Category Archives: Headlines

Puget Sound Coho Limit Dropping To One Monday

Coho anglers from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Deep South Sound will see their daily limits drop to one starting Monday as state managers worry about the size of this year’s run as well as the size of the fish themselves.

THE 2015 SEASON WAS MARKED BY SMALL, VERY HUNGRY COHO LIKE THIS ONE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

A WDFW emergency rule change notice out late this afternoon says that preliminary monitoring by the agency and tribes are finding that this year’s ocean-returning silvers “have a smaller body size and potentially lower-than-expected run sizes to many systems.”

Smaller bodies mean that hens are carrying fewer eggs, whether to the hatchery or gravel.

The news is not unlike at this time in 2015, when coho came in half the size of usual during the height of the Blob, the giant pool of warm water that reduced the amount of forage available for salmon and other species.

“WDFW is implementing this rule as a precaution to ensure escapement and hatchery goals are met,”  the e-reg states.

It affects Marine Areas 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 9, 10, 11 and 13, the central and eastern Straits, the San Juan Islands, and Central and South Puget Sound.

The daily limit is two until then.

Marine Area 8-2 has already closed for coho due to concerns of overfishing of the important Snohomish River stock.

Mark Yuasa of the Northwest Marine Trade Association, who tracks Puget Sound salmon fishing news very closely, considered the news to not be unexpected.

Even though some anglers have struggled to catch coho, others have seen good catches, albeit with a wide variety of sizes turning up on images posted to Facebook.

Indeed the run has been giving off mixed signals, but now WDFW is taking a cautious approach.

The big Everett Coho Derby is this weekend.

The change affects about a week of coho retention in a number of marine areas, but more in others.

 

First Dig Of Promising WA Coast Razor Clam Season OKed

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

Razor clam diggers can return to Long Beach for a three-day opening beginning Sept. 27.

State shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) approved the dig on morning low tides after marine toxin tests showed the clams are safe to eat.

The upcoming dig is for the following dates and morning low tides:

  • Sept. 27, Friday, 5:52 a.m. -0.9, Long Beach only
  • Sept. 28, Saturday, 6:36 a.m. -0.8, Long Beach only
  • Sept. 29, Sunday, 7:19 am -0.6, Long Beach only

No digging is allowed after noon for these late September digs where low tide occurs in the morning.

“We know people have been looking forward to digging razor clams, and based on our surveys, we expect some great digging on Long Beach,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

There will be terrific razor clam digging on the other coastal beaches in the months ahead as well, added Ayres. For a list of proposed razor clam digs on Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks beaches through December, please see: https://wdfw.wa.gov/news/wdfw-announces-additional-tentative-razor-clam-digs-through-december. Final approval of the tentatively scheduled openings in October, November and December will depend on whether results of marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat.

“Razor clam digs are a major source of livelihood for coastal communities, bringing out hundreds of thousands of tourists each year to enjoy all we have to offer, including terrific nature, food, entertainment and fun on the beach for the whole family,” said Andi Day, Executive Director at Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau. “We value and appreciate WDFW’s work to manage this terrific resource for our communities.”

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2019-20 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

Under state law, diggers at open beaches can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

Mon.-Thurs. Added For Last Week Of Oregon Central Coast Any-Coho Fishery

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

From Friday, Sept. 20 through Sunday, Sept. 29, anglers can keep any legal sized salmon they catch in the ocean on the central Oregon coast after fishery managers increased the popular non-selective coho fishery to seven days a week for the final week of the fishery.

LORELEI PENNINGTON SHOWS OFF A WILD COHO CAUGHT DURING A PAST SEPTEMBER SEASON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The ocean non mark selective coho fishery between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain opened Aug. 31 on a schedule of each Friday through Sunday and open for all salmon including coho. During the first three open periods of the season, anglers have landed a total of 8,935 coho out of the quota of 15,640, which leaves eaving 6,700 coho remaining to be caught.

“Fishery managers felt they could open seven days a week for this last part of the season and still remain within the coho quota,” said Eric Schindler, ocean salmon supervising biologist for ODFW. “The non-selective coho fishery in September has been very popular with most anglers, and adding a few more days will provide a few more chances for anglers to catch some nice coho.”

The daily bag limit is two legal size salmon (Chinook >24”; coho >16”; steelhead >20”).  Anglers are reminded that single point barbless hooks are required for ocean salmon angling or if a salmon is on board the vessel in the ocean.

The all-salmon-except-coho fishery from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain will remain open through the end of October.

