Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

Western Columbia Gorge Provides A Few Springers

Man, these flame runs down from Seattle for Columbia River springers are not as easy to make as they once were, but when a Sunday boat ride invite aligned with a planned early afternoon rendezvous near Vancouver to pick up my oldest son after a week with his Oregon grandparents, it was on!

My writer Andy Schneider had done pretty good on the first two days of last weekend’s four-day opener, and while Saturday was a bit tougher, we still had high hopes for yesterday’s fishing.

Despite a slow start to season, anglers have begun to figure out the secret formulas for this year’s run, the Bonneville count is finally getting going and to be fishing so late in April usually means good action as the run hits in bulk.

We’ll see if there are enough upriver-bound springers left in the quota for another day, but this is how we waylaid a couple yesterday, in pictures run through the photo-editing app Prisma’s various filters, just because:

Dunno why I do this to myself instead of getting a hotel room near the fishery the night before, but after getting out of bed around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning (and having not really gotten more than three hours of sleep), blast-off time came early at my house in Shoreline.

After a couple pit stops, including one unplanned swerve off the interstate to puke because I was overly excited to fish, I made it into Oregon well ahead of schedule.

We would be fishing the western Columbia Gorge, which at 5:45 a.m. this time of year is still on the dark side. Out in the predawn gloom, a few boats idled, waiting for clients and fellow anglers to arrive.

Andy was serving up the springers a real breakfast buffet of prawn spinners, green- and blue-dyed cutplugs and one without special sauce, hoping one would show what the bite of the day would be.

At first, Andy had three of our five rods rigged up with Fish Flashes behind 4- to 6-ounce weights off 14-inch droppers. But despite the Columbia’s big volume and murky waters, fellow anglers’ catches nearby soon showed us that naked brined herring is what the fish seemed to want this day, and so off went all the flashers.

After a 10- to 15-minute run upriver from the ramp, we arrived in the fishing grounds with the rest of the fleet.

The weather was nice for most of the morning, with light winds and only passing sprinkles. Beacon Rock rises in the background.

As ever, Ollie, Andy’s faithful fish hound and duck hunting companion, kept a sharp eye out for the bite, as well as passing pinnipeds. We saw several cruising through, two of which caught salmon.

Springer success! The rod right behind me went off and Steve S stood and quickly fought his fish into the net, getting us on the board fairly early on.

Andy smiles while taking a picture of his coworker and his salmon.

Steve admires his Chinook, roughly 8 to 10 pounds worth of scrumptious deliciousness. This year’s fish are coming in in interesting sizes, with some PIT-tagged 4- and even 5-year-olds barely over the 24-inch mark, which otherwise would designate them as 3-year-old jacks, according to a Bill Monroe story.

A boat makes a run upriver as the sun tries to poke through the clouds. Boaters were mostly trolling uphill while zigzagging against the current and being pushed downstream, though a few were fishing downhill.

Multnomah Falls spills out of a side canyon. The gorge here was shaped by the same Missoula Floods that dug out Eastern Washington’s Channeled Scablands and Grand and Moses Coulees. Today, trains, semitrucks and passenger vehicles race up and down the path to the Pacific.

We do crazy things for fish – this boat seemed on the small side for such big water. It was near here the CRITFC boat went down earlier this month, leading to the loss of one crewmember after a wave went over the bow of their 26-footer, capsizing the boat, which then sank.

After a couple hours with little action, Brenda Skinner’s rod went off. As the crew cleared rods, I got this snap, then realized I needed to grab the back line. As I did so, her fish came to the surface right behind the boat and I could see that it was a very, very nice Chinook, but in its thrashing, it threw the hooks, leading to disappointment.

It was in 2000, I believe, that I first fished for springers in the Columbia Gorge, and in doing so came to realize that spring has its own subtly beautiful colors as the trees take leaf again. This year, spring is behind schedule, but wondrous nonetheless.

Unfortunately for me, I had to be back to the ramp by 11:30 or so to go meet my inlaws and grab my son, River, who’d spent his spring break at their house on the Oregon Coast. In the end we could have fished for nine more minutes, as I beat them to the rendezvous point, and who knows what would have happened. Not long after I hit the road, Andy sent me an update, his pic of coworker Tony with a nice king.

It can be a long haul between points north and the springer-bearing streams of Southwest Washington, but for many anglers it is worth it to get after the year’s first salmon. Even though my drive with River back to Shoreline was a slog — when is this rain ever going to just give up?!?! — I was glad I’d gone and I look forward to many more trips, hopefully one day with both my sons.

About a block from home, I remembered to take a pic of a clock to show when my flame run wrapped up, this trip at 4:10 p.m., roughly 14 hours 20 minutes and 440 miles after my flight like a bat out of hell began.

2017 Washington Lowland Trout Opener Catch Stats

It was a sunny, mild, blustery, rainy and chilly lowland trout opener depending on where you were fishing in Washington today, as anglers took to the lakes to try and catch their limit of rainbow trout, a tradition that goes back decades, as well as specially tagged fish good for prizes in WDFW’s derby.

Numerous 20-inch-plus rainbows were caught, and Jameson Lake had one of the highest average stringers with 4.37 per angler.

JAMESON LAKES PRODUCED SOME OF THE FULLEST STRINGERS ON WASHINGTON’S OPENING DAY OF TROUT SEASON, AS EVIDENCED BY KALEY BAKER’S CATCH AT THE DOUGLAS COUNTY LAKE. (WDFW)

Here is the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife creel sample summaries for April 22 opener lakes on both sides of the mountains where they had staffers talking with anglers and recording the catches:

