Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

Study Shows 74 Percent Loss Of Columbia Tidal Wetlands, 85 Percent Up And Down West Coast

THE FOLLOWING IS A NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION STORY

An unprecedented survey has revealed the loss of about 85 percent of historical tidal wetlands in California, Oregon, and Washington. The report, published in PLOS ONE, also highlights forgotten estuary acreage that might now be targeted for restoration.

Where West Coast rivers reach the sea, estuaries serve as critical nurseries for juvenile salmon and steelhead as they make the transition from freshwater to the ocean. They are among the most dynamic and productive habitats known, also supporting migratory birds and a variety of other fish, shellfish, and terrestrial wildlife.

A FEDERAL GRAPHIC SHOWS THE AMOUNT OF TIDAL WETLANDS UP AND DOWN THE WEST COAST, INCLUDING IN SOME OF THE REGION’S MOST IMPORTANT SALMON SYSTEMS. (NOAA)

A team of scientists applied new technologies and data to identify and estimate the historic reach of nearly 450 West Coast estuaries. Their results show that the estuaries historically extended far beyond where they exist now. More than a century of development has erased roughly 85 percent of original vegetated estuarine wetlands, especially around major river deltas.

San Francisco Bay has lost about 85 percent of its original vegetated tidal wetlands, the study found. The Columbia River estuary has lost about 74 percent. While other scientists have estimated losses for these and other well-studied estuaries, this is the first time researchers have applied consistent methods across all 450 estuaries of the contiguous U.S. West Coast.

Mapping Reveals Restoration Opportunities

“Given how valuable estuaries are to so many different species, it’s important to understand how much they have changed and what that means for fish and wildlife that depend on them,” said Correigh Greene, research biologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle and coauthor of the new study.

The lost estuary habitat includes areas that were long ago diked and drained for agriculture, and forested wetlands that had not been widely recognized as estuary acreage, said Laura Brophy, lead author of the study and director of the Estuary Technical Group at the Institute for Applied Ecology in Corvallis, Oregon. Identifying such areas may open new opportunities for restoration of estuary habitat that otherwise might go overlooked.

BEFORE AND AFTER IMAGES FROM THE TILLAMOOK ESTUARY PARTNERSHIP SHOW THE EFFECT OF REMOVING LEVEES AND TIDE GATES NEAR THE MOUTH OF THE TRASK RIVER. (TILLAMOOK ESTUARY PARTNERSIHP VIA NMFS)

“By folding in these areas that may not have been recognized as part of estuaries, we have a better idea of just how important and extensive these estuaries were,” Brophy said. “Now we can see new restoration opportunities that people didn’t realize existed.”

The study’s high-resolution mapping also highlights low-elevation areas at greatest risk of flooding as the sea level rises with climate change. Tidal wetland restoration in these vulnerable areas can re-establish natural processes like sediment delivery. This will help these wetlands remain productive into the future.

Estuaries Once Covered 2 Million Acres

The scientists combined precise elevation mapping known as LIDAR with NOAA water level modeling to establish the extent of tides that define estuary habitat. Based on these maps, they estimated that all West Coast estuaries once covered nearly 2 million acres. This is an area nearly three times the size of the state of Rhode Island.

Scientists have data on the historic and current wetlands in 55 of the larger estuaries. Those estuaries have lost about 85 percent of their original vegetated wetlands. These 55 estuaries represent about 97 percent of historical estuary area on the West Coast, so their losses reflect almost all of the estuary losses.

Since Brophy has studied estuaries for years, she found the losses “dismaying but not surprising.” She said the good news is that fish and wildlife that live in estuaries must be adaptable because of the ever-changing tidal environment. She says “if you give them the chance to move back in, they will literally jump at the opportunity.”

The authors of the study include researchers from NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center, the Institute for Applied Ecology, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, The Nature Conservancy, Moss Landing Marine Labs, and Pacific Spatial Solutions. The project was coordinated by the Pacific Marine and Estuarine Fish Habitat Partnership.

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WDFW Proposing Changes To How Poaching Is Prosecuted

WDFW is proposing a suite of changes to how some fish and wildlife violations are prosecuted by counties across Washington.

If greenlighted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission later this week, state lawmakers next year would be asked to pass a bill that addresses how those are charged, the forfeiture of poached animal parts, and require courts to inform the agency of their rulings.

For law-abiding sportsmen, it can be maddening how how long it can seem to take for poachers to be brought to justice — if they’re even charged at all.

In the former case it is often because despite state game wardens dutifully filing their case reports, county prosecutors and court systems have such heavy workloads and limited funding that it makes it difficult for them deal with fish and wildlife violators when there’s such a clamor from the public to go after other offenders and property crimes.

But dismissing critter cases can lead to diminished perceptions of the value of deer, salmon and other species.

And for really bad apples, it “decriminalizes these activities, allowing repeat offenders to poach without fear of punishment,” according to WDFW.

Briefing the citizen oversight panel earlier this month, outgoing legislative liaison Raquel Crosier told commissioners said the package would accomplish several things.

