastest-growing hunting groups, though we believe that this option will feel inclusionary all to new hunters. This attention is also helping to highlight the safe behaviors for continued reductions in hunter injuries and incidents.”

The current law gives WDFW the authority to adopt rules specifying gear and other hunting equipment. Currently, hunters must wear a minimum of 400 square inches of fluorescent hunter orange exterior clothing during specific hunting seasons.

The new law, like most created this year, will take effect in July. In preparation, WDFW will begin a rule making process to accommodate hunter pink. WDFW is also taking extra steps now to implement the legislation immediately, which allows time for public education and for hunters to buy pink clothing in time for fall deer, elk, and upland bird modern firearm seasons.

Those who wish to learn more about hunter safety can visit our hunter education and requirements page at https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/requirements.

Rainbows And More To Catch On Eastside Trout Opener, Y-R Lakes

Washington’s big late April trout opener is just eight sleeps away and Westside lakes are sure to be packed.

While there may be fewer lowland lakes in Eastern Washington, it’s just as big doin’s as west of the crest, and not just for rainbows.

We checked in with a pair of state fisheries biologists to get their thoughts on how this year’s season will go in two of the best regions on the Eastside.

PHIL REICH HOLDS A NICE RAINBOW HE CAUGHT AT AN EASTERN WASHINGTON LAKE A COUPLE SPRINGS AGO. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

PERHAPS SOME OF THE BEST PROSPECTS can be found in Spokane-based biologist Randy Osborne’s district.

“I would guess that Badger is going to be one of the better trout lakes this spring,” he said about the upper Channeled Scablands lake which was rehabbed in 2015 and then restocked with a very heavy hand. “There’s a lot of fish there to be caught.”

“Williams Lake should fish good as well,” he adds. “West Medical – we killed that after last fall, but it will be stocked with a healthy dose of catchables and broodstock fish to get it going.”

Yellow perch are starting to cut into the productivity at Fish Lake near Cheney, but it still should fish “OK” this season, forecasts Osborne.

He also expects Clear Lake near Medical Lake to be consistent.

Osborne also has two year-round options: Lake Spokane/Long Lake, which has been producing good trout fishing this past winter and last year.

It also has walleye, and he encourages anglers to target them. “We’ve sampled some to 10 pounds.”

And Pacific Lake, north of Odessa, for rainbows.

“I went out there last year and it was crazy good,” says Osborne. “I was just sampling with rod and reel and in two hours caught 36 fish. They ranged from 14 to 17 inches. When the ice gets off, it should be good.”

A WILLIAMS LAKE ANGLER SHOWS OFF A WDFW STATEWIDE TROUT DERBY-TAGGED RAINBOW, CAUGHT ON LAST YEAR’S OPENER AT THE SPOKANE-AREA WATER. (WDFW)

YES, RAINBOWS GET A LOT OF ATTENTION, but they’re far from being the only fish to catch in spring, especially in the Okanogan.

That’s where Ryan Fortier is based, and he gave us his best bets for this season.

“Kokanee fishing has been gaining in popularity, with Alta and Conconully Lake being the two most popular and consistent fisheries,” the WDFW District 6 fisheries biologist says.

“The Alta pressure is getting a bit heavy, but Conconully can handle the larger crowds well. Patterson Lake near Winthrop has a good age-class coming up this year compared to the last five years. The other stocked lakes are Bonaparte, Spectacle and Conconully Reservoir. Palmer is not expected to have a fishery for another two more years.”

On the spinyray front, there are plenty of options too.

“Palmer, Leader, and Washburn Island Pond have been the most popular fisheries,” says Fortier. “There are lots of campers staying at the DNR campgrounds at Palmer and Leader who fish and swim on the lakes. Washburn Island was stocked with some largemouth two years ago and has produced some good sizes.”

But if your sights are set on trout, he has options for those too. He expected Pearrygin, Alta and the Conconullies to produce as usual at the opener last month, and that is likely to continue into May.

“Wannacut near Tonasket has produced the largest fish on average over the previous two summers,” he says.

Unfortunately, Fish Lake, not too far to the south, is “in need of a rehab” to get rid of overabundant bullheads, Fortier says.

It sounds like he expects quality trout waters like Aeneas, Blue, Chopaka and Davis to continue as they have, but there are two other lakes to start plugging into your radar.

“Buzzard (Loup Loup Pass) has been growing in popularity, and Campbell (Winthrop) has received low pressure despite better than usual sizes since the 2014 fires,” he hints.

Speaking of fires, Black Pine Lake high in the mountains west of Carlton was closed much of last summer due to wildfire activity, so it “should probably have some good carryovers for cutthroat when the snow clears in late May,” Fortier says.

And if you’re looking for something a little exotic that affords a chance to break a state record, you could do worse than Bonaparte Lake and its brook-brown hybrids.