Chelan County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Wapato 75 204 50 3.39 2.72 19 inch Rainbow Angler Participation seemed lower than usual, likely due to a concurrent fishing derby on nearby Lake Chelan. However, anglers were very pleased with the numbers and quality of fish.
Douglas County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Jameson 19 83 9 4.84 4.37 24 inch Rainbow Good weather. Anglers were very happy about the 400+ 4-lb. jumbo Rainbows that were recently stocked. Fingerling plants from 2016 showed nice growth with most being 12 – 14″.
Ferry County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Ellen Lake 27 28 17 1.7 1 14 inch Rainbow Water was very high and cold, but the weather was nice today. Overall, angler turnout was low. Slow fishing day for most anglers on this lake.
Grant County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Blue 63 204 2 3.27 3.24 16 inch Rainbow Anglers were met with sunny, but partly cloudy skies, warm temperatures (high of 70F), and calm winds (<10mph). Quality trout fishing returned to Blue Lake in 2017 after an abysmal 2016. Several boat and shoreline anglers caught their limit of trout early in the morning, within an hour, and before WDFW creel surveyers showed up to interview them. Most trout were 11-13″ with a few at 14-16″. There are plenty of trout left to catch through the spring.
Deep Lake 67 165 71 3.52 2.46 15 inch Rainbow 1 derby fish caught
Park 79 245 34 3.53 3.1 16 inch Rainbow Anglers were met with sunny, but partly cloudy skies, warm temperatures (high of 70F), and calm winds (<10mph). Quality trout fishing returned to Park Lake in 2017 after an abysmal 2016. Several boat and shoreline anglers caught their limit of trout early in the morning, within an hour, and before WDFW creel surveyers showed up to interview them. Most trout were 11-13″ with a few at 14-16″. There are plenty of trout left to catch through the spring.
Perch 12 25 30 4.58 2.08 17 inch Rainbow Anglers were met with sunny, but partly cloudy skies, warm temepratures (high of 70F), and calm winds (<10mph). Mostly 11-12″ trout.
Vic Meyers 14 26 1.86 1.86 15 inch Rainbow Anglers were met with sunny, but partly cloudy skies, warm temepratures (high of 70F), and calm winds (<10mph). Mostly 11-12″ trout. No tagged derby trout checked in creel survey.
Warden 32 86 34 3.75 2.69 12 inch Rainbow Anglers were met with sunny, but partly cloudy skies, warm temepratures (high of 70F), and calm winds (<10mph). Catch rates were high, but smaller than normal trout sizes kept some anglers from harvesting them. Most trout were 10-11 inches. No carryovers recorded in creel survey.
Grays Harbor County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Bowers Lake – Vance # 1 32 58 20 2.44 1.81 25 inch Rainbow Kids derby: winer was 7 lbs 9oz. Lots of anglers early, 97 on this lake.
Duck Lake 3 1 0.33 0.33 12 inch Rainbow Windy and rainy on this year-round lake.
Failor Lake 50 121 36 3.14 2.42 26 inch Rainbow The weather conditions were damp but there were shivering smiles.
Ines Lake – Vance # 2 26 37 24 2.35 1.42 24 inch Rainbow Rainy weather
Lake Aberdeen 107 195 121 2.95 1.82 26 inch Rainbow Kibs Derby: lots of happy kids in spite of the rain.
Lake Sylvia 13 29 16 3.46 2.23 14 inch Rainbow Rainy, a few Cutthroat were caught but mostly Rainbow.
Island County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Deer 20 47 188 11.75 2.35 Lots of jumbos, but lower than normal effort – weather?
King County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Cottage 83 190 82 3.28 2.29 18 inch Rainbow Several jumbos caught.
Geneva 43 137 86 5.19 3.19 16 inch Rainbow Lots of big fish, happy anglers and successful eagles and ospreys. A good day for everyone.
Langlois 66 184 168 5.33 2.79 20 inch Rainbow 1 derby fish caught. The weather was calm.
Margaret 24 89 14 4.29 3.71 13 inch Rainbow 1 derby fish caught.
North 74 244 91 4.53 3.3 16 inch Rainbows Nice weather this morning.
Pine 20 45 2.25 2.25 18 inch Rainbow The trout seemed to be in shallow water.
Shady 12 37 12 4.08 3.08 16 inch Rainbow The anglers were happy.
Steel 8 32 4 4 13 inch Rainbow Very busy and happy fishers.
Walker 15 49 8 3.8 3.27 14 inch Rainbow The wind died down by 9 and weather cooperated for the rest of morning.
Wilderness 40 70 28 2.45 1.75 17 inch Rainbow The morning winds died down into a warm, calm morning on the lake.
Klickitat County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Horsethief 6 35 2 6.17 5.83 Not many anglers checked and fishing was slow.
Rowland 52 151 110 5.02 2.9 Excellent quality fish. Shore fishing was slow but boat anglers did well.
Spearfish 4 8 2 2 Not many anglers checked and fishing was slow.
Lewis County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Carlisle 65 48 76 1.91 0.74 Inclement weather –
Ft. Borst Park Pond 60 85 15 1.67 1.42 One Derby fish caught but fishing was generally slow and weather was poor.
Mineral 130 317 290 4.67 2.44 Busy, and anglers were happy in spite of the poor weather.
Plummer 13 22 1.69 1.69 Inclement weather – shore anglers were not catching fish.
Lincoln County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Fishtrap 20 24 2 1.3 1.2 22 inch Rainbow Great weather and lots of people having fun.
Mason County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Aldrich 18 72 2 4.11 4.00 Lots of kids fishing with their parents. Parking lot full, people left to fish other lakes.
Benson 21 52 15 3.19 2.48 18 inch Rainbow Some larger 16-18 inch fish checked. Happy fishers. The rain made a lot of people leave but many came back out when weather improved..
Clara 14 64 2 4.71 4.57 27 inch Rainbow 3 broodstock Rainbow caught and a 10 inch cutthroat from fall fingerling plants
Devervaux 27 73 26 3.67 2.70 26 inch Rainbow Most people were happy with the fishing. There were many limits. Weather turned bad after midday and most people stopped fishing
Haven 15 41 85 8.40 2.73 13 inch Rainbow Happy fishers until heavy rain sent many people home. Some anglers showed up later, when the weather got better. Heard of one derby tagged fish but not sampled.
Howell 9 30 6 4.00 3.33 17 inch Rainbow Fishers happy with catches. Mild morning, but rainy weather after midmorning made a lot of people stop fishing and leave lake.
Limerick 17 32 5 2.18 1.88 5 lb Rainbow derby fish 3 Rainbow checked in the 3-lb range. Weather was mild and fair until midmorning, then heavy rain squalls and wind made most people stop fishing
Maggie 7 18 2 2.86 2.57 16 inch Rainbow Mild morning, fair fishing until rain and wind pushed most anglers off lake. Most boaters and shore anglers quit. A few started fishing again when weather improved towards noon.
Phillips
Robbins 19 84 3 4.58 4.42 13 inch Rainbow Parking lot full all morning, overflow heading to other nearby lakes lakes.
Tiger 48 145 67 4.42 3.02 17 inch Rainbow Mild morning, fair fishing until rain and wind pushed most anglers off lake, most boaters and shore anglers quit. A few started fishing again when weather improved towards noon.
Wildberry 2 10 5.00 5.00 Mild morning, fair fishing until rain and wind pushed most anglers off lake, most boaters and shore anglers quit. A few started fishing again when weather improved towards noon.
Wood 3 5 1.67 1.67 Mild morning, slow fishing. Rain and wind pushed some anglers off the lake.
Wooten 51 140 151 5.71 2.75 Fishing was pretty good in the morning. It rained midday and made a lot of anglers leave the lake. Weather got better towards noon.
Okanogan County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Conconully Lake 40 86 13 2.5 2.15 15 inch Rainbow Everyone was staying warm and having a good time.
Long 4 8 8 4 4 12 inch Rainbow
Pearrygin 75 66 7 0.97 0.88 14 inch Rainbow Weather was chilly.
Round 17 68 15 4.88 4 13 inch Rainbow
Pacific County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Black Lake 34 43 38 2.38 1.26 25 inch Rainbow Derby winner was 7 lbs 1 oz. Rain chased anglers away after the derby ended.
Cases Pond 13 21 20 3.15 1.62 24 inch Rainbow Derby winner was 6 lbs. Smaller fish weren’t biting, only big fish caught.
Pend Oreille County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Diamond Lake 27 35 2 1.37 1.3 22 inch Rainbow Very high water. Slow fishing compared to most opening days. Weather was nice.
Pierce County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Bay Lake 15 50 8 3.87 3.33
Carney Lake 14 11 33 3.14 0.79
Clear Lake 89 156 120 3.1 1.75 18 inch Rainbow
Crescent Lake 48 151 6 3.27 3.15
Jackson Lake 8 9 14 2.88 1.13
Ohop Lake 23 15 2 0.74 0.65
Rapjohn Lake 32 85 37 3.81 2.66 16 inch Rainbow
Silver Lake 42 81 17 2.33 1.93 22 inch Rainbow 22 inch derby fish caught.
Tanwax Lake 27 76 5 3 2.81 17 inch Rainbow
Skagit County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Erie 31 85 15 3.23 2.74 17 inch Rainbow
Heart 48 91 89 3.75 1.9 23 inch Rainbow
McMurray 71 201 28 3.23 2.83 16 inch Rainbow
Sixteen 25 87 21 4.32 3.48 14 inch Rainbow
Snohomish County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Armstrong 36 26 6 0.89 0.72 21 inch Rainbow The fishing was slow.
Bosworth 28 107 154 9.32 3.82 15 inch Rainbow 2 derby fish caught.
Crabapple 11 17 1.55 1.55 17 inch Rainbow
Echo (Maltby) 10 58 47 10.5 5.8 12 inch Rainbow
Howard 30 92 88 6 3.07 18 inch Cutthroat A good mix jumbos and catchables were caught.
Ki 46 135 39 3.78 2.93 15 inch Rainbow
Martha (AM) 34 87 2 2.62 2.56 17 inch Rainbow 1 derby fish was caught.
Riley 34 72 24 2.82 2.12 15 inch Rainbow
Serene 14 26 54 5.71 1.86 14 inch Rainbow A first-time angler caught their first fish. The weather was nice.
Storm 29 61 88 5.14 2.1 17 inch Rainbow
Wagner 21 19 57 3.62 0.9 14 inch Rainbow The wind died down around 9. The were good size.
Spokane County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Badger 16 41 42 5.2 2.6 11 inch Rainbow & Cutthroat Many happy anglers. Mix of Rainbow, Cutthroat and Kokanee
Clear 24 11 8 0.8 0.3 20 inch Rainbow Mostly Rainbows but some Brown Trout were also caught. Most fish were >15 inches.
Fish 32 47 45 2.9 1.4 15 inch Brook Trout Fishing was red-hot 8-10 am but tailed off after 10. All anglers were satisfied. This lake is popular for catch/release.
West Medical 93 61 22 0.9 0.7 22 inch Rainbow High proportion of large rainbows in the creel. Anglers were happy to get out and enjoy the weather
Williams 35 97 40 3.9 2.8 21 inch Rainbow Lots of happy anglers out enjoying the great weather.
Stevens County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Cedar Lake 4 20 6 6.5 5 14 inch Rainbow Anglers limited in 2-4 hours. Weather was nice, but water is still cold.
Mudgett Lake 13 40 4 3.38 3.07 16 inch Rainbow Nice weather. Water temperature was low. Most of the catch made up of catchables with a few carryovers.
Rocky 8 16 4 2.5 2 17 inch Rainbow Fishing was fairly slow this year. Fish ranged between 9-17 inches.
Starvation Lake 25 46 3 1.96 1.84 14 inch Rainbow Fishing was slower than usual. Water was cold and high. Fish looked healthy and fat.
Waitts Lake 13 9 6 1.15 0.69 20 inch Brown Trout Parking lot/boat launch was flooded, dissuading a lot of anglers from launching boats. Very low turnout compared to usual.
Thurston County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Clear Lake 62 239 24 4.24 3.85 24 inch Rainbow Two derby fish caught.
Deep Lake 30 41 19 2 1.37 Two derby fish caught.
Hicks Lake 45 77 33 2.44 1.71 22 inch Rainbow
McIntosh Lake 21 56 52 5.14 2.67
Pattison Lake 29 40 9 1.69 1.38 16 inch Rainbow
Summit Lake 72 212 135 4.82 2.94 Big average size and numerous fish that were 18 inches.
Ward Lake 23 32 26 2.52 1.39
Whatcom County
Lake Name # Anglers
Checked
Total #
Fish Kept
Total #
Fish
Released
Avg. # Fish
Caught per
Angler
Avg. # Fish
Kept per
Angler
Largest Fish
(Species/TL)
Highlights
Cain 32 107 76 5.72 3.34 21 inch Rainbow
Padden 44 122 30 3.45 2.77 13 inch Rainbow
Silver 108 379 37 3.85 3.51 21 inch Rainbow It was a good day to be fishing.
Toad 43 101 102 4.72 2.35 12 inch Rainbow