For more information about fishing opportunities including the latest regulations, visit https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/

WDFW Sends $26 Million Request To Gov. For 2020 Legislative Action

Washington fish and wildlife managers submitted a $26 million supplemental budget request to the Governor’s Office yesterday as fee bill and state lawmaker failures have left the agency underfunded in recent years.

One of WDFW’s key piggy banks could dip into the red next March and significantly so the following year because license revenues and funding aren’t keeping up with growing costs, heaped-on responsibilities and dealing with new issues that are cropping up.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT, ALL)

This new money would come out of the General Fund and WDFW hopes it will be ticketed as “ongoing” so it would not have to be reauthorized every year or two.

If approved by next year’s legislature, $6.5 million would go towards maintaining things like production of 4.5 million salmon, steelhead and trout at eight hatcheries, Columbia River fisheries, and Westside pheasant hunting, as well as dealing with problem animals in residents’ backyards and elsewhere;

(Conversely, if they’re not funded, they have been identified as having to be cut to stay in budget.)

$6.8 million would go towards “emerging needs” like monitoring fisheries on Puget Sound and two rivers, including Skagit C&R steelhead, removing more pinnipeds to increase Chinook numbers when a permit is OKed by the feds, and coming up with alternative fishing gear for Columbia netters;

and $12.5 million would go for “unavoidable” items passed on by legislators without funding, including COLAs, and rising costs associated with hatchery operations and attorney fees.

The size of the request is pretty large given the short, 60-day session that will begin in January, and WDFW Director Kelly Susewind acknowledged as much in a press release today.

But he also pointed out the substantial return on investment that state funding of fishing and hunting activities has for the economy, a message to lawmakers as much as ammo for supporters to remind their representatives and senators of.

“We would rather not be in this position of requesting a substantial amount of money to sustain basic, core activities that we know provide such fundamental public value,” he said. “We estimate that for every State General Fund tax dollar invested in WDFW, and leveraged with other fund sources, that fish and wildlife economic activities generate another $3.50 that goes back into the state coffers. We’re seeking adequate, ongoing funding to sustain that kind of return on investment into the future.”

This is all the latest act in a long-running play that began somewhere around the Great Recession when WDFW’s General Fund contributions were cut sharply and which have yet to fully return to previous levels, even as the state’s economy booms.

According to WDFW, less than 1 percent of General Fund revenues go towards itself, DNR, Ecology, State Parks, Puget Sound Partnership and other natural resource agencies, combined.

As for the last license fee increase, it was back in 2011 and bids by the current and former directors to get lawmakers to pass another and help shore up the agency’s finances have not gone over very well.

Some of that is just bad timing — making asks on the downswing of cyclical game and fish populations.

Arguably 2015’s salmon and hunting seasons were among the best of recent decades, but the dropoff since then — when Susewind and Jim Unsworth had their hands out — has been intense and widespread.

Yet even as the Blob and environmental conditions, along with ongoing, multi-decadal habitat destruction, and reduced hatchery production due to operations reforms and budget cuts are largely to blame, many of WDFW’s customers are reluctant these days to pay more for less.

Then there was the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Columbia gillnet vote this past March, as spectacular an own goal as you can kick.

Meanwhile, WDFW’s “structural deficit” grows deeper and deeper. The aforementioned piggy bank, the State Wildlife Account — where every single penny of your fishing and hunting license dollars go, every single one — has gone from a shortfall of $300,000 in the 2011-13 biennium, when the last license fee increase was passed, to $23.2 million in the 2019-21 biennum.

Its cash balance is expected to plunge into negative figures next March and much deeper in spring 2021 if nothing’s done.

A WDFW GRAPH SHOWS PROJECTED REVENUES INTO THE STATE WILDLIFE ACCOUNT, FUNDED BY FISHING AND HUNTING LICENSES. MARCH MARKS THE ANNUAL LOW POINT IN THE LICENSE BUYING YEAR AS NEW ONES ARE REQUIRED STARTING APRIL 1. (WDFW)

It all threatens the fisheries and hunts we still have.

In the end lawmakers have gone with one-time funding patches, but the problem is they’re typically not enough to fill the hole.

For instance, with the agency facing a $31 million shortfall this year and next, Olympia scrapped the fee hike and instead provided $24 million in General Fund money, leaving a temporary $7 million gap — that then immediately ballooned back out to $20 million due to unfunded mandates that were passed on like the cost of living increase for game wardens, biologists, and others.

