Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

Welcome To EMRA, Formerly WDFW?

“You have reached the Ecosystem Management and Recreation Agency. If you have a question about hunting regulations, press 1. If you would like to reserve a campground at a state park, press 2. If you have a question about state wildlife areas, please call the DNR.”

That’s a phone greeting you might hear in the future if one particular consolidation scenario that Washington’s natural resources agencies are looking at comes to fruition.

Earlier this year, Gov. Gregoire asked the state’s Departments of Fish & Wildlife, Natural Resources, Parks, Health, Agriculture, Ecology and other groups to come up with ideas on how to reform management of their agencies, reduce costs and improve service delivery.

A week or so ago, the departments issued a 172-page document that looked at several scenarios combining the resource divisions into two, three, four and five agencies.

Basically for WDFW, the more individual agencies there are, the more the department’s functions might be split off.

Also, law enforcement functions would be combined with DNR and placed under the State Patrol or made into a separate agency.

It’s a lot to chew on, but you have about a month to try and digest it all. Public comments are being accepted through October 28.

Here’s a rough overview, courtesy of WDFW, on how it might all sort out for the department:

Overview:  Natural resource reform ideas and WDFW programs

Concepts in the “Ideas to Improve Management of Washington’s Natural Resources” document would have significant effects on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) organization and functions, with effects varying by option. This overview indicates where existing WDFW programs and activities would be placed under the various options.

Agency organization

The following ideas are outlined on pages 21-68 of the document as ways to reorganize natural resource agency structure:

1. Two-Agency Model – Would reorganize existing natural resource agencies into the following two new agencies:

1. Department of Environmental Regulation, which would manage environmental permits, land use, and other environmental issues. WDFW’s Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) program would be placed here under this model.

2. Department of Resource, Recreation, and Land Management, which would manage state lands and recreation.   WDFW’s fishing and hunting management, including commercial fishery management, would be placed here under this model. Management of salmon recovery, wildlife areas and water-access sites, and financial assistance for fish-passage projects also would be placed here.

2. Three-Agency Model – Would reorganize existing agencies into the following three new agencies:

1. Environmental Protection Agency, which would manage pollution impacts and land use.

2. Agriculture and Natural Resources Land Management Agency, which would manage state conservation and working lands (agriculture, logging, etc.) Management of WDFW wildlife habitat lands would be placed here under this model.

3. Recreation, Resources, and Ecosystem Conservation Agency, which would manage fish, wildlife and recreation; regulate hydraulic approvals; and address ecosystem-based management and recovery.  WDFW’s work with tribal natural resource co-managers, species conservation, hatchery management, fishing and hunting season-setting, hydraulic project approvals (HPAs), and management of recreational wildlife areas and water-access sites would be placed here under this model.

3. Four-Agency Model –Would keep the departments of Ecology, Agriculture, and Natural Resources remaining as they are and would create a new “Ecosystem Management and Recreation Agency.”

WDFW would be merged with State Parks to form a new Ecosystem Management and Recreation agency , under this model.   The Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Parks Commission would be combined into a single commission, or WDFW and Parks would be put under the authority of the Governor with a single advisory commission. Most current WDFW functions would be administered through this new, merged agency. (Except, as in the three-agency model, management of wildlife habitat lands would be placed in the Department of Natural Resources.)

4. Five-Agency Model –Would create five independent agencies and shift programs from current agencies to align related programs:

1. Environmental Protection Agency, which would manage pollution impacts and land use.

2. Agricultural Agency, which would support and promote agriculture.

3. Public Land Management Agency, which would manage state-owned lands. WDFW wildlife lands (both habitat and recreation lands) and water-access sites would be placed here under this model.

4. Resource and Ecosystem Conservation Agency, which would manage public resources (fish and wildlife), regulate natural resources activities, and address ecosystem-based management and recovery.  WDFW’s work with tribal resource co-managers; species conservation; hunting and fishing season-setting; and hatchery management all would be placed here under this model. The Puget Sound Partnership and the Salmon Recovery office, Biodiversity Council and Invasive Species Council also would be placed here under this model.

5. Environmental and Natural Resources Financial Assistance Agency, which would provide leadership and accountability for all natural resources and environmental grant and loan programs.  Natural resource grant and loan programs would be placed here under this model.

Note: Under all of the above agency-reorganization models, WDFW and DNR law enforcement functions either would move to the Washington State Patrol or be constituted as a combined stand-alone agency. The enforcement reorganization concepts are detailed under the “Sharing Services and Functions” section below.
The remaining reorganization ideas would not require agency consolidation to be implemented.

5. Unified State Vision – This concept would create a unified vision for all natural resources agencies to better enable state government to focus scarce time and money on the most important things. Under this idea, agencies would create a unified vision, mission, goals and outcomes for natural-resource management through strategic planning. Agencies would identify a common set of environmental threats and would prioritize and synchronize management strategies, and then collaborate to achieve the goals.

6. Re-align Regional Boundaries and Co-locate Regional Offices – Under this idea agencies, over time, would combine and relocate their current regional offices into regional offices made up of multiple agency employees, supported by shared work centers. WDFW’s existing regional boundaries likely would change under this model.

7. Collaborative Ecosystem-based Management – Under this idea, agencies would collaboratively establish goals and priorities in eco-regions, which are large geographic areas (such as Puget Sound), that have topographical and ecological characteristics that differentiate them from other eco-regions. This idea could use science and local planning and prioritization processes to better focus state efforts.

8. Formalize Multi-Agency Collaboration —Under this concept—known as “structured collaboration”—cross-agency teams and formal working relationships would be established among agencies. These cross-agency teams would have dedicated employees, budgets, and missions that focus on strategy, coordinated responses and shared responsibilities.  Multi-agency collaboration efforts could include current WDFW activities such as salmon recovery, watershed heath, state-tribal resource co-management, permit streamlining and state land acquisition.

