Category Archives: Headlines

Washington Bass, Walleye In Crosshairs For Orca Recovery?

Smallmouth, largemouth, walleye and other popular but nonnative gamefish species might one day be reclassified as invasive in Washington, a proposal meant to help out the prey of struggling killer whales but one that would further alienate warmwater anglers who already feel like the state’s redheaded stepchildren.

A POTENTIAL RECOMMENDATION BY WASHINGTON’S ORCA TASK FORCE COULD PUT A CHILL ON WALLEYE, A NONNATIVE SPECIES THAT ALSO CONSUMES CHINOOK AND OTHER SALMONID SMOLTS WHILE PROVIDING EXCELLENT FISHING OPPORTUNITIES IN FALL, LATE WINTER AND SPRING ON THE COLUMBIA NEAR TRI-CITIES. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

A Seattle TV station got ahold of that and other draft recommendations that Governor Jay Inslee’s state orca task force has developed ahead of their Monday, Sept. 24 release for public comment.

According to KCPQ, “Prey Potential Recommendation 27” calls on Inslee to support adding bass, walleye, catfish, perch and more to a list that includes northern pike, several species of carp and northern snakeheads.

The idea is “to allow and encourage removal of these predatory fish in the waters containing salmon or other ESA-listed species,” according to documents that reporter Brett Cihon cites.

The papers state:

“Walleye in the Columbia River are reported to consume more than two juvenile salmon daily while bass are reported to consume more than one juvenile salmon per day. There are likely millions of these non-native predatory fish in Washington waters, including Lake Washington and other water bodies, containing salmon. Twenty-four million salmon smolts are consumed by these non-native species between McNary Dam and Priest Rapids dam.”

It wasn’t clear where the reported figures originated, but walleye do now occur throughout much of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, as well as many Columbia Basin reservoirs and lakes.

These waters are so rich with forage – and not just salmonid smolts but young shad, perch, catfish and squawfish, according to guides quoted in a Northwest Sportsman article during last winter’s trophy fishery period – that anglers come from the home of walleye, the Upper Midwest, to try and catch fish into the high teens if not set a new state or world records, or at least personal bests.

Bass are simply everywhere, in lakes and slower, warmer rivers across the state, and support a number of fishing tournaments.

A 2011 paper KCPQ cited captured the dichotomy between the species’ value to anglers and fisheries and its danger to native fish. Researchers said there were 75,000 smallmouth bass anglers in Washington in 2006, or 14 percent of the state’s fishermen, and they spent 1.1 million days afield to the tune of $32.6 million in economic activity.

Those figures were also mostly below 1996 levels in not only Washington but Oregon and Idaho. The paper suggested site-specific regulations for areas of known salmonid smolt concentrations.

Since it came out, Washington and Oregon have moved to liberalize walleye, bass and catfish regulations, dropping size and daily limits on the Columbia and its tributaries, after pressure from federal overseers to show the states are doing something to reduce predation on ESA-listed salmon and steelhead smolts.

But now the focus is on orcas and their prey. Fall Chinook from the Lower Columbia and its tribs, as well as the Hanford Reach and Snake River, along with spring and summer king stocks from the Cowlitz, Kalama and Idaho rivers were found to be among the most important to southern resident killer whales, according to a new analysis out earlier this summer.

Anglers are being paid to remove northern pikeminnows, a native but numerous species that have benefited from the damming of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and they’re also getting cash to cut off the heads of northern pike in Lake Roosevelt.

KCPQ also reported that among other potential recommendations, the task force suggests removing three smaller dams on the Middle Fork Nooksack, Pilchuck and Naches Rivers; support efforts in Congress to make it easier to remove sea lions from more Lower Columbia Basin waters; establish a “no white-water wake” within half a mile of orcas; and develop a new limited-entry whale-watch boat permit program.

Some observers of the process are reported to feel that the measures aren’t strong enough or that their effects are too short-term.

US, Canada Agree To New West Coast Salmon Treaty

Updated 4:29 p.m. Sept. 17, 2018

US and Canadian salmon managers have reached a new 10-year agreement on Chinook harvest and conservation, one that must still be approved in the countries’ capitals but calls for reduced northern interceptions when runs are poor.

GUIDE BOB REES NETS A CHINOOK AT BUOY 10. SALMON RETURNS TO THE MOUTH OF THE COLUMBIA WOULD SEE ADDITIONAL PROTECTIONS WHILE TRANSITING NORTHERN WATERS DURING YEARS OF LOWER RUNS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Fisheries off Southeast Alaska would be cut as much as 7.5 percent from 2009-15 levels in those years, while those off the west coast of Vancouver Island would be pruned up to 12.5 percent.