Still, $24 million is better than nothing and with how it was structured, it “front loaded” WDFW’s budget towards year one of the two-year cycle in anticipation that lawmaker would return and work on it again in 2020.

And that is how we got to today and the supplemental budget request.

Rather than attempt the folly of running another fee bill, the Fish and Wildlife Commission earlier this summer signed off on the proposal.

WDFW is also looking for another $26 million to make capital improvements to its facilities, with about 60 percent of that designated for three hatcheries, and $1 million for a master planning process to boost Chinook production by up to 55 million a year for orcas and which would also likely benefit anglers.

“Our work provides tremendous value to the people in our state,” said Susewind. “The ongoing funds to create a fully healthy agency is critical to our residents’ quality of life, critical to our ability to conserve fish and wildlife, and critical to maintaining sustainable natural resource jobs across Washington.”

A tremendous value at a time of tremendous headwinds and crosswinds and little in the form of helpful tailwinds.

Steelheading To Close On Clearwater, Snake; IDFG: ‘No Surplus’ For Fishery

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

On Friday, Sept. 20, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted to close all steelhead seasons on the Clearwater River because the number of returning adult hatchery fish is less than the number needed for broodstock, and there is no surplus to provide a fishery.

IDAHO’S STEELHEADING CLOSURE MEANS THAT EVEN CATCH-AND-RELEASE FISHING FOR UNCLIPPED A- AND B-RUNS, LIKE THIS ONE LANDED ON THE SOUTH FORK CLEARWATER, WILL NOT BE ALLOWED IN THE CLEARWATER DRAINAGE. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

The closure is effective at midnight on Sept. 29, 2019, and covers the Clearwater River upstream to the confluence of the Middle Fork and South Fork, along with the North Fork, Middle Fork and South Fork tributaries. The section of the Snake River downstream from the Couse Creek boat ramp to the Idaho/Washington state line will also be closed to protect Clearwater-bound steelhead. The closure in the Clearwater River drainage is consistent with harvest restrictions put in place in fisheries on the mainstem Columbia River by the Oregon and Washington Fish and Wildlife Departments.

Consistent with existing rules that prohibit targeting steelhead or salmon where there is no open season, anglers will not be allowed to fish for steelhead in the Clearwater River drainage after the fishery is closed, even catch-and-release.

The Clearwater River drainage closure is in addition to the already-restricted fishery the commission approved for statewide steelhead fishing during their August meeting. The existing seasons remain in place for steelhead fisheries in the Salmon and Snake river basins.

Idaho Fish and Game biologists have been tracking steelhead returns closely, and the number of Clearwater-bound hatchery steelhead has continued to fall short of projections. According to Lance Hebdon, anadromous fishery manager for Idaho Fish and Game, while the return of wild, Clearwater-bound steelhead is tracking close to the preseason forecast, the return of hatchery-origin steelhead to the Clearwater River is substantially below what was expected.

Through Sept. 18, biologists estimate about 1,158 hatchery steelhead destined for the Clearwater River have passed Bonneville Dam based on PIT tags. The small, electronic tags are embedded in fish and help biologists know which river migrating steelhead are destined for. On average, about 50 percent of the hatchery steelhead returning to the Clearwater River would have passed Bonneville Dam by Sept. 18.

“Based on average run timing, we estimate that this will result in approximately 2,300 fish crossing Bonneville Dam by the end of the season,” Hebdon said. “The result for Idaho anglers is that only 1,700 hatchery steelhead destined for the Clearwater River will make it to Lower Granite Dam by the end of the season.”

In order to meet broodstock needs for Clearwater River hatcheries (a total of 1,352 fish), 100 percent of the steelhead destined for the North Fork Clearwater River, and a high percentage of the fish destined for the South Fork Clearwater River would have to be collected, leaving no surplus fish for harvest.

Although the steelhead fishery will be closed in the Clearwater River basin, there will be no changes to the ongoing fall Chinook season, which is scheduled to close on Oct. 13. In addition, the commission approved a Coho salmon fishery in the Clearwater River basin during their conference call on Sept. 20. This Coho fishery is open effective immediately, and will run concurrent with the fall Chinook fishery.

Because these fisheries will close Oct. 13, or earlier if catch limits are attained, any incidental impact on Clearwater hatchery steelhead is expected to be minimal.

“Early in the fall, many of the steelhead in the Clearwater river basin are actually fish destined for the Salmon and Grande Ronde rivers, which have pulled into the Clearwater until water temperatures in the Snake River start to cool off,” Hebdon said. “The main component of the Clearwater River steelhead run starts arriving in the middle of October.”