Sharing Services and Functions

Ideas presented on pages 69-116 of the document address potential efficiencies that do not involve broad, multi-agency reorganization:

1. Share Geographic Information System (GIS) technology used to inventory, manage and map information about Washington’s natural and human-built environment. This information is used to manage natural resources, protect Washington’s environment, and ensure public safety.  WDFW’s GIS work would be included in this effort.

2. Coordinate Citizen Science –Under this idea, agencies and citizens would better collaborate to gather data.  The state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) would be the lead agency in scoping, testing and implementing the citizen science project. WDFW’s citizen science efforts would be included in this coordinated approach.

3. Consolidate Natural Resources Law Enforcement – Several ideas are presented on pages 86-97 of the document:

1. Reclassify all natural resource agency law enforcement officers to expand their authority to that of general police officers. WDFW’s Enforcement Program already is designated as a general authority law enforcement entity; this change would affect DNR officers.

2. Combine law enforcement officers from the WDFW and DNR into an independent agency.

3. Create a Natural Resource Enforcement Bureau within the Washington State Patrol, staffed with enforcement officers from WDFW and DNR. WDFW officers would become part of the Washington State Patrol under this option.

4. Consolidate Grants and Loans – Two ideas are presented on pages 98-116 of the document:

1. Create a Natural Resources Financial Assistance Agency that would co-locate current grant and loan programs. This one agency would develop a web-based portal for customer access; standardize forms and reporting; and coordinate compliance of contractual obligations.

2. Create a Natural Resources Grants and Loans Council, which would create a centralized information portal and develop common forms, procedures, protocols, and performance measures. Under the council, grants and loans would remain in multiple agencies, but some of the current grant programs would be aligned along functional lines.  WDFW’s grant programs, including the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account (ALEA), Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Migration Act, Landowner Incentive Program, Partnerships for Pheasants, and Grants to Wildlife Rehabilitators, would be included in these concepts.

Improving Environmental Protection, Permitting and Compliance

Concepts to improve environmental protection and permitting (on pages 117-146 of the document) include ideas to:

1. Update the Growth Management Act.

2. Expand pilot projects testing consolidated and coordinated permitting systems. WDFW’s Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) program could be included in this effort.

3. Grant agencies authority to do permit by rule and expand programmatic permits that create blanket requirements applicants must comply with in order to receive hydraulic project permits. Under this concept WDFW could develop programmatic HPAs for DNR forest-practice activities on state trust lands, and for maintenance activities associated with water crossings, overwater structures and bank-protection structures.

4. Consolidate regulation of dairy’s manure waste from two agencies to one.

5. Target delivery of incentive-based programs for landowners–Under this idea, the state Conservation Commission would be the point of contact for incentive programs. Conservation districts would coordinate with state, federal, local and tribal agencies to provide a package of tailored incentives to a landowner.  WDFW would be added to the State Conservation Commission as a full member under this concept. WDFW current participates only as an observer.

6. Implement Outcome-Based Environmental Management–Under this idea, the state would shift its emphasis for managing environmental resources from a single resource view to a view that attempts to achieve larger ecosystem objectives, such as restoration of endangered species and restoration of watershed processes. Under this concept, state agencies would aim to jointly administer natural-resource compliance monitoring and enforcement activities. WDFW species and habitat monitoring and enforcement activities would be included in this concept.

Streamlining quasi-judicial boards

Streamlining ideas, presented on pages 145-166 of the document, include concepts to:

1. Move Environmental Cases to Boards with Environmental Expertise—This would move general hydraulic permit appeals, surface mining reclamation permit appeals and derelict vessel appeals from the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) to boards with environmental expertise. General HPA appeals would be moved under this concept.

2. Redesign Boards into a single Environmental and Land Use Adjudicatory Agency – Under this idea the functions performed under the Environmental Hearings Office and the Growth Management Hearings Boards would be merged into a single adjudicative agency containing two major quasi-judicial components:  Appeals of natural resources and environmental regulatory matters, and land use related appeals. The Hydraulic Appeals Board would be moved out of the Environmental Hearings Office and would become part of the Pollution Control Hearings Board under this concept.

3. Growth Management Hearings Boards Efficiency and Structure.

4. Eliminate Duplicative Administrative Review for Certain Agency Decisions—This idea would eliminate the ability to request remission or mitigation of civil penalties from the Departments of Ecology and Natural Resources. Appeals of the civil penalty would go directly to the appropriate board. WDFW administrative orders and rule-making would be included in this concept.

5. Address Separate Appeals of Shoreline Master Programs—In this concept, all shoreline Master Program appeals would be referred to the Land Use Planning Appeals Board, which would consist of panels from members of the Growth Management Hearings Board and the Shoreline Hearings Board.

A Weekend On High

Northwest Sportsman contributor Jason Brooks spent last weekend on high, but when he got home, he wrote up the successful deer hunting trip for friends less able to get into Washington’s Cascades.

This particular “notebook” entry details how Chad Hurst, brother Kyle Hurst and he hunted in the Glacier Peak Wilderness during Washington’s legendary mid-September High Buck Hunt.

Rest assured, the boys were wearing orange while they hunted.

Mr. Brooks, take it away. — The Editor

Our weekend adventure started last Friday with an awesome day to hike into the high country. It was a short 3 miles into camp, but 2,000 feet up! Camp was set up just shy of 6,000 feet, but it was comfy.

(JASON BROOKS)

(JASON BROOKS)

It was a great evening to do a little glassing and we put to bed one really nice buck with some other deer, and a big bear, all in the same avalanche chute about a mile away.

brooks 2

The next morning we woke to rain and fog and a cold western wind. We hiked about 4 miles in the dark and fog and were able to find a cut at 6,400 ft through the granite ridge. Once on the other side and out of the wind it became a waiting game for the fog to clear.

