Category Archives: Headlines

Interactive NatGeo Yellowstone Elk Herd Exhibit On Display At RMEF HQ

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION

Imagine being able to stand in one spot and yet you can witness the year-round migration of elk across the vast Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Now you can do so thanks to a collaborative effort between the National Geographic Society, Buffalo Bill Center of the West and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

VISITORS PERUSE THE “INVISIBLE BOUNDARIES” EXHIBIT AT THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION’S CENTER IN MISSOULA. (RMEF)

Invisible Boundaries, a highly interactive exhibit created by National Geographic and based on years of scientific data, is now on display at RMEF headquarters.

“This is an amazing exhibit that follows the migration routes of nine different elk herds throughout the Yellowstone region,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “We appreciate the good folks at National Geographic in allowing us to host this display and we encourage everyone to come check it out.”

“The Invisible Boundaries exhibit ended up at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation because that’s where it belongs,” said Chris Johns, Beyond Yellowstone program leader for the National Geographic Society. “RMEF is about elk and education and helping people understand the intricacies and wonder of elk.”


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Featuring an interactive map, vivid animation, video and photography by Joe Riis, and artwork by James Prosek, the exhibit captures years of scientific information gathered by Arthur Middleton, professor at UC-Berkeley and National Geographic fellow, and state and federal agencies. It presents an ecosystem-wide overview of the dynamic movements of elk herds. Scientists used camera traps, radio tracking, observation and analysis to further the understanding of how elk and other living things interact across the landscape.

“If you think about large landscape connectivity and large landscape conservation, it’s important to think of elk not just in Yellowstone, but to think about how they move across the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. And that’s what this exhibit helps people understand,” added Johns.

It is fitting that the Invisible Boundaries exhibit is now on display at RMEF headquarters. In 2006, RMEF worked with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to provide funding for research that eventually led to the Wyoming Migration Initiative, the project from which the exhibit is created. In total, RMEF offered six years of funding to assist the project and still provides funding for ongoing elk research in the area.

RMEF’s headquarters is located at 5705 Grant Creek Road in Missoula, Montana. It is free and open to the public 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

March, April Razor Clam Dig Dates Tentatively Set

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

State shellfish managers have tentatively scheduled razor clam digs on ocean beaches for 12 days starting Mar. 16 and extending into late April.

LED BY THEIR “RAZOR CLAM MASTER” GRANDFATHER, WALLY SANDE (LEFT), CORBIN, LEXI AND AUSTIN HAN, THEIR PARENTS JERRY AND BRITT, ALONG WITH WALLY’S WIFE CAROL, ENJOYED A GREAT DIG A COUPLE APRILS AGO NEAR WESTPORT, LIMITING IN JUST HALF AN HOUR OR SO. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Final approval of all scheduled openings at Copalis, Mocrocks, Long Beach, Kalaloch and Twin Harbors beaches will depend on whether results of marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) typically announces whether a dig will go forward about a week before the opening, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the department.

Ayres noted the first three digs in March are on evening low tides, while those that follow are on morning low tides.

No digging is allowed before noon during evening digs and digging must be completed by noon during morning digs.

WDFW will consider additional dates later this spring if enough clams remain available for harvest, Ayres said.

The proposed razor clam digs, along with low tides and beaches, are listed below:

  • March 16, Saturday, 3:43 p.m.; 0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis (during the Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival);
  • March 17, Sunday, 4:43 p.m.; -0.2 feet; Twin Harbors (during the Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival), Mocrocks;
  • March 21, Thursday, 7:48 p.m.; -0.5 feet; Mocrocks

Switch to a.m. tides.

