Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

2018 Northwest Spring Turkey Forecast

Prospects look good, according to the National Wild Turkey Federation’s regional turkey biologist. Here are her forecasts for Oregon, Idaho and Washington.

By Mikal Cline

Oregon’s wild turkeys continue to thrive, despite some mortality during the winter of 2016-17. We may notice a missing cohort of 2-year-old toms in the field this year, but in general the populations are quite healthy.

TACOMA CLOWERS OF THE BEND AREA GOT INTO THE DOUBLE BONUS DURING THE 2015 SPRING GOBBLER HUNT IN EASTERN OREGON, A PAIR OF ELK ANTLER SHEDS. HIS UNCLE CARL LEWALLEN SENT THE PIC. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Oregon primarily offers Rio Grande wild turkey hunting, though some Merriam’s still persist in the Cascades. Oregon’s core populations exist in the southwest portion of the state, in the vicinity of Roseburg and Medford. The scattered oak savannas and transitional pine forests offer excellent habitat. Mild winters and early springs contribute to high survival and productivity.

OREGON’S “GOOD OLD” DOUGLAS COUNTY PAID OFF FOR JAYCE WILDER DURING THE 2016 SPRING HUNT. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Take advantage of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Access & Habitat Program (dfw.state.or.us/lands/AH) if you are struggling to find good hunting access in this area. The Jackson Travel Management Area near Shady Cove is a personal favorite.

Wild turkeys also thrive on Forest Service land from the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, in the northeast corner of the state, over to the Ochocos. The Malheur National Forest is one of my favorite spots to hunt turkeys in Central Oregon, thanks to healthy populations and excellent public access. Wild turkey density starts to thin out in the Central Cascades, but the White River area continues to be a big producer.

SHHH, DON’T TELL THE TRUANT OFFICER, BUT KEVIN KENYON SKIPPED SCHOOL DURING LAST YEAR’S TURKEY SEASON, BAGGING THIS BIRD WHILE HUNTING WITH HIS UNCLE. “TOOK ALMOST 3 HOURS BUT WHEN YOUR TURKEY HUNTING PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE,” NOTED KEVIN’S DAD, MARK. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

ODFW made a concerted effort to trap and transplant overstocked birds this past winter. I believe we can expect some emerging opportunities in South-central Oregon (think Klamath to Lakeview), thanks to this effort. The Ochocos and White River Wildlife Management Unit populations will also benefit from ODFW’s efforts.

The south Willamette Valley, particularly Lane County, is another emerging opportunity for wild turkey hunters, should they be able to secure hunting access.

JACOB HALEY NOTCHES HIS YOUTH TURKEY TAG FOLLOWING A SUCCESSFUL MORNING WITH “GUIDE” TROY RODAKOWSKI IN THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

IDAHO BUMPS BAG

Spring turkey hunters in the Gem State can now take two bearded birds a day, thanks to a rule change from the Fish and Game Commission earlier this year. 

It’s yet another sign that gobblers are doing well in much of their range across Idaho.

“They’re overrun,” jokes NWTF’s Mikal Cline. It’s going to be a great turkey season in Idaho.”

Commissioners also increased fall hunting opportunities in the Panhandle, Clearwater and Southwest regions, and added youth spring and fall controlled hunts in the Salmon district.

However, the general spring turkey season was closed in Unit 70, in Southeast Idaho.

The annual limit is still two bearded turkeys per spring.

WASHINGTON’S EASTSIDE TURKEY populations are robust, prompting the Department of Fish and Wildlife to propose more liberal fall seasons in some locations. The core population of Washington’s turkeys occurs in the northeast corner of the state, consisting primarily of the Merriam’s subspecies. Colville is the epicenter of spring turkey hunting in Washington, boasting high hunter success rates and a turkey harvest that is an order of magnitude greater than any other turkey management unit in
the state.

HOW JEREMY RACE CORRALLED THREE LITTLE BOYS TO SIT STILL FOR ANY PERIOD OF TIME DURING THIS SPRING TURKEY HUNT IS ANYBODY’S GUESS, BUT HIS NEPHEW CARTER MADE GOOD ON HIS SHOT OPPORTUNITY. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

We are seeing increased nuisance and damage complaints coming from the suburban fringes of Spokane and Cheney, but hunter access remains a constraint. We are also seeing increasing hybridization between Rio Grande and Merriam’s in this area.

JOHNNY HONE DOWNED HIS FIRST GOBBLER WITH A SINGLE SHOT FROM HIS 20-GAUGE SHOTGUN AT 25 YARDS AFTER HIS DAD JOHN CALLED HIM WITHIN RANGE. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

The foothills of the Blue Mountains in Southeast Washington are also a world-class destination, with the towns of Dayton, Pomeroy and Walla Walla serving as gateways for excellent Rio Grande turkey hunting.

The Klickitat River watershed offers the best turkey hunting closer to the west side of the state. Check with WDFW for access opportunities on wildlife areas and industrial timberlands in the area.