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brooks 4

And when it did finally open up for us, we realize we were still one drainage over from where we needed to be.

brooks 5

We learned the “hard way” that the only way into the small basin with the deer and the big bear was another 2 mile hike up and over another pass, and then you had to go along the base of the granite cliffs to find the cut and climb through it…it was now 4:30 and we were about 6 miles from camp on a cold, wet, windy day…we also had another nice bear below us about a mile away but realized that by the time we got to him it would be dark (about 1,000 feet below us).

So we headed back to camp. I got a grouse on the way back and we fried up some “grouse nuggets” for diner.  Finally a good night sleep under the tarp in my bivy bag, and we woke the next morning to more fog and it spitting snow on us. However Chad could see the basin below was in the sunshine so we waited about an hour and it burned off.

We started down the trail to another overlook for some glassing and on the way Chad spotted some deer. A nice 3×4 was with some does just over 500 yards away, of course downhill. We put on a sneak and closed the distance to 353 yards per the rangefinder (that is the compensated yardage for the downhill slope). The buck was up and feeding and we couldn’t get any closer and still see him due to the thick huckleberry patch he was in. So we sat down, steadied our rifles and Chad fired…then Kyle fired…and WOW! What a shot, the buck flipped over and was dead right there…Kyle hit him in the neck and said he put the crosshairs right at the deer’s ear…the bullet dropped about 12-14 inches and hit home! Chad felt he shot just over the deer and overcompensated for the yardage.

Here is a photo from where we shot to where Kyle’s deer was…it was in the small red patch you see past the dead snag.

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Zoomed in a bit for a better look…what an awesome shot!

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And here is the deer…not bad for only his second buck! He took up hunting 2 years ago and killed a 3×3 his first year…pretty much sat out last year due to a knee injury, and then bought his 30-06 (savage 110 combo) from Cabelas this summer…first time he pulled the trigger on an animal with this gun…oh, and I guess I can’t give him a bad time anymore for using over the counter Remington Core-loks…even if they do suck! J

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Here is Chad still in disbelief at his brother’s shot…or maybe he is realizing how far it is back up to the top of the mountain and our camp…!

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Another great weekend adventure! I can honestly say that at times during this hunt it was extreme…going over granite peaks, cutting across scree fields with boulders as big as cars, and the shear steepness of the country, but it was also one of the most fun and rewarding hunts I have ever been on.

Next weekend is my muzzle loader hunt in the high country with my Dad…I can’t wait. – Jason Brooks

Coho (And Walleye) At Carrolls

A friend of mine just phoned HQ to report the salmon-fishing jinx was off as he and his father trolled Carrolls Slough, on the Washington side of the Columbia, this morning.

He was also pretty excited about catching a 15- or 16-inch walleye, which took me a little by surprise.

That bite, according to recent reports, has mainly been in the Camas/Washougal area on up.

The Spencers have so far boated a nice-sized coho and released a slightly smaller Chinook (the Columbia is closed for kings below the Lewis).

CHRIS SPENCER OF LONGVIEW WITH A COHO FROM CARROLLS SLOUGH. (JAMES SPENCER)

CHRIS SPENCER OF LONGVIEW WITH A COHO FROM CARROLLS SLOUGH. (JAMES SPENCER)

They’ve been trolling plugs with the rest of the fleet of 50 boats or so. Joe Hymer’s weekly Southwest Washington fishing roundup yesterday reports good coho action at the mouth of the Cowlitz, just downstream from Carrolls.

Chris is dragging around a red Hot Lips with a yellow eye (he’s the walleye guy) and pa James (the salmon dude) is pulling a smaller tiger-striped Wart-style plug.

Two other fish have come off, Chris reports.

He took the day off to target walleye specifically, but says his dad is in “full salmon mode.”

ONE OF TWO COHO LANDED SEPT. 22 BY JAMES SPENCER OF KALAMA. (CHRIS SPENCER)

ONE OF TWO COHO LANDED SEPT. 22 BY JAMES SPENCER OF KALAMA. (CHRIS SPENCER)

And so would we be with all the coho in Southwest Washington right now.

Then again, this of the walleye at Carrolls is pretty interesting.

POST SCRIPT: I fired off that report about 45 minutes ago and went back to talking to Eastern Washington steelheaders. While I was doing so, I got two very excited voice messages from Spencer. To wit:

PHONE CALL 1: “Five minutes after I got off the phone with you, I got a silver to the boat, but he snapped my line and saw him jumping with my plug in its mouth. About a half hour to 45 minutes later, I managed to boat one. Fish on!!”

PHONE CALL 2: “Sorry about that last message. I literally caught a fish while I was leaving you a message. Gimme a call. I’m done fishing for the day. For the first time ever, I limited out on salmon.”

Big Changes Proposed For Steelhead, Sturgeon

When WDFW fired off a press release about their 2010-2012 fishing rule proposals on Wednesday, I posted some of the “highlights” here and a link to more information, then went back to hammering the last bits of the October issue into shape.

But I took the 100-page document home that night for further study.

Glad I did, because the deeper I read into it, the more my eyebrows rose.

WDFW is proposing a lot of big changes that steelheaders, Columbia River oversize sturgeon and salmon anglers, rockfishers and trout fishermen should keep an eye on.

Some of the tweaks would change the face of fisheries, and would result in less opportunity for us — but at the same time protect troubled stocks.

COLUMBIA RIVER

Anglers who back-troll FlatFish or Kwikfish or big spinners below the dams or troll Warts in the pools above for salmon or steelhead should know about proposal 31.

