Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

Support For Lake Washington Sockeye Restoration Assessment At Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another issue is all the predators in Lake Washington.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After Urabeck’s vote, he spoke again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An effect statement says his amendments:

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

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

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

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

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

Details Begin To Emerge On Washington’s 2019-20 Salmon Seasons

THE FOLLOWING ARE PRESS RELEASES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE AND NORTHWEST INDIAN FISHERIES COMMISSION

WDFW

Washington anglers can expect a mixed bag of salmon fisheries this year with increased coho opportunities in the ocean and the Columbia River, but additional necessary restrictions to protect chinook in Puget Sound.

COHO ARE THE BRIGHT SPOT FOR WASHINGTON’S 2019 SALMON FISHERIES. JERRY HAN CAUGHT THIS ONE AT BUOY 10 A COUPLE SEASONS BACK. (YO -ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The state’s 2019 salmon fishing seasons, developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribal co-managers, were finalized today during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (PFMC) meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif.

This year’s fisheries were designed to take advantage of a higher number of coho salmon forecast to return to Washington’s waters as compared to recent years, said Kyle Adicks, salmon policy lead for WDFW. However, projected low returns of key chinook stocks in Puget Sound prompted fishery managers to restrict fisheries in Puget Sound.

“We’re able to provide more opportunities to fish for coho in some areas, particularly in the ocean and Columbia River, than we have been able to do for several years,” Adicks said. “But continued poor returns of some chinook stocks forced us to make difficult decisions for fisheries in Puget Sound this year.”

Puget Sound

Again in 2019, fishery managers projected another low return of Stillaguamish, Nooksack and mid-Hood Canal chinook and took steps to protect those stocks. Notable closures of popular fisheries include: the San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7) in August; Deception Pass and Port Gardner (areas 8-1 and 8-2) in December and January; and Admiralty Inlet (Marine Area 9) in January.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind acknowledged the reductions in Puget Sound salmon fisheries are difficult for both anglers and the local communities that depend on those fisheries.

SALMON ANGLERS WORK POSSESSION BAR ON THE OPENING DAY OF 2018’S CENTRAL PUGET SOUND HATCHERY CHINOOK FISHERY. IT WILL OPEN LATER IN JULY THAN PREVIOUS YEARS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“Reducing fisheries is not a long-term solution to the declining number of chinook salmon,” Susewind said. “The department will continue working with the co-managers, our constituents, and others to address habitat loss. Without improved habitat, our chinook populations will likely continue to decline.”

Limiting fisheries to meet conservation objectives for wild salmon indirectly benefits southern resident killer whales. The fishery adjustments will aid in minimizing boat presence and noise, and decrease competition for chinook and other salmon in these areas critical to the declining whales.

Anglers will also have limited opportunities to fish for pink salmon in Puget Sound due to projected low returns this year. There are no “bonus bag” limits for pink salmon in 2019.

Puget Sound

Below is key information on Puget Sound salmon fisheries this year. More details will be included in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.

Marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (East Strait Juan de Fuca) are closed to salmon fishing in February.

Marine Area 7is closed to salmon fishing in August, October, and January.

Marine Area 8-1 is closed to salmon fishing in December and January but open for coho fishing in October.

Marine Area 8-2 will be open from Aug. 16 through Sept. 15 for hatchery coho from the Mukilteo/Clinton line south and west towards Marine Area 9. Similar to 8-1, this area will be closed to salmon fishing in December and January.

Marine Area 9 opens slightly later (July 25) this year with a lower quota for chinook (3,500 fish) and is closed in January.

Elliott Bay in Marine Area 10 is scheduled only to be open the first weekend in August, however, additional openings could be added during August.

Marine Area 10 will open July 25 for chinook fishing. The Area 10 summer quota is 3,057 chinook.  Last year it was 4,743.

Marine Area 11 is closed in June and then again from October through December. The area quota for the summer (July through September) is 2,800 chinook. In order to maximize opportunity for chinook, boat fishing will be open five days per week (Saturday through Wednesday) while shoreline fishing will be open daily.

Marine Area 12 (north of Ayock) will open in August (a month earlier than 2018) for coho fishing.

In Marine Area 13 there will be a 20-inch minimum size for chinook July through September.

The Skagit River (from the Memorial Highway Bridge in Mount Vernon to Gilligan Creek) will be open for spring chinook angling May 1 through May 31.

The Stillaguamish River will be open Sept. 16-Nov.15 for coho fishing. Gamefish seasons will be restricted to minimize impacts to chinook May through Sept. 15.

The Snohomish, Skykomish, and Snoqualmie rivers will be open Sept. 1-30 with a one-coho daily limit.

The Skykomish River will be open Saturday before Memorial Day through July 31 for chinook fishing.

The Samish River will be closed Sept. 23 to Oct. 31 to help ensure additional chinook broodstock collection for increasing production to benefit southern resident killer whales.

Minter Creek: Open Sept. 15-Dec. 31, anglers can keep four chum, two hatchery coho, and two chinook.

Skokomish: Conversations are continuing about a potential fishery. If any fishery is agreed to, WDFW will make an announcement.

Baker Lake sockeye: Baker Lake will open July 6, and a fishery on the Skagit River, which opens June 16.

Southern resident killer whales: In meeting conservation objectives for wild salmon, the co-managers are also limiting fisheries in areas where southern resident killer whales are known to feed. The adjustments will aid in minimizing boat presence and noise, and decrease competition for chinook and other salmon in these areas critical to the declining whales

ANGLERS FISH FOR PINKS IN THE LOWER DUWAMISH DURING 2011’S SEASON. (BRIAN LULL)

Columbia River

The summer salmon fishery will be closed to summer chinook (including jacks) and sockeye retention due to low expected returns this year.

Fall salmon fisheries will be open under various regulations. Waters from Buoy 10 upstream to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco will open to fall salmon fishing beginning Aug. 1.

Columbia River

Below are highlights of the major Columbia River salmon fisheries this year. More details will be in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.

Summer salmon fishery

The summer season on the mainstem Columbia River will be closed to summer chinook (including jacks) and sockeye retention.

Fall fisheries

During fall fisheries, anglers fishing from the same boat may continue fishing for salmon until all anglers have reached their daily limits in the areas listed below. The areas are closed to steelhead retention in August.

• Buoy 10 salmon fishery will be open from Aug. 1 through Aug. 20 for adult chinook and hatchery coho retention. The daily adult limit is two salmonids (salmon or steelhead) but only one may be a chinook and one steelhead. From Aug. 21 through Dec. 31, the daily adult limit is two salmonids, but chinook and wild coho must be released. Only one hatchery steelhead may be retained.

• Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to West Puget Island line (west end of Puget Island extending from green navigation marker #39 on the Washington shore to green navigation marker #41, then to red navigation marker #42, and terminating at red navigation marker #44A on the Oregon shore) will be open from Aug. 1 through Aug. 20 for adult chinook and hatchery coho retention. The daily adult limit is one salmonid. From Aug. 21 through Dec. 31, the adult daily limit is two salmonids, but chinook and wild coho must be released Only one hatchery steelhead may be retained.

• West Puget Island line upstream to the Lewis River will be open from Aug. 1 through Aug. 27 for adult chinook and hatchery coho retention. The daily adult limit is one salmonid. From Aug. 28 through Dec. 31, the adult daily limit is two salmonids, but chinook and wild coho must be released. Only one hatchery steelhead may be retained.

• Lewis River upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open Aug. 1 through Sept. 8 for adult chinook and hatchery coho retention. The daily adult limit is one salmonid. During Sept. 9 through Dec. 31, anglers will have a daily adult limit of two salmonids, but chinook and wild coho must be released. Only one hatchery steelhead may be retained.

• Bonneville Dam upstream to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 with a daily adult limit of two salmonids with no more than one chinook. Downstream of the Hood River Bridge, wild coho must be released. Steelhead daily limit is one hatchery fish when open as part of the adult limit, as described in the following section. Only one hatchery steelhead may be retained.

Steelhead

Within the mainstem Columbia River from Buoy 10 to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco, the daily limit for hatchery steelhead is one fish and the area is closed to salmon or steelhead fishing at night from July 1 through Dec. 31. The following areas are closed during the time periods listed below.

August

• Columbia River from the mouth upstream to The Dalles Dam

• Cowlitz River downstream of the Lexington Drive/Sparks Road bridge

• Lewis River downstream of the confluence with the East Fork

• Wind River downstream of Shipherd Falls

• Drano Lake

• White Salmon River downstream of the county road bridge

• Klickitat River downstream of the Fisher Hill Bridge

September

• Columbia River from The Dalles Dam to McNary Dam

• Drano Lake

October-November

• Columbia River from John Day Dam to Hwy. 395 Bridge in Pasco
The section from Hwy. 395 Bridge in Pasco upstream to Hanford will be managed inseason, but start with a limit of two hatchery steelhead limit. The area will be closed at night to salmon/steelhead fishing. The Snake River will be managed in-season as well with a one hatchery fish limit and from the mouth upstream to Couse Creek boat ramp, only steelhead that are less than 28 inches in size may be retained.

AN ANGLER NETS A FALL CHINOOK IN THE BUOY 10 FISHERY DURING THE 2014 SEASON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“While we anticipate a robust coho fishery in the Columbia River this year, we’re taking steps to protect depleted runs of chinook and steelhead,” Adicks said.

Steelhead fisheries in the Columbia and Snake rivers this season will be similar to those in 2017, when a similarly low run was projected, he said.

Coastal fisheries including Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay

Below is key information for coastal salmon fisheries this year. More details will be available in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.

Grays Harbor Area

The Area 2-2 Humptulips North Bay chinook fishery begins in August and runs through Sept.15.

The Area 2-2 East Bay coho fishery begins Sept. 16 and runs through Nov. 30.

The Chehalis River fishery in the lower river gets underway Aug. 1.

The Humptulips River is scheduled to be open for salmon fishing Sept. 1-Dec. 31.

Willapa Bay Area

The recreational salmon fishing season in Willapa Bay (Marine Area 2-1) is scheduled from Aug. 1-Jan. 31. Anglers can keep two adult salmon, but must release unmarked chinook. Also, the Willapa Bay Control Zone will be open at that time.

The freshwater rivers in the Willapa Bay watershed will have similar opening and closing dates as 2017 with fishery regulations consistent with the marine area regulations described above.

Washington’s ocean waters

“We expect some good opportunities for fishing in the ocean this summer,” Adicks said.

For 2019, PFMC adopted a significantly higher quota for coho, and a similar quota for chinook compared to last year. All four of Washington’s marine areas will open daily beginning June 22.

Washington’s Ocean Waters (Marine areas 1-4)

More details on these fisheries will be available in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.

Catch quotas

The Pacific Fishery Management Council approved a recreational chinook catch quota of 26,250 fish, slightly below last year’s total. The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast, also adopted a quota of 159,600 coho for this year’s recreational ocean fishery – an increase of 117,600 fish over last year’s coho quota of 42,000.

Fishing seasons

Recreational ocean salmon fisheries for chinook and hatchery coho will be open daily beginning June 22 in all four marine areas. Each area will close Sept. 30 or when their individual catch quota is met. The La Push (Marine Area 3) subarea will re-open Oct. 1 through Oct. 13 or until a quota of 100 chinook or 100 coho is met.

In marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport), anglers can retain two salmon, only one of which can be a chinook. Anglers fishing in areas 3 and 4 (Neah Bay) will have a two-salmon daily limit. In all marine areas, anglers must release wild coho.

More information

Notable changes to this year’s Puget Sound sport salmon fisheries can be found on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/management/north-falcon, where information on recreational salmon fisheries in ocean waters and the Columbia River also is available.

For information on tribal fisheries, contact the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (http://nwifc.org/).

 

NWIFC

Treaty tribal and state salmon co-managers have reached agreement on a package of fishing seasons for 2019 that addresses the conservation concerns for ESA-listed salmon runs and the southern resident orcas while also providing limited harvest opportunities.

More coho are expected to return this year, but poor returns of Stillaguamish, Nooksack and mid-Hood Canal chinook will limit harvest in some areas. Low returns of wild chum salmon also are expected.

“Cooperation between the co-managers helped to ensure that everyone will be able to fish this year,” said Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “We are especially thankful for the leadership of new WDFW director Kelly Susewind in helping to meet our shared conservation challenges.”

This year’s season-setting process required increased conservation measures because of ongoing habitat loss, Loomis said. “We are losing habitat faster than we can restore it. We must turn this situation around. Both hatchery and naturally spawning salmon depend on good habitat for their survival.”

Ocean and climate conditions have improved over recent years when a blob of warm water persisted along the Washington coast and resulted in record low returns. Drought conditions in recent years left many Washington streams running low with high temperatures that can be lethal to salmon. Last year’s snowpack was at normal levels; this year’s is expected to be slightly lower.

The tribal and state salmon co-managers also must contend with an exploding population of California sea lions and harbor seals. The two species of marine mammals are believed to take more than six times as many salmon than are harvested by fishermen.