THE HARSH WINTER OF 2016-17 MAY HAVE LINGERING EFFECTS ON HOW MANY TURKEYS SPRING HUNTERS SEE IN SOME PARTS OF THE NORTHWEST, BUT OVERALL PROSPECTS ARE GOOD. RICH AND MATT OAKLEY OF VANCOUVER BAGGED THEIR FIRST EVER GOBBLERS IN KLICKITAT COUNTY ON THE SECOND DAY OF LAST YEAR’S HUNT. FRIEND GREG ELLYSON SENT THE PIC. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Turkey hunting in Southwest Washington for the eastern subspecies continues to be a challenge. These flocks have never thrived, but do persist in certain areas, including Lewis County. Tapping into local knowledge is the best way to complete your Washington turkey slam, but you will have to work for it.

KEITH MOEN, THE SUBJECT OF A BIG ARTICLE IN OUR PAGES LAST FALL, HARVESTED THIS SPRING TURKEY A COUPLE SEASONS BACK IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

From Goldendale to the Methow, the east slope of the Cascades continues to hold pockets of wild turkeys, which do seem to be increasing, though there are not rigorous surveys in this area. Again, local knowledge from your district wildlife biologist will help you locate these birds.

MCKENNA RISLEY SHOWS OFF HER FIRST TURKEY, TAKEN IN THE METHOW VALLEY LAST SPRING WHILE HUNTING WITH HER DAD ROB. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

On an interesting note, we have heard evidence that wild turkeys have crossed Snoqualmie Pass and have been seen around North Bend.

Also, WDFW is in the process of updating its wild turkey management plan, including the trap and transplant operational guidelines. Until the plan is approved, T&T operations are on hold. 

Editor’s note: For more on how to hunt Northwest gobblers, check out the April issue of Northwest Sportsman!

WDFW Rolls Out New ‘Fish Washington’ Super Combo License

With the new license year just about to begin, WDFW’s offering a brand-new option, the Fish Washington package, a “one-button-push” sale meant to get anglers on the water as fast as possible.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT, ALL)

It’s the first of three new license bundles expected from the agency this year and is basically the annual combo license plus three endorsements — two-pole, Puget Sound crab and Columbia River salmon and steelhead — and lists at $79.62.

That equates to about an 11 to 12 percent price break, or $8.03, if you were to buy the four pieces separately, so you essentially get to go after North Sound Dungies or Cowlitz summer-runs for free.

And it’s a nearly $30 savings if you purchased annual freshwater, saltwater and shellfish/seaweed licenses as well as the endorsements by themselves.

Peter Vernie, WDFW’s Licensing Division manager, says the new license has actually been available since last December and was made public during the Seattle Boat Show, but the agency is more actively advertising it now with the April 1 start of the 2018-19 license year drawing nigh.

“The last report I had was from a month ago and we’d sold 441,” said a pleased-sounding Vernie this morning.

He points to the convenience of having a one-push option for license dealers to hit when anglers come in to buy their licenses, and acknowledges it does help increase revenue for WDFW by tacking on an endorsement that fishermen might not otherwise buy.

It’s no secret the agency has been struggling with funding over the past decade, and recent forecasts show a $30 million to $35 million shortfall in the 2019-21 budget biennium, though it’s not clear how much this new license offering will help narrow that gap.

Still, it’s definitely a tempting offer for anglers like me, as I do plan on fishing rivers, lakes and the salt for salmon, steelhead and trout, as well as go crabbing in the Juans and hit the Columbia system over the coming year.

But not everybody was down with it when WDFW announced the package on Facebook earlier this week.

Some wanted to wait and see what kind of summer and fall salmon seasons we’ll end up with through the North of Falcon process, which is scheduled to wrap up early next month. Others expressed hesitation to buy it in case fisheries ended up being closed right before they hit them.

A number of people also took the opportunity to vent various grievances at WDFW, but overall the post was liked far more than cranky-faced and was shared 48 times as of this morning.

Vernie thinks the new package will probably do best in that part of Western Washington below the northern borderlands.

He says that state laws allow WDFW’s director to bundle license deals and sell them at full or below retail amounts, and that agency staffers went to the Fish and Wildlife Commission last year with the proposal.

Two more are in the offing too, according to Vernie: a Hunt Washington license and a sportsman’s license.

Though prices and packaging haven’t been finalized, Vernie hopes to have the former — the “big four” game tags plus small game and some number of turkey tags — available by this summer, and the latter by this December for the 2019-20 license year.

He says that Washington’s one of the few states without bundled license deals.

Vernie says that the idea is ultimately to make license buying more convenient and that the response to the Fish Washington package has been good so far.

You can buy it — or just the regular ones — through the agency’s WILD portal.

True Confessions Of An Armchair Fisheries Biologist

I earned my nickname The Butcher of Astoria, of Yaquina Bay, of Toliva Shoals and a thousand other haulouts while ridding them and the rest of the West Coast of sea lions and harbor seals, and then I cleared out all those loser wannabe sharks, the orcas, to Seaworld.

But none of it did a damn bit of good to recover the salmon run.