Countdown To Trout Town: T-3 Days Till Washington Opener

Last night I made a quick pitstop at Fred Meyer to pick up my fishing license.

That’s because, well, I had to renew since it’s a new license year, but I’ve also got plans for Saturday morning and taking one of the Juniors out for trout.

THE 2012 TROUT OPENER WAS QUITE A LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR RIVER WALGAMOTT. HE LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF SHOUTING “FISH ON,” WHICH HE SHOUTED THROUGHOUT THE FIGHT WITH A CLEAR LAKE (PIERCE COUNTY) RAINBOW THAT DAY – “FISH ON FISH ON FISH ON FISH ON!” (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

April 22 is the fishiest day in Washington angling, the general lowland opener at a mess of lakes from the coast to the Cascades to Cheney.

RIVER ALSO LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF BOATS – ADAM BROOKS WONDERS WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THE WALGAMOTT KID. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

WDFW has been busy in recent weeks, stocking them plumb full of rainbows, including around 150,000 pound-on-average trout and 2.3 million catchables, along with millions that were stocked as fry last year and now have reached harvestable size.

RIVER LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF TEAMWORK. WHILE ADAM REELS IN ANOTHER, HE AND ADAM’S BROTHER RYAN READY THE NET. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“These are all high-quality fish that are significantly larger than our regular catchable trout, and those 3-pounders are outstanding fish,” says Steve Thiesfeld, who manages the Inland Fish Program, about several thousand triploids in the mix.

RYAN AND RIVER LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF BEING ON THE WATER, STARING INTO ITS MURKY DEPTHS AND WONDERING WHEN THE FISH WERE GONNA BITE – OR MAYBE EVEN COMPLETELY FORGETTING WHY THEY WERE ON THE LAKE THAT DAY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

To find out what’s gone into your lake, check out this year’s stocking plan. Don’t have a lake?!? May we introduce you to WDFW’s handy-dandy LakeFinder website?

ADAM, RIVER AND RYAN LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF A STOUT STRINGER – AND NOT TO TAKE THEMSELVES SO SERIOUSLY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The agency is also putting on its second statewide trout derby, with even more tagged fish and prizes — 1,000 rainbows bearing yellow tags, each with a number corresponding to $25,000 worth of prizes, including gear as well as year-long subscriptions to Northwest Sportsman magazine.

THE JOY OF FISHING ON THE OPENER WILL PUT A LITTLE SPRING IN ANYONE’S STEP. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Whether you’re fishing worms under a bobber from the bank, trolling spinners or small plugs from a boat, flailing a good ol’ Woolly Bugger from a pontoon or helping a youngster to catch their first, good luck, and thanks for taking part in the richest tradition in Washington fishing!