“We know that the ongoing loss of salmon habitat, an overpopulation of seals and sea lions, and the needs of protected species like southern resident orcas are the biggest challenges facing us today,” Loomis said. “We also know that we must work together if we are going to restore the salmon we all need.”

Westside Pheasant, Sound Steelheading, More At Risk Of Cuts As Lawmakers Consider WDFW Budget

Washington lawmakers are split on how to fund WDFW over the coming two years and patch up a potential $31 million shortfall.

The state House assumes the agency’s proposed fee bill passes but provides just a two-year General Fund bump to fill that gap, while the Senate would provide ongoing support from sales taxes but doesn’t raise the cost of fishing and hunting licenses.

The legislative session is scheduled to wrap up April 28, and while extra time in Olympia has become routine in recent years, WDFW brass are increasingly nervous as they eye the gulfs between the two chambers’ spending proposals for the 2019-21 biennium and have to consider cutting more popular programs.

“Each day that passes, we become a little more anxious,” said policy director Nate Pamplin on Tuesday.

Last Friday, his boss, Director Kelly Susewind, warned the Fish and Wildlife Commission that the Senate’s budget approach could lead to “some pretty devastating potential cuts for us.”

“The lack of a fee bill really hurts the fishing and hunting side of the agency pretty hard,” Morgan Stinson, WDFW’s budget director, said yesterday.

On the fishing side of the fillet board are federally required monitoring of the last early winter steelheading opportunities on Puget Sound rivers and on the Skagit-Sauk in spring; the closure of Reiter, Whitehorse, Naches, Chelan and Meseberg hatcheries, which together produce 2.6 million steelhead, salmon and trout; rehabbing lakes for better trout fishing; and a brutal whack at the warmwater program.

STEELHEADERS IN A DRIFT BOAT COME DOWN A SLIGHT RAPID ON THE SAUK LAST WEEK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“The lower priorities fall off because we don’t have any low priorities. They’re low among all high — these are the lowest highs,” Susewind told members of the commission.

Over on the hunting side, the Master Hunter program, which the state uses to manage problem animals with the help of select sportsmen, would end, as would the Western Washington pheasant program.

Like largemouth, ringnecks are also nonnative, putting them on the wrong end of the list, but Pamplin added that the cost to raise and release the birds at Westside wildlife areas also exceeds the revenues the hunting opportunity brings in.

WESTERN WASHINGTON PHEASANT HUNTERS GATHER AROUND A GAME WARDEN AT A NORTH SOUND RELEASE SITE NEAR MT. VERNON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“If we bring in 15 percent more revenue, maybe we can restore it,” he said.

Fifteen percent is how much WDFW’s across-the-board fee hike would cost hunters and anglers, but with a $7 cap on bundled license packages, a caveat that came from the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

It would be the first license increase since 2011 and is meant in part to shore up the shortfall and maintain opportunities.

A LEGISLATIVE ANALYSIS SHOWS HOW MUCH MORE INDIVIDUAL WDFW FISHING AND HUNTING LICENSES WOULD COST UNDER THE FEE INCREASE BILL. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

The agency’s budget woes are primarily due to our license revenues not keeping up with costs to produce fish and manage critters and seasons; the Great Recession, which chopped its state General Fund stake from $110 million in 2007-09 to as low as $57.7 million in 2011-13 (with a one-time $10 million infusion for the current budget it grew back to $94.4 million); and inflation over the years.

Stinson said that WDFW’s structural deficit — how much lawmakers says it can spend versus how much money it actually takes in — is around $31 million this biennium.

APRIL 5, 2019 WDFW COMPARISON OF GOV. INSLEE, STATE HOUSE AND SENATE BUDGETS (FIGURES ARE IN MILLIONS)

Maintain/ Buy-back Decision Packages Gov House Senate
Maintain wildlife conflict response $4.4 $4.4 $4.4
Maintain public health and safety, Shellfish $2.5 $2.5 $2.5
Maintain land management $2.6 $2.6 $2.6
Maintain fishing and hatchery production $9.4 $9.4 $3.7
Maintain hunting $3.1 $3.1  –
Maintain conservation $3.4 $3.4 $3.4
Maintain Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsement $3.0 $3.0  –
Maintain customer service $1.9 $1.9 $1.9

 

Enhancement Decision Packages Gov House Senate
Enhance conservation $1.3 $0.6  –
Enhance hunting and conflict response $0.8  –
Enhance fishing $6.9 $2.6  –
Lands enhancement  –  –
Enhance Regional Fishery Enh. Groups $0.7  – $0.7

 

Additional

Gov

House

Senate

CB1 – Salmon Marking Trailers

$0.5

P2 – Global Wildlife Trafficking

$0.3

$0.3

WR1 – Orca Whale Recovery-Prey

$10.5

$4.6

$10.5

WR2 – Orca Whale Recovery-Vessels

$1.7

$1.5

$1.4

WR4 – Orca Whale Recovery-Capacity

$0.6

PILT (house gets county $ right)

$0.8

$0.8

$.08

Enforcement RMS (senate IT pool)

$1.5

$1.5

Elk fencing in the Skagit Valley

$0.1

$0.4

State Data Center

$1.0

$1.0

Local and tribal hatchery production

$6.0

Wolf Recovery – (2097)

$1.0

$0.9

Without the fee bill, hunter education, private lands access and game management would also be reduced, WDFW warns.

And while extending the important Columbia salmon and steelhead endorsement is part of the House budget, it’s not in the Senate’s, and that could impact the agency’s ability to hold and monitor fisheries on the big river.

Now, no doubt that WDFW warning its constituents about such dire cuts to programs is meant in part to spur hunters and anglers to contact their lawmakers to try and head things off, but on the flip side it will also just stir an already buzzing hornet’s nest of sportsman angst and anger towards it.

“They’re upset at us for a number of reasons, like they always are,” Director Susewind told the commission last week about the Columbia endorsement, “but this would actually make us less able to deliver the things they’re upset at us for not having more of.”

“Upset” might be a bit of an understatement.

WDFW’s fee bill in the Senate is caught tighter than a salmon in a gillnet over management issues on the big river.

In early March, the Fish and Wildlife Commission paused ongoing Columbia fishery reforms for 2019, voting to continue allowing nontribal gillnetting below Bonneville (phaseout had been planned by 2017), and reducing sportfishing ESA impact allocations on spring and summer Chinook from 80-20 to 70-30 (though the lower figure applies only if there are enough springers this year after a run update).

That infuriated longtime supporters of the reforms and efforts to end gillnetting in the Northwest, especially as it followed on the death of a Senate bill that would have barred the nontreaty commercial practice on the river in a couple years.

