Category Archives: Headlines

One Razor Beach Dig Cancelled, Other Decisions Pending

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Rising marine toxin levels have prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to cancel a razor clam dig scheduled at Long Beach and delay final decisions about digs at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks beaches until next week.

Olympic National Park will also wait until next week to decide on a dig at Kalaloch Beach, pending the results of further biotoxin testing.

Previous plans for a dig starting late next week were put on hold after routine testing found elevated levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in clams collected on coastal beaches, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

PSP is a marine toxin produced by a certain type of algae that can cause paralysis and even death if consumed in sufficient quantities.

Ayres said toxin levels in clams dug this week at Long Beach violate health standards established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ruling out an opening at that beach.  Early next week, WDFW will conduct additional tests on clams collected at the other beaches, where PSP levels also appear to be on the rise.

“It’s always disappointing to cancel a razor clam dig, and we hate to make people wait for answers on the other beaches,” Ayres said.  “But public safety comes first, which is why we test razor clams before every public dig.”

Ayres said final decisions on a revised razor-clam opening will be announced by Thursday, Jan. 28.  Unless it is canceled, the dig at Twin Harbors will be delayed, since it was originally scheduled to open Jan. 27, Ayres said.

Updates on the razor clam dig scheduled for next week will be posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/razorclm/season.htm .

Frank Cox, marine biotoxin coordinator for the Washington Department of Health, said he suspects PSP is moving northward from the Oregon coast, where beaches have been closed to razor clam digging since December.

“There are a lot of uncertainties about how this will affect Washington beaches, which is why we recommend erring on the side of caution,” he said.

Cox noted that the PSP toxin cannot be removed by cooking or freezing.  Although no human fatalities from PSP have been reported in Washington since 1942, people still get sick every few years – usually after eating toxic shellfish collected from closed beaches, Cox said.

No coastal beaches have been closed to razor-clam digging because of elevated PSP levels since 1993, Ayres said.  A different marine toxin, domoic acid, prompted a season-long closure in 2002-03.

Predators In The News

A pair of aggressive coyotes just north of downtown Seattle, “constant” cougar sightings on the northeast side of the Olympic Peninsula, a spike in wolf-killed livestock in Montana, a big cat at the back door.

We’re surrounded!

Well, it’s debatable about who is surrounding whom, but a weird convergence has brought a whole lot of predator stories to the news wires today.

In Magnolia — that area of Seattle between the waterfront and Ballard, and also the place where Phantom the black bear and a cougar roamed last summer — state Fish & Wildlife enforcement officers and federal agents are out to kill or trap a pair of coyotes that appear to have lost their fear of humans. They managed to euthenize one, a 40-pound male, this morning.

Over in Jefferson County, at least three cougars have been shot recently and even more sightings reported, according to the Peninsula Daily News. Cats are blamed for killing sheep, alpacas a llama and other wildlife there. A Fish & Wildlife officer describes the area around Lake Leland as “cougar central.”

The Associated Press reports a “sharp spike” in the number of wolf depredations on livestock in 2009, “fueled largely by a single attack in which 120 sheep were killed near Dillon.”

And we received an email and photo this morning that that shows a dead, bloodied cougar purportedly on someone’s porch in the Coulee City-Wilbur area of Washington. We’re checking on that one.

The cougar problem on the Olympic Peninsula may be related to young animals trying to find their own place in the world while over on Magnolia Bluff, the coyotes have been seen for two months but recently have become more aggressive.

“Many neighborhoods have urban coyotes, and a number of people have lost pets to coyotes, but what makes this situation different is that these coyotes have lost their natural fear of humans and are dangerously approaching people,” WDFW Capt. Bill Hebner said in a press release.