Critical Central Washington Fish, Wildlife Projects Left Out Of House Budget

Funding for six projects protecting critical critter and fish habitat in Central Washington has been cut from a state budget proposal, and sportsmen should take note.

Though top-ranked during reviews, the acquisitions in Douglas, Chelan, Kittitas, Yakima and Klickitat Counties were left out of the House Capital Budget, an approach that goes against the grain of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

Affected projects include — from the top — Grand Coulee Ranch, Wenatchee River floodplain, South Fork Manastash, Cowiche, Simcoe Mountains and Klickitat Canyon.

A WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE IMAGE SHOWS PART OF THE PROPOSED SIMCOE MOUNTAIN PROJECT, FUNDING FOR WHICH WAS LEFT OUT OF A STATE HOUSE CAPITAL BUDGET PROPOSAL DESPITE IT BEING HIGHLY RANKED. (RCO)

All would benefit hunters and the deer, elk and upland game birds we chase, as well as other fish and wildlife and recreationalists.

The projects are all included in the state Senate’s version, so the best hope for sportsmen is that during budget reconciliation talks between the chambers, the House comes around.

Danica Johnson with Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition said the House Capital budget “unfairly targeted” the six as well as and nine other water access, riparian, natural area and park acquisitions, even though “(m)any of these were top-ranked projects that should have received funding under the allocation formula.”

The development follows a bipartisan update of WWRP’s formulas last year meant in part to address concerns over large-scale land buys in Eastern Washington.

Projects are ranked by the state Recreation and Conservation Office under objective criteria and assigned one of several categories, including critical habitat, riparian, natural area, local parks, state parks and others.

Theoretically, lawmakers are supposed to go with the highest-scoring projects, and on the Senate side, they did.

But under critical habitat, the final purchase of 7,250 acres padding WDFW’s Big Bend Wildlife Area — the former Grand Coulee Ranch it has been buying in recent years — 6,700 acres in the Simcoes, 3,200 acres in both the Klickitat Canyon and Cowiche Watershed and 1,600 acres along the South Fork of Manastash Creek were left out of the House budget.

So was a 37-acre riparian buy in the floodplain of the Wenatchee River, potentially putting it at risk of being developed into a subdivision.

Funding for Capital Budget acquisitions comes through the sale of state bonds, not from the General Fund or license dollars. Often they’re matched with private or federal funds to complete deals.

One notable project that was left out of both chambers’ proposals was purchase of land for a boat launch on the middle Wynoochee, the 7400 Line access. Its ranking is apparently very low, though you and I would disagree.

And in Wednesday’s Kitsap Sun, Dave Shorett reports that the long-suffering bid to build a ramp on WDFW land on Lake Tahuyah still can’t “make the cut” for development funding, despite potential high value for Bremerton-area anglers.

As you might imagine, politics were involved in cutting the Central Washington projects. Recent years have seen a lot of pushback in the 509 about state land buys, so it’s not a coincidence that these six particular acquisition projects were sidelined.

That’s unfortunate, because this fantastic part of the Evergreen State represents some of the best land left for wildlife and wildland-based recreation in the state.

This past harsh winter highlights the need for winter range. The tough salmon seasons Pugetropolis was just handed are, in part, a result of compromised habitat reducing productivity and thus constraining opportunity. And the loss of more and more land across Washington to trespass fees highlights the critical and growing need we all have for access.

I hope that the House and Senate come together to fund these six projects, as well as follow the guidelines for allocating state funds, as was agreed to last year.

AW
NWS

Tribal Fishing Platforms Built At Wind River Mouth

Tribal fishing platforms were recently erected at the mouth of the Wind River, squeezing in at a famed, productive and very small bank fishing spot for spring Chinook.

While this year’s run is running late due to huge flows, and the Wind forecast of 3,600 is on the low side, salmon numbers are building at Bonneville, where more than 250 have been counted so far this year, and it won’t be long before some pull into the drowned mouth of this Washington-side Columbia Gorge tributary.

A NEWLY CONSTRUCTED TRIBAL FISHING PLATFORM AT THE MOUTH OF THE WIND RIVER. STATE AND YAKAMA OFFICIALS SAY IT IS THE FIRST TIME THE WOODEN STRUCTURES HAVE BEEN BUILT HERE, AND THEY ARE ALLOWED UNDER TRIBAL FISHING REGULATIONS. THE RUB WILL COME AS SPRING CHINOOK ARRIVE AND FISHERS OF ALL NATIONS CONGREGATE AT THE PRODUCTIVE BANK SPOT. (BRAD COLLINS)

On good days dozens of anglers will try their luck at The Point, sometimes called Cranky Banky Point, that basalt bone that sticks out into the Wind as it reaches the Columbia.

When the Bonneville Pool is lower, there’s room to accommodate more anglers, but when dam operators are holding back water or dealing with large volumes, there’s less.

The concern is that the two approximately 6-foot-by-6-foot platforms will leave even less place for nontribal fishermen to huck their plugs and other lures for hatchery springers. They set up potential gear conflicts and babysitting hassles for state and tribal game wardens.

BANK ANGLERS CAST PLUGS OFF THE POINT DURING 2011’S SPRING CHINOOK FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

This morning, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates several Chinook hatcheries in the area, was referring calls to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s regional office in Vancouver.

According to WDFW Capt. Jeff Wickersham, the wooden structures were put up by Yakama Nation fishers. He said it was a legal activity in the tribes’ usual and accustomed fishing area.

Through a spokesman, he added he believes it is the first time that they’ve been erected at this particular spot on the Wind (there is a tribal in-lieu fishing site upstream), though in 2011 some were installed upriver inside Drano Lake, causing a stir for awhile.

Wickersham says that tribal members can’t obstruct or displace state anglers to build one, and that the structures are basically treated like a fisherman who got to a spot first.

That means tribal members have de facto claimed at least two locations on the point for the season.

A RECENT IMAGE TAKEN FROM OFF HIGHWAY 14 SHOWS THE TWO NEW SCAFFOLDS PUT UP ON THE POINT. (BRAD COLLINS)

THIS IMAGE FROM 2011’S SPRING CHINOOK FISHERY SHOWS A LONE BANK ANGLER ON THE POINT, WHILE BOATS WORK THE DROWNED MOUTH OF THE WIND RIVER ON A RAINY DAY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The point is private property, owned by Carson Acres LLC, Skamania County tax records show. Anglers access it by walking in on trails from Highway 14.

According to Roger Dick Jr., harvest coordinator for the Yakama Nation, tribal regulations have always allowed for platforms at Wind, and the Yakamas are the only tribe with treaty-reserved fishing rights there.

“The platforms are the property of the YN fishers and the platforms are only to be used by YN members because they are used for treaty fishing. YN rules do not allow non-YN members to exercise YN treaty rights, which includes use of gear/equipment,” he says.