“The first thing it does is it reduces lower level fish and wildlife crimes to a civil infraction. This is really important because local courts are bogged down. They’ve got a lot of other cases — homicides, DUIs — and our cases often don’t get heard, and when they do it may be two, three years later,” Crosier said.

Changing misdemeanors to infractions would treat those violations “closer to a traffic ticket” that must be paid or contested in civil court, she said.

“We want some type of repercussion for these crimes, but we don’t want someone waiting for a long time with a criminal record in the meantime,” Crosier said.

Another aspect of the proposal is that it would tweak how conviction is defined, Crosier said.

The way some poaching cases are prosecuted can require WDFW to return seized fish and wildlife under certain circumstances.

“We just really want to make sure, regardless of the court outcome, we can still seize animal parts. Sometimes through a plea deal they end up allowing them to keep them. We don’t think poached animal parts should be kept under any circumstances,” said Crosier.

Several years ago, state lawmakers at WDFW’s behest stiffened penalties for those who knowingly trespassed to not allow them to keep any game they killed. Before, those chasing deer, elk or other game on private property only faced a fine of a couple hundred bucks or so, worth the cost for some when the animals taken were of trophy caliber.

The other major change being proposed  would require courts to notify WDFW of how cases turn out.

“The Department cannot effectively manage bad actors and revoke licenses or prevent a criminal from purchasing a new fishing or hunting license if the Department is not aware cases rulings or dispositions. This proposal would add a new statute, requiring the clerk of the court hearing the case to prepare and immediately forward an abstract of the court record to WDFW Enforcement,” a commission briefing statement reads.

The agency has been working on the tweaks for awhile and it appears that a proposal to revoke licenses for two violations in five years — currently it’s three in 10 — is not included in the bill.

Commissioners had numerous questions about that during their Aug. 2 meeting. Staffers say that a “preliminary analysis” on that plus plans to also work on commercial revocations mean it’s been backburnered to 2021.

As it stands, the commission is slated to give the package a thumbs-up or -down at its Aug. 23 conference call.

The next step after that would be for a bill to be written, be introduced by lawmakers and have public hearings held on it.

It would need to pass both chambers and be signed into law by the governor.

It all might be a bit of a challenge, given the short 60-day session, but WDFW staffers have cut back their legislation requests for 2020 from five bills to this and another dealing with part of its budget and transparency.

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Free Fishing Weekend This Sat., Sun. In Oregon

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

It’s free to fish, crab or clam in Oregon on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 17-18.

 During these two days, no fishing licenses or tags (including a Combined Angling Tag or Columbia River Basin Endorsement) are required to fish, crab or clam anywhere in Oregon for both residents and non-residents.

“FAMILY TIME IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT,” SAYS TOM SCHNELL, HERE WITH THE REWARDS OF A RECENT DAD-DAUGHTER RHONNA DAY AT PAULINA LAKE, AND YOU COULD ENJOY TIME ON THE WATER WITH YOUR LOVED ONES DURING OREGON’S AUG. 17-18 FREE FISHING WEEKEND. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Although no licenses or tags are required, all other fishing regulations apply including closures, bag limits and size restrictions. If you are fishing for salmon, steelhead or marine species like rockfish, remember to check the Fishing section of the Recreation Report for the zone you want to fish to find the latest regulations.

Look for the latest on fishing conditions and regulations at ODFW’s Weekly Recreation Report, which is updated every Wednesday. Trout and warmwater fishing are ideal for beginners; see the trout stocking schedule to find out when your local pond was stocked with hatchery rainbow trout.

If you’re in the mountains, combine a hike with a fishing trip and hike in to one of Oregon’s higher elevation mountain lakes. These stay cooler in the summer which keeps trout on the bite. See ODFW’s guide to Fishing Oregon’s hike-in lakes.  

If you are on the coast this weekend, ocean fishing for rockfish, tuna and coho salmon has been good. Surfperch can be targeted from beaches and jetties by those staying on shore (see How-to fish for surfperch). Or try crabbing, which is currently open along the entire Oregon coast (reminder to always double check ODA shellfish restrictions before clamming or crabbing).

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Tasseomancy, Puget Sound Pink Salmon Style

We’re trying not to jinx it so work with us a moment, but ethay umpyhay unray ookslay argerlay anthay WWDFay orecastfay!

The translation from pig Latin: The signs are getting better that this year’s Puget Sound pink salmon run will more than meet the relatively low preseason prediction — and perhaps come in well above it.

PUGET SOUND PINK SALMON ANGLERS’ SMILES MAY GET BIGGER AND BIGGER AS SIGNS POINT TO A MORE ROBUST RUN THAN FIRST EXPECTED. (BRIAN LULL)

Among the harbingers, portents and auguries we’re seeing at the bottom of our wine glass this afternoon are good catches in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Sound, strong early returns to Hood Canal, and relatively high numbers at a trap on the Skykomish.

It’s still early and there’s waaaaaaaay too much uncertainty out there to know how far off the official forecast of 608,388 ultimately may turn out to be.

But on the back of a salmon stock analyst’s sriracha-stained napkin we recently discovered in the trash at a rest area between Olympia and Fraser Panel meetings is a guesstimate that the run could actually come in between 1 and 2 million strong.

