All posts by Andy Walgamott

McMorris Rodgers Calls On Zinke To Delist Wolves, Addresses Grizzlies

While wolves have been delisted in her Eastern Washington district, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is calling for that federal status to be extended across the rest of the state.


The Spokane Republican wrote that she “would insist the (Trump) Administration look at delisting the wolf in Washington State” in a letter to Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke in which she also states her opposition to reintroducing grizzly bears in the North Cascades.

“Keeping the gray wolf listed and reintroducing the grizzly bear would have devastating consequences in Eastern Washington. I urge you thoroughly revisit both of these issues and thank you for your consideration,” McMorris Rodgers writes.

Earlier this month, one of her fellow Eastside reps, Dan Newhouse, successfully slipped an amendment into an Interior appropriations bill that defunds federal proposals to bring in the big bruins.

Newhouse also inserted language into the bill requiring Zinke to delist wolves by September 2019.

Both say they’re reacting to constituents’ concerns.

On the wolf front, McMorris Rodgers touches on a 2015 letter WDFW sent to Newhouse asking for his help in encouraging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete the delisting process, which the federal agency proposed five years ago this month.

That had been held up in part by lawsuits over packs elsewhere in the country, but USFWS has begun reviewing wolves’ status again.

“Incompatibility between the Washington state management plan and the federal management plan creates a bureaucratic nightmare that leaves communities in Eastern Washington unable to defend themselves against increasing wolf attacks and livestock depredations,” McMorris Rodgers wrote to Zinke.

Aerial Pics Show Many Anchovy, Baitfish Schools In Parts Of Sound

My first thought was, holy moly, we’ve found the resident coho hot spots!

My second was, what the heck kind of schools of fish are those anyway?


Numerous pods can be seen in aerial images of Puget Sound from last month.

One set of shots was taken in upper Henderson Bay, off Allen Point and the waters just south of the Purdy Spit, the other on either side of Keyport, on the Kitsap Peninsula.

The photos were included in the Department of Ecology’s latest Eyes Over Puget Sound report, a monthly check-in on environmental conditions in the inland sea.

It tracks water quality, freshwater inputs and coastal upwellings, comparing them across the years.

Also monitored are surface conditions, such as those bright-orange “tomato soup” algae blooms that are turning up, as well as marine debris, sediment plumes, jellyfish and the aforementioned schools of fish.


My interest primarily revolved around the old fisherman’s refrain: coho love baitfish, so where you find bait, you find the salmon.

The question was, which prey species would be good to approximate in one’s lure selection?!

Were those herring? I asked James Losee, a WDFW South Sound fisheries biologist. There are several known spawning beaches down his way.

Sandlance? Surf smelt?

I’ve caught Puget Sound coho utterly stuffed with herring; on this year’s June 1 opener I somehow snagged a sandlance with my Buzz Bomb/Yo-Zuri squid set-up; and last year I landed a silver that was digesting a pile perch.

When Losee got back to me, it was with the name of a species I would not have guessed.

“The majority of these groups of fish are anchovies but are also composed of other forage (bait) fish,” he told me via email.

Anchovies? In Puget Sound?

Say what, James?!?


I consider myself a fairly close observer of the Northwest’s natural world and I initially did not recall ever hearing of the thin, filter-feeding plankton eaters in Pugetropolis, except as a pizza topping option when ordering from Pagliacci’s.

I do know that anchovies are an important ocean salmon feedstock up and down the West Coast, moving into the mouth of the Columbia River and other bays to spawn.

It turns out that at one time they were also “a predominant forage species” in what is the Lower 48’s largest estuary by water volume, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

In December 2016, their Western Fisheries Research Center spotlighted the Whulge’s forage fish in a report that includes this 1894 quote from an anonymous observer:

“The anchovy come to Puget Sound in enormous quantities, and … every bay and inlet is crowded with them … I have known them to be in such masses at Port Hadlock that they could be dipped up with a common water bucket.”

As you may have guessed, anchovy abundance is believed to be way down from historic levels, as everything good here is.