  • March 22, Friday, 8:14 a.m.; -0.2 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Kalaloch;
  • March 23, Saturday, 9:01 a.m.; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Kalaloch
  • March 24, Sunday, 9:49 a.m.; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • April 6, Saturday, 8:05 a.m.; 0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • April 7, Sunday, 8:42 a.m.; 0.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • April 8, Monday, 9:20 a.m.; 0.0 feet; Mocrocks
  • April 20, Saturday, 7:58 a.m.; -1.1 feet; Long Beach (during the Long Beach Razor Clam Festival), Twin Harbors, Copalis;
  • April 21, Sunday, 8:42 a.m.; -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • April 22, Monday, 9:25 a.m.; -1.0 feet; Twin Harbors Mocrocks


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All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. New 2019-20 fishing licenses will be required for dates in April.

Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license (starting at $9.70) 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.

In order to ensure conservation of clams for future generations, WDFW sets tentative razor clam seasons that are based on the results from the annual coast-wide razor clam stock assessment and by considering harvest to date. WDFW authorizes each dig independently after getting the results of marine toxin testing.

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.

More information can be found on WDFW’s razor clam webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

‘Slight Improvement’ Expected For 2019 Columbia Fall Chinook Runs

THE FOLLOWING IS FROM WDFW’S U.S. VS. OREGON TECHNICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE SUBGROUP

COLUMBIA RIVER FALL CHINOOK

2018 Forecast/Actual Returns and 2019 Preseason Forecasts The forecasts shown here are estimates made in February in preparation for the North of Falcon season-setting process. Once the North of Falcon process is complete, these February forecasts will change slightly. Final forecasts will be available in mid-April.

1Subset of URB

2First year for predicting LRB which was formerly a component of BUB stock.

2019 Forecasts

? LRH – Similar to last year’s actual return, about 60% of the 10-year average.

? LRW – Improved over 2018 actual return, 85% of the 10-year average.

? LRB – Forecast is more than twice the 10-year average.

? BPH – Improved over 2018 actual return, about half of the 10-year average.

? URB – Similar to last year’s actual return.

? PUB – Improved over 2018 actual return, about two-thirds of the 10-year average.

? SAB – Forecast is 27% of the recent 10-year average.

? Total Return – Slight improvement over 2018 actual return. Several years of poor ocean conditions are likely contributing to the decreased returns.


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Former WDFW Director Selected For USFWS Science Position

Jim Unsworth, whose resignation from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife took effect a year ago this month, has been hired for a new role with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

JIM UNSWORTH. (WDFW)

He will begin work as the federal agency’s Pacific Region Assistant Regional Director for Science Applications later this month.

“Based in Portland, his staff provides technical guidance, collaborative landscape-level conservation, and science-related funding opportunities to partners throughout the Pacific Region, which includes Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands, including America Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. As a member of the Regional Directorate, Unsworth will serve as the senior scientist in the agency’s largest and most biologically diverse region,” a USFWS press release out earlier this week states.

With multiple degrees and fish and wildlife management from universities in the Northwest, Unsworth worked his way up through the Idaho Department of Fish and Game before being hired by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in early 2015.

He had a rocky three-year tenure at WDFW that was complicated by deteriorating ocean conditions affecting salmon returns and fisheries management, among numerous factors, and in early 2018 he announced his resignation to “pursue other personal and professional goals in wildlife and natural resource management.”

Unsworth appears to have found those outlets with his new job.

“The science portfolio of the Pacific Northwest is in excellent hands,” said Robyn Thorson, USFWS regional director, in the press release. “The Service, our partners and the public will benefit from Jim’s proven leadership skills and collaborative approach to conservation. Dr. Unsworth’s state experience and impressive science credentials will continue our positive momentum on partnership-based landscape conservation.”

Ocean, Bays Closing For Crabbing From Bandon To CA Border

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

The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announce the immediate closure of all recreational crabbing on the southern Oregon coast from Bandon to the California border due to elevated levels of domoic acid. This includes Dungeness and red rock crab harvested in bays and estuaries, and on beaches, docks, piers, and jetties.

CRABBING ALONG OREGON’S SOUTHERN COAST IS BEING SHUT DOWN DUE TO ELEVATED TOXIN LEVELS IN THE SHELLFISH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Recreational crab harvesting from Bandon north to the Columbia River (including the Coquille river estuary) remains open in bays and estuaries, and on beaches, docks, piers, and jetties.