And nearby we also found a pair of seagull-pecked graphs for two fisheries in the Straits.

One shows commercial test catches in British Columbia’s Area 20 — the north side of the waterway — that say this year’s Puget Sound stocks are turning up at rates three times higher than they did during 2017’s piddling return of roughly half a million.

The other is of sport catches in Washington’s Marine Area 5, Sekiu and Pillar Point, which have been matching and besting the longterm historical average.

A CHART TRACKING PINK SALMON CATCH PER UNIT EFFORT IN WASHINGTON’S MARINE AREA 5 SHOWS IT SPIKING IN RECENT DAYS AND LONGTERM AVERAGES.

Both graphs show that peak fishing is still to come in a week to two weeks.

Meanwhile, WDFW catch stats show that yesterday 72 pinks were tallied at the Olson’s East Docks, 28 at Van Riper’s Resort.

But humpies are also turning up throughout Puget Sound proper –38 at Everett, 31 at Shilshole, 22 at Armeni and 15 at Point Defiance on Wednesday.

If salmon anglers weren’t focusing on Chinook in those areas, the catches might be higher still.

The caveat is that a strong bite doesn’t absolutely, unequivocally mean a strong return — the fish could just be hungry, like in 2015, when they came in starving and snapping at everything in a desperate attempt to get bigger before spawning.

But some 8,731 pinks have also already returned to the Hoodsport Hatchery, 5,630 more than the next best mark for this same point over the past four runs, 2015’s 3,101.

And at Sunset Falls on the South Fork Sky, 42 have arrived at the fishway, five more than 2017 and twice as many as 2015.

(WDFW creel and hatchery escapement reports go back further than 2013 but are not readily available by week — or at least I haven’t discovered the secret stash with the agency’s rejiggered and occasionally mildly infuriating new website.)

So what does this all mean?

As humpy returns rebuild from the pummeling they took from The Blob and four big fall 2015 floods, it won’t be a return to the bonkers harvest years of 2009, 2011 and 2013 — praise be their names and hallowed be their memories.

But as king salmon action begins to tail off and before ocean coho arrive, pinks should provide a decent bridge fishery in the saltwater and then the rivers over the coming weeks and month or so.

In fact, this oracle of the genus Oncorhynchus just may swap out the Point Wilsons and Pucci Jigs in his go bag for the trays of pink diamond-shaped darts in his shed.

A wide variety of gear will get pinks to bite, but the “humpy special” — a pink squid behind a dodger — for trolling behind a downrigger or banana weight, and a Buzz Bomb and squid for casting off the beach or into schools from a boat are among the best on the Sound. Barbless hooks are required.

Watch for jumpers or your sonar and work the schools as they move around in the shipping channels and along shorelines.

With no bonus limit on marine waters due to the low initial forecast, up to two can be retained if you haven’t kept a Chinook or coho.

Note that there are fishery restrictions in place in Marine Area 7 (closed), Area 8-2 and 11, so be sure to check the pamphlet.

As they move into rivers, pink jigs and Dick Nites are best bets.

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WDFW Commission OKs Asking Lawmakers For $24.5 Million From General Fund

Updated 8:45 a.m., Aug. 5, 2019 near bottom with quote from Nate Pamplin on money that would go towards WDFW wolf work.

WDFW will forgo another attempt at passing a hunting and fishing license increase next year and instead ask state lawmakers for $24.5 million from the General Fund to fill gaping holes in the agency’s budget.

WASHINGTON FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSIONERS DURING TODAY’S VOTE ON THE 2020 SUPPLEMENTAL WDFW BUDGET PROPOSAL. (TVW)

Fee hike asks haven’t worked well for the agency this decade and with spending proposals due soon for Washington’s short 2020 legislative session, Fish and Wildlife Commissioners unanimously approved the strategy to use sales tax dollars to help maintain fisheries and hunts, as well as hatchery production, fund a mix of emerging needs, and cover a large cost of living increase.

“It’s a pretty large request for a supplementary budget,” Morgan Stinson, WDFW’s budget guru, acknowledged to the citizen panel this afternoon at its meeting in the state capital.

But it’s also a pretty big hole the agency is trying to dig out of.

This past spring, lawmakers didn’t pass WDFW’s 15 percent fishing and hunting hike or extend the Columbia Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement, which were both part of an overall $67 million request that included a $31 million enhancement package, fallout from a March commission decision on fishery management on the big river.

While the House, Senate and Governor did provide $24 million in General Fund dollars, what initially was a $7 million shortfall grew to $20 million as they heaped more on WDFW’s to-do list, including an unfunded cost of living increase for state employees.

That’s led staffers to scramble to figure out how to balance the agency’s budget.

Columbia River fisheries were reduced during a period of lower returns, an after-hours customer service call center contract was eliminated and 4 percent of open biologist and other agency jobs are going unfilled for the time being.

Technically, this year’s fee bill is still alive in the legislature next year, and while there is still some interest among members, there’s been little appetite among commissioners to try it again after the failure of it and one a couple years ago.

