All posts by Andy Walgamott

Lake Washington Sockeye, Fishing Subject Of April 24 Meeting

Lake Washington salmon and fisheries will be the subject of a meeting next week in Renton.

State biologists will be presenting on sockeye, coho, Chinook and steelhead at the Maplewood Greens Golf Course the evening of April 24.

LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE ANGLERS DURING THE 2006 FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

According to an agenda for the meeting of King County’s Cedar River Council, discussions will include escapement data over the past 20 years and lost sport and tribal fishing opportunities.

It also lists findings on the big metro lake’s sockeye runs as well as the outlook for the salmon stock.

Despite the promise of the new Seattle Public Utilities hatchery built on the Cedar River, there hasn’t been a sport sockeye season on Lake Washington since 2006, and this year’s forecast of just under 40,000 is well below the threshold for a fishery.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. The golf course is located at 4050 Maple Valley Highway, Renton, WA 98058.

Cry ‘Hiccup!’ And Let Slip The Dogs Of Spoor

Dr. Samuel Wasser and his dung-detection dogs are set to begin searching for wolves in Washington’s South Cascades, where the number of public wolf reports is growing but no packs let alone breeding pairs are known to exist.

The University of Washington researcher heads up Conservation Canines, which received $172,000 from state lawmakers earlier this year to survey a 2,000-square-mile patch of countryside between I-90 and the Columbia River.

Conservation Canines field technician Jennifer Hartman and dog Scooby collect a sample during carnivore research in Northeast Washington’s Colville National Forest. (JAYMI HEIMBUCH)

Since 1997, Wasser and his rescue dogs have been deployed around the world to help monitor other species, collecting poop the pups find for labs to analyze.

Sending handlers and their canine companions into the woods and meadows around Mts. Rainier, Adams and St. Helens should produce results faster than leaving it to wildlife biologists chasing down intriguing leads or hoping to cut tracks in winter’s snows.

“Our goal is to maximize coverage of the study area, sampling all areas around the same time, within and between seasons to maximize comparison,” explains Wasser.

“Currently, the plan is for a fall and spring sampling, the latter being important to sample for pregnant females. We are still gathering data to identify the best sampling areas. Cost permitting, we hope to have four teams.”

While WDFW’S latest wolf map shows no known packs south of I-90 in the Southern Cascades and Northwest Coast recovery zone, there have been numerous public reports in recent years from the mountains here, as an agency map illustrates. (WDFW)

Wasser has 17 dogs, including Hiccup, who’s also trained to find moose doots.

Which ones are deployed to the recesses of the Gifford Pinchot and south ends of the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests hasn’t been determined yet, but he’s confident in his pack’s abilities.

“If there are wolves south of I-90, the odds of the dogs locating them should be quite high,” Wasser says. “Colonizing wolves range widely, our dogs can cover huge areas, and their ability to detect samples if present is extraordinary.”

Under the state’s wolf delisting scenarios, there must be at least four breeding pairs here to meet the management plan’s current recovery goals.

If wolves are found, that might decrease the need to translocate packs here from elsewhere in Washington, notably the northeast corner where most territories are full and conflicts with livestock occur annually.

State wildlife managers haven’t been inclined to move wolves around, despite that tool in the plan, but earlier this year Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) successfully kick-started efforts to at least consider it.

Legislators also asked Wasser to gather data on the effect any wolves in the region might be having on predator-prey dynamics, and if they’re not, establish base-line data for when they arrive.

ODFW Removes Two More Wolves From Depredating Pack

Oregon wolf managers lethally removed two more members of a pack that’s now killed four calves and injured six others in five incidents in the state’s northeastern corner.

(ODFW)

The news comes as local producers continue calling for all members of the new Pine Creek Pack to be taken out. The depredations have impacted two different ranchers.

ODFW had previously authorized killing two wolves for early-April depredations, and one was killed almost immediately by agency personnel.

But following subsequent depredations that occurred around 5 miles away and were confirmed on Sunday and Monday, last night ODFW authorized killing two more.