A GUIDE BOAT RUNS UP THE LOWER COLUMBIA DURING 2014’S BUOY 10 FALL SALMON FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association called on members to oppose WDFW’s fee bill, claiming the commission vote “restores year-round non-tribal gillnetting on the Columbia River’s 13 ESA listed stocks.”

According to ODFW and WDFW documents, there were four days of nontribal gillnetting for salmon on the mainstem last year. Those occurred in late August and targeted fall Chinook between Bonneville and the mouth of the Lewis. Low runs are expected to continue this year, making for limited fishing opportunities for all fleets.

Asked how the gillnet vote has impacted the fee bill, Pamplin acknowledged that it’s one of those big issues that always pops up each session.

“We have heard from legislators about concerns with the Columbia and the fee bill,” he said.

But he also pointed back to WDFW’s Budget and Policy Group of “opinion leaders” in the state fish and wildlife world and said that despite their own issues — “wolves, carnivores, hatcheries, allocations” — they “pretty quickly” saw a “healthy funded” agency was necessary, and some members continue to push for lawmakers to fully fund it.

BPAG came out of a 2017 legislative requirement that WDFW review its funding and operations.

It included an agency audit that found WDFW’s money problems weren’t due to mismanagement. And it mandated a zero-based budgeting exercise, which Pamplin said prioritized native species over nonnative ones, thus the warmwater and pheasant programs being proposed for cuts.

“But we recognize the value” of bass and other species, Pamplin quickly added. “We don’t want to cut it.”

And before last year asking for an overall $60-plus million fee hike and General Fund increase to maintain and enhance opportunties, WDFW also trimmed $2 million, affecting a number of IT positions, reduced grant funding, and triploid trout stocking.

AN ORCA BREACHES IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS. (BLM)

Elsewhere in legislators’ proposed 2019-21 budgets, the House makes a “really strong investment” for orcas with $14.8 million for additional hatchery salmon production, “one of the most important near-term fixes as we work on culverts,” in WDFW’s words.

Senate support for clipped fish isn’t as high, but members are taking a bit more of a regulatory approach for getting more Chinook to the southern residents, focusing on shoreline armoring, vessel distance and regulating the whale-watching industry, Pamplin said.

Now, as budget negotiations begin in earnest, WDFW staffers are reaching out to lawmakers, highlighting what could be impacted in their districts, and trying to make recommendations to each chamber about what a compromise might look like.

“What we’re focusing on right now is contacting legislators to walk through the difference between both budgets,” says Pamplin.

How that plays out will determine what gets cut and what gets saved in the coming two years and probably longer.

Tax On Recreational Gear To Help Fund WDFW Gets Hearing In Olympia

An idea whose time has come, an “unfixable” one — or something in between?

Washington lawmakers heard all sides during a hearing on a bill that would add a .20 percent tax on certain recreational equipment and clothing over $200 to help fund the upkeep of WDFW-owned fish and wildlife habitat.

MEMBERS OF THE WALGAMOTT-ECKSTEIN CLAN SET UP TENTS IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS DURING A FOURTH OF JULY CAMPOUT SEVERAL YEARS AGO. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Citing a ring of invasive knapweed around a state wildlife area sign in Okanogan County, prime sponsor Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) said he was trying to fix a long-standing problem for the agency since the Great Recession chopped a big part of state General Fund support for its myriad missions.

“I think $2 million would give us a start,” he told members of the House Finance Committee.

That’s how much a fiscal note says HB 2122 as initially written would raise on average over the coming six years for WDFW’s Wildlife Account, from $800,000 in 2020 to $2.9 million in 2025

Hunters and anglers presenting their licenses at that point of sale would be exempt as we already pay through federal excise taxes via the venerable Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts.

“That group has been paying the freight for a pretty long time,” Kretz pointed out.

REP. JOEL KRETZ TALKS ABOUT HIS BILL, HB 2122, BEFORE A HOUSE COMMITTEE DURING A TELEVISED PUBLIC HEARING. (TVW)

However, representatives from the retail industry say they oppose it, including for its broad language and the dollars that outdoor activities already generate for local economies and state taxes — $26 billion and $2 billion, according to Mark Berejka of Seattle recreational giant REI.

“This bill is not a fix and it is not fixable,” he said.

He also questioned how the sportsman exemption would work when buying items online, and complained that the bill had been “sprung” on his industry.

THOMAS O’KEEFE OF AMERICAN WHITEWATER STATED THAT THE BILL WOULD TAX THE SKIS HE STRAPS ON ON FEDERAL LANDS BUT NOT THE PADDLE HE’D USE AT A WDFW WATER ACCESS SITE. ANOTHER SPEAKER WONDERED IF HORSE SADDLES WOULD BE TAXED. (TVW)

James Moshella of the Washington Trails Association said his group was opposed, but that if such a tax was going to be imposed it needed to have a broader conversation and also should benefit all state lands — WDFW, DNR and State Parks — that hikers use.

Organizations closer to WDFW’s mission expressed support.

Jen Syrowitz, a hunter and hiker with Washington Wildlife Federation, called the bill a “fair ask of the recreational community.”

She said there was a “disconnect” between state residents and our wildlife and the bill would help everyone understand they’re all stakeholders in WDFW carrying out its conservation mission.

Syrowitz called the tax nominal, and in offering Audubon Washington’s support, Adam Maxwell said it amounted to “60 cents on a pair of Nikon Monarch binoculars.”

He said that the dollars WDFW receives generate a 350 percent return on investment to state coffers.

Calling himself an avid hiker and photographer, Chris Bachman of Spokane’s The Lands Council said, “I’m glad to pay the tax.”

He added that what would be taxed under the bill needs to better defined, a work-in-progress sentiment that was echoed by Tom Echolls of the Hunters Heritage Council and Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest. The former gentleman signed in as “other,” the latter in support.

WITH WDFW’S NATE PAMPLIN LOOKING ON, CONSERVATION NORTHWEST DIRECTOR MITCH FRIEDMAN EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR THE BILL DURING THE PUBLIC HEARING. (TVW)

Also testifying was WDFW’s Nate Pamplin, which said his agency was supportive of the intent of the bill, which came out of legislative requirements for state fish and wildlife overseers to review their operation, conduct an audit, look for efficiencies and convene stakeholders, the Budget and Policy Group, or BPAG.

He said that that found that the department’s mission benefits all Washingtonians, and it should be funded that way.

Asked by Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) how much WDFW lost in General Fund revenues due to the recession 10 years ago, Pamplin said funding went from $110 million in the 2007-09 biennium to $75.6 million in 2009-11 to $57.7 million in 2011-13. While it recovered to $94.4 million in the current two-year budget cycle, with inflation it’s still $30 million below where it might otherwise be.