The General Fund money that WDFW did receive was front-loaded into year one of the two-year budget biennium with the expectation that the issue would be revisited next year in the state capital, but the strategy of hoping lawmakers go for this new sales tax request does entail some risk.

“We’re putting a lot on the line in year two,” Nate Pamplin, WDFW’s policy director, told commissioners.

That’s because some of the items such as the Skagit-Sauk catch-and-release and some Puget Sound fisheries need to be monitored while the 2020 legislature is in session and the funding hasn’t yet been approved.

If it doesn’t come through in the end, that money will have to come from somewhere else in the agency’s piggy bank.

But outgoing legislative liaison Raquel Crosier did tell commissioners that lawmakers see WDFW’s budget “as a priority,” that revenues to state coffers look good, and it’s not an election year, all raising the odds.

“It’s a lot but we’re optimistic how we’ve constructed it,” added Stinson.

If approved, WDFW documents show the requested $24.5 million would go into three categories.

The first includes $11.4 million to cover increased costs, four-fifths of which was passed on by the legislature.

Another big jag would go towards maintaining/preventing loss of services:

* Conservation, $742K
* Fishing and Hatchery Production, $2,058K
* Hunting, $672K
* Wildlife Conflict Response, $956K
* Shellfish and Public Health, $553K
* Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead activities, $659K
* Land Management, $578K
* Customer Service, $410K

And lastly are recently emerged needs, either as fallout from the fee failure or popping up on their own:

* Humpback whales/Crab fishing incidental take permit: $172K
• Fund the Department’s work to reduce whale entanglement in industrial crab pots

* Puget Sound salmon fisheries monitoring: $2.4M (includes North of Falcon commitments, and Skagit Catch and Release fishery)
• Ensures state meets monitoring requirements in order to open fishing in areas where stocks are healthy
• New and existing needs in Puget Sound, the Nisqually River, and the Skagit River

* Fish Washington mobile app: $311K
• Maintain and improve the app
• Utilized by 100,000 Washington residents to learn Washington fishing rules

* Assisting property owners in protecting fish (HPA capacity): $1.7M
• Meeting legislated requirements for HPAs around civil compliance

* Columbia River sea lion management: $830K
• Reduction in the number of sea lions preying on Columbia River salmon
• Funding a second year of work to implement the Governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force recommendations

* Columbia River salmon policy commitments: $1.0M
• Funding for alternative gear pilot projects and commercial buyback analysis
• Improves fishing opportunities, while meeting salmon recovery objectives

Following a question posted Friday evening in the Facebook link to this story, Pamplin confirmed that some of the request is wolf-related.

“That request is to sustain current level of wildlife conflict work, and is tied to the fixing our structural deficit. We are asking to have that component made whole in the second fiscal year of the biennium, as well as have it be appropriated as on-going so that we are not submitting a perennial request to maintain current services,” he said via email.

Commissioner Don McIsaac of Hockinson made the motion to proceed with the General Fund-based supplemental budget request and it was seconded by new Commissioner Jim Anderson of Buckley.

The next step is now for WDFW to submit it to the state Office of Financial Management.

It would then need to be part of the governor’s or legislators’ proposed budget(s) and be approved by lawmakers and then signed into law.

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Heart Of Derby Season Arrives In The Northwest

Move over summer, it’s derby season in the Northwest!

With two big events last weekend and a bunch more in the coming days and weeks, now through late September represents a great time to get on the water to try and catch a cash-winning trophy, win fishing gear, not to mention maybe score a boat package worth a whopping $75,000.

MEMBERS OF THE MEANWHILE CHARTERS TEAM HOLD AN OVERSIZED $6,000 CHECK AFTER WINNING THE OREGON TUNA CLASSIC’S DEEP CANYON CHALLENGE LAST WEEKEND. (MELISSA GRACE)

Indeed, after a four-month break, the Northwest Salmon Derby Series has roared back into town with recent stops in Bellingham and Coeur d’Alene and it hits Brewster and Tacoma this coming weekend.

Holding the annual Brewster Salmon Derby was a close call again, with Washington managers only last week greenlighting Chinook fishing to begin Aug. 1 on part of the Brewster Pool, thanks to enough fish expected back to support an opener.

Organizers say that registration is open through midnight, Wednesday, July 31. The competition runs Aug. 2-4.

To learn more, go to brewstersalmonderby.com or call (509) 945-5823.

This Saturday, Aug. 2, is also the South King County Chapter Puget Sound Anglers Derby.  Now in its 18th year, it offers a $3,500 top prize and it usually takes a Chinook approaching or just over the 20-pound mark to win it.

While Marine Areas 10, 11 and 13 are all fair game, it can be hard to beat the waters just off derby headquarters, Point Defiance Marina. Last year saw spoons dominate over hoochies.

For more, see pugetsoundanglers.net.