Lower Washougal Opening Early For Salmon, Chinook Added To Bag

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Salmon and steelhead fisheries expanded on the Washougal River

Action: Allows retention of up to 3 hatchery adult salmon, including up to 1 hatchery adult Chinook. Allows retention of up 3 hatchery steelhead.

Effective date: Sept. 19 through Dec. 31, 2019.

Species affected: Hatchery salmon (Chinook and coho) and hatchery steelhead.

Location: Washougal River, from the mouth to the bridge at Salmon Falls.

Reason for action: Hatchery broodstock collection for the Washougal fall Chinook program has been meeting weekly objectives and early indications are that the broodstock goal will be achieved. This action also expands steelhead fishing opportunity that had been restricted below the Washougal River weir to support fall Chinook broodstock collection efforts. Expanding retention of hatchery salmon and hatchery steelhead will provide additional angling opportunity while broodstock collection efforts continue.

Additional information: Salmon daily limit is 6 fish; up to 3 adults may be retained, of which up to 1 may be a Chinook. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho.

Hatchery steelhead daily limit is 3 fish; minimum length 20 inches.

All other rules published in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet remain in effect.

Information contact: Matt Gardner, district fish biologist, 360-906-6746.

Columbia King Managers Decide Against 1-day Lower River Opener

Columbia fall Chinook managers today reduced the bag limit in the Hanford Reach to one but also passed on a lower river reopener in favor of giving gorge pools anglers continued access to this year’s run.

WDFW and ODFW staffers had recommended opening the big river from Buoy 10 to Bonneville this Saturday for fall kings after the URB component forecast was upgraded slightly, from 159,200 to 167,200.

COLUMBIA SALMON MANAGERS DECIDED AGAINST REOPENING THE LOWER RIVER FOR ONE DAY OF CHINOOK RETENTION. STEVE MEUCHEL AND KARI WILLARD CAUGHT THIS PAIR OVER LABOR DAY WEEKEND IN ST. HELENS AREA. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

That would have coincided with sturgeon retention (above Wauna) and was modeled to yield a catch of 950 kings.

It would also have taken upriver bright, or URB, catch-plus-release mortalities to 99 percent of what managers are allowing this season.

(The fishery was closed earlier this month three days early after exceeding the initial URB allocation for that runsize and stretch of water.)

But during a midafternoon conference call there was only mixed support for the one-day opener, with state sportfishing advisors in favor and the general public not.

Some didn’t have any appetite for all the days anglers would subsequently lose on the Columbia between Bonneville and Highway 395 in Tri-Cities, which would be forced to close much earlier than scheduled to provide the room for the lower reopener.

Dan Grogan of Fisherman’s Marine called that “absolutely ludicrous,” while others talked to issues of fairness and upriver anglers taking it in the shorts for lower fishermen’s opportunities in the past.

It would also cut into apparently better-than-is-being-let-on fishing in the pools, if images from Fish Camp this week and one advisor’s report are any indication.

The call also confirmed continuing concerns on two fronts: tule Chinook broodstock, and steelhead.

WDFW’s Bill Tweit warned that Drano Lake king catches were being watched very closely and it wasn’t clear how long the fishery would stay open.

Managers are worried about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Little White Salmon and Spring Creek Hatcheries collecting enough adult tules for spawning. While the latter facility is seeing good numbers, a lot are also jacks.

As for steelhead, the run has again been downgraded, the fourth time in the past few weeks, now to 69,200, with just 2,500 B-runs expected.

Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission is meeting Friday and could shut down all fishing for steelhead on the Clearwater and much of the shared Snake, and Washington will likely follow suit, Tweit indicated.

WDFW and ODFW were also advised they needed to put out a statement directing anglers to not even catch-and-release steelhead in areas where they’ve been closed to retention due to the low return.

As for Hanford Reach URBs, with only 22,121 wild kings expected to spawn in the free-flowing section of the Columbia — well below the escapement goal of 31,100 — the daily limit will drop from two to one starting Friday, Sept. 20, WDFW announced this morning.

Even though the Reach and the Columbia from McNary downstream are managed under two different plans, it might not have looked very good to have allowed downriver fishermen to intercept 500 or so URBs needed up at Hanford as anglers there see their catch reduced.

In other Columbia Chinook news, yesterday tribal managers OKed six more days of commercial gillnetting in the gorge pools, which will bring the URB catch to 15,375 of the 38,456 available at current run sizes.