SPRING IS ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL TIMES TO CHECK OUT THE HIGHLAND LAKES OF EASTERN WASHINGTON. HERE’S THE VIEW DOWN ONTO BONAPARTE LAKE, WHERE THE SIZE OF TIGER TROUT BORDERS ON BEING “TALL TALES,” ACCORDING TO THE DISTRICT FISHERIES BIOLOGIST. THE STATE RECORD 18.49-POUND HYBRID CAME FROM HERE IN MAY 2015. (USFS)

“The tiger trout sizes reported in the lake have been bordering on tall tales,” says Fortier. “We will try to do a more intense survey this year to get an idea of what has changed and if the rumors are true.”

And don’t forget Lake Rufus Woods! It will be stocked with 22,000 2-plus-pound triploid trout between March and June, according to tribal managers’ plans.

Oregon Family Free Fishing Events Begin This Weekend

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

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will host about 30 different Family Fishing events throughout the state from April to November 2019.

Detailed information about these opportunities to take your family fishing can be found here: https://myodfw.com/articles/take-family-fishing.

AN INSTRUCTOR TEACHES A YOUNG ANGLER AT A 2017 ODFW FISHING EVENT. (ODFW)

All family fishing events are free and open to all ages. Children 11-years old and younger do not need a fishing license. However, those 12-17 will need a youth license, which can be purchased from any ODFW license agent or online via MyODFW.com for $10. Adult anglers will also need an Oregon fishing license. Licenses won’t be issued at the event so those who are required to have one should obtain their license ahead of time.

ODFW will also hand out rods, reels, tackle and bait to participants while supplies last. Pre-registration is not required and participants are welcome to bring their own fishing equipment if they prefer. ODFW staff and volunteer instructors will be present to assist with everything from gearing up, casting, landing and cleaning fish.

“Family fishing events are wonderful ways for new or beginner anglers to get out and experience fishing,” said Amanda Boyles, ODFW Angler Education Coordinator. “Volunteers and staff are more than willing to help with all fishing-related questions and all you need to bring with you is your license (if you’re 12 or older) and a smile on your face! Good luck, have fun, and say ‘thank you’ to all the ODFW volunteers you see out there because they make these events possible,” Boyles added.

Each Family Fishing pond will be regularly stocked with trout by ODFW. Review the Stocking Schedules to find out what’s being stocked throughout the year.

Anyone unable to participate in these fishing events can explore many other fishing, hunting or wildlife viewing opportunities at ODFW’s recreation website, including classes and workshops held for all ages, at  MyODFW.com.

ZONE, DATE AND TIME LOCATION NEAREST TOWN
Northwest Zone
April 20, 9 am – 2 pm Hebo Lake Hebo
April 27, 9 am – 2 pm Devils Lake (Regatta Park) Lincoln City
May 4, 9 am – 2 pm Vernonia Lake Vernonia
June 8, 9 am – 2 pm Cleawox Lake Florence
July 7, 9 am – 2 pm Dundas Pond Siletz
Southwest Zone
April 27, 10 am – 2 pm Empire Lakes Coos Bay
May 4, 9 am – 1:30 pm Reinhart Volunteer Park Grants Pass
May 18, 10 am – 2 pm Powers Pond Powers
June 8, 10 am – 2:30 pm Denman Wildlife Area Central Point
July 4, 9 am to 1 pm Mingus Park Coos Bay
July 20, 9 am to 1 pm July Jubilee North Bend
Willamette Zone
April 20, 9 am – 2 pm St. Louis Ponds Gervais
April 20, 9 am – 12 pm Walter Wirth Lake Cascades Gateway Park Salem
April 27, 9am – 2 pm Trojan Pond Rainer
May 4, 9 am – 2 pm Sheridan Pond Sheridan
May 5, 9:30 am – 1:30 pm Alton Baker Canoe Canal Eugene
May 25, 9 am – 2 pm Mt. Hood Pond Gresham
June 15, 10 am – 2 pm Alton Baker Canoe Canal Eugene
October 12, 9 am – 2 pm St. Louis Ponds Gervais
October 19, 9 am – 2 pm Mt. Hood Pond Gresham
November 26, 9 am – 12 pm Walter Wirth Lake Cascades Gateway Park Salem
Central Zone
May 4, 8:30 am – 1 pm Bikini Pond (Mayere State Park) Mosier
May 11, 8:30 – 2 pm Camp Baldwin Dufur
May 18, 8:30 am – 2 pm Middle Fork Pond Parkdale
June 20, 9 am – 12 pm Shevlin Pond Bend
Northeast Zone
April 13, 10 am – 12 pm McNary Channel Ponds Hermiston
May 18, 10 am – 12 pm McNary Channel Ponds Hermiston
July 6, 9 am – 2 pm Jubilee Lake Pendleton