A CALIFORNIA SEA LION CAPTURES A SPRING CHINOOK. (BRYAN WRIGHT, ODFW, VIA NMFS FLICKR, HTTPS://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-NC-ND/2.0/

So I got in my submarine, the U-206, and torpedoed the entire North Pacific commercial salmon fleet (and shelled Ballard and rammed the F/V Northwestern for good measure), came back on shore and stole all of the tribes’ gillnets — take that, Judge Boldt, you old fart! — then confiscated every last stinking hoochie, Kingfisher spoon, and downrigger from the sporties (rubbed all that gear down in day-old banana peels, I did, to ensure they never caught another fish).

But none of it did a damn bit of good to recover the salmon run.

WILD CHINOOK. (CYRIL MICHEL, NMFS, VIA NMFS FLICKR, HTTPS://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-NC-ND/2.0/

You can imagine my rage: Here I’d eliminated predation on and harvest of Chinook headed back to my beloved “Mulgy,” and yet the Simulguamish River’s salmon did not respond for me whatsoever.

The numbers were flatlined, year after decade after century after millennium after glacial epoch.

Not a single sign of recovery from my admittedly heavy-handed management tactics.

“Well, at least you tried,” a friend texted me as I rode the bus to work this morning.

Yes, indeed, I had.

A MODEL SHOWS THAT DESPITE REPRESSIVE MANAGEMENT TACTICS — ENDING ALL SALMON FISHING AND ELIMINATING MARINE PREDATION — THE BLOGGER WAS UNABLE TO RECOVER THE SIMULGUAMISH RIVER’S CHINOOK AFTER 400 GENERATIONS. (TIDALEXCHANGE.COM)

I was messing around with an intriguing interactive game posted yesterday on Tidal Exchange, a sportfishing advocacy blog, and the only other option I had left was to try and increase the river’s carrying capacity — that is, how many young Chinook could actually rear in it.

A YOUNG CHINOOK NEAR WOODY DEBRIS. (NMFS, VIA FLICKR, HTTPS://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-NC-ND/2.0/

So I grated my teeth — damn you all to hell, “Habitat is the key” bumper sticker! — and went to work.

I ripped out dikes, flooded unused and economically unviable fields, reconnected old oxbows, put in culverts big enough for a big ol’ bull killer whale to squeeze through, parachuted in beavers, put in rain gardens and special parking lot asphalt to collect vehicle drippings in and around the burgs of Arlingwood, Stanton and Ono, dropped trees into the river — and made sure fewer of ’em were tipped over on the hillsides too — and otherwise let the Mulgy be the Mulgy.

And you know what happened?

Well, I began to see more Chinook in the Simulguamish. And more and more and more!

Pretty soon I’d exceeded the river’s recovery target, and as its carrying capacity increased even more over time, I decided we might be able to fish on the salmon a little and, yes, take my foot off the throats of marine mammals — just a hair anyway.

There were some stomach-turning year-to-year lurches in fish numbers, but I managed to keep Chinook above the Mulgy’s recovery goal.

AN ADULT MALE FALL CHINOOK PREPARES TO SPAWN. (JOHN R. MCMILLAN, NMFS, VIA FLICKR, HTTPS://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-NC-ND/2.0/

Looking back on it, I admit I caused some rather astonishing collateral damage in recovering the river’s Chinook.

I destroyed entire fishing industries and tribal cultures, as well as bankrupted the Department of Fish and Wildlife. I also face a prison term of approximately 100,000 years and fines in the billions of dollars for various infractions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, federal treaties — you name it.

And needless to say our magazine lost a few advertisers, plus Lorraine Loomis doesn’t send me Christmas cards anymore.

So I hit reset on Tidal Exchange’s simulation, left the fishing rate at the default 25 percent, the marine predation rate at the default 24 percent, and just focused on working on the Simulguamish’s habitat instead.

Worked a helluva lot better the whole way around.

AN INTERACTIVE GAME ON TIDALEXCHANGE.COM ALLOWS ANYONE TO VARY FISHING PRESSURE, MARINE PREDATION AND HABITAT CAPACITY RATES TO TRY AND RECOVER SIMULGUAMISH RIVER CHINOOK, A METAPHOR FOR REAL-WORLD PROBLEMS WITH THE SALMON STOCK ON THE HABITAT-CONSTRAINED STILLAGUAMISH RIVER. (TIDALEXCHANGE.COM)

Inslee Directs State Agencies To Increase Salmon To Help Puget Sound Orcas

Harkening back to fishing in the San Juan Islands as a lad and hearing the booming breath of orcas in the fog, Washington Governor Jay Inslee today launched a new initiative to save the imperiled species.

He issued an executive order that in part calls for increased hatchery production of Chinook — the primary feedstock for southern resident killer whales.

A SCREENSHOT FROM TVW SHOWS WASHINGTON GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE SPEAKS BEFORE SIGNING AN EXECUTIVE ORDER ON ORCAS AND CHINOOK TODAY. (TVW)

But since it will take several years before those salmon make it to saltwater, he also asked the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to tweak this year’s recreational and commercial fisheries to make more available in key orca foraging areas and called on the region’s other salmon managers to help towards that goal.