Rep. Kretz said the dropoff could be seen in “lapses in management” and in his opposition to habitat acquisitions, such as Scotch Creek, where the aforementioned weed-ringed wildlife area sign stands.

“We really appreciate the sponsor [Kretz] for thinking outside the box and this committee for holding the hearing,” Pamplin said, adding that he looked forward to working with stakeholders on the bill.

Idaho Hunt Managers Tout 2019 Spring Turkey Prospects

THE FOLLOWING IS AN IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME PRESS RELEASE

The youth turkey season opens Monday, April 8, and the general turkey season and many controlled hunts in the state open the following Monday, April 15. Hunters can see which units have general hunts in Fish and Game’s turkey hunting rules, in addition to details about the seasons.

COLTYN SMITH, THEN AGE 14 FROM HORSESHOE BEND, IDAHO, AND CONNER TOMLINSON, THEN AGE 13 FROM MERIDIAN, IDAHO EACH HARVESTED THEIR TURKEY DURING THE YOUTH HUNT IN APRIL 2016. THEY WERE ESCORTED BY THEIR FATHERS, KIT SMITH AND SCOTT TOMLINSON. THE BOYS HUNTED ON A BEAUTIFUL MORNING, IN THE IDAHO CITY AREA. (ONTARIO KNIFE CO. PHOTO CONTEST)

There are some rule changes for the 2019 season that hunters should be aware of, specifically pertaining to controlled hunts:

  • A general tag or an extra tag may be used with a controlled hunt permit in both the spring and fall seasons
  • Immediately after any wild turkey is killed, the turkey tag and permit, if a controlled hunt, must be validated and securely attached to the wild turkey. To validate the tag and permit, the hunter must cut out and completely remove two triangles on the border of the tag and permit, one for the month and one for the day of the kill
  • The tag and permit must remain attached so long as the turkey is in transit or storage

Hunters will find most general hunting opportunity in the Panhandle, Clearwater, and Southwest and Southeast Regions, while most other areas are limited to controlled hunts.

While much of the state experienced deep snowfall in February, the winter was relatively mild until that point, meaning turkeys were not stressed for a long period of time. Add that to the fact that most of the state’s turkey populations were in good shape heading into the winter, and hunters can expect good to very good turkey hunting in the spring of 2019.

Hunters are warned that many areas experience flooding during late winter and early spring, so they should double check access to their favorite hunting spots. They might also encounter lingering snowdrifts that block them from their hunting spot.

AN I.D.F.G. MAP SHOWS THE PARTS OF IDAHO THAT ARE OPEN TO GENERAL SEASON SPRING TURKEY HUNTING (BLUE) AND AREAS THAT REQUIRE A CONTROLLED TAG. (IDFG)

Fish and Game’s regional staff give an overview of what’s happening with turkey hunting in their regions:

Panhandle Region

Turkey season in the Panhandle is looking quite good despite the snow that accumulated in the lower elevations late winter.

The region currently has near-normal winter snowpack, but the majority of snow fell later in February and March. Turkeys were likely not stressed for a long period because of the mild early winter conditions. Things should begin to melt soon and with the ample late snowfall we should see a very nice spring green-up due to the abundant moisture.

A challenge for turkey hunters this year might be access due to poor road conditions and the potential for flooding, but there should be abundant turkey numbers. Snow may also hang on in some areas of the region potentially affecting access.

During the spring season, hunters may purchase and use up to two turkey tags; only bearded turkeys may be harvested in spring. As always, remember to respect private property, and ask first before you hunt there.

– Micah Ellstrom, Panhandle Region Wildlife Manager

Clearwater Region

Turkeys are present throughout all forested portions of the region with the highest densities found in and adjacent to the Clearwater River drainage up to the confluence of the Lochsa and Selway Rivers, the Snake River drainage up the confluence with the Salmon River, the lower Salmon River drainage up to White Bird, and the Dworshak (Reservoir) area.

Good opportunities for turkey hunting are found on Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area, state and federal property, private property, as well as corporate timber land. The entire region is open to general turkey hunting April 8-14 (youth only) and April 15 – May 25 for the general spring season.

Production the past five years has been at or above the long-term average. Relatively mild conditions during the bulk of the past two winters should result in good overwinter survival. Consequently, turkey numbers this hunting season should be comparable to those observed in recent years.

Late winter snows could potentially preclude access to some higher elevation areas depending on weather conditions and snowmelt between now and the opener. The Hunt Planner is a good tool for showing different federal land ownership. For information on corporate timberland, visit websites for the Potlatch Timber Corporation and the Bennett Lumber Company.

– Dave Koehler, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Upper Snake Region

The Upper Snake Region generally has small populations mainly along the Henry’s Fork and South Fork of the Snake River.

With the late arrival of winter this year and lower than normal temperatures in February and March, we would anticipate some winter mortalities within the region.  With above normal snowpack in higher elevations in many parts of the region, expect to find turkeys at lower elevations later into the season.

Anticipate stable to slightly declining turkey populations in the region for spring hunting.

– Curtis Hendricks, Upper Snake Region Wildlife Manager

Southeast Region

Turkeys fared extremely well last spring/summer with high production and survival rates resulting in flock increases across the region.

Winter conditions were above average, however, turkey numbers were extremely high this past year, and despite some winter mortality, there should still be robust turkey populations for hunters to enjoy.

During the early period of the spring season, hunters might find turkey distributions to be slightly different due to lingering snow at higher elevations.

– Zach Lockyer, Regional Wildlife Manager

Southwest Region

The turkey outlook in the Nampa subregion of the Southwest Region is good. Winter conditions have been mild in the valley and we expect high overwinter survival in GMU’s 38 and 39.

Additionally, 100 turkeys were trapped on private land near Parma (GMU 38) and relocated to public land on the South Fork Boise River below Anderson Ranch Dam (GMU 39).

Turkeys have been faring well in the Treasure Valley for several years and numbers are up. Spring turkey hunting throughout the area should be good this spring.

– Rick Ward, Regional Wildlife Manager, Nampa Subregion

Turkey numbers are increasing throughout occupied parts of the Southwest Region.  Although many areas saw deep snow this winter, it came late and stayed for a relatively short time, so did not adversely affect turkey populations in most places.

Units 22, 31, 32A and 23 all have general spring turkey hunts, as does a portion of Unit 32. In areas around Cecil D. Andrus WMA, Cambridge, Weiser and Midvale, most turkeys will be at low elevations during the early part of the spring season.