Those are key areas that Washington- and Columbia River-bound kings travel through during their ocean sojourn and a bone of contention for managers at all levels.

“I think that thorniness is why it took the countries two and a half years and numerous negotiation sessions,” said John Field, the executive secretary of the Pacific Salmon Commission.

The update to the international treaty would run from Jan. 1, 2019 through 2028 and be in effect down to Cape Falcon, Oregon. It also covers chums, sockeye, pinks and coho.

Field termed the section on Chinook a “long and complicated chapter” and said that all parties are acknowledging that the species isn’t recovering as well as we’d like, so the burden of harvest cuts is being spread out.

According to Governor Jay Inslee’s office, “Fisheries in Washington will remain tightly constrained unless runs exceed management objectives.”

Alaska salmon managers report that Washington and Oregon fisheries could see reductions from 5 to 15 percent.

Washington’s member of the salmon commission, Phil Anderson, the retired WDFW director, said the plan would “create a better future for salmon in Washington.”

Field, who counts himself as a sports fishermen, said that fellow anglers can rest assured that Chinook management will be improved with “augmentations” in the treaty, including improved tagging for mark-selective fisheries, a 10-year schedule to upgrade monitoring of “sentinel” stocks and a review after five years to see if the reductions are actually yielding better king runs.

The importance of Chinook has been in the spotlight of late with the plight of southern resident killer whales and the likely death of yet another one, J50.

According to Inslee’s office, US salmon commissioners will seek out more money from Washington DC for habitat and hatchery work.

“Additional federal funding is essential in order to make the key conservation work possible to recover salmon, and in turn, our orca,” Inslee said.

“Successful updates to the Pacific Salmon Treaty through 2028 will help ensure long-term sustainable and healthy salmon populations that are vital to the people of the Pacific Northwest, and to the entire ecosystem,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown in a press release.

 

Cougar Shot Dead In Mt Hood Area That Hiker Was Killed

ODFW PRESS RELEASE

An adult female cougar was shot and killed by wildlife officials at approximately. 3:15 p.m. today on the Hunchback Mtn Trail Area of Mt. Hood National Forest.

MULES ARE PREPARED FOR THE SEARCH FOR A KILLER COUGAR THIS A.M. (ODFW)

The cougar’s carcass is now being transported by Oregon State Police to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland. The laboratory will analyze evidence from the cougar killed today and compare it with evidence received earlier this week (from the scene where Diana Bober was killed). The goal is to determine whether or not the cougar killed today is the cougar that killed Diana.

The female cougar was not lactating, meaning she is not currently caring for kittens.

After finding no sign of the cougar in the area of the Hunchback Mtn Trail yesterday, USDA Wildlife Services personnel started today’s search area to the west of the Hunchback Mtn trail. At approximately 9:20 a.m., a cougar walked in front of a remote camera that crews had deployed earlier this week just a few feet from where Diana Bober’s backpack was picked up on Hunchback Mtn Trail.

“Setting up our communications logistics system earlier this week really paid off today,” said Brian Wolfer, the ODFW watershed manager leading the capture effort. “Thanks to a tremendous effort by the ODFW team and our partners, we were able to quickly get this information to the team on the ground and get them back to the Hunchback Mtn Trail.”

USDA Wildlife Services personnel along with their dogs and mules hiked back to where they could be picked up and transported back to the Hunchback Mtn Trail. They were back at the site where Diana’s backpack was found about three hours after the cougar’s visit to the site. The hounds were able to pick up the scent and trail the cougar until it went up into a tree around 3 p.m. today, when it was then shot with a rifle.

“We don’t know if this is the cougar responsible, but we do know that this cougar was at the attack site today,” said Brian Wolfer, the ODFW watershed manager leading the effort. “We are doing all we can to confirm as quickly as possible whether this is the animal responsible.”

ODFW expects it will take at least three days before any results are available.

Until ODFW receives confirmation that the cougar killed is the right one, staff from ODFW and other involved agencies will remain in the Zigzag area and continue to search for cougars. If another cougar is encountered, it may be killed and also tested for evidence. The continued effort is intended to increase the probability that the offending cougar has been caught.

ODFW will host a press conference tomorrow, Saturday Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. in the Hunchback Trailhead parking lot. Members of the media planning to attend should text Michelle Dennehy  or Rick Swart tomorrow morning.

###

Catch Perch, Help Save Imperiled Sammamish Kokanee At Derby

A yellow perch derby will be held on Lake Sammamish tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 15, part of an effort to help out the lake’s landlocked salmon.