It would require anglers to ditch all their trebles for single, barbless hooks everywhere from the mouth of the Columbia up to McNary Dam.

“It’s going to hurt sport fishing, there’s no doubt, it’s going to hurt sport fishing,” says Buzz Ramsey, a noted Columbia River salmon and steelhead angler, brand manager for Yakima Baits and Northwest Sportsman columnist.

WDFW explains that the requirement would make it easier to release fish.

STEELHEAD

WDFW wants to chop two weeks off winter steelhead season on North Puget Sound rivers, just as wild stocks begin to return to them.

They want to move the last day of season from the end of February to midmonth on the Nooksack system, Pilchuck River, much of Pilchuck Creek, all of the Raging and  Snohomish, most of the Skykomish and Snoqualmie, and lower Stillaguamish rivers.

On the Skagit, selective-gear requirements from mouth up to Highway 536 would begin half a month earlier (Feb. 15) and the catch-and-release season from The Dalles Bridge to the Cascade would begin a month earlier as well.

The intent, explains WDFW, is to “provide more protection for wild steelhead present in these rivers. Most hatchery steelhead will have cleared these areas by the middle of February, so anglers are fishing for wild fish (catch-and-release) until the end of the month under current rules.”

However, hatchery steelhead areas such as the Sky from the Wallace to the forks, Snoqualmie above Plumb Landing and North Fork Stilly would remain open through the end of the month.

And a selective-gear, two-hatchery limit, fishing-from-an-unpowered-boat, Feb. 16-March 31 fishery would be opened from Highway 536 to The Dalles Bridge on the Skagit.

WDFW is also proposing a complex new “stream strategy” in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to protect waters that act as nurseries for juvenile anadromous fish. Rather than unlisted rivers, streams and beaver ponds being open under statewide rules and seasons, if they weren’t in the regulations, they would be considered closed waters.

“… Much of the juvenile rearing habitat for resident trout and Dolly Varden and anadromous salmon, steelhead, cutthroat, and Bull Trout is currently open for fishing. As a result, these juvenile salmonids are at risk of being incidentally caught and may not survive being handled and released, especially if bait is used,” the state explains.

The agency wants to reduce the number of rivers open for wild steelhead retention by three by closing seasons on the Hoko and Pysht rivers on the Coast and the Green River in King County.

While return numbers on the Hoko and Pysht are meeting goals, WDFW cites declining sport harvest, “an indication of a reduced return of an already small stock, and the need for a more cautious management approach.”

The number of unclipped steelhead on the Green has also been shrinking in recent years, they say.

WDFW also proposes to move back retention seasons on coastal streams from December 1 to February 16. Not many wilds are kept during that timeframe on the Sol Duc, Hoh, Bogachiel and others, but WDFW wants to protect the early segment of the run to promote diversity within the stocks.

“In the past, these early runs were large and known to migrate higher in the watershed during early high flows and occupy spawning areas not often accessed by later running fish,” a state document explains.

And as a preventive measure, the state is calling for new selective gear rules on all of the South Fork Calawah and parts of the Bogachiel, Hoh and Sol Duc, and catch-and-release (except for hatchery steelhead) on the latter two streams.

ROCKFISH

Perhaps hoping to stave off an Endangered Species Act listing, rockfish would be completely off-limits in Puget Sound, the San Juans and eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca. The daily catch now is the first legal one caught (yelloweye and canary rockfish can’t be retained).

“Populations of several species of rockfish have been in decline and the Federal government has proposed that three species of rockfish be listed under the Endangered Species Act; two species (canary and yelloweye) as threatened and one species (bocaccio) as endangered,” WDFW explains.

And in the western and central Straits, retention would be barred in waters deeper than 120 feet.

STURGEON

Shad, that candy for sturgeon below Columbia River dams during “a biologically sensitive time of year,” would be outlawed, to protect broodstock populations, under one proposal.

“Large adult sturgeon inhale whole shade and often end up getting hooked so far down the throat that the hook cannot be removed. Staff conducting weekly surveys for dead sturgeon found that up to 40% of oversize sturgeon carcasses contained hooks in the gut,” WDFW explains.

The agency appears to admit it wants to shift the focus of the sturgeon fishery to the smaller, legal-sized fish.

“Sport fishery opportunity can be maintained as focused on legal-sized fish with over-sized as incidental handle as opposed to an advertised exploitable resource,” says WDFW.

TROUT

To spread out the catch, daily limits for larger trout would be reduced at Blackmans Lake in Snohomish and Beaver Lake in King County as well as nearly five dozen others in Pierce, Mason, Kitsap, Jefferson, and Thurston counties where WDFW wants to begin planting bigger rainbows.

OTHER SPECIES

Other proposals include:

* Closing the west end of Sprague Lake to fishing to protect water birds

* Making the bank-fishing-only area at Drano Lake during spring Chinook fisheries permanent

* Encourage the harvest of hatchery summer Chinook over unclipped kings in the upper Columbia and Okanogan rivers with three-hatchery-fish OR one-wild king limits

* Reducing the daily Puget Sound crab limit to four from five but shifting the open days to Friday through Monday from Wednesday through Saturday.

The agency will hold seven meetings in the next month on all the proposals where the public can discuss the ideas with state staffers.

Meetings will be held:

Sept. 28 – WDFW’s Ephrata Office, 1550 Alder St. N.W., Ephrata

Sept. 29 – WDFW’s Spokane Office, 2315 North Discovery Place, Spokane Valley

Sept. 30 – Carpenter’s Hall, 507 Third St., Yakima

Oct. 6 – WDFW’s Mill Creek Office, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd., Mill Creek

Oct. 7 – Peninsula College, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd., Room J47, Port Angeles

Oct. 8 – WDFW’s Vancouver Office, 2108 Grand Blvd., Vancouver

Oct. 13 – WDFW Headquarters, Natural Resources Building, Room 172, 1111 Washington St. S.E., Olympia

Every meeting except the one in Port Angeles starts at 6 p.m. The one in PA begins at 6:30 p.m.