Motorized travel is restricted on Andrus WMA until May 1, but walk-in hunting is welcome.  In addition, there is turkey hunting available on Access Yes properties near Cambridge, Indian Valley, and New Meadows.

– Regan Berkley, Regional Wildlife Manager, McCall Subregion

Salmon Region

The region has low turkey densities, about 400 in Custer County and about 125 to 225 in Lemhi County. There are limited controlled hunts for these birds.

The region likely had some late winter mortality but hunting success rates should remain good. Access will not be a problem due to snow.

– Greg Painter, Salmon Region Wildlife Manager

Magic Valley Region

The region has a limited number of turkeys in Unit 54, with most residing on the west side of the unit. Turkeys are limited to controlled hunts only in the region, and normal survival is anticipated after the winter.

– Mark Fleming, Regional Wildlife Habitat Manager

Why A Relatively Unknown Washington Lake May Produce The State’s Biggest Tourney Bass

If a WDFW staffer’s analysis of a decade’s worth of bass tournament catches spiked your interest in hitting Lake Osoyoos, we have a few more details to add about it and other hot spots.

That data posted to Facebook earlier this week showed that out of 18 waters across Washington, the fattest average fish was caught at this relatively overlooked border-straddling Okanogan River lake, 3.34 pounds — more than half a pound heavier than the next closest entry on the list.

A BASS ANGLER WORKS THE EASTERN SHORE OF LAKE OSOYOOS JUST BELOW THE INTERNATIONAL BORDER IN THIS CROPPED IMAGE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY’S SHORELINE PHOTO VIEWER. (DOE)

“I suspect they are large in there because conditions are perfect and they have been left alone for the most part,” says Dr. Daniel Garrett, a state warmwater fisheries biologist now stationed in Spokane who crunched the numbers from 14 contests held there.

“I’m sure they would eat a sockeye smolt,” he adds, “but I’d be shocked if crawfish wasn’t driving their growth there for most of the year, as in other systems.”

No need to tell that to two Washington anglers who fished a tournament on the British Columbia side of the 5,729-acre lake last April.

They brought a monster smallmouth aboard that might have gone 9-plus pounds had it not been “pooping crayfish all over the deck,” according to an article on Bassfan.com.

ANOTHER BASS BOAT WORKS OSOYOOS — WHICH MEANS “NARROWING OF THE WATERS” IN THE OKANAGAN LANGUAGE — ALONG ITS WESTERN SHORE IN THIS CROPPED IMAGE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY’S SHORELINE PHOTO VIEWER. (DOE)

It stated that the duo’s two-day, 64-plus-pound catch might also have been a record for the entire nation of Canada, though their final margin of victory — 39 pounds, 15 ounces — also suggests that they might have been fishing the spot on the spot on the spot.

The website reports they were dragging 4-inch Yamamoto Hula Grubs in cinnamon-purple flake and green pumpkin on 1/2-ounce football-head jigs around rocks next to weeds.

“This will put B.C. bass fishing on the map,” angler Shane Hoelzle told BassFan, which observed that otherwise, “largely because it’s a long drive from any large population center, and because anglers have kept quiet, Osoyoos remains largely unpressured.”

The lake is also on WDFW’s map, per se, and the agency says it offers “good fishing” from May through September, but ironically doesn’t list smallies in its rundown of “species you might catch” there.

At this writing, those spot-hoarding state zipperlippers only list perch, rainbows, kokanee, Chinook and sockeye as available.

But in Garrett’s analysis, Osoyoos actually had one of the highest percentages of smallmouth in its tourney catch, around 95 percent, topped only by the Mid-Columbia River’s Wallula Pool at roughly 97 percent.

Bronzebacks also comprised more than 70 percent of the bag at Lakes Washington, Sammamish, Banks and Long (Spokane), according to his analysis.

(WDFW)

But largemouth dominated at two other waters, Box Canyon and Potholes Reservoirs, a reflection of the preponderance of habitat for bucketmouths at the Central and Northeast Washington impoundments, he says.

“Box Canyon, for example, has a ton of slough habitat for largemouth,” Garrett says.

Those off-channel waters and drowned tributary mouths of the Pend Oreille River also unfortunately provided prime places for northern pike illegally introduced from Idaho’s Couer d’Alene drainage to establish themselves before WDFW and the Kalispel Tribe began an aggressive suppression program. While that effort appears to be working, walleye are now turning up in increasing numbers.

Garrett hopes to drill further down into the WDFW tournament data, including catches by month and season, but notes that out of the 146,124 bass caught and recorded at events held between 2008 and 2018, at least 112,213 were smallmouth and 33,503 were largemouth.

“They don’t add up to the 146,124 fish because there are a few missing data points because anglers didn’t report their smallmouth and largemouth. Not very many, though,” he notes.

(WDFW)

WDFW’s permit to hold an event requires organizers to report how many fish of each species were caught, their total weight, the biggest and smallest fish, and how many were released alive.

It turns out that this data may also provide key and unique insights into Washington’s bass populations.

Asked on Facebook if the end of size and bag limits on the Columbia in 2013 and 2016 had had any effect, WDFW stated, “Average weights of bass weighed in tournaments have not changed significantly in the Columbia River Pools. The average since 2016 is slightly higher than the 10-year average.”

As for getting on Lake Osoyoos this spring and summer, there are two boat ramps on the Washington side of the lake, including at Osoyoos Lake Veteran’s Memorial Park at its south end and Deep Bay Park on its west side just off Highway 97.

Do be aware that the lake belongs to two countries and boaters on it are watched more closely than on your local neighborhood lake, if this 2013 Wenatchee World story picked up by the Associated Press is any indication.

But over the coming months you might just spot one of WDFW’s warmwater bios doing a little field research here.

“I need to take a trip to see this lake,” says Garrett.

Me too!

Potential 2019 Washington River Salmon Fisheries Posted For Comment

More details are coming out about Washington’s potential 2019 river salmon fisheries and WDFW is looking for public input on them as North of Falcon comes to a boil over the next two weeks.

Overall, there will be seasons, though in places on salt- and freshwaters they don’t look too hot because of low forecasted returns to some rivers, potential impacts on chronically depressed Chinook stocks, efforts to rebuild three “overfished” Washington and BC coho runs, and providing for orca recovery.