But in recent years it’s actually been increasing — “dramatically,” says USGS.

Back in 2009, a longtime flyrodder posted he was noticing more.

In May, the Northwest Treaty Tribes blogged that an anchovy population boom in 2015 might have helped more Nisqually steelhead smolts sneak past all the harbor seals.

And last year, “thousands” turned up dead on a Hood Canal beach after a heat wave.

When I pulled up more Eyes Over Puget Sound monthly reports to see if schools showed up in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 late-spring aerials, the answer was:

Jellyfish, yes — and how;
Fish, not really, till this spring.

There’s a lot of grim news out there about Puget Sound these days — drugged-up mussels and Chinook, starving orcas, too much shoreline armoring, etc., etc.  — but WDFW’s Losee says that “exciting things” are also happening here from “a prey resource point of view.”

“The fluctuating patterns of plankton association with pink salmon abundance and the increasing numbers of forage fish and ‘resident’ life histories like blackmouth and resident coho,” he clarified. “Still a lot to try and understand as patterns are complex but seeing schools of anchovies is a good start.”

I know that seeing them from the air is pretty cool too.

Good, Bad News From Search For Invasive Green Crabs In Straits, Sound

Crews searching for invasive European green crab along Washington’s saltwater shores recently were relieved to find only one during a recent survey at a Whidbey Island site, but it’s a different story at the tip of the North Coast.


Nearly 400 have been found at Neah Bay since last fall, the largest concentration discovered so far on the US side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and northern Puget Sound.

The unwanted shellfish have also been reported at Dungeness Spit, with 96 collected last year and 42 so far this year, according to a report in the Sequim Gazette, Westcott Bay on San Juan Island, Padilla Bay and southern Sequim Bay.

Efforts to remove the crabs are being led by state, tribal, university and federal agencies.

The worry is that if green crabs establish a sustaining population, they could damage eelgrass pastures — so important for our salmonids and other fish — and clam beds.

Last year, two were found at Lagoon Point on Whidbey, the first inside the mouth of Admiralty Inlet — the primary entrance to the Central and South Sound and numerous potential sites for colonies to take hold — and during a follow-up search last week, a third turned up.

Kelly Martin at Washington Sea Grant blogged that the 57.5mm-long male appeared to be from the same age-class as the two others, and between that and the lack of others found was “a relief.”

“Green crab still have a presence in the lagoon at Lagoon Point, but their population has not exploded since last fall,” Martin wrote, adding that monitoring will continue.

Genetic work suggests that the crabs at Dungeness did not come from Sooke, across the Straits on the southern shore of Vancouver Island, but their larvae drifted in from a source somewhere else on the West Coast.

A WSG map shows dozens upon dozens of locations in Puget Sound and Hood Canal south of Lagoon Point with a high or moderate suitability for the species.

To learn how to spot green crabs and differentiate them from juvenile Dungies and red rocks, as well as find out more about the efforts of WSG’s Crab Team, go here.

Lower Columbia, Gorge Pools Fishing Report (6-12-18)


Current & Upcoming Fishing Opportunities:

*         Spring Chinook angling is open through Friday June 15 to both boat and bank anglers from Tongue Point upstream to Bonneville Dam; and from Tower Island Power Lines upstream to the Oregon/Washington border above McNary Dam, plus the banks only between Bonneville Dam and Tower Island Power Lines.  The bag limit is two adult salmonids.

*         Angling for shad is open from Buoy 10 upstream to Bonneville Dam.


*         White sturgeon retention is closed from Buoy 10 upstream to McNary Dam but remains an option for catch and released fishing.  Anglers are reminded that spawning sanctuaries are in effect (see special regulations for details).

*         On Friday June 15, Bonneville and The Dalles pools will be open to the retention of white sturgeon (see special regulations for details).

*         The McNary Pool is open to the retention of legal white sturgeon through July 31.  Anglers are reminded that spawning sanctuaries are in effect (see special regulations details).

*         Walleye angling is good in The Dalles and John Day pools.

Columbia River regulation updates for salmon, steelhead, shad and sturgeon can be found above.