Those two animals are described as an uncollared yearling female and an adult male that is also uncollared. They were shot on private land from a helicopter.

One more wolf can be killed at the site of the April 6-7 depredations, either by the state agency or a rancher who was issued a permit that’s good till early May.

“Producers in the new area have been implementing non-lethal activities including burying bone piles and removing carcasses,” ODFW reported. “Ranch staff have hazed the wolves away multiple times. Ranch staff have also been patrolling cattle from before daylight until darkness daily and keeping track of the wolves’ location with ODFW assistance.  Finally, ranch staff have delayed turning out cattle on large open range pastures and have moved cattle from pastures where  the most recent depredations occurred.”

The Pine Creek wolves currently number five, the breeding pair and three yearlings.

Portions Of Snake River Opening For Spring Chinook

THE FOLLOWING IS A WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICE

Action: Spring chinook salmon fishing opens two days per week on sections of the Snake River.

Species affected: Spring chinook

LITTLE GOOSE DAM IN THE BACKGROUND, JEFF MAIN OF SPOKANE HOLDS A 25-POUND SPRING CHINOOK CAUGHT OUT OF THE SNAKE RIVER A FEW SEASONS BACK. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Locations and dates:

A) Below Ice Harbor Dam: Snake River from the South Bound Highway 12 Bridge near Pasco upstream about 7 miles to the fishing restriction boundary below Ice Harbor Dam. Opens Friday, April 20, and will be open only Fridays and Saturdays until further notice.

B) Below Little Goose Dam: Snake River from Texas Rapids boat launch (south side of the river upstream of the mouth of Tucannon River) to the fishing restriction boundary below Little Goose Dam.  This zone includes the rock and concrete area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility (includes the walkway area locally known as “the Wall” in front of the juvenile collection facility). Opens Sunday, April 22, and will be open only Sundays and Mondays until further notice. 

C) Clarkston: Snake River from the downstream edge of the large power lines crossing the Snake River (just upstream from West Evans Road on the south shore) upstream about 3.5 miles to the Washington state line (from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch in Clarkston northwest across the Snake River to the Washington-Idaho boundary waters marker on the Whitman County shore). Opens Sunday, April 22, and will be open only Sundays and Mondays until further notice.  

Daily Limits: Six hatchery chinook (marked by a clipped adipose fin), of which no more than one may be an adult.  Anglers must cease fishing for salmon when the hatchery adult limit has been retained for the day.

Reason for action: A relatively good forecast of spring chinook combined with limited weekly openings in each zone should allow for a prolonged season, which was requested by anglers. The restrictions on the fishery should also help ensure sharing of fishing opportunities with upriver fishery zones and compliance with Endangered Species Act (ESA) restrictions and harvest allocations available for the Snake River.

Other Information:  Anglers may retain chinook that are 12 inches or larger. Adult chinook are 24 inches or larger. Anglers can retain only hatchery chinook, marked with a clipped adipose fin (chinook must have a healed scar at the location of the missing fin).  Any chinook salmon with an intact adipose fin, as well as all bull trout and steelhead must be immediately released unharmed.

In addition:  Anglers fishing for chinook salmon must use barbless hooks. A night closure is in effect or salmon fishing. Anglers cannot remove any chinook salmon or steelhead from the water unless it is to be retained as part of the daily bag limit.

Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2017-2018 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations. 

2017 Saw New Lows For Washington Deer Harvest, WDFW Stats Show

Washington deer hunters had one of their worst seasons last fall, harvesting the fewest animals in more than 20 years.

Part of that was probably due to nearly a new low number of sportsmen who hit the field in pursuit of blacktails, muleys and whitetails, and it could also be a lingering hangover from 2015’s relatively high harvest as well as recent drought and harsher winters.

