Category Archives: Headlines

Columbia Springer Run Downgraded, Shad Lagging

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS FROM JOE HYMER

  • The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) has downgraded the Columbia adult spring Chinook run to 75k at Bonneville and 83k at the river mouth.
  • The pre-season forecast was 160,400 fish to the river mouth.
  • Though early, only 21 shad have been counted at Bonneville Dam through May 14.
  •  It’s the 2nd lowest number of shad counted at the dam since 1986.
  • The fewest are the 16 fish counted through May 14, 2012.

Study Suggests Way To Minimize Springer Minijacks

Federal fishery researchers may have figured out a “template” for building a better springer.

Or at least rearing smolts that won’t fizzle out as minijacks.

Minijacks are male Chinook that are even smaller than jacks, which run to 24 inches, and while they may or may not go to sea, they’re reproductively viable.

THE PELTON LADDER ON THE DESCHUTES YIELDED INTERESTING RESULTS DURING A THREE-YEAR EXPERIMENT TRACKING HOW WELL YOUNG SPRING CHINOOK INTO ADULTHOOD. (NWFSC)

In Oregon’s Hood River system, some years they’ve ended up representing as much as 40 percent of the output of state and tribal hatcheries, doing little for fisheries while also posing a threat to wild king genes.

So, the Northwest Fisheries Science Center was called in to take a crack at the problem.

According to a recent story posted on NWFSC’s website, over the course of a three-year study that began in 2010, eggs from one year-class of returning springers were reared at three different facilities,  Carson National Fish Hatchery on the Wind, Parkdale Fish Facility on the Hood and Pelton Ladder on the Deschutes.

Then all were acclimated and released from Parkdale.

More than 40,000 smolts swam out with passive integrated transponders.

 

“In this way, any differences between the groups would be due to differences in the rearing environments alone—namely, the three hatcheries,” the story states.

The goal was to see which would achieve the highest smolt-to-adult return rate, or SAR, and thus fewest minijacks.

The winner?

Pelton Ladder, which otherwise allows anadromous fish to climb the three miles between a pair of dams on the Deschutes near Madras.

But why?

“Although it’s artificial, it’s like a natural river system, with natural water temperatures and lots of foraging food and insects, instead of the managed temperatures and artificial food you see at many hatcheries,” Chris Brun, who coordinates the state-tribal Hood River Production Program.

Nicknamed the “wild fish template,” it suggests smolts raised this way “were consistently larger, better adapted to saltwater, and far less likely to become minijacks than those from the other hatcheries. They also returned in the greatest numbers as adults,” writes author Al Brown.

 

The researchers’ results have been published online and are set to go into print in Transactions of the American Fisheries Society.

Now, obviously hatchery operators may not have the coinage to build Pelton Ladders all over the Northwest to increase SAR, and perhaps there is some factor at play that makes the results peculiar to Columbia Gorge tribs, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

States delay lower Columbia River steelhead fishery opening

SALEM, Ore – An action packed weekend is coming up in LaGrande at the 12th annual Ladd Marsh Bird Festival, May 19-21.

CLACKAMAS, Ore. – Fishery managers have postponed the annual fishery for hatchery steelhead and jack Chinook salmon from Tongue Point upriver to the Interstate 5 Bridge set to begin May 16.

Lower than expected passage of spring Chinook salmon over Bonneville Dam coupled with the spring Chinook catch to date in the recreational fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam are the primary causes of the delay. As of yesterday only about 26,000 of the approximately 160,000 forecasted spring Chinook salmon had been counted at Bonneville Dam.

Although steelhead anglers would have been required to release any adult salmon they caught in the postponed fishery, a certain percentage would die after release. “Unfortunately we just don’t have any lower river sport allocation left to operate this fishery prior to a run update,” said Tucker Jones, ODFW’s Ocean Salmon and Columbia River Program manager.

“We’re not sure if this run is just very late or also below forecast,” Jones said “Water conditions have been way outside of normal this year, and that could be the primary cause for the low counts to date,” he added.

“The abnormal water conditions this year have injected a level of uncertainty into assessing this run that doesn’t typically exist,” Jones said. “Given the unclear situation we have this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes another week or two before we really know the full story on this year’s return.”

Grant PUD offers free, outdoor recreation opportunities along the Columbia

New boat launch at Crescent Bar, with limited parking, opens May 26

Local residents and visitors will have a number of outdoor opportunities along the Columbia River this summer recreation season.