The public will also have an opportunity to provide testimony and written comments on the proposed rule changes during the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Nov. 6-7 meeting in Olympia.

The commission will vote on final proposals in February.

Anglers Taking Clean-up In Own Hands

A plastic pop bottle floated by me early Saturday afternoon, and then about 5 minutes later, another bobbed its way down the middle of the Skykomish.

My eyes narrowed as I glanced upstream to the guys fishing Hanson’s Hole. Damned litterbugs.

Then again, it was a beautiful late-summer day, in the upper 70s, not a cloud over the Sky whatsoever. How did I know it wasn’t other river users, like rafters?

Back when I was younger, Dad took me and my sisters down the Skykomish a bunch of times. Maybe someone’s canoe had run aground, tipped and all its contents gone overboard.

Voyageurs, most of us are not these days.

And there have been plenty of other summer afternoons when I’ve found myself sharing the river with kids, teens, 20-somethings and parents playing, swimming and partying along its banks.

Wherever there are people, there are messes. Hence society’s need for maids, custodians, garbage men, cleaning services, etc.

But these days it seems as if sport anglers are the only ones capable of making messes.

When I got to work on Monday,I found that Gary Chittim, KING 5’s environmental reporter, had done yet another story.

Following up on his late-August piece on the stinky mess anglers were leaving on the Skokomish, he was now showing piles of litter along the banks of the Puyallup while SkyKING broadcast images of a long skein of sport anglers midstream.

My first reactions were, Damn, what the hell is Chittim’s deal? Why is he picking on us? Who the hell over at NWIFC is feeding him all these story ideas that put us in a bad light?

But was the messenger really at fault?

The bounty of salmon has brought out an uglier side of sports fishing as our ranks have swollen this summer, and while those TV news stories have noted that not all anglers litter or snag, the damage has been done. Our image had been repainted in nasty colors by the actions of some.

Bait containers, lure packages, fishing line and poo along the rivers’ banks for all the world to see and smell will do that.

I’m not going to single out toothless, mouth-breathing, skanky-pink-snagging hillbillies as the culprits. I’m not going to blame Eastern Europeans or Mexicans. I’m not going to defame Gamefishers or NWfishingaddicts either. I’m not going to blame teens. I’m not going to say it’s just new anglers at fault, or old anglers. And I’m not going to blame bait anglers, bobber fishermen or stuck-up purists.

There is no one single segment of Angler Nation that is somehow most deserving of blame and shame for the crap that has stained our reputation — not to mention our favorite resource, the rivers.

It is the individual who makes the conscious decision to litter — and the group that lets it go — who is at fault here.

I have to agree with Smalma (aka Curt Kraemer, the former Snohomish County biologist), who writes about a Tom Nelson post on anglers’ images in the media of late.

“An on point topic though IMHO it is not the media who is the villian here; rather it is us the recreational fishing community. We have allowed our fishing ethics to slip so far that for many of our anglers it is now a ‘right to instance success and limit catches’ by any means. Our ethic is no longer ‘fish first.'”

But I must also admit that this topic is something I’ve held off on writing about several weeks, ever since we stunk it up the Skokomish. Why bring further shame upon the sport fishing community? Why rub our noses in the mess? Just work on the October issue instead.

Indeed, the inertia was towards ignoring it. Or pretend it was just “slob” fishermen. Pretend it only happens in southern Puget Sound. Pretend everything’s fine.

The banks of the Sky where I fished on Saturday were remarkably clean, after all.

Then again, maybe the high water over Labor Day had just swept all the junk downstream or out of sight.

Like the river was carrying away those two bottles that day.

They were too far out to grab, so I watched them spin their way towards the Sound as I tied on a new crappie rig and made sure to keep my line clippings in my backpack rather than the ground.

Perhaps, though, the spot had been cleaned up by other anglers in recent days.

And this is what turned the tide and led me to post this blog.

You probably won’t find this story on the evening news, but there’s a post today on Gamefishin, “Puyallup – Pay it forward.”

Shaynemol reports that he packed out a “big garbage bag full of garbage” from that river this morning.

“I’m writing this because I figure their are a lot of GF’ers out there, just like me, that have packed it in and packed it out, but never picked up someone else’s garbage, but it did dawn on me, “If not me, then who”. I now know that it takes about 5-10 minutes extra and that can pack out a little something each time they go fishing.

I know a lot of people bash the Puyallup, but I grew up by it and now enjoy it because it is so close to home. I hate to see it desecrated by the odd-year crowds.”

Answered BADANDY:

“We had the same problem going on at the Stilly under the I-5 bridge a few years ago. I started doing exactly the same thing as well as others and it DID make a difference. Guys started barkin at folks when they saw them leaving their trash behind. Keep up the work man! We need good press and that it surely a way to get it!! My hats off to ya for doing something about it!!!!”

Added wannafish:

I have done that on the Carbon…the garbage weighed more than the fish.

Codliveroil posted:

I have picked up a safeway grocery bag full a time or two , I think it is inspiring , While I may not bring a garbag bag I will put a grocery bag in my pocket and do it too.

Gonefishin said:

I’ve done the same thing on the Snohomish. I issue a challenge to all Gamefishers to pick up some trash every time we go out. It’s my feeling that if enough of us set a good example. Maybe we can convert some of those litter bugs. If nothing else. Our fishing areas will be cleaner.

The appropriately named Bag’Em congratulated:

WTG Shaynemol, on both the fish catching and trash bagging.