‘Entrusted’ With State’s Sole Flat Abalone License, But ‘Greed’ Prevails

(OREGON STATE POLICE FISH & WILDLIFE DIVISION PRESS RELEASE)

An investigation by the Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division Special Investigations Unit (SIU) led to the conviction and sentencing of two Gold Beach-area  men related to activities surrounding the unlawful taking of Flat Abalone along the southern Oregon coast.  One of the men convicted, KEVIN LEE HIERSCHE, age 51, was the only person in Oregon to be issued a permit by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) to harvest wild Flat Abalone.  He was also the only person legally allowed to commercially harvest wild abalone along North America’s west coast.

FLAT ABALONE. (OSP)

“Mr. Hiersche was entrusted with a tremendous privilege, but greed and temptation led him to violate that trust in the worst possible way,” said OSP SIU Sergeant David Anderson.  The OSP SIU is primarily responsible for conducting in-depth and complex investigations of individuals or groups in violation of the fish and wildlife laws and regulations, with specific emphasis on those violators that are flagrant or illegally commercializing our state’s fish and wildlife resources.

In March 2009, OSP investigators served a search warrant at HIERSCHE’s residence and seized evidence including personal log and invoice books.  Thirty pounds of frozen, vacuum sealed Flat Abalone was also seized that HIERSCHE and DANIEL WILLIAM WRIGHT, age 40, illegally harvested in 2009 without a valid permit.  WRIGHT assisted as a ?ender’ while HIERSCHE dove from his boat named the “Jerry Lee”.

HIERSCHE admitted to investigators he reported false harvest poundage, and a review of seized personal log books revealed he exceeded annual allowable harvest amounts in 7 of the 8 years he had a permit.

HARVESTED FLAT ABALONE. (OSP)

In August 2009, a Curry County Grand Jury indicted HIERSCHE on 44 misdemeanor and felony counts and WRIGHT on five felony counts.

This month, both men entered guilty pleas and received the following sentences in Curry County Circuit Court:

HIERSCHE
* One count of Unlawful Taking of Flat Abalone Closed Season (class C felony)
* Two counts of Unlawful Taking of Flat Abalone Closed Season (class A misdemeanor)
* One count of No Wholesalers License (class A misdemeanor)
* One count of Falsifying Business Records (class A misdemeanor)

He was sentenced to:
* 40 days in jail
* 36 months probation
* 120 hours community service
* $21,000 in fines
* Pay $18,538 in restitution to ODFW
* Ordered to have no contact with WRIGHT

WRIGHT
* One count of Unlawful Taking of Flat Abalone Closed Season (class C felony)

He was sentenced to:
* 10 days in jail
* 18 months probation
* $2,500 fine
* Pay $5,000 restitution to ODFW
* Pay $800 attorney fees
* Ordered to have no contact with HIERSCHE

OSP Steps Up Umpqua Patrols Due To Poaching

Low returns of hatchery steelhead this winter are leading some “frustrated” anglers to illegally keep wild fish on a Southwest Oregon river, according to a story from the Roseburg News-Review today.

Eight citations were recently written on the Umpqua River, and now the Oregon State Police’s Sgt. Dean Perske warns that some “anglers” in boats or others hidden in the brush are actually undercover officers keeping an eye on things, reports Craig Reed.

Paraphrasing Perske, he writes, “In some cases anglers have just kept wild fish and in other cases anglers have clipped the adipose fin of a wild fish to make it look like a hatchery fish. (Perske) said, however, that it’s easy to tell if a fin has been recently clipped.”

Some anglers are also reportedly using second rods, although that too is illegal. It’s only allowed on lakes, ponds and most reservoirs.

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

What’s there to do if you’re a fisherman in Washington right now?

As rivers continue to drop back into shape with more settled weather, steelhead should be around on the Westside while out at sea, err, Puget Sound, there’s blackmouth to chase.

In Eastern Washington, ice fishing’s become iffy, but there’s great trout fishing at Lake Roosevelt and whitefish are an option.

Trout are also game in Western Washington, and if you’re willing to bet some time on a long shot, you, sir, could be Mr. First Springer Of 2010.