Grant PUD operates 19 recreation sites on or near the Columbia River. Recreation sites with boat launches include the Priest Rapids Recreation Area, Buckshot, Huntzinger, Wanapum Dam Lower, Wanapum Dam Upper, Vantage, Frenchman Coulee and Apricot Orchards. The new Chinook Park boat launch located off-island at Crescent Bar, will open to the public on May 26. Fuel will also be available at the Chinook Park boat launch when it opens.

Boaters should be mindful that, because of on-going construction in the Crescent Bar area, parking is limited at the Chinook Park boat launch. Those with off-site parking are encouraged to use that option.

The two-lane launch and boat dock is the first of several new and enhanced amenities that will be free and open to the general public visiting the Crescent Bar Recreation area. The new RV campground and other facilities, including parks, beaches and walking trails, are expected to open by late June to early July following several months of construction. The golf course is also now open throughout the season.

Grant PUD’s recreation sites offer day-use visitors free, family-friendly fun in the sun and are one of the many ways Grant PUD powers our local way of life. During the Memorial Day weekend, overnight camping, which requires a fee, will also available at four campgrounds: Priest Rapids Recreation Area, Sand Hollow, Rocky Coulee and Jackson Creek Fish Camp.  For information about Grant PUD’s recreation options, visit http://grantpud.org/recreation.

 

Grant PUD wants everyone to enjoy a safe time along the river by following these safety guidelines:

  • Water released from the dams can create hazardous boating conditions. Sudden water level fluctuations can impact the shoreline. Make sure your boat stays wet and anchor well off shore.
  • Safety barriers located above both Wanapum and Priest Rapids dams are there to keep everyone safe. Do not go beyond the safety barriers under any circumstances. If someone gets in trouble and goes beyond the barriers, call 911 immediately.
  • Check the weather forecast before starting out. Watch for any wave, wind and cloud changes that signal bad weather is heading your way.
  • Make sure water and weather conditions are safe before entering the water. Cold water reduces body heat 25 times faster than air at the same temperature. The Columbia River can be cold enough to cause serious harm. Wearing a life jacket increases your survival time.
  • There are no lifeguards on duty at our recreation sites. Please be careful.

Photo credit: Grant PUD

Established by local residents over 75 years ago, Grant PUD generates and delivers energy to millions of customers throughout the Pacific Northwest. What began as a grassroots movement of public power has evolved into one of the premiere providers of renewable energy at some of the most affordable rates in the nation. For more information visitwww.grantpud.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Final work is underway for the Chinook Park boat launch, parking lot and day-use moorage at Crescent Bar. The facility is expect to open on May 26.

Lake Washington Walleye Outfitted With Acoustic Tags For Study

Fishery biologists with a Seattle-area tribe are capturing a new predator species in Lakes Washington and Sammamish to monitor their movements and whether they cross paths with salmon.

It’s unclear how many of the illegally introduced fish are actually in the system, but concern is building and the Muckleshoot Tribe reports they have “successfully tagged and released multiple walleye” already this year.

STATE FISHERIES BIOLOGIST DANNY GARRETT DISPLAYS A 13-PLUS-POUND WALLEYE HE UNEXPECTEDLY CAUGHT IN 2015 NEAR MERCER ISLAND ON LAKE WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

A request for comment from the tribe had not yet been returned as of this writing, but details of the operation come from the LOAF, or list of agreed-to fisheries that was signed by WDFW and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission earlier this month as the parties reached an agreement at North of Falcon, and which was posted last week by the state agency.

Besides outlining all the treaty, commercial and recreational salmon fisheries over the coming 12 months, the 105-page document includes the Muckleshoot’s aims and methods for their two-year warmwater species study in the Lake Washington basin.

It builds on the scant information we were able to report earlier this year, when it began.

The tribe says it wants to catch up to 15 walleye to “assess their overlap with migrating juvenile salmonids in addition to locating areas these invasive predators may be targeted in subsequent fisheries.”

Tribal fishers are targeting one of seven zones in Washington and Sammamish at a time, using up to eight 300-foot-long gillnets with 31/2- to 6-inch mesh. The nets fish during the work week and are closely monitored to reduce the possibility of snagging the few if any ESA-listed steelhead in the basin.

Walleye are being implanted with acoustic devices that can be read by receivers stationed around the lakes that are otherwise used to track tagged returning adult Chinook and sockeye and young outmigrating coho.

Overlapping walleye movements with the coho will help model their potential to cross paths with Endangered Species Act-listed Chinook smolts.

The Muckleshoots say their effort “will benefit salmonid management in the Lake Washington basin,” as well as inform researchers on walleye diets and distribution.

Of note, a “second consideration” is to figure out if catch rates on walleye and bass are “high enough to result in an economically viable fishery … Data collected will inform managers of areas and times that a tribal net fishery could be economically viable as well as areas to avoid/target minimizing bycatch and optimizing harvest.”