SNOW FALLS HEAVILY ON THE WALGAMOTT-BELL DEER CAMP IN NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON LAST OCTOBER. THE WEATHER SENT THE HUNTERS HOME WITH TWO AND A HALF DAYS OF SEASON STILL IN HAND — A RECKLESS WASTE OF PRIME TIME THAT LED TO VERY DESERVING SERVINGS OF TAG SOUP THE WHOLE WAY AROUND. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

WDFW’s recently released 2017 Game Harvest Report shows that Evergreen State hunters killed just 24,360 deer during the general season, 26,537 when special permits are included.

Both are the lowest harvests since 1997, as far back as state agency’s online records go.

Next closest low marks are 2011’s general season harvest of 26,638 deer and 29,154 when special permits are included.

High marks are 2004’s 39,359 and 44,544, respectively.

Riflemen, who make up the bulk of the state’s hunters, killed 17,113 bucks during September, October and November 2017’s various general seasons.

That’s also a new cellar dweller, and is nearly 2,000 antlered animals fewer than the next closest fall, 2011, when 19,007 tags were notched.

It’s also nearly 13,000 less than the high mark, 30,058 in 2004.

As for overall hunter numbers, those nearly set a new low; 2017’s 106,977 was only a couple hundred more pumpkins than 2006’s 106,751.

It’s actually more remarkable that 2006’s turnout was so low —  I wonder if it might actually have been due to bad data entry — as the number of hunters has been declining for decades in Washington and across most of the country as Baby Boomers age out of the sport.

Looking at five-year averages, WDFW’s stats show a loss of over 30,000 deer chasers since the late 1990s — and nearly 50,000 since 152,840 headed for the woods in 1999.

FIVE-YEAR AVERAGES
1998-2002: 145,000
2003-2007: 132,000
2008-2012: 126,000
2013-2017: 114,000

Other factors in play include more and more private timber companies charging entry fees to access their sprawling acreages, as well as increasing numbers of wolves.

So far the latter hasn’t been shown to be impacting deer populations, according to a WDFW assessment, but perhaps the perception of packs as well as reality that the predators are moving deer around to different areas are affecting hunters.

As for why 2017 was so poor, WDFW game manager Jerry Nelson said it was possible that 2015’s high general season and special permit harvest of 37,963 deer played a role. That was the most since 2005.

A recent presentation he made to the Fish and Wildlife Commission shows a decline of 3,000 deer killed in Northeast Washington’s whitetail-rich District 1 between 2015, the year the four-point minimum came off two key units, and 2017.

“Some speculate about the drought of 2015 being followed by the above average winters of 2015-16 and 2016-17 as being a factor in some locations,” Nelson added.

The latter winter was particularly strong across the southern tier of Eastern Washington.

Bluetongue also hit far Eastern Washington whitetails in 2015, adenovirus muleys in South-central Washington last year.

Nelson said that fewer special permits were issued last year, though not enough to affect the overall harvest.

Still, he didn’t have any good ideas why so relatively few general season hunters went out.

Poking around the numbers myself, I see that sharp drops in hunter numbers can occur two years after really good seasons.

For instance, following 2004’s huge kill, 2006 saw nearly 40,000 fewer hunters head out, if that year’s statistic is to be trusted.

Following 2015’s, 10,000 fewer went out in 2017.

If there are any positives to be had in the data, it’s that general season rifle success percentages have actually been relatively strong in recent years.

The three best deer seasons since 1997 were 2015 (30.6 percent), 2016 (28.8) and 2014 (28.2).

And five of the top six have occurred since 2012, with only 2004’s standout 27.7 in the mix.

On the flip side, 2017’s 22.5 percent was fifth lowest since 1997, with 1998’s 18.7 percent the worst of all, followed by 1999’s and 1997’s 21.2 and 21.6 percents, respectively.

Those three bad years in the late 1990s followed hard on the heels of a very bad winter and new three-point minimums for mule deer.

But now with 2018’s seasons less than five months away, what do Washington deer hunters have to look forward to?

“On the plus side, we have had a mild winter this year, so deer over-winter survival should be good,” Nelson noted.