WHETHER YOU’RE FISHING A DERBY ON PUGET SOUND, AT BUOY 10 OR ALONG OREGON’S SOUTH COAST IN LATE SUMMER, YOU’LL LIKELY NEED A CHINOOK AS BIG AS PAUL WHITSON’S 2018 SOUTH KING COUNTY PUGET SOUND ANGLERS DERBY WINNER TO PLACE IN THE MONEY. HIS 19.45-POUND CHINOOK WAS WORTH $3,500. (PUGET SOUND ANGLERS)

The marina is also home to the 24th Annual Gig Harbor Chapter Puget Sound Anglers Derby the following Saturday, Aug. 10, which features a $2,500 grand prize and raffle for a Lowrance fishfinder.

Open waters are Areas 11 and 13. Last year’s winner was a 15.63-pound king.

For more, see gigharborpsa.org.

The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association’s 20th Annual Buoy 10 Salmon Challenge, with a top prize of $1,000 for largest fish, is Friday, Aug. 16, and includes a day’s worth of angling for Chinook and coho as the meat of this year’s million-plus salmon run comes across the bar.

There’s a captain’s meeting the evening before, and after the fishing comes a barbecue, silent auction, raffle and more at derby headquarters, the Clatsop County Fairgrounds, a short 5 miles from the East Mooring Basin ramp.

“No one leaves empty-handed from an NSIA derby,” organizers boast. “Stick around for the fantastic door prize giveaway at the end of the evening!”

For more, see nsiafishing.org.

The next day, Aug. 17, is the 2nd Annual Lipstick Salmon Slayers Tournament, the motto for which is “Leave the boys behind, this one’s for the ladies.”

Last year’s inaugural edition was won by Kelsey Van Dyke, who scored $4,000, which is the top prize again this year.

For more, see lipsticksalmonslayer.com.

This past weekend saw the 2019 Oregon Tuna Classic kick off in Ilwaco with the Deep Canyon Challenge, won by Team Meanwhile Charters, and the series now in its 15th year, culminates in Aug. 23-24 down the coast a ways in Garibaldi.

It raises money for and donates caught tuna to food banks, with both avenues having helped deliver more than 1 million pounds to the needy since 2005.

“The tournaments also bring much needed economic benefit to the communities visited by the armada of fishermen, volunteers and spectators,” OTC organizers add on their website. “Local businesses in Ilwaco and Garibaldi continue to see the benefits while also donating their time and services to the events. Garibaldi City Manager John O’Leary speculates the Oregon Tuna Classic might rival the annual Garibaldi Days in generating business.”

For more, see oregontunaclassic.org.

As active as August is, September’s no slouch either, as two Oregon Labor Day weekend shindigs wrap up and a pair of big silver derbies take place.

After a two-year hiatus, the Slam’n Salmon Derby returns to Brookings for the long holiday weekend at the end of summer. It features a grand prize of up to $5,000 for the largest king caught on the ocean during the three-day event.

Check out wcadventure.com for details.

Also held that weekend on Oregon’s South Coast, the 26th Annual Fall Salmon Derby out of Winchester Bay on the lower Umpqua River. It’s sponsored by the Gardiner-Reedsport-Winchester Bay Salmon Trout Enhancement Program.

Contact Rick Rockholt at (541) 613-0589 or umpqua.rock@charter.net.

And hard on their heels comes the Puget Sound Anglers Sno-King Chapter Edmonds Coho Derby, while its cousin just to the north, the Everett Coho Derby and its Northwest Salmon Derby Series boat giveaway, falls on the third weekend in September.

This year’s grand raffle prize is a Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop with Yamaha 200- and 9.9-horse motors, EZ-loader galvanized trailer and more, a package worth $75,000. Entering any derby series event automatically puts your name in the running for the boat.

For more info on both events, see edmondscohoderby.com and everettcohoderby.com.

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Survey Measures Washingtonian’s Trust In WDFW, Wildlife Values

More Washingtonians trust fish and wildlife managers to make good decisions than they do of either the federal or state government.

Sixty-one percent say they are confident in WDFW practically all or most of the time — including 59.8 percent of hunters and anglers — while only 43 percent of state residents trust Olympia and just 20 percent have faith in Washington D.C.

WASHINGTON SCENES

In an era of widespread declining trust in government, it represents a rise of nearly 4 percent for WDFW since a 2004 measurement.

While it may not seem like it squares with all the comments the agency gets deluged with on its Facebook page whenever posting something even mildly controversial, the numbers come from the 132-page Washington chapter of the 2019 America’s Wildlife Values survey of all 50 states.

A joint Colorado State University, Ohio State University and Responsive Management project, it reflects the thoughts of 2,755 residents everywhere from Ilwaco to Ione, Carlsborg to Rogersburg.

They responded mostly by filling out and mailing in questionnaires, though some participated via the web. No margin of error is stated in the state or national reports.

Results will be presented to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission at its Aug. 2-3 meeting.

“The purpose of the America’s Wildlife Values Project was to assess the social context of wildlife management in the U.S. in an attempt to understand this conflict,” reads a WDFW summary. “It is the first-ever study that describes how U.S. residents across all 50 states (including Washington), and within each state separately, think about wildlife. The project provides insight into the mix of values that publics have toward wildlife, how this mix of values contributes to conflict over policy issues, and how changing societal conditions are affecting wildlife management across the country. The study also assesses the culture of state fish and wildlife agencies and, when combined with the public assessment, allows us to explore the dynamics between agency culture and public values.”