Salmon, Steelhead and Shad

Salmonid angling effort was low this past weekend, most likely due to the poor weather conditions.   Boat anglers fishing in the gorge averaged 0.33 Chinook caught per boat, while anglers fishing the Westport to Buoy 10 area averaged 0.09 steelhead caught per boat.  Bank anglers fishing in the Portland to Westport area averaged 0.06 Chinook and 0.10 steelhead caught per angler.

Gorge Bank: Weekly checking showed five adult Chinook kept for 22 bank anglers; and weekend checking of shad anglers showed 2,564 shad kept, plus 51 shad released for 191 shad anglers.

Gorge Boats (below Beacon Rock): Weekend checking showed one adult Chinook kept for three salmonid boats (11 anglers); and 685 shad kept for 11 shad boats (33 anglers).

Troutdale Boats: Weekend checking showed no catch for one salmonid boat (three anglers); and no catch for one shad boat (two anglers).

Portland to Westport Bank: Weekend checking showed three adult Chinook and five steelhead kept for 52 bank anglers.

Portland to St. Helens Boats: Weekend checking showed no catch for four salmonid boats (nine anglers).

Goble to Beaver (Clatskanie) Boats: No report.

Wauna Powerlines to Clatsop Spit Bank: No report.

Westport to Buoy 10 Boats: Weekend checking showed one steelhead released for four boats (11 anglers).

Bonneville Pool (Bonneville Dam upstream to The Dalles Dam): Weekly checking showed no catch for five bank anglers.

The Dalles Pool (The Dalles Dam upstream to John Day Dam): Weekly checking showed one adult Chinook kept for 11 bank anglers.

John Day Pool (John Day Dam upstream to McNary Dam): Weekly checking showed one adult Chinook released for six bank anglers; and four adult Chinook kept for eight boats (21 anglers).


Gorge Boats:  Closed for retention. No report.

Troutdale Boats:  Closed for retention. No report.

Portland to Wauna Powerlines:  Closed for retention. Weekend checking showed eight sublegal sturgeon released for one boat (four anglers).

Wauna Powerlines to Clatsop Spit Bank:  Closed for retention. Weekend checking showed one legal white sturgeon kept for 17 bank anglers.

Buoy 10 to Wauna Powerlines Boats:  Closed for retention. Weekend checking showed 139 legal white sturgeon kept, plus 244 sublegal, 253 oversize and two green sturgeon released for 121 boats (401 anglers).

Bonneville Pool (Bonneville Dam upstream to The Dalles Dam): Closed for retention.  No report.

The Dalles Pool (The Dalles Dam upstream to John Day Dam): Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool (John Day Dam upstream to McNary Dam): Closed for retention.  No report.


Bonneville Pool: No report.

The Dalles Pool: Weekly checking showed 53 walleye kept for 11 boats (23 anglers).

John Day Pool: Weekly checking showed no catch for one bank angler; and 152 walleye kept, plus seven walleye released for 16 boats (43 anglers).

3 WDFW Director Finalists Named

The names of the three final candidates for the director’s position at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have been unofficially revealed.

The Chinook Observer reports them as Joe Stohr, Jennifer Quan, and Kelly Susewind, names that Northwest Sportsman had also heard independently in recent weeks but did not publish.

After WDFW sent out a press release last week announcing the decision was imminent, the Observer had requested the identities of the finalists from the staff of the Fish and Wildlife Commission, but wrote in a story headlined “Next WDFW Director being selected in secrecy” that it had been “refused.” So the paper subsequently went to “other sources” and updated their story yesterday afternoon with the three names.

Since they are now out there, here is more on the trio:

Stohr has been acting director at WDFW since former director Jim Unsworth left in midwinter. He has held various high-ranking positions at the agency since arriving there in 2007.

Quan was a lands manager and governmental affairs advisor with WDFW, and currently is the Central Puget Sound Branch manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service.

Susewind is more of an unknown and wildcard, at least to Washington’s fishing and hunting world.