“They are abundant and are predators of the endangered kokanee salmon at certain life stages,” say organizers of the event being put on by Trout Unlimited. “The derby will not only help to reduce the number of perch in the lake but will educate anglers about kokanee salmon and the ongoing work to improve the watersheds and health of Lake Sammamish.”

THE FIRST ANNUAL LAKE SAMMAMISH PERCH DERBY WILL BE HELD SATURDAY, SEPT. 15, WITH CASH AND PRIZES TO BE AWARDED FOR ANGLERS BRINGING IN YELLOWBELLIES LIKE THIS ONE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Headquartered at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, the derby begins at 7 a.m. and runs till 2 p.m.

Prizes include $200 each for longest and heaviest perch, and heftiest overall catch (maximum: 25 fish).

There’s also a youth division with $50 gift certificate to a sporting goods retailer for the same three categories.

More prizes from the Snoqualmie Tribe and local businesses will be given away as well.

And according to TU, all proceeds will go towards recovering kokanee.

Those in the King County lake have been struggling for decades as the surrounding area has urbanized, and despite efforts to prop up the population in recent years, there has been an alarming decline in spawning numbers.

Less than 20 were counted in tributaries last fall, prompting an emergency response from county officials.

ADULT KOKANEE SPAWN IN LAKE SAMMAMISH TRIBUTARY EBRIGHT CREEK. (ROGER TABOR, USFWS)

TU was among the groups that in 2007 petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list Sammamish kokanee under the Endangered Species Act, but in 2011 the feds declined to do so, saying it wasn’t an independent population.

Yellow perch are a popular sportfish. According to state biologist Aaron Bosworth, the species was introduced into Lake Sammamish in 1915, and though it’s unclear who put them there, it came near the end of the era when the U.S. Fish Commission was moving Eastern gamefish into Western waters.

These days, efforts are being made to get them out of the lakes, or at least limit their numbers and impacts to young salmonids.

After perch were illegally stocked into Eastern Oregon’s Phillips Reservoir, state officials launched a gillnetting campaign and released piscivorous tiger muskies into the lake to try and recover the once-vaunted rainbow trout fishery.

In Northeast Washington, after a “startling increase” in perch numbers at previously clean Curlew Lake, locals organized a “Perch Purge.”

Tickets for the Lake Sammamish derby are $20 for adults and $5 for kids, $30 and $10 if you register on site at the state park tomorrow.

A GOOD TACTIC FOR PERCH IS TO FISH WORMS — OR SMALL WHITE CURL-TAILED GRUBS — ON BOTTOM, LIKE THESE ANGLERS ON LAKE WASHINGTON WERE DOING A COUPLE FRIDAYS AGO. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

No Sign Of Hiker-killing Cougar On Search Day 1; ODFW Asks For Locals’ Recent Trail Cam Pics

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

No cougar scent or sign was detected today by trackers in the field near the site where a cougar is believed to have killed Mt. Hood hiker Diana Bober.

USDA WILDLIFE SERVICES STAFFERS USED MULES TO BEGIN THE SEARCH FOR A COUGAR THAT KILLED A HIKER EAST OF PORTLAND. (USFS VIA ODFW)

The search began off the Hunchback Mountain Trailhead around 6:30 a.m. Two USDA Wildlife Services personnel rode mules for about 9 miles accompanied by four dogs trained to pick up cougar scent. No scent or other recent cougar sign (tracks, scat, scratches) was detected in the area. Searchers also saw very few signs of cougar’s prey like deer.

“It’s very important that we started our search at the site where Diana was found,” said Brian Wolfer, ODFW watershed manager who is leading the capture effort. “The cougar wasn’t there. Tomorrow we will expand our search into a new area.”

In addition, ODFW and other personnel are working to place more trail cameras into remote areas. They also encourage any local residents (ZigZag-Welches-Rhododendron area) with recent trail camera images of cougars (within past four weeks) or cougar sightings to contact ODFW’s Clackamas office at (971) 673-6000.

Yesterday’s efforts to set up a communications system that would work in the rugged area served the operations effort well, and searchers in remote areas have radio contact with ODFW and other state, federal and local personnel on the ground (Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Forest Service, OSP Fish and Wildlife).

Also today, U.S. Forest Service announced a closure to protect public safety and to allow for search and capture operations to continue with minimal disturbance from people, which could compromise search efforts. See the Mt Hood National Forest website for more information.

Yesterday during a press conference, Wolfer discussed home range sizes for cougars. ODFW’s most recent data for cougars occupying similar habitat in the coast range support the information provided about home range sizes with male cougars having a home range averaging 123 square miles, and adult females averaging 22.5 square miles. It is not known if the cougar that killed Diana was a male or female.