A WDFW press release out after the Fish and Wildlife Commission approved hunting seasons for this and the next two years notes that “Hunters will be allowed to take antlerless white-tailed deer in game management units 101-121 in northeast Washington. Special permits will be available to seniors and hunters using modern firearms, while other hunters can take antlerless deer during general hunting seasons.”

Commissioners also retained the 11-day general season mule deer hunt in Eastern Washington.

ELK HARVEST, HUNTER NUMBERS ALSO LOW

WDFW stats also show that 2017 elk season was the second worst in terms of harvest since 1997, and it also saw a new low for hunter numbers afield.

As with deer, the two stats point to a correlation — fewer hunters afield are naturally going to kill fewer animals, but permit levels and weather conditions also play a role. The low snow year of 2014-15 may have subsequently impacted elk productivity, and last year saw over antlerless permit levels for the Yakima and Coluckum hunters reduced by more than 2,500. Prime portions of the Yakima Herd range were also under area closures in September due to forest fires.

During last year’s general seasons, 54,638 wapiti chasers killed 3,011 bulls and 1,224 antlerless elk, for a total of 4,235. Add in special permits, and the 2017 harvest was 5,465 animals.

Except for the number of hunters, all those figures are second only to 1997, when 59,015 hunters bagged 2,586 bulls and 1,127 antlerless elk during the regular season for a total of 3,713 animals. Including special permits, that year’s take was 4,919.

High marks over those years include 2000’s 86,205 hunters, 4,519 and 2,260 general season bulls and antlerless elk, and 2012’s regular and permit harvest of 9,162.

With Land, Wildlife Boards’ Votes, Stemilt Basin Deal Completed

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

The sale of 1,275 acres in Chelan County’s Stemilt Basin by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) completes a project that began in 2007 and has involved multiple community partners to protect habitat and outdoor recreation.

(DNR)

The Board of Natural Resources approved the transfer of two parcels eight miles south of Wenatchee today, following the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s approval April 13.

In 2013, both boards approved the sale and transfer of 1,268 acres in two adjacent parcels, bringing the final total of new WDFW property to 2,543 acres.

The land transaction was recommended by the Stemilt Partnership, a community based coalition of agriculture, wildlife, recreation, development, and conservation interests.

The Partnership was established by Chelan County in response to community concerns in 2007 when the four DNR sections were originally proposed for sale. By selling these lands, DNR managers could buy land elsewhere in the state better suited to producing revenue for the Common School Trust.

“Two state agencies, a county and an engaged community of diverse interests worked as partners to make this a landmark day for public outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat in Chelan County,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who chairs the Board of Natural Resources in addition to leading DNR.

WDFW secured federal Endangered Species Act funding to buy the remaining two sections of DNR trust land, appraised at $1,778,000, to protect Stemilt Basin habitat for elk, deer, wolves, and other wildlife species. The parcels, which are adjacent to Chelan County property, are managed as a unit of WDFW’s Colockum Wildlife Area. Land acquisition is one of many ways that WDFW carries out its statutory mandate to protect and preserve fish and wildlife habitat, while also providing hunting, fishing and other opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors.

“We’re managing this land on a broad watershed-wide basis that protects water supplies for fish and irrigated agriculture, along with critical wildlife habitat,” said Jim Brown, WDFW Northcentral Regional Director. “We’re balancing our management of traditional activities such as hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing, with multiple-use recreational access that the Partnership values.”

Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee, who worked with the Partnership for years as a Washington State Senator, called the transfer the fulfillment of ten years of commitment.

“I am thrilled that this transfer has finally happened,” said Parlette, who is currently an executive director with the Chelan-Douglas Health District. “I give a lot of credit to lead staff at Fish and Wildlife, DNR, and Chelan County, in addition to those individuals who tirelessly attended all of the meetings.”

(Editor’s note: During a hearing in Olympia, then-Sen. Parlette defended the importance of wildlife habitat in the Stemilt Basin when questions arose from another Republican former senator, Brian Dansel.)