He has worked for the Department of Ecology for over two and a half decades, initially as an engineer and is currently the third person on DOE’s contacts page, where he is listed as the director of administrative services and environmental policy.

The revelations of the names will set off more intense jockeying among WDFW’s myriad interest groups as the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission nears its decision on who the next director will be.

That person is expected to lead the agency through a “transformative” period as budget pressures increase, requiring “clear vision, true leadership, and firm decisions” on their part, according to the job posting.

“The Director will be asked to develop effective new approaches to conserving and recovering fisheries resources, while resolving long-standing and increasing conflicts among competing stakeholders,” read just one part of a 10-point list of challenges the director will face.

Whomever is chosen will oversee a staff of 1,800, land base of 1,400 square miles and harness a $437 million two-year budget to hold and conserve fisheries and hunting opportunities and provide scientific rationale for what it’s doing.

The three candidates will be interviewed again by the nine-member citizen panel on Thursday, with a finalist slated to be chosen late Saturday morning.

Huge Catfish Caught At Seattle’s Green Lake

Pull the July issue’s Rig of the Month, Sonjia, we’re swapping it out for a hair rig and inline feeder set-up!

That’s the outfit that Ahmed Majeed used to catch a very, very, VERY large catfish out of Seattle’s Green Lake this past weekend.


Washington’s biggest channel cat is a 36.20-pounder caught in 1999, but if Majeed’s scale is any indication, fishery officials would otherwise be rewriting the state record book today if the longtime angler had gotten it onto a certified scale before gutting and filleting it.

“Usually I know the weight by lifting the animal,” Majeed told Northwest Sportsman. “I thought, ‘It’s 40 pounds.’ When I got home I put it on the scale I have. It scaled 45 pounds.”

“I couldn’t lift it with solo handed,” Majeed adds. “I had to use my other hand to provide support.”

Majeed, who works at Microsoft in Redmond, says he doesn’t fish Green Lake all that much, but took it as a challenge after others told him there were only trout there.

Once upon a time tiger muskies were stocked at Green, and along with carp the lake holds largemouth and rock bass.

And over the years, young channel catfish have also been released at Green as 11-plus-inchers, including in 2005, 2011 and 2014. The size of Majeed’s catch suggests his might be going on a decade and a half old – if not older.


“When I went (to Green Lake) last Saturday I meant to catch huge fish,” Majeed says. “To avoid small fish from bothering me, I used a hair rig set-up with a Method feeder.”

Essentially, a feeder is a small weighted plate, flat on one side with arches on the other. Around the arches you mold bait, which milks out and attracts fish.

The hair rig is attached to the back of the feeder, not unlike a snelled leader to a swivel. A hank of line extending past the bend of the hook can hold a Corky or other floatant, and additional bait if so desired.

Majeed says he was using fake corn scented with carp mojo, along with a stout size 6 carp hook and 20-pound-test monofilament.

He arrived at Green Lake at 10 a.m. and two hours later caught a pretty nice-sized carp.

“It took another two hours for the cat to bite,” says Majeed. “I was shocked. My first impression was, ‘This is a huge grass carp,’ till I saw its head.”

He says it took him about 20 minutes to land the catfish, and when he got it in, he saw the hook was bent.

For Majeed, who came to the U.S. in 2008 and says he’s been fishing at least once a week since he was an 8-year-old in Iraq, it’s his latest big fish.

“I’ve caught huge ones back in my country,” he says.

“This fish had such a great fight,” Majeed says. “People started gathering from all over the lake to capture pictures and videos.”

It’s the second monster fish caught in Washington waters in just the past two weeks and follows Tom Hellinger’s 250-plus-pound halibut from the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca.


For Bruce Bolding, WDFW’s warmwater fisheries manager, channel cats are a cost-effective species to plant in Washington lakes.

“They can live over 20 years. The cost to us when we buy them is pretty cheap. Triploids are $3.25 and last three weeks,” Bolding says.

If you think you’ve caught a possible state record, WDFW says the “most important step” is to get it onto a certified scale – whether a local grocery store’s, post office’s or similar calibrated weighing systems – as soon as possible.