According to plans, gear, locations and effort may be shared with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with details on any steelhead or Chinook caught, with the test fishery being shut down after a third and fifth of each species is encountered.

The data will add to a 2004-05 Army Corps of Engineers study that looked at movements of acoustically tagged Chinook smolts, smallmouth bass and prickly sculpins.

Walleye first turned up in Lake Washington in 2005, a small male, caught by University of Washington researchers, with anglers catching one or two in following years.

But in 2015, state and tribal biologists caught a dozen, mostly in Lake Washington between Mercer Island and Bellevue, including a 13.5-pound hen that was dripping eggs.

As the species is native to waters east of the Rockies, the only way they could have arrived in the urban lakes is in livewells. The nearest source populations are about 120 miles east on I-90 in the Columbia Basin.

The Lake Washington system supports important tribal and recreational salmon fisheries, though sockeye, which reside in the lake a year before going to sea, have not produced directed seasons for over 10 years, despite a new hatchery. WDFW’s Issaquah Salmon Hatchery produces Chinook and coho.

So far, the Muckleshoots have caught at least one northern pike in Lake Washington, as well as a handful of walleye in Lake Sammamish.

The LOAF also describes a plan to electrofish in spring and fall and gillnet in spring in select areas of Lake Washington and the Ship Canal, the idea being to figure out if removing bass, walleye, perch and other salmon predators can be effective.

One thing’s for sure, if you’re a bass tournament angler fishing nationally ranked Lake Washington, you’d want a map of where those efforts are planned.

Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby Just A Week And A Half Away

The countdown’s on for the 8th Annual Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby, where several thousand dollars worth of cash and prizes are up for grabs.

This year’s event will be held Saturday, May 20, and it again features a top prize of $1,000 for largest kokanee, a $500 gift card for the biggest 10-fish boat limit, and $100 for biggest koke caught by a kid.

(LAKE STEVENS KOKANEE DERBY)

The derby is put on by and benefits the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club and Lake Stevens Lions Club.

Recent years’ winners have included Kim Quicho (2016, 1.10 pounds, and who was part of the team that took first at the recent Something Catchy kokanee derby on Lake Chelan), Karen Swift (2015, .86 pound), and Dan Koester (2014, 1.49 pounds).

This year’s prize sponsors include Brad’s Wigglers, Pro Troll, Gibbs/Delta, Mack’s Lures/Shasta Tackle, Daiwa, Silver Horde, Hawken, Pure Fishing, Hot Spot, Yakima Bait, Poulsen Cascade and Western Filament, among others.

You can get tickets ($20 for adults, kids 14 and under are free) at Greg’s Custom Rods in Lake Stevens, John’s Sporting Goods in Everett, Ted’s Sports Center in Lynnwood, Triangle Bait & Tackle in Snohomish, 3 Rivers Marine in Woodinville and Holiday Sports in Burlington.

 

Ending Aerial Spraying Of Clearcuts Up For Vote In Oregon’s Lincoln County

Voters on Oregon’s thickly forested and heavily logged Central Coast will decide this coming Tuesday whether to ban the aerial spraying of tree farms, but advocates face stiff headwinds from local officials and the timber industry.

It marks a high point for those concerned about the large-scale use of pesticides in the Northwest on clearcuts, with worries centering around the chemicals, their composition and what happens when they drift from spray sites to nearby homes and streams or percolate into local ground water.

A CLEARCUT HILLSIDE RISES ABOVE THE SILETZ RIVER UPSTREAM OF MOONSHINE PARK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

And now in Lincoln County, some citizens want to prohibit corporate tree farmers from showering their plantations with the toxic stew that is meant to tamp down competition from brambles, brush and other fast-growing plants against valuable Douglas firs.

After getting enough signatures last year to put Measure 21-177 onto the ballot, it’s slated for a May 16 special election.

If approved, it would create the “Freedom from Aerial Sprayed Pesticides Ordinance of Lincoln County” and affect how timber owners such as Weyerhaeuser, Hancock Forest Management and others treat their lands after logging.

AN OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE TRAVEL MANAGEMENT AREA MAP SHOWS THE NUMEROUS PRIVATE TIMBERLAND OWNERS IN CENTRAL LINCOLN COUNTY AROUND NEWPORT, TOLEDO, SILETZ AND LOGSDON. BROWN DESIGNATES WEYERHAUESER, YELLOW HANCOCK, WITH BLUE STATE LANDS. (ODFW)

The measure comes as the issue of spraying clearcuts from helicopters and planes has been building, with significant coverage in recent years in The Oregonian, Oregon Public Broadcasting, High Country News and the Eugene Weekly.