It makes for interesting reading, as there are also questions about future funding of wildlife management, importance of habitat work, acquisition of recreational lands, lethal removals of predators and other issues, breaking things down at the county level and whether those polled identified as traditionalist, pluralist, mutualist or distanced from wildlife.

A PAGE IN THE 2019 AMERICA’S WILDLIFE VALUES REPORT SHOWS HOW STATES RANK IN TRUSTING THEIR FISH AND WILDLIFE AGENCY. (AMERICA’S WILDLIFE VALUES)

Washingtonian’s trust in WDFW ranked at about the midpoint among all the states, with Northern Plains and New England residents the most confident in their state fish and wildlife agencies, (Vermont: 77.1 percent; North Dakota, 76.1 percent; Wyoming, 75.6 percent; New Hampshire, 75.4 percent; South Dakota, 73.1 percent), according to the authors’ national results.

Central Midwest and Mid-Atlantic state residents had the lowest faith (New Jersey, 50.7 percent; Wisconsin, 53.5 percent; Illinois, 54.7; Nevada, 55.2 percent; New York, 55.4 percent).

As for other states of regional interest, 69.9 percent of Montanans trust FWP, 65.8 percent of Idahoans trust IDFG, 65.4 percent of Alaskans trust ADFG, 65.3 percent of Oregonians trust ODFW and 56.4 percent of Californians trust CDFW.

Back in Washington, WDFW trust was highest among residents of I-5 corridor counties from Whatcom down to Thurston (except, notably, Skagit) plus Clark, and on the Eastside in Walla Walla, Whitman and Yakima Counties.

It was lowest in Skagit, Lewis, Wahkiakum, Ferry and Columbia Counties.

THE WASHINGTON CHAPTER OF THE AMERICA’S WILDLIFE VALUES REPORT HIGHLIGHTS COUNTY BY COUNTY TRUST IN WDFW. (AMERICA’S WILDLIFE VALUES)

The survey found that 14.0 percent of Washington hunters and anglers “almost always” trust WDFW, 45.8 percent do “most of the time,” 30.9 percent “only some of the time,” and 9.3 percent “almost never.”

Interestingly, sportsmen are more trusting of the federal government than residents as a whole (27 percent vs. 19 percent), but it’s the opposite with state government (40 percent vs. 44 percent), perhaps a reflection of politics.

On wolves, it found 29 percent statewide support for removing livestock-killing wolves, 44 percent among sportsmen and strongest approval among the three easternmost Blue Mountains counties plus Ferry and Lincoln, weakest in King, Pierce and Jefferson Counties where there are no known wolves.

With WDFW staffers recommending that the Fish and Wildlife Commission not pursue another fee increase this coming legislative session and instead ask for more sales tax infusions to cover emerging and other needs in the supplemental budget proposal, the survey also includes results of note on agency funding.

It finds strong support among both sportsmen and nonsportsmen to use General Fund revenues and a “portion of sales tax on outdoor equipment” for nongame management.

Earlier this year a bill that would have added a .20 percent tax on certain recreational gear and clothing over $200 to help fund the upkeep of WDFW-owned fish and wildlife habitat received a hearing in Olympia.

It didn’t move any further, but technically with how the legislature works, the bipartisan HR 2122 is still alive.

Ultimately, the Washington chapter and the national study represent a look at long-term trends in society’s thinking on fish and wildlife and their management that are “having, and will continue to have, significant influence on the wildlife profession in the U.S.: shifting social values toward wildlife.”

Along with the 4 percent increase in trust in WDFW since 2004’s survey, confidence also rose 8 percent — the largest jump of any state — in ODFW, 5 percent for Wyoming Game & Fish, 4 percent for ADFG and 3 percent for IDFG.

But it sagged 11 percent for Nevada’s fish and wildlife managers, 10 percent for Texas’s and 9 percent for Arizona’s.

Washingtonian’s trust in state government barely budged over 18 years, holding at 43 percent, but with the feds it dropped from 33 percent to 20 percent over that same period, perhaps a reflection of political frustration the whole way around.

The survey’s national piece includes a set of recommendations:

“Our findings might be particularly relevant in considering ways to engage a broader array of stakeholders, sustaining an effective agency culture, meeting diverse values with new funding, developing management strategies that fit with cultural values, bringing the value contrast into consensus-building in dealing with human-wildlife conflict, etc. The data may also be useful in framing more geographically and time-specific initiatives in areas such as communication, outreach, and regulatory decision-making.”

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Cathlamet Again Kicking Out Lots Of Pikeminnows; Boyer Park Tops So Far

With the Columbia-Snake pikeminnow season just past its halfway mark, Cathlamet is once again serving up plenty of fish for anglers participating in the sport reward program.

“Catch there is over 4,000 fish better than this time in 2018, when Cathlamet was our No. 1 producing station,” reports WDFW’s Eric Winther, who manages the fishery.