Here’s what’s going on around the state, according to WDFW’s Weekender:

NORTH PUGET SOUND

This time of year anglers have a decision to make: cast for steelhead in the local rivers or get out onto Puget Sound and fish for salmon.

“Weather conditions usually help anglers make that choice,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. “If the rivers are in shape, steelheading is a good bet. But if the rivers are blown out, blackmouth fishing in the marine areas is probably the best option.”

Thiesfeld said he has heard reports of a few nice blackmouth – resident chinook – hooked in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where fishing has picked up recently. Anglers fishing Marine Area 7 have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Elsewhere, Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) recently reopened to salmon fishing. However, the fishery got off to a slow start, said Thiesfeld. “Overall, fishing was spotty on the opener,” he said. “It certainly did not start off the way it ended in November, when fishing was pretty good.”

Anglers fishing Marine Area 9 – as well as marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) – have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 10 is only open through Jan. 31.

In the freshwater, fishing for steelhead continues to be slow. Thiesfeld said anglers should be aware that the lower portion of the Green River closed to fishing Jan. 16, while the upper stretch is scheduled to close Feb. 1. The Skagit and Sauk rivers also will close to fishing Feb. 16. With low steelhead returns expected back to those rivers, the emergency closures are necessary to protect wild steelhead.

Meanwhile, both the North Fork Stillaguamish and the Cascade rivers recently re-opened for fishing. Details on those emergency rules can be found on WDFW’s fishing regulation website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

Heavy rain and high water have put a damper on steelhead fishing in the new year, but anglers have some other options to consider while waiting for the rivers to drop back into shape.

Razor clams , for example.  Five ocean beaches are scheduled to open for razor-clam digging later this month if marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat.  Under the current plan, Long Beach and Twin Harbors will be open Jan. 27-31, Copalis and Mockrocks will open Jan. 29-31 and Kalaloch beach Jan. 30-31.

Digging at all five beaches will be restricted to the hours between noon and midnight. Under WDFW rules, harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 taken, regardless of size or condition.

“With the rough weather we had during the last opener, digging dropped off significantly as people played it safe,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.  “On the plus side, there are likely enough clams remaining in the quota to offer more digs later.”

Blackmouth fishing on Puget Sound is another option.  Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) recently opened to resident chinook fishing, and two additional areas – 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal) – are scheduled to open Feb. 1.  Marine Area 10 is also open for blackmouth through Jan. 31.

Anglers are required to release wild salmon in all four areas.  Regulations are described in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ).

“Blackmouth fishing in Puget Sound has generally been slow, but that can turn around fairly quickly,” said Steve Thiefeld, a WDFW fish biologist.  “You can’t catch them unless you go out there and find them.”

But high-water conditions have made it tough – even dangerous – for anglers to find steelhead during the first two weeks of the new year.  After some good fishing in December, most anglers are taking cover until the rain subsides and the rivers drop back into shape.

Scott Barbour, a WDFW fish biologist, said the Chehalis River has been awash in high water and debris.  “Right now it’s a safety issue,” he said.  “Fishing aside, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone take a boat out there with all those logs and tree limbs floating down the river.”

Fishing conditions have also been tough on the north coast rivers, said Randy Cooper, another WDFW fish biologist.  “The rivers have started dropping, but that could change with another heavy rain.”

On the bright side, Cooper said the high water has brought some good-sized wild steelhead into the rivers.  “We’re approaching the time when the focus shifts from hatchery steelhead to wild fish, and what I’m seeing bodes well for the weeks ahead,” he said.

Wild steelhead-retention rules are now in effect on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Anglers may retain one wild steelhead per license year on those rivers.  On all other rivers, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar.

“It’s a waiting game,” said Ron Warren, WDFW regional fish manager for south Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula.  “Lots of hatchery steelhead are moving into the rivers, but they’re tough to catch under these conditions.”