WITH WIND MOUNTAIN AS A BACKDROP, AN IMAGE FROM THE POINT SHOWS TWO NEW TRIBAL FISHING PLATFORMS THERE. (BRAD COLLINS)

He says that in other areas where there are tribal platforms, such as in the John Day Dam tailrace, it’s “commonly understood” they’re only for tribal fishers.

However, as he confirms, it’s a first they’ve been put up here, which may cause confusion, angst and anger.

More platforms are reported to be being built on the Wind above the Highway 14 and Burlington Northern Sante Fe bridges.

According to the Yakamas’ 2017 fishing regulations, members can fish the lower Wind through June 25, from noon on Monday through 6 p.m. on Saturdays. Fishing is not allowed on Sundays there or elsewhere, for “conservation purposes.”

Dick Jr. explains that poles with rope hanging off of them are used to hang hoopnets, or setnets, the primary way Yakama fishers harvest salmon, though they can also use hook-and-line methods.

GEAR FOR SETNETTING STANDS READY UNDERNEATH A NEWLY BUILT TRIBAL FISHING PLATFORM AT WIND RIVER. (BRAD COLLINS)

The Yakamas’ openness to answering questions this go-around contrasts sharply with what occurred during 2011, when similar platforms popped up at Drano Lake, where the tribe also has treaty fishing rights. Reporters were unable to get comment from tribal officials on what was going on.

Then, anglers and WDFW worried the structures reduced the already limited bank fishing area on the lake even more, as not everyone in Northwest anglerdom has a sled, drift boat or other craft to troll for springers from. And just as tribes can claim long histories of fishing, so too do nontribal anglers have lengthy relationships with good spots. One platform sat by a new handicapped fishing access spot.

Since 2011, however, things quieted down at Drano (in spring 2012, Yakama officials issued at least two statements on the platforms there). Dick Jr. says the Yakamas have another fishery there — the Wednesday closure for netting — and that smaller returns limit the opportunities. He says the tribal council considers cultural, social and economic factors in determining whether to allow platforms there.

As it stands, passive integrated transponder, or PIT tag, data shows no Wind springers having arrived at Bonneville yet (1.3 and 2.7 percent of four- and five-year-old Carson National Fish Hatchery juveniles were PIT tagged before they went to sea).

So for the moment, the platforms at the  mouth of the Wind are just being buffeted by the breezes blowing through the Columbia Gorge, though as this year’s run grows, things could get stormier.

Editor’s notes: 1) Hat tip to JH for the story forward. 2) This blog was updated April 14, 2017, to clarify WDFW Capt. Jeff Wickersham’s comments that this is the first time that platforms were built at the point. There is a tribal in-lieu fishing site upstream on the Wind from there. 3) This blog was subsequently updated April 17, 2017 to include links to 2011 and 2012 articles on platforms erected at Drano Lake.

Details Emerging On Puget Sound 2017 Salmon Fishery Deal

State and tribal salmon managers have reached an agreement on 2017 Puget Sound fisheries, a season that will see closures to protect northern coho stocks but also increased Chinook opportunities out of the Seattle area.

The deal was struck last night between the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Westside tribes on how to split the harvestable surplus of salmon as well as conserve troubled runs.

Tony Floor of the Northwest Marine Trade Association initially termed it a “mixed bag” with “decent” fisheries in Areas 9 through 13, but “tough news” in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands.

A PAIR OF ANGLERS HOIST CHINOOK CAUGHT IN ELLIOTT BAY SEVERAL YEARS AGO NOW. THE SALTWATERS IMMEDIATELY OFF SEATTLE HAVEN’T BEEN OPEN FOR SUMMER KINGS IN MANY YEARS, BUT 2017 WILL SEE A BRIEF OPPORTUNITY THERE, AS WELL AS A MORE SUBSTANTIVE OPENER IN THE DUWAMISH RIVER AT ITS SOUTH END. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

An official press release from WDFW is expected soon, while the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission has posted theirs.

Following on 2016’s long, drawn-out negotiations that didn’t wrap up until late May, the agreement does provide surety of seasons much earlier in the year.

“Having seasons set on time in April is very important to the sport fishing community, including the businesses that are dependent on advanced planning,” said Pat Pattillo, who has been closely monitoring this year’s North of Falcon to brief the recreational angling community. “The staff at WDFW who work their tails off during this difficult season-setting process are true professionals and deserve a lot of credit for getting the job done. They made changes to improve the process this year that have paid off in outcomes.”

The retired WDFW salmon policy expert’s comments were echoed in part by the Northwest Sportfishing industry Association.

“We are pleased that the comanagers came to an agreement on time to avoid delays in our fisheries,” said executive director Liz Hamilton. “Sadly, protections for weak stocks dictated some really painful closures in certain areas. But with some of the outcomes for sports anglers improved over last year, we look forward to working with the agency to get the word out to help get anglers onto some good fishing opportunity.”

That said, the fisheries package delivers tough news, as extremely low returns of Skagit and Stillaguamish silvers will curtail late summer fisheries in the Straits, San Juans and Areas 8 and 9, where those stocks mix with healthier ones, as well as close the two rivers themselves and the Cascade.

That’s according to matrices produced yesterday and which represent broad views of seasons and closures more so than the nitty gritty details of actual fisheries. That sort of detail will emerge in the coming days and weeks.

About the only way for anglers to pick up coho from a stronger Snohomish River return will be during unique bank-only fisheries in Admiralty Inlet and Area 8-2 for marked coho in August and early September, and in the river system itself, which will be open for wild and hatchery silvers.

Further south, coho opportunities open up more, with Areas 10 and 13 open for fin-clipped silvers and Areas 11 and 12 open for hatchery and wild coho.

In freshwater, besides the Snohomish system, the Green-Duwamish, Puyallup, Nisqually and Quilcene will see any-coho fisheries, while those on the Dungeness, Nooksack and Samish will be hatchery only.

Overall on the coho front, it represents a big improvement over last year, when widespread closures were initially required due to low forecasts, though as more than expected actually returned, there were emergency openers in September and October.

On the Chinook side, there’s a brief mid-August nonselective opener in inner Elliott Bay, as well as a season in the Duwamish River.

Frank Urabeck was “very excited” both would be available after being closed for a number of years.

“I used to fish the bay every summer when it was open. In 1996 my wife and I played seven kings off Duwamish Head, taking home three – if memory serves me right,” the sportfishing advocate recalled.

We’ll also see the usual mid-July to mid-August window for Areas 9 and 10 hatchery kings.

According to Tom Nelson, host of 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line, quotas for those two saltwater fisheries are roughly 5,500 and 2,150, up from last year’s 3,000 and 1,400.

The Nooksack, Skykomish, Skagit-Cascade, Puyallup and Nisqually will see fisheries for hatchery springers or summer Chinook, while there will be an any-king fisheries in the Samish River and Tulalip Bubble.

Again, more specific details will emerge in the coming days and weeks.

Between last week’s WDFW meeting with sport anglers in Lynnwood to go over possible seasons and yesterday’s agreement reached in Sacramento with the tribes, there were a number of deletions from the matrices, including the loss of a month of coho fishing in late summer in the western Straits and a month and a half in the eastern Strait, restricting Area 9’s September bank fishery in Area 9 to only the first few days of the month and the loss of all coho retention in the San Juans and restriction of salmon fisheries in the islands to just July through September for Chinook.