AN ANGLER BELOW BONNEVILLE DAM UNHOOKS A NORTHERN PIKEMINNOW. (PIKEMINNOW.ORG)

“Effort is also up (105 angler days), but fishing is clearly better in the Cathlamet area as angler catch per unit effort is 2.2 fish/angler day better than 2018, 8.6 vs 6.4,” he adds.

Through July 21, 81,345 of the native but salmonid smolt-eating fish have been turned in at stations everywhere from the Lower Columbia to the mouth of Hells Canyon.

Boyer Park on the Snake below Lower Granite Dam near Pullman has accounted for 13,434 of those, with Cathlamet at 12,882, The Dalles at 9,064, Washougal at 7,047 and Rainier at 4,712.

CPUEs are 9.4, 8.6, 4.3, 9.3 and 5.1, respectively.

“The Washougal area is also quietly having a good year in that they are more than 2,000 fish better than in 2018,” Winther notes. “Historically, the best late-season harvest rates — mid-August through September — come from pikeminnow stations located below Bonneville Dam. That means that fishing could get even better later this season at stations like Washougal and Cathlamet.”

For most years this decade The Dalles station has stood head and shoulders over all others, but last year it wilted to just half of 2017’s haul, possibly due to high waters early on discouraging anglers.

Winther speculated that Cathlamet’s surge late last season might have been due to pikeminnows dropping out of low, warm tribs into the mainstem Columbia. Top anglers discovered the abundance and drove up catch rates.

REGISTERED PARTICIPANTS CAN EARN $5 FOR TURNING IN THEIR FIRST 25 PIKEMINNOW THAT ARE 9 INCHES OR LARGER, $6 FOR THEIR 26TH THROUGH 200TH AND $8 FOR 201 OR MORE. MANY ARE ALSO TAGGED AND WORTH $500 APIECE. (PIKEMINNOW.ORG)

The Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program runs May 1 through Sept. 30 and pays anglers from $5 to $8 per qualifying fish, with $500 for specially tagged ones.

It’s been going on for 29 years as part of a state-federal effort aimed at reducing predation on Chinook, coho, steelhead and other smolts by pikeminnows, which have become more effective at preying on the young fish because of the reservoirs built on the Lower and Mid-Columbia and Lower Snake.

Winther just held a set of free fishing clinics in Longview and Tri-Cities and says that while none are currently scheduled in August, he may do some. Watch his events page for more.

“For people wanting to learn how to catch northern pikeminnow, late season in the lower river is often their best bet,” he adds. “Fish tend to bite better in the late season, perhaps preparing for the long cold winter to come, and many anglers may have given up trying to catch northern pikeminnow due to low success earlier in the season, and this means less competition for finding and catching them.”

So far this season, 2019’s top angler has been reeling in a bit more than $2,000 a week worth of pikeminnow’s. Last year’s high fisherman earned $71,049 for bringing in 8,686 fish.

“Definitely fish to be had,” says Winther. “Just need to get out there and find them.”

A Few Pinks Turning Up In Straits And Sound, But Low Run Forecast

Don’t expect the action to be anywhere near as fast and furious as 2015, or even as good as 2013, 2011, 2009, 2007, 2005 — you get the idea — but for the record, a few pinks are beginning to arrive and be caught in Washington’s inside waters.

Dozens of the odd-year salmon have been brought in to docks in Sekiu over the past 10 days or so, with a handful also turning up in Puget Sound and Hood Canal, according to recent WDFW creel checks.

DESPITE A LOW RETURN, THERE ARE STILL OPPORTUNITIES THIS SEASON TO RETAIN PINK SALMON IN PUGET SOUND AND SOME OF THE REGION’S RIVERS. ANDREW SOPER AND MARK SCHILDT SHOW OFF A PAIR THEY DOUBLED UP ON DURING 2015’S RETURN. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST

Peak of saltwater fishing isn’t typically until mid- to late August, but it does vary by individual stock, with those returning to glacial rivers tending to arrive earlier than others.

A wide variety of gear will get pinks to bite, but the “humpy special” — a pink squid behind a dodger — for trolling behind a downrigger or banana weight, and a pink Buzz Bomb and squid for casting off the beach or into schools from a boat are among the best on the Sound. Barbless hooks are required.

With this year’s low forecast of just 608,388 back to rivers from the Nooksack to Nisqually to the OlyPen — the fewest since the late 1990s — there is no bonus limit anywhere and a number of usually productive North Sound rivers are actually closed for pink retention.

A poor Snohomish coho forecast and South Sound Chinook quotas are also limiting how much of Marine Area 8-2 is open (just its very southern end) and what days you can fish out of a boat in Marine Area 11, respectively.

So why are pink runs down? A decade and a half of huge to humongous returns made it seem as if the pint-sized but prodiguous species would always swarm into Puget Sound in outlandish piles every other year.

The Blob thought otherwise.

Adult pinks at sea during the height of the poor ocean feeding conditions in the North Pacific returned to the inland sea in summer 2015 starving and desperately snapping at anything anglers threw their way.