Chelan County Commissioner Kevin Overbay said the deal exemplifies what can be achieved through collaboration.

“I am pleased to see the community’s vision for this area coming to fruition,” Overbay said. “I commend all of the citizens and organizations who have worked tirelessly over the past decade to make this a reality.”

SW WA, Lower Columbia Fishing Report (4-17-18)

THE FOLLOWING FISHING REPORTS ORIGINATED WITH WDFW AND WERE TRANSMITTED BY JOE HYMER, PSMFC

Washington lower Columbia mainstem sport sampling summary – Sat. April 14

From Bonneville Dam downstream to the top of Puget Is., nearly 1,200 salmonid boats and over 600 bank anglers were counted during last Saturday’s flight.

WASHINGTON SIDE CATCH STATS FOR BOAT ANGLERS ON THE APRIL 14 COLUMBIA RIVER SPRING CHINOOK REOPENER. (WDFW)

MASON WEINHEIMER STRUGGLES TO LIFT A 20-POUND HATCHERY SPRING CHINOOK CAUGHT ON THE APRIL 14 REOPENER. HE WAS FISHING IN THE VANCOUVER AREA WITH HIS DAD, JOSH, WHO REPORTED PRETTY FAST ACTION “THAT WAS A GREAT DAY, STARTED AT 12:30 AND BACK ON THE TRAILER AT 3:30,” HE EMAILED. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Washington Columbia River tributaries and lakes sampling summaries – April 9-15

Salmon/Steelhead

Cowlitz River – From the I-5 Br downstream: 120 bank rods kept 2 adult spring Chinook and 2 steelhead. 17 boat rods kept 1 adult spring Chinook. Above the I-5 Br: 146 bank rods kept 14 adult spring Chinook and 20 steelhead and released 2 steelhead. 199 boat rods kept 3 adult spring Chinook and 49 steelhead and released 4 steelhead.

Most of the spring Chinook were checked at the barrier dam; steelhead at the trout hatchery.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 775 winter-run steelhead, 39 spring Chinook adults and two jacks during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power employees released 40 winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and they released 14 winter-run steelhead and one spring Chinook adult into the Cispus River, near Yellow Jacket Creek.

Tacoma Power also released 33 winter-run steelhead and one spring Chinook adult into Lake Scanewa near Randle.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 6,340 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Monday, April 16. Water visibility is 6 feet and the water temperature is 44.6 degrees F.
Kalama River – 33 bank anglers released 1 steelhead. 7 boat anglers had no catch.

Mainstem Lewis River – 15 bank rods released 1 adult spring Chinook. 1 boat angler had no catch.

North Fork Lewis River – 20 bank rods had no catch. 17 boat rods kept 3 adult spring Chinook and released 2 steelhead.

Wind River – 3 boat anglers had no catch.

Drano Lake – 4 boat anglers had no catch.

Klickitat River – 4 bank anglers had no catch.

Trout

Recent plants of catchable size rainbows and cutthroats. No report on angling success.

Lake/Pond
Date
Species
Number
Fish per Pound
Hatchery
Notes

LACAMAS LK (CLAR)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=LACAMAS+LK+%28CLAR%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Clark County – Region 5
Apr 09, 2018
Rainbow
6,000
2
VANCOUVER HATCHERY

BATTLE GROUND LK (CLAR)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=BATTLE+GROUND+LK+%28CLAR%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Clark County – Region 5
Apr 10, 2018
Rainbow
2,000
2.5
GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

BATTLE GROUND LK (CLAR)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=BATTLE+GROUND+LK+%28CLAR%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Clark County – Region 5
Apr 11, 2018
Cutthroat
4,179
2.5
SKAMANIA HATCHERY

HORSESHOE LK (COWL)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=HORSESHOE+LK+%28COWL%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Cowlitz County – Region 5
Apr 11, 2018
Rainbow
3,367
2.6
MOSSYROCK HATCHERY

KRESS LK (COWL)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=KRESS+LK+%28COWL%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Cowlitz County – Region 5
Apr 11, 2018
Rainbow
3,120
2.6
MOSSYROCK HATCHERY

Tacoma Power released 1,600 rainbow trout into South Lewis County Park Pond.