Meanwhile, for commercial crabbing, ODA and ODFW are requiring that all crab harvested from Bandon to the California border be eviscerated (gutted) before it can be deemed safe for consumption. Domoic acid levels are elevated only in crab viscera, or the guts, of crab sampled and tested from this area of the Oregon coast.

For recreational crab harvesters, it is recommended that crab always be eviscerated prior to cooking, which includes removal and discard of the viscera, internal organs, and gills.


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Because of Oregon’s precautionary management of biotoxins, the crab and shellfish products currently being sold in retail markets and restaurants are safe for consumers.

Domoic acid or amnesic shellfish toxin can cause minor to severe illness and even death. Severe poisoning can result in dizziness, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea. More severe cases can result in memory loss and death. Shellfish toxins are produced by microscopic algae and originate in the ocean. Toxins cannot be removed by cooking, freezing or any other treatment. ODA will continue to test for toxins in the coming weeks. Removal of the advisory requires two consecutive tests in the safe range.

For more information, call ODA’s shellfish safety information hotline at (800) 448-2474 or visit the ODA shellfish closures web page at http://ODA.direct/ShellfishClosures   

For commercial crab biotoxin information, go to: http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/programs/FoodSafety/Shellfish/Pages/CrabBiotoxinInfo.aspx

Group Threatens Lawsuit Over Puget Sound Summer Steelhead

Even as Washington steelhead managers have been making plans to move away from hatchery Skamania summer-run releases in Puget Sound, an environmental group is threatening to sue the state agency over the program.

WDFW RELEASES SKAMANIA-STRAIN SUMMER STEELHEAD INTO RIVERS LIKE THE SKYKOMISH, WHERE THIS ONE WAS CAUGHT ON A RAINY JUNE DAY SEVERAL SEASONS AGO. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The Wild Fish Conservancy announced this afternoon it was filing a 60-day intent to sue WDFW, saying the stock violates the Endangered Species Act.

The highly litigious organization based in Duvall says that programs operated primarily on the Skykomish but also the North Fork Stillaguamish and Green-Duwamish Rivers threaten five wild populations of Puget Sound summer-run steelhead and are driving them “closer to extinction” by spawning in the wild, reducing fitness.

WFC cites concerns that the National Marine Fisheries Service had in mid-2017 over Skamanias — a 1950s mix of Klickitat River and Washougal River steelhead that came from a state hatchery on the Washougal — but in response to that WDFW in coordination with its ad hoc Puget Sound Steelhead Advisory Group and the Tulalip Tribes last year came up with a plan.


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It would eventually replace the strain in the Skykomish with Tolt River summers instead, but would also take multiple years.

“There’s no expectation to eliminate the existing program until we build up the Tolt,” WDFW’s Jim Scott, a special assistant to the director, told Northwest Sportsman for a story detailing the plan, “and there will be a period of overlap of the programs” before Skamania releases ends.

At last check late last year that plan was still moving forward, so it’s unclear whether it has gathered enough momentum to now be a threat to WFC and thus is forcing it into yet another lawsuit against fishery overseers.

But what is clear is that the 60-day intent to sue appears to purposefully bump up against the timeframe this year’s smolts would be released from Reiter Ponds into the Skykomish, perhaps in an effort to get WDFW to come to a settlement like what happened with Chambers Creek hatchery early winter-run steelhead in 2014.

While it also wasn’t clear from WFC’s intent-to-sue letter what they considered the five populations of wild summers threatened by Skamania summers to be, earlier this year, researchers studying hatchery summer and wild winter steelhead in Oregon’s Clackamas River found the former didn’t affect the latter.

News-alanche! Elk Hoof, LWCF, Free Fishing, Clamming, Oly Bills, SW WA Angling Report

Well, after shoveling mountains of snow and trying to stay sane during yet another @#$%@$#%^ no-school day over these past 6,000 straight hours of Snowmapocalypse 2019, I’m so behind on fish-hunt news that it’s hopeless to try to catch up at this point, plus there’s that little magazine we do to attend to.