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

Late-run winter steelhead are moving into area tributaries, thousands of trout have recently been planted in area lakes, sturgeon are beginning to stir, and openings have been scheduled for both smelt and razor clams.  Fishing opportunities abound in the days ahead, but prospects for success vary, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.

“Weather is always a factor at this time of year, but there are also other things to consider in deciding what and where to fish,” Hymer said.  Here’s his assessment of fisheries coming up in the next few weeks:

* Winter steelhead:   The early run is winding down, but late-run winter steelhead are beginning to move toward the hatcheries on the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers where they were raised. The fishery for late-run fish tends to peak in late February and early March, although some late-run steelhead are already beginning to show up in the catch.  As with the early run, high water can always push those rivers out of shape for fishing.

* Smelt:   Projecting another poor return, WDFW is limiting the Cowlitz River sport fishery for smelt to four days this winter. That river will be open for smelt dipping Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27, between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a 10-pound daily limit.  “This fishery is primarily intended to provide information on the size of this year’s run,” said Hymer, noting that NOAA Fisheries is currently considering listing West Coast smelt under the federal Endangered Species Act.  Sport fishing for smelt on the mainstem Columbia River opened seven days per week, 24-hours day, starting Jan. 1, although anglers catch very few fish there.

* White sturgeon:   Catch rates of legal-size sturgeon have picked up considerably in the Bonneville Pool in recent days, likely triggered by warming water temperatures.  Sturgeon fishing in the lower river remains slow, but that could change if smelt return to the Cowlitz River in greater numbers than expected, Hymer said.  Sturgeon regulations for all areas of the lower Columbia River listed in the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet will remain in effect through February.  New seasons will be set by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon at a public meeting scheduled Feb. 18 in Oregon City, Ore.

* Razor clams:   Five ocean beaches are tentatively scheduled to open for razor-clam digging in late January.  If marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat, Long Beach and Twin Harbors will be open Jan. 27-31, Copalis and Mockrocks will open Jan. 29-31 and Kalaloch beach Jan. 30-31.  “Once WDFW gives final approval for the dig, the main concern is the surf,” Hymer said.  “People can dig a limit of razor clams in foul weather, but a big surf can make digging difficult and potentially dangerous.”  He strongly recommends that diggers check surf conditions before hitting the beach.

* Trout:   While nothing is certain, anglers have a pretty good chance of catching trout – some averaging eight pounds – in lakes planted by WDFW during the winter months.  During the second full week of January, hatchery crews planted 3,000 catchable-size fish in Kress Lake near Kalama, 1,500 in Battleground Lake and 1,500 in Klineline Pond.  Several hundreds broodstock rainbows, ranging from four to eight pounds apiece, were also planted in Lake Sacajawea in Longview,  Spearfish Lake near Dallesport, and Rowland Lake near Lyle.

As of mid-January, Hymer said he had not received any reports of spring chinook landed in the lower Columbia River, so they didn’t make his list of fishing options.  “But the season is currently open, and we expect to start hearing catch reports soon,” he said.

Until mid-February, when fishery managers will meet to set the new season, anglers may retain hatchery-reared spring chinook under the rules printed in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet. “At this time of year, we consider spring chinook ‘bonus fish’ in the winter steelhead fishery,” Hymer said.

EASTERN WASHINGTON

Fishing for rainbow trout and kokanee continues to be excellent at Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir on the Columbia River off Grand Coulee Dam. “During the winter, the rainbows usually move down into the lower reservoir,” said WDFW District Fish Biologist Chris Donley.  “They’re following the movement of zooplankton downstream, so the Keller and Spring Canyon areas become the target, rather than Seven Bays and above.”

Donley said kokanee or “silver trout” can be found near the surface of Lake Roosevelt in late January and into February. “Roosevelt is really the place to be for trout fishing now with these warm conditions,” Donley said. “That’s because ice on smaller trout waters is probably pretty rotten.”