It remains to be seen how 2018 seasons might be affected by the governor’s directive, signed at a tribal cultural center at Discovery Park moments ago, but in the short term, it could restrict salmon fishing in some parts of Puget Sound, though in the long term might boost it overall.

Inslee’s order also asks for more and sharper focus on habitat and fish passage work that directly benefits Chinook, as well as increased policing of waters where boaters and orcas cruise.

The just-passed state operating and last year’s Capital Budgets provide funding for the hatchery ($1.5 million) and enforcement ($548,000) pieces of that puzzle.

But the governor also gave WDFW a deadline of January 2019 to figure out the most important habitats for orcas and their prey, with an eye towards guiding the overall effort to bring orca numbers back up from their three-decade low of 76 and improve their health.

That could help fill in the blanks about which actions actually might be the most productive over the long haul.

Earlier this month, in a guidance letter to West Coast fishery managers, regional National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Barry Thom wrote that recent studies have linked killer whales’ low reproduction rates of late to “nutritional limitations.”

Part of Inslee’s executive order is for more focus on cleaning up Puget Sound contaminants, which get into the flesh of salmon as they feed on other fish and organisms and is passed up the food chain to long-lived killer whales.

Another strategy will be to do as much as can be under federal laws to manage the increasing bite that sea lions and harbor seals are taking out of Puget Sound orcas’ breakfast, lunch and dinner.

HUGH ALLEN SNAPPED THIS PIC IN FEBRUARY 2015 OF A HARBOR SEAL STEALING A RESIDENT CHINOOK OFF THE LINE OF A SAN JUAN ISLAND ANGLER’S LINE. (HUGH ALLEN)

A task force will make further recommendations.

Inslee said that the fate of orcas, Chinook and Washingtonians are intertwined, and said the order committed the state to actively recover killer whales.

Other speakers today included Leonard Forsman of the Suquamish Tribe who called the effort a “vital and important mission” that would take “some pain” and sacrifices to ensure its success.

During the signing ceremony, Inslee pointed outside and jokingly said that J-pod was swimming past at just that moment, then told a phalanx of agency directors and others to “Get to work.”

North Pacific Recovering From The Blob, Salmon More Slowly

THE FOLLOWING IS A STORY FROM THE NORTHWEST FISHERIES SCIENCE CENTER

By Michael Milstein

Ocean conditions off most of the U.S. West Coast are returning roughly to average, after an extreme marine heat wave from about 2014 to 2016 disrupted the California Current Ecosystem and shifted many species beyond their traditional range, according to a The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site new reportfrom NOAA Fisheries’ two marine laboratories on the West Coast. Some warm waters remain off the Pacific Northwest, however.

SEA SURFACE TEMPS FROM A COUPLE YEARS AGO SHOW UNUSUAL WARMTH IN THE NORTHEASTERN PACIFIC THAT AFFECTED ALL MARINE LIFE. (NOAA)

The Southwest Fisheries Science Center and Northwest Fisheries Science presented their annual “ The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site California Current Ecosystem Status Report” to the Pacific Fishery Management Council at the Council’s meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif., on Friday, March 9. The California Current encompasses the entire West Coast marine ecosystem, and the report informs the Council about conditions and trends in the ecosystem that may affect marine species and fishing in the coming year.

“The report gives us an important glimpse at what the science is saying about the species and resources that we manage and rely on in terms of our West Coast economy,” said Phil Anderson of Westport, Wash., the Council Chair. “The point is that we want to be as informed as we can be when we make decisions that affect those species, and this report helps us do that.”

Unusually warm ocean temperatures, referred to as “the Blob,” encompassed much of the West Coast beginning about 2014, combining with an especially strong El Niño pattern in 2015. The warm conditions have now waned, although some after-effects remain.

Even as the effects of the Blob and El Niño dissipate, the central and southern parts of the West Coast face low snow pack and potential drought in 2018 that could put salmon at continued risk as they migrate back up rivers to spawn.

“Overall we’re seeing some positive signs, as the ocean returns to a cooler and generally more productive state,” said Toby Garfield, a research scientist and Acting Director of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. “We’re fortunate that we have the data from previous years to help us understand what the trends are, and how that matters to West Coast fishermen and communities.”

NOAA Fisheries’ scientists compile the California Current Ecosystem Status Report from ocean surveys and other monitoring efforts along the West Coast. The tracking revealed “a climate system still in transition in 2017,” as surface ocean conditions return to near normal. Deeper water remained unusually warm, especially in the northern part of the California Current. Warm-water species, such as leaner plankton species often associated with subtropical waters, have lingered in these more-northern zones.

One of the largest and most extensive low-oxygen zones ever recorded off the West Coast prevailed off the Oregon Coast last summer, probably driven by low-oxygen water upwelled from the deep ocean, the report said.

While the cooling conditions off the West Coast began to support more cold-water plankton rich in the fatty acids that salmon need to grow, salmon may need more time to show the benefits, the report said. Juvenile salmon sampled off the Northwest Coast in 2017 were especially small and scarce, suggesting that poor feeding conditions off the Columbia River Estuary may be lingering.