Limits At Popular Washington Bass Fisheries Could Be Scrubbed For Orcas

One hundred and forty-six lakes across Washington have been identified for elimination of bass, walleye and channel catfish limits after state lawmakers earlier this year passed a bill aiming to increase salmon numbers for starving orcas.

WDFW is taking public comment on the proposal which would affect 108 waters in Puget Sound, 14 in coastal watersheds, 12 in Southwest Washington and another dozen on the Eastside.

LAKE WASHINGTON SYSTEM POND LARGEMOUTH BASS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Most if not all don’t actually have walleye or channel catfish in them, let alone any preying on young Chinook, coho and steelhead, but some popular largemouth and smallmouth fisheries are on the list.

Those include Ballinger, Big, Bosworth — home to the state record bucketmouth — Clear (Skagit), McMurray, Osoyoos — which features the heftiest tournament bags — Riffe, Sawyer, Sammamish, Silver, Stevens, Tanwax, and Washington, among others.

Dozens upon dozens of other “secret” bass lakes are also on the list.

Because they’re classified as anadromous waters, they are targeted by Second Substitute House Bill 1579.

It passed 26-20 in the state Senate and 57-37 in the state House before being signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.

TOURNAMENT BASS ANGLERS FISH A LAKE WASHINGTON SHIP CANAL BAY TWO SPRINGS AGO. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

At the pushing of federal fishery overseers to do more to protect outmigrating smolts preyed on by the three nonnative spinyrayed species, as well as to align with Oregon regs, WDFW several years ago waived daily and size limits on the Columbia system.

Biologically, it’s questionable if applying the same rule on these new lakes, ponds and reservoirs would have any effect whatsoever, either on reducing highly fecund warmwater populations or increasing salmon availability for killer whales.

Bass aren’t as coveted on the table as other species in our region; channel catfish have only been stocked in select landlocked lakes and can’t breed in our cooler waters; and walleye are also only found in the Columbia-Snake system, though some jackass(es) put a few in Lakes Washington and Sammamish.

Chinook, the primary feedstock for orcas, as well as steelhead mostly originate in our large river systems, though coho make use of smaller streams often connected to all the lakes left behind by the Great Glacier.

But now with this new state law, which came out of the governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force last year, WDFW will hold five public meetings in the coming weeks in Mill Creek, Olympia, Ridgefield, Ephrata and Spokane on the proposal, as well as take comment online through Oct. 17.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will also take testimony at its mid-October meeting, with a final decision expected in December.

4 Cougars Spotted On Banks Of Cowlitz Near Toledo

A man captured a rare sight last week — a quartet of cougars along the banks of a famed Southwest Washington salmon and steelhead river.

Three approach the Cowlitz just downstream from the Blue Creek ramp and appear to take a drink or smell something on the gravel bar, while the fourth sits in the treeline.

AS A FLOCK OF DUCKS LOOKS ON, TWO COUGARS STAND BY THE BANKS OF THE COWLITZ RIVER WHILE A THIRD STROLLS AWAY FROM THE RIVER AND A FOURTH WATCHES (TAN SPOT AT RIGHT) FROM THE TREELINE. (ED TORKElSON, COWLITZRIVERLIVE.COM)

The scene was filmed by local resident Ed Torkelson late last Wednesday afternoon and posted to he and wife Gladys’s website, Cowlitzriverlive.com, billed as “The fisherman’s window on the river.” The video lasts five minutes.

Gladys says that Ed had been watching a beaver acting oddly, sniffing the air and swimming in circles before slapping its tail.

Several ducks can also be seen moving off the bank into the river.

As Ed focused on the beaver he saw four paws on the rocks and raised the camera to see a single cougar strolling up the bank.

A BEAVER (BOTTOM CENTER) WAS INITIALLY WHAT ALERTED LOCAL RESIDENT ED TORKELSON THAT SOMETHING UNUSUAL WAS GOING ON. AFTER SEEING PAWS WALK PAST THE TOP OF THE FRAME, HE RAISED THE CAMERA TO CAPTURE A COUGAR STROLLING BY. (ED TORKELSON, COWLITZRIVERLIVE.COM)

“He was all eyes,” Gladys says of Ed.

The cat walked a bit further before cutting into the trees, and then two minutes later a pair come out and walk over to the river.

A third joins them while the fourth watches from cover.

“Who ever sees four cougars in the wild? You hardly ever see one,” says Gladys.

She says in the four years they’ve run the camera on their property located a river bend downstream from the famed steelheading boat launch and at which they’ve lived on for a decade, they’ve seen deer, sea lions and otters, “but never a cougar.”