As for my Monday Puyallup report. Scale House – scored 5 bags of trash – 3 large trash bags and 2 grocery bags – plus one broken folding chair. Did not fish – so no catching report. But since no one’s fishing that area, made clean up much easier.

Bag’em and haul’em out!

I don’t know if any old time GFers remember … that is how I got my handle.

I applaud fishermen who clean up their rivers, just as a matter of course. Guys who go out, fish, and then pack out a bag or so of litter. Guys who don’t need organization to get things done — but just think how much we could get done as a group.

You may never be recognized for your efforts, you certainly won’t be paid for them, but you can rest at night knowing you’ve done more than your part to clean the river and in some small way improve our overall image.

Thank you.

You are my heroes today.

Humpy Wrastlin’ Good Times

So I went to the circus this past Saturday, and by that I don’t mean the Puyallup or Skokomish rivers, though I did fish for salmon.

Amy, River and I hit the big top in Everett — elephants, tigers, nutso acrobats, clowns, women fired out of a cannon, the whole shebang.

Pretty fun, actually — but it was a pretty close thing that it wasn’t me getting fired out of the howitzer.

I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but in a sense, my life has become a circus act itself, with me tightrope walking between magazine job, pregnant wife, being a dad and expecting No. 2 around Thanksgiving.

On Saturday, I figured I had just enough time to take my high-wire act to the Skykomish to fish for humpies for about an hour, hour and a half –maybe an hour and 45 minutes if I was lucky and there were no complications.

The first major hurdle was getting River to sleep for his two-hour midday nap. No nap and he’d be our own little caged lion at the circus, which started at 3:30.

Still, it’s fairly easy to get him to fall asleep. Drive car, play soothing music, maybe sing a lullaby or two, River nods off.

Only this time he didn’t so easily. I had to keep driving up Highway 522 further than I wanted before he finally fell asleep and I could turn around to drop him off at my parents’ place. Where he woke up.

Argh.

I laid the 26-month-old on the couch and covered him up. He watched me with tired eyes, so I shooed my mom out of the room in hopes he would nod off as I made a quick sandwich.

He still was laying down as I made for the door — but he was also still awake. I told mom to maybe hold his hand to help him get to sleep, then prayed he would drop off.

I was already 15 to 20 minutes behind where I’d wanted to be, meaning even less time to fish, so I zipped out to Tualco on the Skykomish below Monroe and bounced across the farmer’s field/parking lot to its far corner where I jumped out of the car at precisely 11:42 a.m.

There were more than a half dozen rigs there, which didn’t bode well, but all I needed was a rock from which to wail on the pinks. I skinnied under the barb-wire fence and then held onto my two float-rigged rods with one hand and a green rope with the other and rappeled down to the river.

There were three guys in my spot — but all in the wrong spot.

Well, “wrong” spot may be too strong as they had a pair of bonked pinks in the shallows.

But they were also fishing with a big, ol’ downed tree in the water in front of them. Puzzling, especially considered there was an open rock downstream.

Oh, well, it was mine now.

I hopped aboard and started running my crappie-jig/speed-fishing routine.

At this particular hole, and with this particular setup — bobber, 1/2-ounce egg sinker, 30-inch leader, 1/16- or 1/32-ounce jighead and pink/light pink crappie tube jig — you can make three, maybe even four casts a minute because you’re really only fishing about a 20- to 30-foot stretch of the river, and only fishing, at most, 10 feet out.

Any further out and the setup becomes ineffective, possibly because of depth and current speed affecting its presentation. Run it too far downstream and you’re wasting your time with a wrist-reeling exercise.

At least that’s what I’ve discovered in extensive test fishing here in previous seasons.

Probably having a billion fish in the river helps too, no?

Indeed, pinks were splashing their way upriver, past the gang of anglers on the bank about 30 yards further down, past the guys in the drift boat, flat bottom, kayak and, yes, float tube. They splashed on past me, up towards the horde at Hanson’s, and then towards Monroe and beyond. The Sky was pink, pink, pink.

So it wasn’t too long before I had my first takedown — and first completely lost setup, a result of a bad knot-tying decision (an embarrasingly common occurence, I must admit).

I reached for the other rod, which sported a size 1 half-and-half Dick Nite under a bobber. I’ve had fantastic luck on DNs in the past, mostly drift-fishing (earlier that day, and a bit below where I now fished, a friend hooked and released 15 on them), but I’ve found that they occassionally work underneath a float.

With limited time, I gave it about five minutes, but without any takedowns, I set that rod aside and retied another crappie jig on the other.

What followed was approximately 1 hour and 14 minutes of humpy wrastlin’ good times.

Pink after pink bit (yes, bit; the hook was in the tip of their snout or upper jaw every time). I easily missed more strikes and lost more fish on than I got to shore. It was ridiculous, and I didn’t want to leave, even though the sun had moved well around on my left cheek and was beginning to peer accusingly into my eyes.

Yes, I know, it’s getting late, now go away!

I was starting to get bit another way and wanted to experiment with it. At the tail end of some drifts, as I either clicked the thumb-release over or began to reel up, fish were biting, probably as the jig swung up in their faces.

I gave it another dozen last casts.

And then another dozen more.

But by now my fairly fine-tuned inner clock was starting to scream it was getting late. I’d budgeted about an hour of driving time between the river, River and home again, where I needed to pick up Amy before going to the circus, and the damned clock said I was pushing it.

So, after a final satisfying battle with a humpy that got away at shore, I called it a day.

As I walked past, one of the three anglers who’d been fishing above me (and catching fish) said, “You were thumpin’ them down there.”

“Yeah,” I said, “but it almost wasn’t fair. I could see them coming through in big schools right in front of me.”