MIDWINTER FISH-HUNT NEWS REPORTING MEETS SNOWBANK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

So with apologies to those who expect better of the Olympia Outsider™, Dr. Wolfy von Wolferstein IIIIX and the rest of the reporting crew here at nwsportsmanmag.com (me, myself and I), here are links to major events to be aware of:

* Idaho Fish and Game says a hunter shot an elk with treponeme-associated hoof disease near White Bird last fall. It’s the first known case in the state and first outside the western half of Washington and Northwest Oregon.

  • The U.S. Senate voted to permanently reauthorize the important Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as create a special steelhead management area in the upper North Umpqua, withdraw the Methow Valley from mining and some other matters in a 92-8 vote on the Natural Resources Management Act. To go into law, the House must also pass S.47 and President Trump must sign it. Numerous fishing, hunting and other groups were very, very excited to see it progress through Congress.

* It’s Free Fishing Weekend in Oregon this Saturday and Sunday.

* Juvenile sturgeon numbers were down in the Columbia last year.

* Longtime fishing writer John Beath is fired up about Washington salmon issues, stating “a Chinook, is a Chinook is a Chinook” in a blog he sent to me from snowy Sequim, showing it’s possible to deal with all that white stuff and still formulate cogent thoughts (sorry, my brain is done, got a “Catchy Song” stuck in it). Since I hit post, a retired longtime WDFW fisheries manager sent Beath a response.

* Oregon wolf managers have pushed back adoption of the updated management plan from March till some time in the future to gather more comment, while Washington’s are holding a conference call this morning with the Wolf Advisory Group.


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* A bill in Olympia allowing counties to vacate a road next to waterways is drawing concern from recreationalists. SB 5613 nominally affects a road next to a farm and railroad bridge on the Lewis River but there is worry that it could have implications far beyond Clark County.

* And finally, here’s Bryant Spellman’s WDFW fishing report for Lower Columbia tribs:

Salmon/Steelhead:

Notice of Columbia River Compact/Joint State Hearing:  ODFW & WDFW have scheduled a hearing for Wednesday February 20, 2019 to consider spring Chinook recreational fisheries.

Fishery Reports:

Salmon/Steelhead:

Mainstem Lower Columbia River

  • No report.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 6 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 8 bank anglers had no catch.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Abernathy Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Germany Creek – 4 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 37 bank rods released 1 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  10 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.  9 boats/26 rods kept 14 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered four winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

All the fish collected last week were held at the hatchery for broodstock needs.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 4,920 cubic feet per second on Monday, Feb. 4. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 43.2 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

East Fork Lewis River – 14 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Salmon Creek – 21 bank anglers had no catch.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 6 bank anglers released 2 sublegal sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool– Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool– 1 boat/1 rod had no catch.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- No report.

The Dalles Pool– No report.

      John Day Pool– No report.

Trout Plants and stocking schedules:

Lake/Pond Date Species  Number Fish per
Pound
Hatchery  Notes
BATTLE GROUND LK (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5
Feb 04, 2019 Rainbow 2,500 2.1 VANCOUVER HATCHERY
KLINELINE PD (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5
Feb 04, 2019 Rainbow 2,500 2.1 VANCOUVER HATCHERY

Melcher Reappointed As ODFW Head, Commission Hears About Columbia Sturgeon

THE FOLLOWING IS AN ODFW PRESS RELEASE

The Commission reappointed Curt Melcher of Molalla to another four-year term as ODFW Director at its meeting in Portland today. Melcher has been with ODFW for 34 years, starting his career doing fish creel surveys on the Columbia River. He has served as ODFW Director since 2014.

ODFW DIRECTOR CURT MELCHER. (ODFW)

Commissioners heard an update on Lower Columbia River white sturgeon populations and fisheries and results from ODFW’s ongoing stock assessments. Population indicators for white sturgeon are mixed, with positive signs for the abundance of legal-sized fish but more cautionary ones for juvenile and young-of-year recruitment. Because of these concerns, fisheries managers continue to take a precautionary approach to white sturgeon fisheries.