For Skagit-Sauk Steelheaders, It’s ‘Great To Be Back On The System’

Despite a good spring rain that doubled flows on one river, North Cascades anglers were still happy to be out chasing wild winter steelhead on another for the first time in nine Aprils.

Last weekend saw portions of the Skagit and Sauk reopen for the first of three windows this month, thanks to federal approval of a joint state-tribal fisheries plan this past Thursday.

A CLIENT OF GUIDE CHRIS SENYOHL OF INTERPID ANGLERS SHOWS OFF A WILD WINTER STEELHEAD CAUGHT DURING LAST WEEKEND’S REOPENING OF THE SKAGIT AND SAUK RIVER. (INTREPIDANGLERS.COM, VIA AL SENYOHL)

“It felt great to be back on the system,” said angler Ryley Fee.

On Saturday, he and two other anglers went four-for-four, catching and releasing steelhead to 14 pounds.

That was better than most. According to state creel data, 47 boat anglers caught 19 steelhead that day and 37 landed 15 on Sunday.

Fishing was tougher for bank anglers, with 79 only catching two over both days, samplers found.

“A few guys (in boats, using gear) caught the vast majority of fish,” said WDFW district fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull. “Those same guys were the hard-core, fish-all-day types.”

He said there were slightly more gear anglers than fly guys on the water.

“Most of the fish were caught from the (mouth of the) Sauk up to Marblemount, because flows were fine there,” he said of the dam-regulated upper Skagit River.

The Sauk jumped from 4,500 cubic feet per second Friday afternoon to 9,500 cfs by the time Saturday morning rolled around.

Barkdull estimated that, overall, 53.4 steelhead were encountered, along with another 103 bull trout. He said that his crews “caught” 63.71 percent of boaters at the launches.

As Puget Sound steelhead are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, intensive monitoring of the fishery is a key part of WDFW being able to hold it.

“Given all the flow issues, I think it turned out about what I would have expected,” Barkdull said.

SAUK-SKAGIT REGULATIONS
* Catch and release only
* Open dates: April 18-22, 25-29
Skagit River: Open from the Dalles Bridge in Concrete to the Cascade River Road Bridge in Marblemount. Fishing from boat under power prohibited.
Sauk River: Open from the mouth to the Sauk Prairie Road Bridge in Darrington. Fishing from a boat equipped with an internal combustion motor is prohibited.
Single-point barbless hooks
Night closures in effect
Use of bait prohibited

There was little if any effort on the Sauk, but one person apparently decided to take their sled up it, for which they received a talking to, as fishing from a power boat on this river is prohibited.

That was about in in terms of problems, however.

“Two no life jacket tickets,” said Barkdull of enforcement issues. “That’s it. Clean.”

The reopening came a little more than five years after Occupy Skagit held its first hookless fish-in at Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport. With the ESA listing, WDFW and the Swinomish, Sauk-Suiattle and Upper Skagit tribes needed to write a management plan that could pass muster with the National Marine Fisheries Service. Besides a state fishery, the approved plan allows for tribal harvest of wild steelhead, though the comanagers say they won’t do so this spring.

Al Senyohl, president of the Steelhead Trout Club of Washington, had previously expressed concern about holding state and tribal seasons this spring because impacts on this year’s relatively low but still fishable forecasted return of 4,700 might affect recovery of the run and the ability to start up a broodstock program.

However, Senyohl subsequently said it did provide an opportunity for North Sound steelheaders who “have been stranded on the bank for years” to get back on the water.

He took advantage of the opener himself, fishing the Skagit at Rockport.

“Great turnout for the opener, big economic boost for the upper Skagit basin!” Senyohl reported.

Steelheaders have two more five-day windows to get on the Sauk and Skagit before the fishery closes after the month’s last Sunday.

With flows looking good, Barkdull indicated he expects good fishing with Wednesday’s restart.