Juvenile salmon that enter the ocean this year amid the gradually improving conditions will not return from the ocean to spawn in the Columbia and other rivers for another two years or more, so fishermen should not expect adult salmon numbers to improve much until then.

“These changes occur gradually, and the effects appear only with time,” said Chris Harvey, a fisheries biologist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and coauthor of the report. “The advantage of doing this monitoring and watching these indicators is that we can get a sense of what is likely to happen in the ecosystem and how that is likely to affect communities and economies that are closely tied to these waters.”

IT Worker Allegedly Stole $80,000 Worth Of Fuel Using WDFW Gas Cards

UPDATED 12:00 P.M. MARCH 2, 2018

The gas cards were for fueling up WDFW boats and equipment, but an agency IT worker used them to fill up his diesel pickup, his wife’s Honda, his old fishing boat, as well as his gas cans.

That’s according to fish and wildlife officers’ reports that say that all totaled, Robert “Bob” D. Woodard, 47, allegedly rang up in excess of $79,972.72 worth of gas by using his and fellow staffers’ — past and present — cards and pin numbers.

“He just used it over and over and over and over and over — for eight years,” reported KING 5’s Alison Morrow in a story breaking the news last night.

Eighty thousand bucks would have bought 24,446 gallons worth, based on federal figures that show the average price of all grades of fuel from 2010 through 2017 Washington was $3.27.

“It’s terribly shocking and saddening that someone would do this and take money away from our mission,” WDFW assistant business operations manager David Giglio told Morrow.

She reported Woodard had been fired. He’d worked as an assistant data manager out of the agency’s Vancouver and Ridgefield offices and had been with WDFW a reported two and a half decades.

An attempt to reach Woodard through a land line listed for a relative at his address in Longview was unsuccessful due to a full voice mail.

But according to officers’ reports, the alleged theft was only discovered late last October when the gas card for a seldom-used Duckworth outboard jet sled couldn’t be located.

A staffer got in touch with WDFW’s Fiscal Services division, which ran a report on the card and found “numerous large purchases for fuel in the Longview” area on it between March 25 and October 25, 2017.

Two pins were associated with that card, one a former WDFW employee who’d taken a new job last spring in Oregon and was “highly unlikely” to have been responsible, and the other was Woodard’s.

Fish and Wildlife officer Tyler Bahrenburg was tasked with obtaining surveillance footage from two Longview stations, an unmanned Flying K and a Shell, the latter of which was near Woodard’s home, that matched when the cards had been used.

According to officers’ reports, video and still images that Bahrenburg collected showed a tall, stocky blonde man pumping fuel into a newer Crosstour, a 1994 Chevrolet with a canopy, as well as gas cans in the back of the truck.

In mid-November, Woodard was interviewed at WDFW’s Ridgefield office by Capt. Jeff Wickersham and Deputy Chief Mike Cenci from headquarters. Woodard was shown video of a man pumping fuel and asked if he knew who it was, but he claimed he didn’t.

Presented with another video showing him running a gas card, Woodard initially allegedly admitted to having used five for personal use for about a year and a half, according to officer reports.

But after being shown suspicious records going back to 2010 for a card associated with a piece of diesel equipment, including charges that occurred in Hermiston and Biggs Junction, Oregon, Woodard “eventually stated that he had been using the various gas cards since around that time,” according to officer reports.

Along with the Duckworth, which was used for stream surveys in the Hanford Reach in fall, other boats associated with the cards included a back-up craft that hadn’t been used for several years after being replaced and another lightly used boat used to tend netpens in the Grays River. Fuel purchases for the latter showed amounts well above the 10  to 15 gallons it otherwise would use because of its size.

And while reviewing logs for still another boat, officers found suspicious charges that seemed to correspond to a several-year period when Woodard had his own fishing boat moored at Cathlamet to fish for spring and summer Chinook. Those ended in 2014.

According to officers, when Woodard was issued gas cards for two pieces of equipment and a boat, he signed a statement saying that he could be held liable for any charges on that card, and that it’s “standard knowledge” among state employees that it’s illegal to buy fuel for personal use with one.

WDFW spokesman Bruce Botka told The Daily News of Longview that plans had been in the works to change how state staffers used gas cards before this case began. Supervisors will need to sign off on them, and a system to catch “out of the ordinary” purchases will be implemented. Botka vowed WDFW was going to “make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The $80,000 Woodard allegedly rang up over eight years didn’t come out of any single part of the agency’s budget, according to Botka, who told Northwest Sportsman that essentially a mix of license revenues, federal, state and local monies and other funding sources cover WDFW’s fuel tab.

While making a recorded statement with Wickersham and Cenci, Woodard allegedly told them it had all begun while he was experiencing a “personal hardship due to family issues,” and that it had become “easier over time,” officers reported.

According to their report, Woodard apologized and said he didn’t want to lose his job.

When he went to his cubicle to collect his items before being escorted out of the building, he asked the new regional manager, John Long, to “put in a good word for him.”