The Commission also heard a briefing on the state’s razor clam fisheries, including ODFW’s decades-long monitoring program. Razor clamming is a popular activity on the north coast, especially on Clatsop beaches, where 5,000-6,000 people can be out clamming on a good low tide.


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The 2018-19 razor clam season on Clatsop beaches was delayed from its traditional opening date of Oct. 1 this year because the population was dominated by undersized clams. The season remains scheduled to open March 1, 2019 though some clams are still small.

Also today, Chair Finley announced that the adoption of a revised Wolf Plan scheduled for March 15 would be postponed to a future meeting, to allow everyone more time to review the Plan and Commissioners more time to talk with constituents. ODFW staff intend to make a draft Plan available for review in early March.

The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in Oregon. Its next meeting is March 15 in Salem.

F-f-f-f-free Fishing Days Coming Up In Oregon

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

It’s free to fish, crab or clam in Oregon on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16-17 of President’s Day Weekend.

ICE FISHERMEN TRY THEIR LUCK AT SOUTHERN OREGON’S DIAMOND LAKE. ANGLING THERE AND ELSEWHERE ACROSS THE BEAVER STATE IS FREE FOR THE FIRST TWO DAYS OF PRESIDENTS DAY WEEKEND. (JESSICA SALL, ODFW)

During these two days, no fishing licenses or tags (including a Combined Angling Tag or Columbia River Basin Endorsement) are required to fish, crab or clam anywhere in Oregon for both residents and non-residents. Although no licenses or tags are required, all other fishing regulations apply including closures, bag limits and size restrictions.


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This time of year, the best opportunity will be winter steelhead on the coast, stocked hatchery rainbow trout in the Willamette Valley and mid-coast lakes, and ice-fishing in northeast and southeast Oregon.

Look for the latest on fishing conditions and regulations at ODFW’s Weekly Recreation Report, which is updated every Thursday. Also see the trout stocking schedule to find out when your local lake is getting stocked with hatchery rainbow trout.

Large Reward Offered For Info On Seattle Sea Lion Shootings

Federal game wardens are offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information on a string of California sea lion shootings in the Central Sound since late last summer.

They say more than a dozen in King and Kitsap Counties have been confirmed to have been shot, with many washing up dead in West Seattle.

AN X-RAY OF A SEA LION FOUND WASHED UP DEAD ON A WEST SEATTLE BEACH SHOW ITS HEAD HAD BEEN HIT BY AT LEAST FIVE SHOTGUN PELLETS. (WDFW)

“We are concerned about a number of recent reports of marine mammal deaths caused by gunshots in the greater Seattle area. OLE investigates all reported unlawful takes of sea lions,” said Greg Busch of NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement in a press release.

NOAA is in charge of enforcing the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which bars harassing, shooting or killing sea lions, among other species.


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Violating the act can incur up to $28,500 in penalties per count, plus a year in jail and forfeiture of equipment used in the crime.

The reward is contingent on the info leading to a perpetrator or perps receiving a civil penalty or being criminally convicted.

The numbers to call are (206) 526-4300 for the agent on the case, or a 24-hour hotline, (800) 853-1964.

According to NOAA sea lion shootings in fall and winter have become “a regular occurrence” up and down the West Coast.

As the species has reached its habitat’s carrying capacity in recent years, conflicts have grown as the sea-going pinnipeds have swam up the Columbia and Willamette Rivers to feast on salmon, steelhead and sturgeon.

Last fall, ODFW was granted a federal permit to remove up to 93 a year at Willamette Falls to save an endangered run of winter steelhead.

And in December, a bill passed by Congress will allow up to 1100 or so to be killed by Idaho, Oregon and Washington state wildlife and several tribes in portions of the Columbia and its salmonid-bearing tribs.

At least two sea lion bills have also been introduced this session in Washington’s legislature calling on Congress to do more.