Get the signatures of whoever performs the official weighing and a witness to it. Then head for a WDFW office to have a biologist verify the fish and then fill out the record application form.

Editor’s note: Ahmed Majeed’s last name was mispelled in the image cutlines. My apologies.

Pendleton Poacher, 18, Fined $50,000, Banned From Hunting For Life

Oregon State Police say that an 18-year-old Pendleton man has been sentenced to pay $50,000 in restitution, had his hunting privileges suspended for life and was put on five years probation for a slew of wildlife violations.


Troopers say that Joseph Reide St. Pierre pleaded guilty to:

Unlawful take of a trophy whitetail buck
Trespass with a firearm
Unlawful take of a trophy whitetail buck
Unlawful take of a cow elk (X2)
Exceeding annual bag limit
Unlawful take of a mule deer buck
Waste of a game mammal
Hunting upon cultivated lands of another
Unlawful take of trophy mule deer buck
Waste of a game mammal
Assisting or aiding another in the taking of a buck deer (X2)
Unlawful take of a trophy bull elk
Waste of a game mammal
Unlawful take of a whitetail buck
Waste of a game mammal
Unlawful take of mule deer doe
Waste of a game mammal

(No, I didn’t screw up copying and pasting that from OSP’s press release — that’s exactly how it came across.)

The case began last September when troopers received some poaching tips, which led to St. Pierre’s arrest last January for allegedly poaching and wasting game in Umatilla County.

According to OSP, St. Pierre had been unlawfully taking wildlife as far back as 2016.

St. Pierre was also sentenced to pay $500 to a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Youth Day Event.



Supreme Court Leaves Culvert Fix Order In Place


Washington must continue to fix fish passage as a divided Supreme Court this morning left a lower court ruling stand.


The 4-4 decision by the nation’s highest arbiters came after the state Attorney General Bob Ferguson had appealed a 9th Circuit Court ruling that Washington needs to make hundreds of culverts more passable to salmon and steelhead across Pugetropolis.

“The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court,” justices relayed in a brief opinion.

The “anti-climactic” Supreme Court action is being billed as a win for Western Washington treaty tribes, and while it’s a essentially a continuation of 1974’s Boldt Decision, it saw some sport angler interests side with native fishermen.

“Friend of the court” arguments from the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and others urged the court to uphold the 9th’s 2016 ruling.

The culverts case was originally brought by the Suquamish Tribe, who were joined by other tribes in Western Washington, and the basic argument, per the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, is that “tribal treaty rights to harvest salmon include the right to have those salmon protected so they are available for harvest.”

Even as the state is already bringing culverts up to snuff, the overall cost of the fixes — estimated to be in the billions of dollars — and that some might not actually help fish led Ferguson to appeal the Ninth’s 2016 ruling “on behalf of the taxpayers.”

In a statement out this morning, Ferguson said it was “unfortunate” that Washington taxpayers would how have to bear the burden of “the federal government’s faulty culvert design” and said that state lawmakers now have “a big responsibility” to fund work bringing fish passage up to standards.

But he also said that other government agencies have their work cut out for them too.

“Salmon cannot reach many state culverts because they are blocked by culverts owned by others. For example, King County alone owns several thousand more culverts than are contained in the entire state highway system. The federal government owns even more than that in Washington state. These culverts will continue to block salmon from reaching the state’s culverts, regardless of the condition of the state’s culverts, unless those owners begin the work the state started in 1990 to replace barriers to fish,” Ferguson said.

King County Executive Dow Constantine also released a statement that reads in part:

“We must do whatever it takes to ensure the survival of our Chinook, kokanee, steelhead, and Coho for future generations. Under my direction, King County departments have already been developing a culvert strategy that inventories where county roads, trails, and other infrastructure block access to habitat, and we will work with tribal and state scientists to assess where fix them, beginning with those that bring the most benefit to salmon.”

Hilary Franz of the Department of Natural Resources was the first state leader to react to the Supreme Court, tweeting, “Today’s decision affirms that it is our collective responsibility to ensure the survival of Pacific salmon. This decision is fair under the letter of the law, but it is also just.”