Now, Woodard could soon face theft charges in Cowlitz County. Prosecutor Ryan Jurvakainen told The Daily News that the case is being reviewed for a decision on what to charge Woodard with.

 

Western Washington 2018 Salmon Forecasts Out

UPDATED 4:51 P.M., FEB. 27, 2018 WITH WDFW PRESS RELEASE AT BOTTOM

North of Falcon is officially underway.

Well, it has been for a few weeks now as state and tribal salmon managers came up with their 2018 Western Washington Chinook, coho, sockeye and chum forecasts, and those were posted this morning.

KELLY CORCORAN SHOWS OFF A DEEP SOUTH SOUND CHINOOK CAUGHT LAST SEASON. THE 2018 FORECAST FOR PUGET SOUND KINGS IS UP OVER 2017, WITH OVER A QUARTER MILLION HATCHERY AND WILD FISH EXPECTED. (KELLY CORCORAN)

The short and sweet version is that more kings are expected back in Puget Sound compared to last year, and overall coho are on par with 2017.

According to WDFW, 255,219 summer and fall Chinook are expected back to streams between the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Mt. Baker and Olympia, up from the expected 193,962 last year.

Generally speaking, the figures are up across the board.

On the coho front, the forecast calls for a grand total of 1,114,104 to Washington, and that’s broken down as 557,149 to Puget Sound rivers, 270,756 to coastal streams and 286,199 to the Columbia.

That compares to 1,143,562, 559,045, 198,115 and 386,401 last year.

Notably, the wild-driven Skagit and Stillaguamish runs are up over 2017, though the Snohomish is down somewhat. Still, they’re much better than what was initially expected in 2016, which saw sharp fishery restrictions to get coho back to the gravel and eventually openers as it became apparent enough were inbound.

Puget Sound fall chums are forecast to again be in abundance, with 1.2 million expected, more than 130,000 more than the 2017 preseason prediction with was way off as far more returned.

Just 39,875 Lake Washington sockeye are expected, down from last year’s forecast and well below the actual return. Around 35,000 Baker River reds are predicted, also down.

More details and press releases as they arrive. In the meanwhile here is Mark Yuasa’s update.

Next steps are for the state and Western Washington tribes to craft proposed fisheries with constituents, negotiate a deal and send the package to federal fishery overseers for approval by mid-April.

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

Projected poor returns of several salmon stocks are expected to limit fishing opportunities in Washington’s waters this year, state salmon managers announced today.

Forecasts for chinook, coho, sockeye, and chum salmon – developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty Indian tribes – were released during a public meeting in Olympia.

The forecast meeting marks the starting point for crafting 2018 salmon-fishing seasons in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington coastal areas. The annual salmon season-setting process is known as “North of Falcon.” Fishery managers have scheduled a series of public meetings through early April before finalizing seasons later that month.

Kyle Adicks, salmon policy lead for WDFW, said numerous salmon runs are expected to be lower this year compared to last season, including several key chinook and coho stocks. As a result, a number of fishing opportunities from Puget Sound south to the Columbia River will likely be restricted.

“We will definitely have to be creative in developing salmon fisheries this year,” Adicks said. “I encourage people to get involved and provide input on what they see as the priorities for this season’s fisheries.”

Adicks said the low salmon returns are the result of a variety of factors, including another year of poor ocean conditions.

The forecasts are based on varying environmental indicators, such as ocean conditions, as well as surveys of spawning salmon, and the numbeR of juvenile salmon migrating to marine waters.

Columbia River

Roughly 236,500 “upriver brights” are expected to return to areas of the Columbia River above Bonneville Dam. That is down more than 50 percent from the most recent 10-year average.

An estimated 286,200 coho are projected to return to the Columbia River this year, down nearly 100,000 fish from the 2017 forecast. About 279,300 actually returned last year to the river, where some coho stocks are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Some salmon fisheries in the Columbia River will likely be more restrictive than last year, Adicks said.

Washington’s ocean waters

A lower return of coho and chinook to the Columbia River, combined with a poor forecast of coho returning to the Queets River, will likely mean further restrictions to Washington’s ocean salmon fishery as compared to last year, Adicks said.

This year’s forecast of about 112,500 hatchery chinook expected to return to the Columbia River is down more than 50 percent from last year’s forecast. Those hatchery chinook, known as “tules” are the backbone of the recreational ocean fishery.

Puget Sound

The expected return of 557,150 Puget Sound coho is down about 6 percent from the 10-year average. Very low returns to certain areas, such as the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Snohomish River, could limit salmon fishing in those regions.

While the 2018 forecast of 227,400 Puget Sound hatchery chinook is up 38 percent from last year, continued low returns of ESA-listed wild chinook to some rivers will limit fisheries this year.

Conservation objectives

With the population of Puget Sound wild chinook in decline, salmon managers are working to finalize conservation goals for managing chinook fisheries in 2018.

“We’ll have a better idea of how restrictive Puget Sound salmon fisheries will be this year when NOAA provides its guidance in March,” Adicks said.