Stories have focused on chemicals drifting onto rural schools and homes, forest workers who have been sickened, family animals dying, and spray being applied too close to waterways.

Supporters of the Lincoln County measure say it’s about protecting drinking water and themselves and reducing the problem of overspray.

INNER TUBERS ENJOY A FLOAT DOWN THE SILETZ RIVER LATE LAST SUMMER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

There’s been a heated debate in the local newspaper, where letters fill the opinion pages with each new biweekly issue of the Newport News Times, while slick brochures flood mailboxes and doorbellers talk to neighbors.

Among the opposition, all three Lincoln County commissioners and the sheriff. The Oregon Forest & Industries Council is also against it, saying in a voter’s pamphlet statement, “The prudent use of pesticides is a highly-regulated, important tool for successful forest regeneration.”

(A bill currently in the Oregon’s Senate would require the state Department of Forestry to be notified of proposed treatments.)

As a Weyerhaueser official explained for a Daily Astorian article last fall, timber companies could become “out of compliance” with state laws if their seedlings aren’t “free to grow” within half a dozen years of clearcutting.

FARMS IN LINCOLN COUNTY’S BIG ELK CREEK AND ALSEA RIVER VALLEYS SIT BELOW A MIX OF FEDERAL, STATE AND PRIVATE TIMBERLANDS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Some opponents have taken issue with several terms in the ballot measure, including construing the word “aerial” to apply to treating fishing boat hulls, and the words “direct action” to suggest the possibility of vigilantism by citizens.

Others say it would lead to higher labor costs — but on the flip side, that potentially also could mean more jobs.

Indeed, there are other ways to apply the chemicals than from a helicopter or plane, though even then there can be concerns. When Hancock wanted to backpack spray a cut above Depoe Bay, the mayor objected to the state Department of Forestry, because it was close to the city’s water supply and a salmon-bearing stream, and the timber company eventually backed down.

THE AUTHOR FISHES FOR SUMMER-RUN STEELHEAD IN THE SILETZ GORGE.

As it stands, next week’s vote will test which way the winds are blowing when it comes to aerially spraying tree farms in a county on Oregon’s coast, with implications beyond.

Editor’s disclosures: As you can see by the above images, I’ve spent a fair amount of time fishing and recreating in Lincoln County over the past decade, where my inlaws live. My father-in-law has been active in supporting the measure as well.

Mocrocks Won’t Open For Razor Clams; Season’s Now Done Till Fall

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

State shellfish managers have closed Mocrocks beach to razor clam digging due to elevated marine toxin levels, bringing Washington’s razor clam season to an end.

An initial toxin test last week indicated clams at Mocrocks were safe to eat, a second set of clams tested this week found that domoic acid levels now exceed the state public health threshold, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Two rounds of testing are required under state health rules before WDFW will open a beach to digging.

BAD MOJO FOR RAZOR CLAMMERS. (NOAA)

“We had hoped to have one last opening at Mocrocks this season,” Ayres said. “Unfortunately, toxin levels are on the rise and are unlikely to drop before the end of the month, when the clams begin to spawn and the beaches are closed to digging.”

Last week, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) closed both Long Beach and Twin Harbors beaches because of elevated levels of domoic acid.

A natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae, domoic acid can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. The toxin has posed problems for razor clam and crab fisheries along Washington’s coast for the last two years.

Last week, state shellfish managers closed Copalis beach because the number of harvestable clams there has been met. However, the most recent tests show that domoic acid levels in razor clams collected from this beach now also exceed the state public health threshold.

Ayres said the next season will begin in the fall, when the older clams have recovered from spawning and a new generation begins to grow beneath the sand.

“We’ll conduct our annual assessment of clam populations over the summer and hope to open beaches again in September or October,” Ayres said.

More information about domoic acid, as well as information on Washington’s razor clam fishery, can be found on WDFW’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/domoic_acid.html.

 

Some State Lands In Okanogan Closed Due To Flooding

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

Several roads and campgrounds on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wildlife areas in Okanogan County are closed due to flooding.

Areas closed to motor vehicles to protect public safety and prevent further damage are posted with signs and will remain closed until conditions improve, said Justin Haug, WDFW Sinlahekin Wildlife Area manager. More rain is expected in the area this week, he said, so the closures are in effect indefinitely.