The undersized hens carried fewer eggs, and due to the snow drought the previous winter and then the long, hot summer, the places they made their redds in the diminished streams were utterly walloped when four big October, November and December floods hit.

What eggs and fry survived that second catastrophe went to sea in early 2016, and while they returned in 2017 much bigger than 2015’s fish, just 442,252 spawned, the fewest in 20 years.

“We’re still digging out of a pretty big hole,” Aaron Dufault, a WDFW pink salmon stock analyst, told our Mark Yuasa for a story in the August issue. “It is a boom-or-bust situation for pinks, and we’ve had those busts in the past couple of odd-numbered years.”

This year’s return is based off of fry surveys done on beaches off the mouths of the rivers.

Resident and then ocean-returning coho as well as hatchery kings will command the focus of most Puget Sound anglers in the coming weeks and months, but pinks will also provide some opportunity as well as their runs rebuild.

2 New Members Named To WA Fish-Wildlife Commission

Governor Jay Inslee has appointed two new members to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, a Douglas County rancher and a South Sound administrator.

An official announcement is expected in a day or two, but the new commissioners are Molly Linville and Jim Anderson, Northwest Sportsman has learned.

MOLLY LINVILLE AND JIM ANDERSON WILL JOIN THE NINE-MEMBER CITIZEN PANEL OVERSEEING THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE.

Linville replaces Jay Holzmiller of Asotin County, who has been on the commission since mid-2013 and whose term as one of three Eastern Washington representatives officially expired at the end of last year but has continued to serve on the citizen panel that sets fish and wildlife policy and oversees WDFW.

Anderson moves into a position that has been vacant since Omak’s Jay Kehne resigned last summer to spend more time with his family and field work after six and a half years on the commission.

Linville grew up in Reardan west of Spokane, and attended the University of Montana where she graduated with a degree in wildlife biology and later worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including a stint as the manager of Conboy National Wildlife Refuge in western Klickitat County.

In 2011 she and her husband David took over David’s family’s  6,000-acre KV Ranch in lower Moses Coulee near Palisades. The operation has been the subject of stories in the ag-oriented Capital Press, the Spokane Spokesman-Review and elsewhere.

They describe Molly Linville as the spread’s primary operator and says she practices “low-stress livestock handling” and uses large guard dogs to help protect their herd from predators like cougars, which are attracted to the area by mule deer and other prey.

She has been on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group since 2015 when the panel of hunters, ranchers, environmentalists and other state residents with a stake in wolf issues was expanded to 18.

Two years ago saw the Sutherland Canyon Fire burn up nearly all of the KV Ranch, and with how rangeland is generally outside fire district borders and wasn’t DNR responsibility to respond to led her to get involved in reforming coverage.

“After the fire, I just needed to be part of the solution,” Linville told the Press and she worked to move a bill in Olympia by “(educating) agency officials on the value of rangelands and the capabilities of local ranchers to be part of an effective fire response,” according to the Spokesman-Review.

While Linville’s strengths on the commission will be ranching, wildlife biology and an Eastern Washington perspective, Anderson’s will be administration, funding and tribal relationships.

The Pierce County resident is currently the secretary of the board of directors of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, which works primarily on restoring habitat and native species in the inland sea, and which describes Anderson as “widely experienced in state and federal budget, appropriation, and legislative processes.”

Some of that will have come from a 20-year term as the executive director of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission between 1985 and 2004, and as its executive adviser until 2011.

NWIFC came out of 1974’s Boldt Decision and represents 20 tribes in fisheries management and other issues.

In a more dated reference, Anderson’s also described by the Washington Water Trust as a board member and “a founding member of the Timber Fish Wildlife Policy Group, Water Resource Forum, Shared Salmon Strategy and the Hatchery Reform Coordinating Committee,” as well as a “board member on the Department of Interior’s Sports Fishing and Boating Partnership Council.”

Last September, John Kruse, a Wenatchee-based radio show host, found that few sitting Fish and Wildlife Commission members hunted and or fished, but according to PSRF’s description, Anderson “enjoys fishing, hunting” and other outdoor activities.

It’s his strong background with tribal interests that makes him an interesting choice of the governor’s to fill one of three statewide at-large positions on the commission.

On the one hand it will give sportsmen and possibly some members of the general public pause as the Fish and Wildlife Commission represents the state’s hunters, anglers and others, and oversees state fish and game harvest, and management.

On the other, with how closely linked state and tribal comanagement is these days, Anderson’s past nexus could help improve high-level relationships during a period of great stress on Washington’s shared natural resources.

Most Fish and Wildlife Commission appointments aren’t very controversial, though when Kehne came on board at the other end of this decade, there was a lot of angst over his relationship with Conservation Northwest. In the end he proved to be a good fit. However, the state Senate, which confirms the governor’s nominations, yanked  environmentalist David Jennings off the panel after four years because he “was too much of a polarizing figure” to sportsmen, in the words of the Republican in charge of a natural resources committee at the time.

Soon both Jim Anderson and Molly Linville will have their chance to prove their abilities on the important body.

Editor’s note: Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune has a good follow-up story on Jay Holzmiller leaving the commission here.

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