A 10-year management plan for harvesting Puget Sound chinook is being developed and will likely be submitted to NOAA Fisheries in late summer. More information on the plan can be found on the department’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/chinook/, where WDFW will also post NOAA’s guidance for this year’s fisheries.

NOAA also may ask for additional restrictions on fisheries as the federal agency weighs conservation measures for southern resident killer whales, whose population has been declining along with salmon. State, tribal and federal fish and wildlife managers, together with their Canadian counterparts, are discussing how to recover the whale population. Some options include limiting fisheries, increasing hatchery production for salmon, improving water quality, and reducing boating activities in key killer whale habitat.

Salmon managers will continue to discuss the issue at upcoming meetings.

Also at those meetings, state salmon managers plan to discuss with the public ways to simplify salmon-fishing regulations. Anglers are invited to share ideas for making salmon fishing rules less complex during public meetings or by using an online commenting tool.

Public meetings and comment opportunities

A meeting schedule, salmon forecasts, and information about the salmon season-setting process are available on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/. An online commenting tool will be available on the website later this week.

Upcoming meetings include:

  • Ocean options: State, tribal and federal fishery managers will meet March 9-14 in Rohnert Park, Calif., with the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) to develop options for this year’s commercial and recreational ocean chinook and coho salmon fisheries. The PFMC establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters 3 to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.
  • Regional discussions: Additional public meetings have been scheduled into April to discuss regional fishery issues. Input from these regional discussions will be considered as the season-setting process moves into the “North of Falcon” and PFMC meetings, which will determine the final 2018 salmon seasons.
  • Final PFMC: The PFMC is expected to adopt final ocean fishing seasons and harvest levels at its April 6-11 meeting in Portland, Ore. The 2018 salmon fisheries package for Washington’s inside waters is scheduled to be completed by the state and tribal co-managers during the PFMC’s April meeting.

In Bid To Reopen Skokomish, WDFW To Propose 2018 Salmon Fishery

After two years without a chance to fish the Skokomish for state-reared Chinook and coho, salmon anglers might soon be back on the southern Hood Canal river.

WDFW will propose a fishery there during the upcoming North of Falcon negotiations with Western Washington tribes.

“We cannot — and pretty strong words — go another year without fishing in the Skokomish River,” agency Fish Program manager Ron Warren told the Kitsap Poggie Club on Wednesday evening, according to a Kitsap Sun article.

WHILE FELLOW ANGLERS HOPE TO LAND THEIR OWN HEFTY SKOKOMISH HATCHERY CHINOOK, RANDY HART SHOWS OFF HIS ESTIMATED 25-POUNDER, CAUGHT IN AUGUST 2010. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Access to the river has been in question since 2016 when a federal solicitor’s opinion sided with the Skokomish Tribe that the entire width of the stream was included in their reservation boundaries.

That effectively blocked recreational anglers from fishing for the plentiful salmon returning to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s George Adams Hatchery.

A SIGN POSTED ALONG THE SKOKOMISH RIVER BY THE SKOKOMISH TRIBE WARNS ANGLERS AWAY FROM THE SOUTH BANK AS 2016’S RETURN OF CHINOOK TO THE STATE HATCHERY FILLED THE RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Last year, the tribe harvested 55,000 fall Chinook, according to sportfishing advocate Frank Urabeck, while another 35,129 hatchery adults and 8,353 jacks returned to the state facility, 37,812 of which were surplus to spawning needs.

Urabeck suggested that had the river been open, anglers might have caught around 15,000 of those kings, but instead could only fish for them in the canal, where they’re notoriously difficult to catch, and perhaps took home fewer than 500.

“What a waste, what unfairness. Time to bring this to a head,” he said.

He’s been instrumental in bringing pressure to bear on the situation, including a rally at the hatchery, and questioning the transfer of eyed sockeye eggs from the Baker River to the Skokomish, as a means to get the state to reopen the salmon fishery, and it appears WDFW in concert with the state Attorney General’s Office will now make a hard push on that front.

ANGLERS LISTEN TO A SPEAKER DURING THE 2016 RALLY AT WDFW’S GEORGE ADAMS HATCHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The Sun‘s report states that Mike Grossman, a deputy attorney general, says that state officials feel that the solicitor “erred” in that decision, that — and here I’m using reporter Tad Sooter’s paraphrasing — “they don’t believe Congress intended to bar the state from taking ownership of the river as a navigable waterway when creating the reservation — one legal test established by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

With sovereign immunity laws protecting the Skokomish Tribe and federal government from a state lawsuit in this case, putting anglers on the river essentially forces the other party or parties to sue the state.

“And why would they do that if we’re not fishing? … I think we need to get back in the river and fish,” Grossman said, according to the paper.

He advised the Poggies — this would extend to fishermen in the general public as well — “not to get furious at the Skokomish,” likening the situation to when two neighbors have a property disagreement. Those are better settled in a court of law than how Rand Paul and Rene Boucher like to sort things out.