Marc Divens, WDFW warmwater fish biologist, said that without freezing nighttime temperatures, and daytime temperatures exceeding 40 degrees, many year-round open fishing waters that appear iced-over are probably unsafe to fish.

“Usually this is a good time to fish Eloika or Newman lakes for their bass, perch, crappie , and other fish,” Divens said. “But I wouldn’t recommend anyone venture out on the ice on those lakes, at least not until we return to more normal temperatures with freezing days and nights.” For more on ice-fishing safety, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/factshts/ice_fishing.htm .

Snake River steelhead action has slowed, but tenacious anglers who find the fish pooled up near the mouths of tributaries may be successful.

NORTHCENTRAL WASHINGTON

Bob Jateff, WDFW district fish biologist, said upper Columbia River steelheading is best in the tributaries above Wells Dam. Anglers who are drifting the slower moving, deeper runs, where the fish tend to hold at this time of year, are probably doing best. Steelheaders must retain all adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead, up to the limit of four per day. They must also immediately release all steelhead with an intact adipose fin without removing the fish entirely from the water.

The Methow River is open to whitefish from Gold Creek upstream to the falls above Brush Creek and the Chewuch River from the mouth to the Pasayten wilderness boundary.  The Similkameen River is open from the mouth to the Canadian border.  Jateff said those fishing for whitefish in areas that are currently open for steelhead must use selective gear (single barbless lures and flies, no bait allowed).

The safety of ice fishing throughout the region is questionable with recent warm weather and rain, and anglers are advised to be very cautious.  Rainbow trout are available at Rat Lake near Brewster, Sidley/Molson Lake near Oroville, Big and Little Green lakes near Omak, and Davis Lake near Winthrop. Yellow perch are available at Patterson Lake near Winthrop.  For more on ice-fishing safety, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/factshts/ice_fishing.htm .

Winchester Wasteway (the portion within the Winchester Game Reserve) and Stratford/Brook Lake in Grant County opens Feb. 1 for fishing under standard statewide rules.

SOUTHCENTRAL WASHINGTON

WDFW District Fish Biologist Paul Hoffarth said steelhead fishing in the Ringold area on the Columbia River near Tri-Cities should be slightly above normal  through the rest of the season, which runs into mid-April.

“I think the pattern we saw in December will hold,” Hoffarth said.  “December’s catch and harvest was higher than any of the past six years. Boat anglers averaged 5.8 hours per fish in December and bank anglers averaged roughly 10 hours of angling per steelhead.”

Whitefish action on the Yakima River and other local streams continues to be good. “Some of the best whitefish areas besides the mainstem Yakima are the Naches, Tieton, Cle Elum, and Bumping rivers,” said WDFW District Fish Biologist Eric Anderson in Yakima.

Check the fishing rules pamphlet for specific river stretch descriptions.  Whitefish gear is restricted to one single-point hook with a maximum hook size of 3/16-inch from point to shank, hook size 14. Fish are usually caught with a small fly tipped with a maggot.  Up to 15 whitefish can be retained daily.   Most fish are 10 to 15 inches.  Concentrate fishing efforts in deep pools below riffles, Anderson said.

Unexplained Moose Deaths In NE OR

Worry about the health of another rare Northwest big-game animal today.

Following reports on Yakima Canyon bighorn sheep, which are battling pneumonia, comes news that two of the estimated 40 to 60 moose in Northeast Oregon unexpectedly died last year.

There is no definitive cause, but biologists noticed other moose in the area with “cropped” ears, which are symptomatic of a parasite that may be causing moose deaths in Wyoming, reports The Oregonian.

Biologists hope to trap some animals this month and test them.

Willamette Sturgeon Quota Eyed

Bill Monroe reports on Willamette River sturgeon, and how Portland anglers could see a 35 to 50 percent drop in the quota which would please Washington fishery managers — even though the big Western Oregon river doesn’t touch the Evergreen State.