I climbed up through the brush, jumped in the car and saw I’d used up every single available minute of fishing time. It was 1:33. I had 57 minutes to get River and meet Amy to go to the circus.

River never did fall asleep at my folks’, but as I prepared for a pretty serious and deserved evil eye from Amy, I lucked out again. Junior zonked out JUST as we got back to our place, picked Momma up. And then he awoke fully refreshed as we arrived at the circus 40 minutes later.

Phew, close one for AW.

Otherwise, yours truly might just be blogging about his new life as a clown working for Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey.

The Interim Becomes The Chief

Phil Anderson, who’s served as the interim director at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife since last December, was chosen yesterday to be its new director.

The 59-year-old longtime Westport man was among six finalists for the position that the Fish & Wildlife Commission looked hard at over this summer before they voted to hire him permanently.

Twin press releases from the Commission and WDFW laud him as “an avid hunter, fisher and birdwatcher.”

Commission members said they sought a director with a strong conservation ethic, sound fiscal-management and leadership skills and expertise in intergovernmental relations.

“We’ve had a healthy discussion on the future of the Department of Fish and Wildlife and we’re confident that together the commission and Phil will set the priorities to guide the department in its vital mission of protecting Washington’s natural resources,” said Miranda Wecker, chair of the citizen commission.

Tony Floor, director of Fishing Affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association and Northwest Salmon Derby Series as well as a retired WDFW staffer, was hopeful for sport fishing.

“I have known Phil for 35 years, by fishing alongside of him on his Westport-based charter boat to countless meetings at WDFW. He is as sharp as a blade and understands the sport fishing industry. It is my hope, through Phil’s experience and knowledge, that we can continue to elevate sport fishing and related seasons to a higher plateau. Easier said than done,” he said.

A press release from the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission today is headlined “Anderson Good Choice to lead WDFW.”

Anderson took over after the resignation of Dr. Jeffrey Koenings late last year, and so far the job has been anything but a cakewalk. The department had its budget slashed severely and had to lay off a large number of employees, neither good for morale. If Gov. Gregoire buys off on it, he will be paid $141,000 a year.

Anderson previously served as assistant director of WDFW’s Intergovernmental Resource Management Program, leading the department’s North of Falcon team which sets annual salmon-fishing seasons for marine waters including Puget Sound and the coast. Anderson also is WDFW’s representative to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC).

Anderson joined WDFW in 1994 after serving seven years on the PFMC as a private citizen, including duties as PFMC vice chairman and chairman. Anderson began his professional fishery career over 30 years ago as owner and operator of a charter fishing boat business. He attended Grays Harbor College.

I can’t say I have a lot of experience with Anderson, but I’m willing to give the guy a chance, see what comes out of the agency now that we’re past the budget and personnel issues. For starters, he’s almost always returned my phone calls, which can’t be said for some of the brass in the wildlife department. When I’ve seen him in action, such as at North of Falcon or Puget Sound salmon management, he’s stressed working with the tribes, perhaps not a popular tone with some, but that’s what comanagement of the resources is about.

Early online reaction at piscatorial pursuits included this by fishNphysichian:

“Cautiously optimistic that Phil can take the agency to places it has never been.

I think he will be a champion of maximally exploiting selective fisheries to ensure that conservation objectives are met.

All we need is for the tribes to buy in the concept more whole-heartedly.

Without the same conservation objectives, the co-managers are like two unyoked horses pulling a very heavy wagon. Each horse can pull as hard as it wants in the direction it wants, but until they have a mutually agreed upon game plan, that wagon ain’t goin’ nowhere.

BTW… congrats Phil. I had faith in you every step of the way.

Responded Grizz1

The other finalist looked like a shoe in until the tribes put massive pressure on governor Gregoire who in turn put lots of pressure on enough commissioners to turn the vote in Phil’s favor. Those huge tribal contributions to Gregoire created just the political capital the tribes needed to get their good friend Phil into the office. Expect Phil to shed his temporary sheep’s clothing quickly and cave to the tribes. The next NOF series of meetings will be proof of this prediction. Selective fisheries such as those in areas 9 & 10 are already in jeopardy on the tribal drawing board. Politics as usual is in the driver’s seat.

Oh, No, The Jacks Are At It Again

Remember that whole off-the-chart jack Chinook run this spring on the Columbia?

Not to be outdone, fall’s jack kings are running up the count at Bonneville Dam as well.

“The total jack return is already the second highest since at least 1990,” a fact sheet released by Washington and Oregon salmon managers minutes ago reads. “The cumulative jack count to date is over twice as high as any cumulative jack count to date since at least 1990.”

The counts at Bonneville through September 9 is 67,831.

The ten-year average for August 1 through that same date? Just over 17,150.

“A record daily jack count of 4,293 occurred on September 9,” managers add.

This spring, nearly 82,000 jacks returned, more than three times the previous record.

So what the heck does it mean?

For starters, it means that a lot of Spring Creek fall tules, Bonneville Pool and upriver brights went out as 2-year-olds and found pretty good ocean conditions, says Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission supervisory biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver.

So good that some of those jacks caught in the Lower Columbia in the past month and a half were the size of small adults rather than 3-year-old salmon.

And how about next year? What might this surge of jacks mean for 2010’s URB run?

While high returns of springer jacks have not neccesarily meant strong adult returns the following season in recent years, fall jack returns are more reliable for plugging into jacks vs. adult return prediction models, Hymer says.

Stay tuned.

A Big Bull And 3 Big Kings

Stop sending these killer fish and game pics, folks — they’re TOO distracting as I run up against the deadline for my next edition!! How am I ever gonna get anything done when I’m drooling all over my keyboard??!!

Of course, I’m just kidding about not sending shots — you could win big prizes from Hi-Viz and Lazer Sharp — but, my god, the elk yer killing and kings yer catching are something else!