“This is big country,” said Wolfer. “The search may take some time and will be a fluid situation. We’ll continue to adjust our operation as necessary.”

Tomorrow morning, crews will start to expand the search area but stay within a typical cougar home range distance of where Diana was attacked.

ODFW will provide an online update tomorrow afternoon after the search has concluded for the day or when there is new information to share.

Samish Closing For All Fishing To Help Meet Chinook Eggtake Goals

WDFW E-REG

Action: Close part of the Samish River to all fishing.

THE SAMISH RIVER WILL CLOSE TO FISHING AROUND EDISON AND ELSEWHERE BELOW I-5 AS OF SEPT 15. (BENJAMIN CODY, WIKIPEDIA)

Effective dates:  Sept.15, 2018 until further notice.

Species affected: All species.

Location: From the mouth (Bayview –Edison Road) to I-5 bridge

Reasons for action: The return of fall chinook to the Samish Hatchery is currently projected to be below the number needed to meet egg take goals for 2018. Closing the fishing season in the lower Samish River will increase the number of hatchery fish available for broodstock and help ensure future hatchery returns.

Other information: The season will be reopened if egg take needs are projected to be met. Please refer tohttps://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/for further information on seasons.

Hanford Reach Adult King Limit Dropping To One, Coho Can’t Be Kept

THE FOLLOWING IS AN E-REG FROM WDFW

Action: Reduces the daily limit to one adult fall chinook from the Highway 395 Bridge (Pasco/Kennewick) upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. Prohibits retention of coho salmon.

PAST YEARS’ UPRIVER BRIGHT RETURNS TO THE HANFORD REACH LEFT ANGLERS SMILING BUT NOT SO MUCH THIS FALL’S. STATE MANAGERS ARE DROPPING THE DAILY LIMIT TO ONE ADULT CHINOOK STARTING SATURDAY. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective dates and locations:

  • Sept. 15 through Oct. 31, 2018 from Hwy. 395 Bridge (Pasco/Kennewick) to the Old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers
  • Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, 2018 from the Old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers to Priest Rapids Dam.

Species affected:  Fall chinook and coho.

Location: Highway 395 Bridge (Kennewick/Pasco) upstream to the Priest Rapids Dam.

Reason for action: The upriver bright fall chinook escapement goal for the Hanford Reach is 31,100 adult chinook. Fall chinook and coho salmon are returning to the Columbia River well below the forecast. Reduction of the daily limit to one adult fall chinook will provide anglers the opportunity to continue to harvest available fall chinook salmon and still meet conservation goals for escapement of upriver bright fall chinook in the Hanford Reach.

Closure of retention of coho in the Hanford Reach fishery will contribute in efforts to meet hatchery coho broodstock collection and escapement targets destined to return to upper Columbia River tributaries.

Additional information: The daily limit is six salmon with up to one adult fall chinook. Release all coho and sockeye. Anglers must stop fishing for salmon after the adult portion of the daily limit is retained.

Coho Anglers Get Two More Days Of Fishing On Central Oregon Coast

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

Ocean waters from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. will be open for more coho salmon fishing this Friday and Saturday (Sept. 14-15). This is the second open period for the 2018 non selective coho season.  During the first two-day period anglers averaged more than one fish for every two anglers with a total estimated catch of 2,700 coho.

LORELEI PENNINGTON SHOWS OFF A WILD COHO CAUGHT DURING LAST SEPTEMBER’S SEASON. OREGON OFFICIALS, IN CONJUNCTION WITH FEDERAL FISHERY OVERSEERS, WERE ABLE TO PUT BEAVER STATE FISHERMEN BACK ON THE WATER FOR UNCLIPPED AND CLIPPED COHO ALIKE THIS WEEKEND. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

With an initial quota of 3,500 coho, that left only 800 coho available for harvest – not enough for another opener, according Eric Schindler, ODFW ocean salmon manager.

“However, with coordination and cooperation from NOAA Fisheries and flexibility in salmon management we were able to “roll-over” quota from the summer hatchery coho season to September,” Schindler said. “That bumped the quota up to 7,600 coho, and will give everyone at least two more days of fishing.”

Managers will review catches next week and decide on Wednesday if there is enough quota left for any additional fishing days.

Fishing for Chinook salmon remains open seven days a week through October, but Chinook catches have been slow most of the season. Anglers are reminded that when fishing for salmon in the ocean no more than two single point barbless hooks are allowed.  The hook rules also apply when fishing for any other species if a salmon has been retained.