FLOODING ON SINLAHEKIN CREEK. (WDFW)

Closed areas on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area are:

  • Sinlahekin Road from Reflection Pond to Blue Lake
  • Fish Lake West and Southwest Campground
  • Sinlahekin Creek Campground
  • Southeast Forde Lake Campground
  • Reflection Pond Campground
  • Conners Lake Campground

On the Methow Wildlife Area, access to Beaver Creek Campground and Campbell Lake is limited to the route via Lester Road. Brandon Troyer, WDFW Methow Wildlife Area manager, said recreationists should watch for posted signs about motor vehicle closures at:

  • Bear Creek #2 (also known as Lower Bear Creek) Campground
  • Cougar Lake Campground

ACCORDING TO WDFW, THIS AMOUNT OF WATERS HASN’T BEEN SEEN ON THIS PART OF THE SCOTCH CREEK WILDLIFE AREA SINCE THE 1990S. (WDFW)

Closed areas on the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area are:

  • Hess Lake Road
  • Parking lot for the Coulee Creek Trailhead

 

Elliott State Forest To Stay Public, Oregon Board Decides

THE FOLLOWING ARE PRESS RELEASES FROM GOVERNOR KATE BROWN’S OFFICE AND BACKCOUNTRY HUNTERS AND ANGLERS

In an unanimous decision, the State Land Board today agreed to proceed with a plan to maintain the Elliott State Forest in public ownership. Governor Brown reiterated her commitment to keep the Elliott in public hands and acknowledged Legislative support for leveraging the State’s bond capacity to fulfill the fiduciary obligations to the Common School Fund, while also protecting diverse habitats and ensuring public access to the lands.

RUFFED GROUSE ON THE ELLIOTT STATE FOREST. (OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY)

“We must change the way we own and manage the forest to fulfill our fiduciary obligation to the Common School Fund, and to protect the Elliott’s diverse habitats and guarantee long-term public access to the lands,” said Governor Brown. “This can be achieved while creating jobs by supporting the sustainable harvest of timber. I appreciate the shared vision of Land Board members and unwavering commitment to honor the Common School Fund, as well as Treasurer Read’s innovative proposal to involve Oregon State University in an adaptive habitat management plan and future research focus of the forest lands.”

Following today’s vote, Land Board members directed Department of State Lands (DSL) to continue developing plans for a public option and consider Treasurer Read’s recommended research partnership with Oregon State University. Additional direction given to DSL include:

• A bond proposal will be developed to include up to $100 million in state bonding capacity to protect high value habitat, including riparian areas, steep slopes, and old growth stands.

• The Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) framework developed in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service establishes conservation and mitigation measures that meet the biological needs for the Elliott’s native and endangered species.

• Collaboration with the Oregon State University College of Forestry to establish the Elliott as a research forest to study the relationship between active forest management and the conservation of the forest’s diverse species and habitats.

• Continue working with sovereign tribal governments to explore ownership or additional forest management opportunities.

Details of the plan to keep the Elliott State Forest in public ownership are available here.

……………………………………………………….

A victory for public access and hunting and fishing opportunity was achieved this afternoon when the Oregon state land board voted unanimously to keep the Elliott State Forest under state ownership, rejecting earlier proposals to sell Oregon’s oldest state forest and supporting an outcome that Backcountry Hunters & Anglers had been strongly advocating.

Jesse Salsberry, BHA Northwest outreach coordinator, provided testimony at the land board meeting today and applauded the vote by the three-member board, including efforts by Gov. Kate Brown and Treasurer Tobias Read to keep the Elliott publicly accessible and a decision by Secretary of State Dennis Richardson to support continued public opportunities to access the Elliott.

“Hats off to the members of the land board for their commitment to working with sportsmen and the conservation community and building a future for the Elliott that will uphold public access and hunting and fishing opportunities – permanently,” Salsberry said. “Oregon sportsmen look forward to helping formulate a plan that will maintain the incredible hunting, fishing and recreational access that the Elliott has provided for generations.”

BHA has been a leading voice in the push by Beaver State sportsmen to keep the Elliott State Forest under state ownership and open to the public. Established in 1930, the Elliott was given to Oregon by the federal government to provide a sustainable source of school funding through timber harvest. Over time, divergent public interests led to a net loss of revenue on the land and resulted in the state proposing its sale. Today’s vote directs the Department of State Lands to explore the many potential resolutions for the Elliott advanced by land board members.

BHA Oregon Chair Ian Isaacson noted that BHA members support a number of the possible ways forward. He also stressed the importance of continued collaboration by stakeholders in charting a path for the Elliott’s future.

“Today’s decision by the state land board is a huge win for public land owners and public land critters, but the hard work has just begun,” said Isaacson, who lives in Bend. “In order for the Elliott to remain the biological jewel it is and has always been, all sides must work together to formulate a management strategy that will ensure its health for years to come.”