That appears to have been a result of WDFW being stuck with pruning back sport impacts on Skagit and Stilly coho, where only 18,711 and 9,142 are expected — slivers of average.

Elsewhere, WDFW and the Skokomish Tribe do not appear to have reached a deal on nontribal fishing on the Skokomish River for the Chinook and coho headed back to the WDFW hatchery there. Supported by a federal solicitor’s opinion, the tribe contends the river is theirs from bank to bank in the lower end.

On a brighter note, a large forecasted return of Baker Lake sockeye will provide a month-long Skagit River fishery and at least six weeks in the reservoir.

The bonus bag on Puget Sound pink salmon will not be in effect this year, however, but Nelson believes that with the low forecast — around 1.3 million — the humpies that do make it back should have had less competition in the ocean, be fatter and put more eggs in the gravel for 2019’s fishery.

He believes that we’ve got one more “bitter pill” to swallow in 2018 due to the lingering effects of The Blob in 2014 and 2015, and he also issued a call to the recreational community to get over the bitter past and present with the comanagers.

“Here’s the thing: If we want better future seasons like what we saw in the recent past, the sportfishing community has to reach out and work with the tribes,” Nelson said.

That would include identifying chronically low stocks and the reasons behind them, a mix of habitat issues, but also other factors. Pointing to Lake Washington Chinook, Nelson asked if those fish really were an “ecologically significant unit” and noted the compromised character of its habitat in Seattle and suburbs.

“Let’s open the hatchery faucet in Lake Washington,” he said, something he felt the tribes would probably buy into.

That tone of working together with the tribes may not be widely shared among Puget Sound fishermen, especially coming out of last year, a sense that, increasingly, the tribes are the ones determining inside sport seasons, and calls for more transparency during the North of Falcon negotiations.

For their part, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission put out a press release saying that tribes’ three major types of fisheries would all be constrained as well.

The organization said that everyone’s fisheries wouldn’t need to be so restricted if the state put more effort into habitat. In a tweet, they pointed to levees in the Dungeness flats that have reduced access for young Chinook to the floodplain, and development in the Stillaguamish that has degraded habitat.

Long term problems, certainly, but for now, however, fishermen can begin planning their seasons in Puget Sound.

Contrasting Videos Highlight Plight Of Westside Steelhead, Fisheries

Steelhead videos out in recent days both bemoan the same thing — a lack of fish returning to Western Washington — but come from disparate perspectives.

A slick series produced by the Wild Steelhead Coalition contrasts sharply with a 13-minute preview piece cobbled together by Restore the Cowlitz, but they both recall a great past, focus on the poor present, and call for a better future, but through, literally, different lenses.

I appreciate them both, as they show a fire in the belly that is lacking when it comes to most of Washington’s other stocks, a deep concern for the resource and the real impacts policy decisions have on fish populations and people’s livelihoods.

The former, dubbed “Steelhead Country,” leads off with the downfall of Puget Sound steelheading, listing a number of rivers no longer open for all or part of the seasons due to plummeting native returns, and focuses on the experiences of the iconic Bill Herzog.

A SCREEN GRAB FROM “STEELHEAD COUNTRY, PART I,” SHOWS BILL HERZOG ON THE BANKS OF THE MCMILLAN DRIFT, ON THE PUYALLUP RIVER, AT ONE TIME ONE OF THE BEST SPOTS IN ALL OF PUGETROPOLIS TO CATCH WINTERS, BUT NOW CLOSED. (WILD STEELHEAD COALITION)

He loads some of the downfall on his own back: “We killed too many fish. Again, horrible management, they allowed us to take two fish, wild fish, till the end of April, ad naseum … My little squad, we killed 200 out of the Nisqually alone, just us, just us, 10 guys, killed 200. Easy. Let’s see, if we did that, wouldn’t take much, would it?”

The third video in the six-part series (the back half hasn’t been released at this writing) looks at “The Hatchery Fix,” which highlights the striking success WDFW’s predecessor’s increased stocking had, producing a “ten-fold” leap in the catch between 1947 and 1963, but also how that likely clubbed the heck out of the early part of the wild run, “which historically was the peak of the run.”

DEANNA WILSON HOISTS HER FIRST STEELHEAD, A SKYKOMISH HATCHERY WINTER-RUN. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Fixing the hatchery runs is what “Project Cowlitz” aims for, pointing out the deep economic impacts the end of releases of early-timed winter steelhead into the Cowlitz has caused.

According to another Washington fishing icon, guide Clancy Holt, where in the past he normally would have run four guides and pulled in $300,000 from mid-November to mid-February, yielding some $24,000 in state sales tax, this past winter, his operation ran two trips for $2,000 and collected just $150 in sales tax.

IN THIS SCREENGRAB FROM RESTORE THE COWLITZ’S NEW VIDEO “PROJECT COWLITZ,” LOCAL GUIDE CLANCY HOLT TALKS ABOUT ECONOMIC IMPACTS FROM THE LOSS OF THE EARLY-RETURNING STEELHEAD TO THE RIVER. (RESTORE THE COWLITZ)

He’s echoed by guides Dave Mallahan, Mark Youngblood and others, while Derek Breitenbach of Ethel Market & Sports details the dropoff in winter business at his Lewis County shop.

“This isn’t working,” Holt says, adding, “There has got to be a way to generate another run of fish in the winter from November to the middle of February — steelhead in the Cowlitz River.”

It would take time — a whole lot of time and even some fishery restrictions (not to mention a few more fish) — but I wonder if it isn’t possible to begin creating an early-returning strain out of the basin’s endemic late stock, recovering that temporal span that winters once covered.

I’m not a biologist, so I can’t say how possible that even is, but as a steelheader and someone who’s been writing about the decline for some time now, there’s a lot of good stuff in these videos, and I appreciate the passion both filmmakers put into them.

Is one righter than the other?

I just know that I need fish for all of us to fish for, and while I do see positive signs here and there on the wild front, I also know that today’s rivers have carrying capacities that will never get us back to late 1800s abundances. I do look forward to seeing what sort of solutions “Steelhead Country” proposes in its upcoming releases, but as pared back as hatchery releases have become, they’re essential bridges as habitat work continues and we work to figure out other problems affecting the survival of all of our favorite fish.

Hat tip to all, you rock for Doing Something.

WDFW Outlines Potential Puget Sound Salmon Seasons

Puget Sound anglers, guides, gear retailers, resort owners, commercial fishermen and others got their first glance at possible summer salmon seasons today.

Options presented this morning by WDFW included a mixed bag of opportunities to catch abundant Chinook and coho in some marine areas and rivers, sharply carved seasons elsewhere to limit impacts on depressed stocks, and closures on some waters to ensure enough salmon make it back to North Sound spawning grounds.

The agency was gathering comments from its stakeholders for the next round of negotiations with Western Washington tribes, who were also in meetings today.