ANGLERS WOULD ONLY HAVE SEPTEMBER TO FISH THE SNOHOMISH FOR COHO, WITH A DAILY LIMIT OF ONE AS MANAGERS TRY TO REBUILD THE “OVERFISHED” STOCK. ANGLER JON PULLING CAUGHT THIS ONE WITH GUIDE JIM STAHL A FEW SEASONS BACK. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

On Pugetropolis streams, while WDFW is again proposing bonus limits on coho in the Nooksack system — four a day in the mainstem and North Fork, and up to six on the South Fork — there wouldn’t even be a catch-and-release fishery for pink salmon there.

In fact, there wouldn’t be any humpy fishing in rivers from the British Columbia border all the way down through the Snohomish system, traditionally among the strongest pink populations — at least until The Blob and four big fall 2015 floods hit.

Speaking of the Snoho, WDFW’s proposing just a single month of salmon fishing in it and its two major tribs, September, and only for one coho. That month’s good, but October’s better, harvest wise. The Wallace would only be open for the back half of the month, also for just one silver headed to the hatchery there.

It’s because federal overseers are pushing the state and tribes to improve silver escapement on the key system following several bad years.

But unlike 2016 when none was mentioned, at least this clause is built into WDFW’s fishery proposal: “Extension of season dependent on in-season update.”

Also in the North Sound, the agency would like to open lower Dakota Creek near Blaine for coho, as well as hold a pilot May 1-31 hatchery spring Chinook fishery on the Skagit from the mouth up to Gilligan Creek.

Baker Lake would be open starting July 6 for three sockeye a day, the Samish Aug. 1-Oct. 31 for Chinook and hatchery coho

As for the potential Stillaguamish coho season, that is TBD after comanager discussions, according to WDFW’s literature.

Further south, salmon fishing on the Green-Duwamish could open Aug. 20 below I-405, with Chinook available for harvest starting Sept. 1 from the interstate down to Tukwila International Boulevard.

Fisheries on the Puyallup would open Aug. 15 for hatchery coho and Chinook, but with closures on certain days on the lower river to accommodate tribal openers.

The Nisqually would open July 1 for salmon, with a two-adult daily limit (release wild Chinook).

Things are less cut and dried at Buoy 10 and the rest of the Lower Columbia, where managers are trying to limit Chinook catches but access a good coho run of 900,000-plus fish.

There are multiple options on the table for dealing with August and its fall king runs, but things brighten in September, when the bag could bump to three hatchery silvers a day but no Chinook below Bonneville.

WDFW’s also warning that steelhead fisheries on the big river could see the rolling closures of 2017 and last year’s night closures and one-fish bags.

And things are no less complex in Grays Harbor and its tribs, but at least there are options.

Indeed, it’s better than sitting at home.

Next up in the North of Falcon process is an April 2 meeting in Ridgefield to talk about the Columbia and ocean, and an April 3 meeting in Lynnwood to discuss Puget Sound.

 

Oregon Gobbler Hunting Forecast For Spring 2019

Editor’s note: This is an abridged version of Troy Rodakowski’s Oregon spring turkey prospects story that ran in the March 2019 issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine and was written in early February, before heavy winter snows that are now melting fell across eastern portions of the Beaver State.

By Troy Rodakowski

I always wonder where my opening day will take me as I try to think of new options, consider revisiting old haunts and wondering what the new season might have in store.

Talking to a few biologists never hurts and I have found that sometimes they have good insights for hunters looking for new locations and tracking where flocks are moving.

JAYCE WILDER GOT HIS GOBBLER IN 2016 WHILE HUNTING DOUGLAS COUNTY. (ONTARIO KNIFE CO. PHOTO CONTEST)

“We are seeing some range expansion in parts of the Columbia Basin and eastern Malheur County, where Idaho birds are pioneering some new areas,” notes Mikal Cline, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s game bird biologist.

The state agency also conducts some trap-and-transplant operations, moving problem birds to more desirable locations, but only to improve existing flocks.

According to several local landowners and turkey hunters there are also improving flocks in the upper Deschutes watershed and locations around Bend, as well as the Hood River Valley.

With below average snowpack and a fairly mild winter – at least as of this writing – larger flocks have been congregating in the lowlands near the mountain ranges of Northeast and Central Oregon. I have also seen some expansion of several flocks throughout the Umpqua River drainage.

According to biologists, we are also seeing some range expansion in southern Wasco and Wheeler Counties, part of the Fremont National Forest north of Lakeview, and south of Ontario. No matter where you look it is very likely that there are some new areas to check out this spring.

NORTH-CENTRAL AND NORTHEAST OREGON SAW QUITE A BIT OF SNOWFALL IN FEBRUARY AND EARLY MARCH, AND WHILE IT IS BEGINNING TO MELT OUT, IT MAY AFFECT WHERE TO HUNT TURKEY AT THE START OF THE SEASON. MATHEW GOODMAN-GRAY GOT HIS TOM DURING SPRING 2015’S HUNT ABOUT A MILE FROM HIS GRANDPA’S PLACE NEAR UNION. (ONTARIO KNIFE CO. PHOTO CONTEST)

“The mild winter throughout Oregon has provided good conditions for our wintering turkey flocks,” notes Cline.

It is likely that weather-related mortality will be low, but hens should be going into spring in good physical condition as well.

“This of course also allows the hens to produce plenty of eggs and withstand the energetic needs of incubation,” adds Cline.

We of course have been fooled by mild early and midwinter patterns only to have onslaughts of wet, cold and snowy conditions later on, turning the tables and changing things drastically as we progress into spring.

Of course it is no secret that turkey populations seem to be robust throughout much of the Northwest. Oregon has a very liberal bag limit, with hunters able to purchase three tags apiece throughout the season. The West is becoming a turkey hunting destination for many across the U.S. Throughout Oregon harvest rates have been steady over the past five years, “though this doesn’t reflect the increasing density of wild turkeys that are not in huntable locations,” Cline says.

“Our Eastern Oregon brood survey routes show a 27 percent bump in turkey density from 2017 to 2018, so I would expect a strong showing this spring, particularly in the vicinity of the Umatilla, Malheur, Wallowa-Whitman, and Ochoco National Forests,” she forecasts.

THE TOP FIVE Western Oregon units in recent years have been the Melrose, Rogue, Willamette, Evans Creek and Applegate. All had good harvests, with some of the highest in Melrose and Rogue, followed by Evans Creek and Willamette respectively.

One unit to keep an eye on for this year will be the Siuslaw near Lorane, especially in the southeast portions near the small towns of Drain and Creswell. Also, the McKenzie, Alsea, Chetco and Keno Units have seen increasing numbers of birds on private lands near the foothills.