Only 3 South Selkirk Caribou Left, Intensive Survey Finds

There may be only three mountain caribou left in Washington’s, Idaho’s and British Columbia’s herd — a 75-percent decline since last year.

RECENT SURVEYS FOUND NO BULLS IN THE SOUTH SELKIRK HERD. (USFWS)

Mid-March’s intensive three-day winter survey found only cows as well.

“It’s a tough situation for caribou in the South Selkirks,” says Bart George, a wildlife biologist for the Kalispel Tribe in Cusick, north of Spokane.

It marks a new low for a herd challenged by large-scale habitat alterations and new predators, wolves, arriving in the heights.

At one time mountain caribou were as numerous as “bugs,” according to a First Nations man interviewed for Last Stand: The Vanishing Caribou Rainforest, a film that made the rounds in the region last summer.

George says that the three cows, which are fairly young animals of seven years or less, were all captured and given GPS collars.

They were also tested to see if they were pregnant.

Those results just arrived in Vancouver and “hopefully” will be available soon, he says, but if the animals are pregnant, that would mean there may still be a bull or two somewhere out there on the landscape, or at least was last fall.

And if the cows successfully bear calves, the herd could possibly rebuild to six later this spring, George says.

If not, managers may need to supplement with caribou from farther north — though that may also depend on what surveys in the Purcell Mountains turn up.

“We’re not going to just let three animals, especially cows, die in the Selkirks,” George vows.

This winter has been pretty solid in this mountainous country, with snowpack at 150 percent of average — “great for caribou” — but it also buried a maternity pen that was built especially for the cows, rendering it useless for protection from predators.

It’s also too late to safely recapture the cows if they are pregnant, George says.

He plans to intensify his monitoring of the herd with a spotting scope, maybe even drones, in hopes of finding that they had calves.

The collars may also lead them to other caribou that somehow were overlooked during the fixed-wing and helicopter surveys last month.

“We were hoping for 12 again,” George says.

As for why the herd’s numbers dropped so precipitously from a dozen in March 2017, he says it’s possible that other members had been hit by an avalanche or there was a vehicle strike on the main highway through the mountains, though he didn’t hear of one.

“We’re still going to move forward as if there are caribou on the landscape, and go ahead with wolf control actions” on the BC side of the herd’s range, George says.

He notes that there’s a collar on one of Washington’s Salmo Pack, which numbers six and overlaps with the ungulate’s recovery zone.

Though the caribou primarily stay in Canada, the southernmost herd in North America still make occasional forays into Washington and Idaho, according to collar data, George says.

 

Correction: The Kalispel Tribe’s name and headquarters were incorrect in the original version of this post. They are based in Cusick, not Ione, further north on the Pend Oreille River.

Washington’s Last Razor Clam Dig Of The Season Coming Up April 19-22

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

Clam diggers have one last chance to dig razor clams this season during the final opening set to begin April 19.

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

State shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) approved the dig after marine toxin tests showed the clams are safe to eat.

Mocrocks will be open for digging for four days, April 19-22, joined by Long Beach and Twin Harbors during the weekend of April 21-22. Copalis will be open only on Saturday, April 21.

“Since this is likely the last dig of the spring season, we expect a good turnout,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW’s coastal shellfish manager. “The opening also coincides with the Long Beach Razor Clam Festival on Saturday.”

For the first two days of the opening, digging must be completed by noon. That is not the case, however, for the final two days, when low tides occur close to noon those days, Ayres said. WDFW has extended digging times for April 21-22, as listed below.

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

  • April 19, Thursday9:46 a.m.; -0.9 feet; Mocrocks
  • April 20Friday10:37 a.m.; -0.7 feet; Mocrocks
  • April 21Saturday11:34 a.m.; -0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis (digging hours will be extended to 1 p.m.)
  • April 22Sunday12:38 p.m.; -0.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks (digging hours will be extended to 2 p.m.)

Under state law, diggers can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2018-19 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

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

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

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