2015 LOOMS LARGE OVER THESE ANGLERS ON WHIDBEY ISLAND AS A THUNDERSTORM MOVES PAST THAT JULY, AS WELL AS OVER 2017’S SALMON FORECASTS AND NEGOTIATIONS. THAT YEAR SAW THE BLOB WREAK HAVOC ON THE FISH AT SEAS, OVERHEAT AND DIMINISH THEIR NATAL RIVERS, AND THEN FLOOD THEIR REDDS UNDER FALL’S DELUGES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Discussions at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites were slated to continue through the afternoon, but, well, some of us have magazine deadlines to attend to, so I had to leave “North of Falcon II” early and can’t go as in-depth on all the arcane math behind WDFW’s modeling as is my usual wont, but I found several fishing options that the agency has drummed up as newsworthy:

For starters, with over 16,300 Chinook heading back to the Green, the agency would like to hold a one-weekend (Friday-Sunday), two-salmon-limit fishery on inner Elliott Bay in August (hatchery coho and pinks only the next two weekends), and open part of the lower river for king retention.

Initially, WDFW is looking at a nonselective season on E-Bay kings, following a lack of objection from the Muckleshoot Tribe, according to Mark Baltzell, Puget Sound salmon manager.

But that concerned several anglers, including retired state salmon policy expert and current sportfishing representative Pat Patillo. He thought that it might be better to propose the fishery as a mark-selective one, aligning it with consistent efforts to target and harvest fin-clipped hatchery salmon.

Either way, it buoyed one longtime angler who sat in the front row of today’s briefing.

“We’re glad to see a chance to get back our king fishery,” said Ed, last name unknown.

WDFW is also modeling hatchery Chinook seasons in the Nooksack, Skykomish, Skagit, Cascade, Puyallup and Nisqually Rivers, and any-king fisheries in the Samish River and Tulalip Bubble.

THIS TABLE FROM WDFW SHOWS CHINOOK FISHERIES THE AGENCY BROUGHT TO ANGLERS AT TODAY’S NORTH OF FALCON MEETING IN LYNNWOOD.

Unlike 2016, this year there are least options to fish for coho on the salt.

But to protect very low forecasted returns of Stillaguamish and Skagit coho, WDFW is considering closing Areas 8-1 and 8-2 through October, and running Area 9 as a shore fishery only for hatchery silvers in September.

According to the agency’s Ryan Lothrop, Admiralty Inlet typically produces 24,000 silvers that month, with impacts to Stilly and Skagit coho “quite high” as the rivers’ stocks mix before heading for their natal streams.

The tribes were said to be “relatively open” to a shoreline fishery throughout Area 9, including down to the Hood Canal Bridge, though it would only yield about 5 percent of the usual catch for anglers, according to WDFW.

Elsewhere, Areas 5, 6, 10 and 13 are modeled as open for hatchery coho, while wild and clipped silvers could be fishable in Areas 11 and 12.

WDFW’s proposal also includes selective coho fisheries in the Nooksack, Samish, Cascade and Nisqually Rivers, and any-silver fisheries in the Snohomish, Green, Puyallup, Nisqually and Quilcene Rivers, and Lakes Washington and Sammamish, and Tulalip Bay.

The Skagit and Stillaguamish would be closed, but the retired WDFW biologist and North Sound angler Curt Kramer said the agency owed game fish anglers something for 2016 closures and termed the Stilly a “blue-ribbon” cutthroat fishery.

ANOTHER CHART FROM TODAY’S NORTH OF FALCON MEETING SHOWS POTENTIAL COHO FISHERIES.

Since the early 2000s, odd-numbered years have delivered stellar numbers of pink salmon, but not so for 2017, at least by the forecast, some 1.15 million Puget Sound wide.

Again, with Stillaguamish and Skagit coho mixing into the best waters for Snohomish- and South Sound-bound humpies, things look grim for Area 8-2 anglers, but audience members came up with two possible sliver fisheries.

Patillo advocated for one on the eastern side of the area, from, say, Mukilteo down to the Shipwreck, with the idea being a fishery in Humpy Hollow would be further away from the constraining coho stocks.

Scott Weedman of Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville wanted to know about one off the mouth of the Snohomish River, from approximately the Tulalip Bubble down to Mukilteo, an area known as 8A.

The latter is a consideration, with the assumption that the closer to the Snohomish, the higher the density of salmon native to that basin. WDFW staffers were up until 2 a.m. this morning modeling an 8A fishery.

Other modeled saltwater fisheries include:

  • Hatchery Chinook in all or parts of July and August in Marine Areas 5-7, 9-11, 12 south of Point Ayock, and 13;
  • Any-Chinook fisheries in Area 7 from August through September;

But ominously, Skokomish kings and coho are listed as TBD, a possible sign about negotiations to reopen the river after last year’s closure by the tribe.

About 60 people attended today’s meeting. Besides those mentioned above, they included Gabe Miller of Sportco in Fife, Tom Nelson of The Outdoor Line, Puget Sound sportfishing advisors Ryley Fee and Norm Reinhardt, among others, Mark Spada, a pair of representatives from Sekiu, charter skippers Keith Robbins, Carl Nyman and Steve Kesling, Kevin John from Holiday Market, Art Tatchell of Point Defiance Boathouse, Jacques White of Long Live the Kings, Fish and Wildlife Commissioners Dave Graybill and Bob Kehoe, numerous Puget Sound Anglers, Kitsap Poggie Club and CCA members, Mark Yuasa at the Seattle Times, dozens of WDFW headquarters and regional staffers, and Susan Bishop at NOAA.

Again, I had to leave early, but this represents what WDFW presented to fisherman as North of Falcon 2017 draws to its scheduled mid-April conclusion.

FDR Pike Numbers Up As State-Tribal Removal Efforts Intensify

Ten times more “nightmare fish” — northern pike — than last March were caught earlier this month on Lake Roosevelt, including a 20-pound hen carrying eggs that made up roughly a tenth of its body weight.

The unwanted invasive species is the target of stepped-up gillnetting by the Colville and Spokane Tribes, and removal by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staffers, who say that this year through March 28, 338 have been taken out of the large reservoir at the head of the Columbia River in Washington.

COLVILLE TRIBES MEMBER ROBERT THOMAS HOLDS UP THE 20-POUND FEMALE NORTHERN PIKE GILLNETTED EARLIER THIS MONTH OUT OF LAKE ROOSEVELT. (BRYAN JONES, COLVILLE TRIBES)

The worry is that, just as pike got loose out of the Pend Oreille River system into Roosevelt, they’ll get out of FDR and into the salmonid-rich Columbia below Lake Rufus Woods.

Managers are increasing their efforts to head them off as they inexorably move that way.

“To date, northern pike appear to be distributed primarily in the Kettle Falls area  — near the mouths of the Colville and Kettle Rivers, Singers Bay, Evans — but juveniles were caught further south, near Bradbury launch, for the first time recently,” says Bill Baker, a WDFW fisheries biologist based in Colville.

He says that 2016 saw recruitment of a “measurable year-class,” along with “confirmed successful spawning” in the Kettle and probably Lake Roosevelt too.