Lower, Middle Columbia Closing To Salmon Fishing

THE FOLLOWING ARE PRESS RELEASES FROM THE WASHINGTON AND OREGON DEPARTMENTS OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

WDFW: Starting Thursday (Sept. 13), fishing for salmon will be closed on the mainstem Columbia River from Buoy 10 upstream to Hwy 395 in Pasco under new rules approved today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.

COHO RETENTION HAD BEEN SCHEDULED TO CONTINUE DEEP INTO FALL ON THE COLUMBIA BUT WILL CLOSE EARLY DUE TO CONCERNS ABOUT LOW RETURNS OF CHINOOK. (CHRIS SPENCER)

Deep River in Washington and other tributaries in Oregon (Youngs Bay, Tongue Point/South Channel, Blind Slough and Knappa Slough) are also closed to salmon and steelhead angling.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) already prohibited steelhead retention in much of the same area of the Columbia River several weeks ago, and the new emergency rule closes angling for both salmon and steelhead in those waters as well.

Bill Tweit, Columbia River fishery coordinator for WDFW, said the counts of fall chinook at Bonneville Dam are 29 percent below preseason forecasts, and on-going fisheries are approaching the allowable catch limits under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“We recognize that this closure is difficult for anglers, but we have an obligation to meet our ESA goals so that fisheries can continue in the future,” he said.

Tweit said the upriver fall chinook run provides the bulk of the harvest opportunity for fall fisheries, but that returns in recent years has been declining due to unfavorable ocean conditions. The preseason forecast for this year is 47 percent of the 10-year average return of upriver bright fall chinook.

The new emergency fishing rule is posted on WDFW’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/.

…..

ODFW: With fall Chinook salmon returns to the Columbia River tracking well below preseason predictions, fishery managers announced today the Columbia River from the mouth at Buoy 10 to the Hwy 395 Bridge near Pasco, Washington will close for angling and retention of all salmon and steelhead at 12:01 am Thursday, Sept. 13.

As of Sept. 10, a total of 105,795 adult fall Chinook had passed Bonneville Dam, 75 percent of expectations based on preseason forecasts. The upriver bright Chinook return, which includes ESA-listed Snake River fish, are currently projected to return at 69 percent of expectations which means if left open fisheries could exceed the allowable harvest rate.  In response, Oregon and Washington managers decided today to close all salmon fisheries until further notice.

According to Tucker Jones, ODFW Columbia River Program manager, if the return continues on this track, this could be the lowest fall Chinook return to the mouth of the Columbia since 2007. “2018 is a pretty bad year for Columbia River salmon returns,” said Jones, “Except for upper Columbia sockeye most runs will come in at 30 percent or less of pre-season forecast.”

Steelhead fishing closed on the Columbia River Aug. 27, also due to poor returns, and will also remain closed until further notice

Oregon Woman Killed By Cougar

State and county officials say that an Oregon woman who had not been seen since late August and was reported missing last Friday was most likely killed by a cougar.

The body of Diana Bober of Gresham was discovered off a trail southwest of Mt. Hood yesterday and an autopsy was performed today.

(FACEBOOK)

“Every indication is that a cougar is responsible,” ODFW wildlife biologist Brian Wolfer said during a press conference with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office that was streamed live over Facebook this afternoon.

DNA has been flown to the USFWS forensic lab in Ashland for testing.

Wolfer said it was a “tragic and unprecedented event,” and is believed to be the first in state history that resulted in the loss of a human life.

It’s also the second fatal mountain lion attack in the Northwest just this year.

The other occurred near North Bend, Washington, where a bicyclist was taken down and their riding partner was also attacked.

That animal was immediately tracked down and killed and initially reported as underweight, but a Washington State University lab found “no abnormalities” in its condition that would have led to the attack.

“We don’t believe that the threat to the public that is posed by cougars is any greater today than it was yesterday,” said Wolfer. “However, we don’t know and can’t quantify the threat that this particular animal may pose to the public. And so we’re making every effort along with our partner agencies to locate this animal so we can assure the safety of the public.”

The Hunchback Trail, where the attack occurred, has been closed for the time being.

Advice for dealing with a cougar encounter bears repeating. Per WDFW:

  1. Stop, stand tall and don’t run. Pick up small children. Don’t run. A cougar’s instinct is to chase.

  2. Do not approach the animal, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens.

  3. Try to appear larger than the cougar. Never take your eyes off the animal or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.

  4. If the animal displays aggressive behavior, shout, wave your arms and throw rocks. The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.

  5. If the cougar attacks, fight back aggressively and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back.