Take the 7×7 bull that came in late yesterday afternoon.

Let me repeat that, a 7×7 bull.

For a first-time bowhunter.

And let me repeat that part too.

First-time bowhunter.

It wasn’t THAT easy, of course, and there was a chance Ted Spencer would never recover his trophy … Abby Spencer picks up the tale:

“First-time bowhunting on the Oregon Coast, Ted Spencer got a 7×7 elk hunting with his dad, brother and family friend.

“They went out on the second day 8/30/09 after opening day for bow elk season. His brother went up the canyon and Ted stayed down below. His brother called it in and it came charging at Ted. He pulled back his bow and fired an arrow at the elk.  He fired a second arrow and the elk took off.

“Ted, knowing that he shot the elk, went on the hunt for the trail.  They hunted for 9 1/2 hours, losing the trail on and off.

“Sick that they hadn’t found it, defeated they headed back to camp for the night allowing the elk time to bed down.

“The next morning, all four of them went out after the trail again. Within an hour Jack Spencer, Ted’s dad, had found the blood trail and they had found the 7×7.”

The money shot:

TED SPENCER JOINS OREGON'S BIG-COAST-BULL-KILLIN' CLUB IN HIS FIRST SEASON WITH A BULL. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

TED SPENCER JOINS OREGON'S BIG-COAST-BULL-KILLIN' CLUB IN HIS FIRST SEASON WITH A BULL. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

Then there’s the trio of gorgeous — gorgeous — fall Chinook from the Columbia at Rainier, Oregon, a whopping 75 pounds worth of salmon caught on wobblers and homemade spinners by the Olson clan of Thorpe, Washington. They emailed their shots exactly 2 hours and 25 minutes after I got Spencer’s photos. I’ll let the Olsons’ pics speak for themselves.

MADELYNN OLSON, 9, AND HER 25-POUNDER. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

MADELYNN OLSON, 9, AND HER 25-POUNDER. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

BRENDA OLSON'S BRIGHT KING, ANOTHER 25-POUNDER. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

BRENDA OLSON'S BRIGHT KING, ANOTHER 25-POUNDER. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

JOHN OLSON'S KING WENT 25 TOO. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

JOHN OLSON'S KING WENT 25 TOO. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

I ain’t making ANY guarantees, but I’ll tell you what, Ted’s bull pic has caught the eyes of the Photo Contest Judge. The bowman stands to win a $250 gift certificate from Hi-Viz Shooting Systems.

And the Olsons’ fish pics are pretty nice too. Monthly Lazer Sharp winners get a package of premium Lazer Sharp hooks, swivels, bobbers, baits, scents as well as a Lazer Sharp hat, and in the running for our grand prize, a fishing trip for two up north and $770 worth of Wright & McGill gear for the trip!

Tuna-tastic Year Off Oregon

In the early years of this decade, it was a good year if anglers hauled more than 3,000 albacore back to Newport, Depoe Bay, Tillamook and other ports on the Oregon coast. These days they often land several times that many in a week.

And through late August, Beaver State sport fishermen have landed the second most albacore on record, some 37,300 — during what has turned out to be a pretty decent coho year too.

JASON HARRIS SHOWS OFF ONE OF THE ESTIMATED 37,300 ALBACORE LANDED OFF OREGON THIS YEAR THROUGH LATE AUGUST, THE SECONDMOST SINCE 1999. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

JASON HARRIS SHOWS OFF ONE OF THE ESTIMATED 37,300 ALBACORE LANDED OFF OREGON THIS YEAR THROUGH LATE AUGUST, THE SECONDMOST SINCE 1999. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

This late in the season it’s doubtful we will hit the all-time record — 2007’s 58,900 — but it’s proof that Oregon’s sport fleet has adapted quite well to this new offshore fishery.

“It wasn’t that long ago that ago that guys didn’t feel comfortable going more than 10 miles out,” says Eric Schindler, an ODFW ocean catch-sampler in Newport and albacore angler himself.

He says that better boats, GPS systems and more reliable equipment has led to the surge in interest and catch.

“The fleet has changed. They changed to go offshore for Pacific halibut. If anything, going 35 miles out has become no big deal,” Schindler says.

Reliable catch data begins in 1999, when an estimated 1,500 albies were brought back to port, according to Schindler. And while it’s grown pretty much every year since — 2,900 in 2000, 8,600 in 2001 — there have been fallback seasons when warm water stayed well offshore or the weather just wasn’t good enough.

Then again, in early July, tuna weather was poor, keeping anglers off the ocean for awhile — and then the next week, they caught 11,000, ODFW tweeted. That helped make this season’s catch nearly half again as large as the next closest, 2008’s 24,300.

Schindler says 3,600 were landed in 2002, 10,400 in 2003, 17,700 in 2004, 5,000 in 2005 and 11,600 in 2006.

“It’s exciting to see the fishery grow,” he says. “It’s fun.”

Washington’s largest tuna catches occurred in 2007 and 2006. Both saw 25,000 landed at Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay.

Will Oregon’s good albacore fishing continue? Schindler thinks so, pointing out to sea to strong year-classes.

But we couldn’t help ourselves: What, we wanted to know, will be the Next Big Thing off Oregon? Will it be Humboldt squid?

While Schindler hopes this “very voracious predator” doesn’t keep coming north from Baja and California, he doubts they will ever be anything more than “one of those off-the-wall fisheries, things guys do from time to time.”

“We get guys talking about swordfish, salmon shark and thresher shark,” he adds. “Swordfish are further out than albacore. Bluefin tuna might be it. There’s not a lot caught, but the numbers are going up. We’ve got people talking about how to do it. They’re supposedly a better fighter, a better sushi-grade fish, it’s something different.”