DON’T TELL THE TRUANT OFFICER BUT KEVIN KENYON MIGHT HAVE SKIPPED SCHOOL A COUPLE SPRINGS AGO TO HUNT TURKEYS WITH HIS UNCLE, SUCCESSFULLY BAGGING THIS WESTERN OREGON TOM. (ONTARIO KNIFE CO. PHOTO CONTEST)

In Central and Eastern Oregon, locations near LaGrande, Imbler, Elgin, Union, Cove, Wallowa, Sumpter and Flora all hold decent flocks. The Catherine Creek, Sumpter, Walla Walla, Pine Creek and Minam Units all saw decent harvest in 2017-18. And units that showed significant increases in harvest during the past few years include the Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Keating and Starkey.

Washington 2019 Spring Turkey Hunting Prospects

If 2019 is anything like recent spring gobbler hunts, somewhere around seven out of every 10 toms will be killed in Northeast Washington.

According to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Units 101 through 136 provided 69 percent of 2017’s statewide harvest, 3,331 birds, the third most for this region since 2008.

JEREMY RACE AND HIS SONS, THEN 3 AND 6, SHOW OFF A NORTHEAST WASHINGTON GOBBLER TAKEN DURING THE 2016 SEASON. (ONTARIO KNIFE CO. PHOTO CONTEST)

Even though winter struck late and stuck around into March, Annemarie Prince, WDFW’s District 1 wildlife biologist, doesn’t think it will impact turkey numbers.

“The fields in the Colville Valley are already starting to melt out and there are spots under trees that never had much snow,” she said in early March. “I’d say harvest should be similar to last year’s. I can’t see why it would be up or down significantly.”

Hunters typically focus on farms in the Colville, Pend Oreille and other valleys’ floors, as well as the wooded slopes above them, where typically private timberlands and public ground can be found.

“If the snow sticks around, the birds might stay bunched up a little longer in areas without snow,” says Prince. “For the opener, hunters could think about scouting early and contacting private landowners to gain hunting access. I don’t recommend showing up on opening day all decked out in camo and requesting permission. Like in year’s past, I think the map in our hunting prospects showing good areas for turkeys on public lands is helpful and still a good map.”

That’s a reference to a marked-up page in her fall 2018 hunting forecast document, which can be found by going to wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects.

Speaking of bios’ hunting prospects, Michael Atamian’s prognosis for District 2 – Spokane, Lincoln and Whitman Counties – has some interesting details.

Last fall he reported turkeys were doing “very well” in the Mt. Spokane, Mica Peak, Cheney and Roosevelt game units,  which produced 1,132, 232, 410 and 410 birds in 2017 (spring and fall seasons) and that they’re expanding in Harrington, Steptoe and Almota, though these largely open units yielded less than 120 all together.

“Qualitatively, the number of turkeys seen during other survey efforts – moose, deer and elk flights – would indicate the turkey population is healthy in District 2, as would the number of damage complaints our wildlife conflict staff have received,” noted Atamian earlier this month.

“This late winter weather will delay the hens nesting a bit and so decrease their interest in males, which will dampen the strutting a bit, but once the temperatures turn and snow starts to melt off, it will pick up quick,” he forecasted.

Even as his district contributes well to the region’s overall highest-in-the-state take, the knock is the decided lack of public land.

“As for almost all hunting in District 2 some of the best spots are on private ground,” Atamian says, “so I would highly recommend hunters secure private land access if they want to increase their odds.”

There are very scattered patches of state land, and the big paper company’s properties might be another option.

Atamian encourages turkey hunters to also look into fall opportunities.

WHILE THE GENERAL TURKEY SEASON OPENS APRIL 15, YOUNG HUNTERS CAN HEAD AFIELD A WEEK EARLIER FOR THE APRIL 6-7 YOUTH WEEKEND. JOHNNY HONE TOOK HIS NICE TOM DURING 2017’S EDITION. (ONTARIO KNIFE CO. PHOTO CONTEST)

To the south, the Blue Mountains harvest has been down from high marks earlier this decade, likely due to increased fall hunts meant to lower damage complaints. In spring 2017, 499 turkeys were taken here, representing 10 percent of the statewide kill.

Assistant wildlife bio Mark Vekasy reported big flocks in late winter, likely due to snows, but with no real winterkill issues to report he expected an average season.

“It seems like turkeys are everywhere we would expect them to be – and lots of places we don’t want them – so I can’t point to any particular areas,” he says.

That said, there are some public lands.

“Some out-of-the-way spots that often don’t get as much pressure are on the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area up beyond the road on Joseph Creek, and the George Creek unit of the Asotin Creek WA. The McDonald Bridge and Swegle Units of the Wooten WA on the Walla Walla River are good ones for disabled hunters to access,” Vekasy tips.

“If you’ve got a boat, it would be fun to access some of the Army Corps of Engineers hunt management units along the Snake River,” he adds. “We saw good numbers of turkeys on the breaks of the Snake River during our mule deer surveys, and I don’t think those turkeys get much pressure at all.”

Vekasy does advise hunters to get ahold of good maps showing HMU boundaries.

Outside of one off-the-charts year, Klickitat County has annually kicked out 370 to 514 birds each spring over the last 10 years, and you can expect that to continue.

“The spring 2018 season looks like it was on par with the four previous seasons, which have been very stable at between 400 to 500 birds harvested and a success rate between 25 to 35 percent,” says WDFW’s Stefanie Bergh. “I expect the same this year.”

While cool, damp weather can impact spring production, she points out that last year was hot and dry, leading her to suspect a good hatch in 2018, which could mean more birds down the road.

The Klickitat Wildlife Area may be most popular, but there are scattered Western Pacific Timber parcels west of Highway 97.

“If hunters can secure access to private lands, especially at lower elevations, their chances of encountering turkeys will be good. We also have a spot for disabled turkey hunters that is part of our Private Lands Access Program,” adds Bergh, pointing to  WDFW’s 40-acre Lovers Lane parcel just east of the town of Klickitat.

KEITH MOEN, THE SUBJECT OF A FEATURE ARTICLE IN A PAST ISSUE OF NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN MAGAZINE, POSES WITH A NICE TURKEY, THE SECOND HE’D TAKEN IN A THREE-YEAR STRETCH AT THE TIME. “OMETIMES IT’S HARDER FOR DISABLED HUNTERS TO GET TO GOOD AREAS AND MAKE A SHOT BUT HE IS BREAKING THE MOLD,” WROTE HIS WIFE MARY IN SENDING THE IMAGE. (ONTARIO KNIFE CO. PHOTO CONTEST)

To the north, state managers report that East Cascades flocks are probably at the region’s carrying capacity, in terms of winter severity, available habitat and resident tolerance, though the agency’s latest game report does note an increase in Chelan County in recent years that might be worth checking out.