THREE COUGARS AT THE EDGE OF THE COWLITZ. (ED TORKELSON, COWLITZRIVERLIVE.COM)

Brian Kertson is WDFW’s cougar researcher and says he’s “pretty certain” the Torkelsons’ video shows a family group.

“That would be my first guess. Litter sizes are typically two to three,” he says.

The area is a rural part of Lewis County with scattered homes, a few farms and logged-over hillsides nearby.

What makes this more unusual, though, is that the group was viewed in real time rather than recovered later from a stationary trail cam, as with the images of eight cougars that a Wenatchee hunter found on his device posted in Moses Coulee in early 2011.

Kertson says that that was likely two related lions and their litters meeting where their ranges overlapped. He says that GPS collars are also revealing that the big cats interact more than previously believed. He says that while they are loners, “they’re not necessarily asocial.”

He relates story about how an adult female killed a deer and shared it with not only her three subadults but likely their father.

(ED TORKELSON, COWLITZRIVERLIVE.COM)

Cougars have been in the news a lot in recent years, for killing a Washington bicyclist and Oregon hiker last year, turning up in the wrong places — Mercer Island last month and a Spokane neighborhood last week — and their impact on Idaho elk herds compared to wolves.

Now they’re giving a pair of local residents and others reason to pay closer attention to their wildlife cams — and not just for river and fishing conditions — and help shed more light on the Northwest’s critters.

ODFW Commission OKs Blacktail Spike Harvest Starting In 2020

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

The Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted 2020 Big Game Regulations at its meeting in Gold Beach.

Next year, the Western Oregon deer bag limit will allow for spike harvest with the new bag limit of “one buck with a visible antler.” A new General Season Antlerless Elk Damage Tag in areas of the state with high elk damage will replace 19 controlled hunts and the need to provide damage tags to landowners. Hunters taking advantage of this new opportunity would still need permission to hunt on private land to use the tag and it would be their only elk hunting opportunity.

OREGON BLACKTAIL HUNTERS WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE SPIKE BLACKTAILS STARTING WITH THE 2020 GENERAL FALL DEER HUNTING SEASON. ODFW CALLED THE CURRENT RULE RESTRICTING THE BAG TO FORKED-HORN BUCKS A “RELIC” FROM AN ERA OF HIGH ANTLERLESS PERMITS AND EXPECTS THE CHANGE NEXT YEAR WILL INCREASE HARVEST.  ALLISON GRINDLEY TOOK THIS WASHINGTON SPIKE SEVERAL SEASONS AGO. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

The Commission also directed staff to form a workgroup to continue the big game hunting season and regulations review.

The Commission approved funding for one Access and Habitat project, which provides hunting access on private land.

Changes to fixed gear fisheries regulations, including those for both commercial and recreational crabbing, were adopted to address challenges presented by changing ocean conditions including increased incidence of whale entanglements. Gear marking of surface buoys will be required of all fisheries that do not already do so beginning Jan. 1, 2020, including recreational crabbers and commercial fixed gear fisheries such as commercial bay crab. New buoy color registration requirements for the commercial ocean crab fishery will also be required.

To prepare for future phases of rule-making to reduce the risk of whale entanglements, the Commission set Aug. 14, 2018 as the control date for potential development of future limitation on participation in commercial crabbing during months when whales are most abundant.

The Commission also adopted regulations related to Harmful Algal Bloom biotoxin management (particularly domoic acid) in the commercial crab fishery and the commercial ocean Dungeness crab fishery season opening process.

ODFW will host a series of public meetings for the commercial ocean Dungeness crab fishery on possible future regulatory measures to reduce whale entanglements this October. Meetings will be held in Coos Bay (Oct. 17), Brookings (Oct. 18), Astoria (Oct. 22) and Newport (Oct. 23). More details about the meetings including locations will be available later in September.

Finally, the Commission voted 4-3 to change rules related to the hunting and trapping of Coastal marten. The new rules prohibit any marten harvest west of I-5 and also ban all trapping in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area as well as suspending traps or snares in trees in the Siskiyou and Siuslaw National Forests. The rules are in response to a petition for rulemaking from several environmental groups last year. Coastal martens are a subspecies of Pacific marten with a historical range located west of I-5 and more specifically from Lincoln and Benton counties south to Curry County.

The Commission is the rule-making body for fish and wildlife issues in Oregon. Its next meeting is Oct. 10-11 in Ontario