A NORTHWEST POWER AND CONSERVATION COUNCIL IMAGE SHOWS MULTIPLE YEAR-CLASSES OF NORTHERN PIKE GILLNETTED OUT OF THE COLVILLE RIVER EARLIER THIS MONTH, “EVIDENCE THE POPULATION IS GROWING,” ACCORDING TO A BLOG POST FROM THE REGIONAL GROUP. (COLVILLE TRIBES)

“Many of the northern pike caught thus far this year are from that year class, around 16 to 17 inches on average. However, there are some large adults present, as well,” Baker says.

According to a mid-March Northwest Power and Conservation Council blog by spokesman John Harrison and headlined simply “Nightmare Fish,” the gonads on that hefty hen weighed 2.2 pounds and were “stuffed” with eggs.

WDFW began looking for concentrations of pike in February for the tribes to net this month. Gillnetting now gets ahead of the May-June spawn.

Baker says that this year’s netting effort is larger than 2016’s, so it’s hard to compare overall removal numbers from year to year, but he feels the catch rate is up, probably because of more pike in the lake but also a better understanding of where they like to hang out.

“Last year’s efforts informed where and when to net this year,” he says.

Bycatch has been “low,” he says, with walleye and redband rainbows comprising 8 and 5 percent of the overall haul.

Those fish are released alive as much as possible, and that’s being helped by cold water temperatures, he says.

If there’s good news, it’s that removal efforts in the Pend Oreille River reservoirs by the Kalispel Tribe appear to have pinched off those waters as a source of pike for FDR through entrainment during high-runoff years, such as 2011, when they first came to widespread attention after an angler caught one near Kettle Falls.

But unfortunately, the Canadian Columbia now has established pike schools, and “in-reservoir recruitment appears to now be the major driver for population expansion within Lake Roosevelt,” says Baker.

Northerns likely originally came down the Pend Oreille from the Clark Fork and Northwest Montana, where they were illegally introduced over the continental divide by bucket biologists.

State, tribal and Columbia system overseers are all on board with getting rid of as many pike as possible.

“We need to stop pike from moving downstream now,” Colville Tribes principal biologist Holly McLellan told Harrison, who also quoted Guy Norman, a former WDFW regional director and now member of the power council, as saying, “This is something that could have significant ecological effects on the lake, and on fisheries both in the lake and downriver. We need to get on top of it.”

Not only will putting a halt to northern’s southerly advance down the Columbia system help prevent damage to FDR’s stellar trout, kokanee, walleye and bass fisheries and ESA-listed salmon and steelhead populations below Rufus (the tribes also want to reintroduce stocks above Grand Coulee) but also provide fewer pike for jackasses to illegally move around, like the one that turned up in Lake Washington earlier this winter.

Baker says that gillnetting and monitoring will continue through spring.

And Harrison reports that crews will target the shallows this fall to remove and assess juvenile populations, while eDNA testing stations downstream will tell tribal and state monitors if pike are closing in on Grand Coulee Dam or getting into the Columbia Basin Reclamation Project.

48 Steelhead Smolts Set To Go On Very Public, Perilous Journey Through Puget Sound

Think you could survive swimming out through Puget Sound? Think you could do it if you were a steelhead?

If so, you might be interested in signing up for a new interactive challenge debuting this spring that will allow the public to track smolts as they try to make the journey.

HOOD CANAL AND SKOKOMISH RIVER STEELHEAD HAVE BEEN STRUGGLING IN RECENT DECADES DUE TO HABITAT LOSS, BUT BIOLOGISTS ARE BEGINNING TO SEE THAT SMOLTS ARE HAVING A MORE DIFFICULT TIME THAN EXPECTED OUTMIGRATING. (LONG LIVE THE KINGS)

It will pit 48 actual acoustic-tag-bearing young winter-runs from the Nisqually and Skokomish Rivers against pollutants, harbor seals, long bridges, hungry birds and other challenges as the ESA-listed fish outmigrate through Hood Canal and the South and Central Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca to the North Pacific.

If they even make it that far.

According to Long Live The Kings, which designed “Survive The Sound” with Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc., fewer than 20 percent of young steelhead make it out of Puget Sound these days.

The idea behind the experience is to bring that awareness to an audience beyond you, me and other steelheaders (we’ve written about it here and in the magazine), as well as raise money for research on our favorite species, and along the way have a little fun.

“Survive the Sound is a new way for people to interact with and learn about our Washington State fish,” Long Live The Kings posted in announcing the challenge. “Steelhead are magical: their behavior can signal deeper issues within the surrounding ecosystem, they are prized by chefs and anglers alike, and their presence is critical to sustaining tribal culture and treaty rights. Unfortunately, the Puget Sound steelhead population has declined dramatically over the past century —to less than 10% of its historic size— and they’re now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Today, there is serious concern that this iconic fish will slip into extinction.”

Here’s how to play:

Go to Survivethesound.org and pick one or more of the four dozen smolts that have been given all sorts of crazy names and avatars.

Northwest Sportsman is sponsoring Blitz, one of several Seahawks-themed steelhead, who’s looking for “a lot of support from the 12th man.” (Look for “Russell Wilswim” next year.)

BLITZ THE NISQUALLY STEELHEAD SMOLT. (LONG LIVE THE KINGS)

Drag your pick(s) into the little box at left and then fill out the credit card billing info to make a $25 donation per smolt to Long Live The Kings, a venerable organization looking into declining salmon and steelhead stocks in the Salish Sea and what can be done to support fisheries for them here.

After submitting the info, you’ll get a confirmation email and a link to a page that will allow you to see your smolt’s pace and distance covered, plus where it is on a map.

Blitz — a Nisqually smolt — hasn’t gone Beast Mode yet, but starting May 8 he and the rest of the young steelhead will begin their journey.

OTHER AVATARS INCLUDE A TASTY SWEDISH FISH, AND A NOT-SO-HEALTHY LOOKING SALMON ELLA. (LONG LIVE THE KINGS)

Their tags will be read (or not if they’re eaten or otherwise die) by sonar stations at key places in the saltwater.

Along with progress updates, you’ll also get briefings on problems facing Puget Sound steelhead, which were listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2007.

Then, NMFS said the “principal” reason was loss of habitat, but also “noted that predation by marine mammals (principally seals and sea lions) and birds may be of concern in some local areas experiencing dwindling steelhead run sizes.”

That’s become more and more of a concern, what with high numbers of pinnipeds and how many young Chinook they may be eating, but there are also suggestions that steelhead smolts just can’t get past the Hood Canal Bridge and that also makes them easy pickin’s.

To, er, hook lots of people into playing Survive The Sound, organizers have a variety of prize categories, including biggest “school” and fastest fish, and if you sign up before April 5, your name will go into a raffle for a stay at Alderbrook Resort, near the hook of Hood Canal.

It will be interesting to see if Blitz gets sacked himself (or herself for all I know) or rushes past the pinnipeds and cormorants and is able to reach the ocean’s feeding grounds.

It will be even more interesting to know if this vehicle delivers the plight of Pugetropolis’s steelhead to the masses, getting more people on board to do something about it.

Editor’s note, March 30, 2017, 2:10 p.m.: An earlier version of this blog mistakenly reported that the steelhead smolts had been radio-tagged. The fish in this research bear acoustic tags, according to Long Live The Kings.