Urabeck credited Norm Reinhardt, the Poggie’s president, for organizing this week’s meeting, though he was disappointed that the chairman of the Skokomish Tribe, Guy Miller, or tribal representatives weren’t in attendance.

He says he’s repeatedly reached out to them “to help the state resolve issues that motivates the tribe to deny us a very popular and important fishery,” but to no avail.

According to the Kitsap Sun, Miller was not surprised by the state’s push, and he continued to claim the entire river was the Skokomish’s.

He also implied that without anglers on the river, “conditions have improved since the tribe reasserted control,” Sooter wrote. Fisherman poo was blamed for a 2009 tribal shellfish harvest closure in nearby Annas Bay.

Urabeck says those problems had been resolved by the state as of the last fishery, in 2015, but he extended an offer to “do more.”

“As the representative for five sport fishing/conservation groups that are working together to regain our salmon fisheries, I was very proud to see the respectful and civil discussion by representatives of Puget Sound Anglers, Steelhead Trout Club of Washington, Bremerton Sportsmen’s Club, Coastal Conservation Association, as well as a room full of Poggie Club members,” he says. “Walked away a bit more hopeful and very proud to have been a participant in the discussions.”

The next steps are for the state and Western Washington tribes to put out their 2018 salmon forecasts, craft proposed fisheries such as one for a Skokomish River Chinook and coho season, negotiate a deal and send the package to federal fishery overseers for approval.

Atlantic Salmon Suck. So Does All The BS Around Them

I am not pro-Atlantic salmon. I am not pro-netpen. I am not pro-Cooke Aquaculture. But I am anti-bullshit.

My bullshitometer has been going off for six months now, but recently it just got too deep for me to tolerate any longer without comment.

ATLANTIC SALMON COVER THE DECK OF FISHING BOAT LAST AUGUST. (KEVIN KLEIN)

The Wild Fish Conservancy’s hysterical claim last week that Cooke’s escapees from the Cypress Island fish farm are ridden with an exotic virus strikes me as not unlike what I have heard repeatedly from the darkest recesses of the Northwest wolf world.

It goes along the lines of, Those non-native Canadian wolves USFWS brought down are infected with hydatid disease and rural people are in danger of catching it from all the wolf poo piles now lying around the woods!!!

WFC’s press release announcing this supposed disaster came with a raft of citations, but afterwards they appeared to be the equivalent of weblinks to wolf haters’ usual references from Russia and whatever.

They were systematically batted away by WDFW in a strident response noting that the virus, PRV, has been known to exist here since 1987, is found in salmon from Alaska south to Washington if not beyond, and is carried by netpen and free-swimming fish alike. The disease that WFC fretted it can cause isn’t found in our salmon and only some penned Atlantics. Nor is it fatal.

Not unlike most of the vitriol that the rabid anti-lupus set hurls from their keyboards, it appears that WFC’s claim was actually a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

It was fear-mongering by the Duvall-based organization, plain and simple, written to make it look as if the state agency in charge of monitoring fish disease didn’t know what the hell it was doing and released at a key moment during the legislative session to chivvy lawmakers to an even more rushed decision on the fate of salmon aquaculture in Washington.

WFC hasn’t apologized to WDFW, nor is it likely — in fact, this morning, they doubled down with a new press release.

Yet what is likely is they’ll probably be able to leverage the widespread initial coverage of their claims and get away with the less-than-damning subsequent reporting, positioning themselves well in this world for coming jihads.

Again, I want to stress that I am no friend of Cooke, netpens or Atlantics.

The company could grow salmon that taste like Cool Ranch Doritos and I’d still turn my nose up at the flesh — a friend who caught one last month on the Skykomish claimed “it was good,” but to this provincial Northwest Chinook, coho, sockeye and steelhead snob, that meat doesn’t cut.

FARMED ATLANTIC SALMON FROM NORWAY OFFERED FOR SALE AT COSTCO AND ULTIMATELY RETURNED TO THE COLD CASE AFTER A GOOD, SOLID SNEERING AT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Netpens pollute. If they were new housing developments, we’d require sewer hookups or better ways to treat all that fish waste rather than let it drift in the currents or settle on the bottom of an inland sea that doesn’t flush itself very well in places.

And I’m skeptical of Cooke’s claims it was going to upgrade the aging equipment that came over from Icicle Seafoods when it bought them out. Would they really have if they hadn’t been caught with their hands in the cookie jar?

But this whole thing has been an embarrassment, and I include everything from the Canadian company’s August-eclipse-tides excuse and its shellfish-and seaweed-covered nets that acted as underwater sails and caused the catastrophe to the theory the escapees were just going to starve and die to Hilary Franz’s surprise Sunday morning termination determination on the Cypress Island facility to the latest pseudoscience from WFC.

For the last month and a half state legislators have been tripping all over themselves trying to outlaw farming a species that realistically poses little to no threat to our native salmon stocks, yet couldn’t get the one bill that would have assured that — allowing only female Atlantics to be reared — out of committee.

I can’t be the only one wondering, what exactly is behind all this? What big game is being played here? Who stands to gain the most?

And worrying, when will all this negative energy be focused on something that I actually do care about?