By early afternoon Gov. Jay Inslee put out a statement on Facebook, saying that the justices’ action “offers the parties finality in this long-running case.”

“For some time now I’ve hoped that instead of litigation we could focus together on our ongoing work to restore salmon habitat. Ensuring adequate fish passage is crucial to our efforts to honor tribes’ rights to fish, sustain our orcas, and protect one of Washington’s most iconic species,” he said.

Inslee pointed out that Washington was working to fix 425 blockages by 2030.

According to Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Chair Lorraine Loomis this is the eighth time the state has gone to the Supreme Court over treaties, and eighth loss.

“The salmon resource is priceless. Fixing culverts and doing the other work needed to save that resource will require significant investment, but will pay off for generations to come,” she said in a statement. “We are eager to continue our efforts with our co-managers and others to protect and restore the salmon resource for future generations.”

On Piscatorial Pursuits, a sportfishing forum, it was termed both  “another step backward” and a “huge step forward.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who served on the 9th Circuit Court and was involved in the case at an earlier stage, withdrew himself from hearing arguments from the state AGO, federal Department of Justice and Suquamish Tribe attorney this spring and today’s decision.

New WDFW Director To Be Named June 16

One of three finalists will be named WDFW’s new director next weekend.

The trio will undergo one last round of executive-session interviews with the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission this coming Thursday, with members expected to make their final decision after 11 a.m., Saturday, June 16.

The announcement will be made in Olympia during open public session.

There are rumors about who threw their hat in the ring for the position, and who is still standing, and it will be interesting to see who is ultimately chosen. The Chinook Observer reports that commission staff “refused” to reveal the finalists’ identities.

The search for a new director was sparked in midwinter when Jim Unsworth announced that, after three years in the hot seat, he was leaving.

Nineteen people initially applied for the position, a field that was winnowed to seven by a subcommittee of the commission in mid-April, and then three in recent weeks.

The job listing WDFW posted said that whomever the next director might be, they would lead the agency through a “transformative” period as budget pressures increase, requiring “clear vision, true leadership, and firm decisions” on their part.

“The Director will be asked to develop effective new approaches to conserving and recovering fisheries resources, while resolving long-standing and increasing conflicts among competing stakeholders,” read just one part of a 10-point list of challenges in the help wanted ad.

Whomever is chosen will oversee a staff of 1,800, land base of 1,400 square miles and harness a $437 million two-year budget to hold and conserve fisheries and hunting opportunities and provide scientific rationale for what it’s doing.

WDFW has never had a female director.

Joe Stohr, a top deputy in various positions at WDFW since coming to the agency in 2007, has been holding down the fort during the search process.

Oregon Boaters Caught Way Overlimit On Rockfish

An extra rockfish in the cooler suggested things might be a little fishy aboard the boat coming back into the Hammond Marina one recent evening.


Oregon fish and wildlife troopers had initially contacted the four occupants as they returned from bottomfishing at the South Jetty, at the mouth of the Columbia River.

After finding that 21st fish, the officers decided a fuller search of the boat just might be in order.

In a plastic tote, they found the rest of the crew’s booty — 53 more fish, mostly black rocks but also a small lingcod and a cabezon.

Troopers report they cited and released one person criminally for overlimits of black rockfish and lingcod, unlawfully keeping an undersized ling, and closed-season harvest of cabezon.

The other three were also cited and released criminally for overlimits of rockfish.

The 54 extra fish were all donated to a food bank.

The case is reported in the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division’s latest newsletter, for April, and just posted today.

It also includes details on several Winchester Bay crab scofflaws, including one caught with 17 undersize Dungies and another with 10, and a Brookings kayak angler who’d stashed a couple extra lingcod in his gear bag.

There’s also a clam caper with Washington suspects sans licenses but with 41 gapers, a Newport-area angler who claimed to have forgotten his license at home but a record check for which found he hadn’t bothering buying one since 2013, and details on several case resolutions.

Keep up the great work, officers!