The deal is, it’s believed that sturgeon from the Columbia between the states are moving into the Willamette, “especially in the winter and spring. Warmer water, lack of smelt and protection from sea lions at Bonneville are possible reasons, said Steve Williams, assistant fish division chief for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife,” Monroe writes.

Decisions on this year’s fisheries, on the Columbia and Willamette, are coming up before both states’ Fish & Wildlife Commissions in February.

Reductions are being proposed due to low number of legal and sublegal-sized sturgeon. It’s unclear why, but increasing sea lion predation could be to blame. The Columbia Basin Bulletin also reported that if there’s any good news, it’s that the spawner numbers are stable.

Monroe also adds that a spawning sanctuary may be added to the mile or so of the Willamette below the falls from late spring into summer.

Cracking Clackaheads

Here’s Andy Schneider’s fishing report from, well, just down the road from his house near Portland:

If you’re a winter steelhead fisherman and want to get out on the water and row a boat, you have been pretty much out of luck here in Northwest corner of Oregon.

But lucky for me I have the Clackamas River pretty much right in my backyard and drive by it everyday. Lately the Clackamas has been predicted to “blow out” with even the smallest amount of precipitation predicted. But looking at the river every day gave me the advantage to know that the predictions were wrong and it was fishing – and fishing good!

Last Sunday I invited Pat to fish with me on the Clackamas River for a little side drifting. Since Pat’s tackle and bait was at his house on the coast, he used my tackle and bait for the day. We were lucky enough to find some chrome-bright winter steelhead amongst the crowds of fisherman on the river that day.

The Clackamas was really the only river fishing that day, with all the coastal rivers high and muddy and the Sandy being blasted with a cold east wind out of the gorge. So it was no surprise to find a lot of boats on the Clackamas. We ran high and found lots of boat; we ran low on the river and still found lots of boats. So we finally decided just to fish and it didn’t take long before we started finding some, fish that is.

We side-drifted some fresh steelhead eggs cured up in standard Pautzke Fire Cure and it proved to be the ticket on Sunday. When we came to a stretch of water being fished by other boats, we would simply side-drift the exact opposite side of the river.

But it didn’t take long before this caught on when we started landing fish. But we kept searching and kept fishing and kept catching.

Pat was kind enough to give me his eggs from his fish and a jar of Borx O’ Fire. I went home and cured up the eggs and used them this Saturday and Sunday. Saturday Pat and mutual friend Tom VanderPlaat joined me and we found lots of open water and a couple of willing fish – one on eggs and one on a back-trolled plug.

PAT ABEL WITH A CLACKAMAS STEELHEAD. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

Sunday John Bond joined me on the Clackamas again. We decided to get up at the crack of 8 a.m. and hit the river at 10. We only had a chance to fish for three hours, but we landed two more Winter Steelhead in those short hours. One fish fell victim again to side-drifted Pautzke eggs while the other jumped on a cop car K11X.

It looks like the coastal rivers will start to fish by week’s end, but you may still find me here on the Clack.

Restrcted Smelt Fishery Announced

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

With another poor run of smelt expected back to the Columbia River and its tributaries, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is limiting the Cowlitz River sport fishery to only four days this winter.

“This fishery is primarily intended to provide information on the size of this year’s smelt run and to avoid significant impacts on the population,” said Brad James, a WDFW fish biologist.

Harvest numbers in February provide fishery managers a valuable indicator of the size of the annual smelt return to the Cowlitz River, said James.

Recreational smelt dipping on the Cowlitz River will be limited to Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27, between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a 10-pound daily limit.

The small commercial fishery in the river will also be curtailed, running three hours per day Sundays and Wednesdays from Feb. 3 through Feb. 28.

Fishery managers have delayed smelt fishing on the Cowlitz River since Jan. 1 to determine how much fishing – if any – to allow.  Although smelt returns are expected to increase slightly from last year, the entire population from northern California to northern British Columbia has been depressed since 2005.

Pacific smelt are a food source for larger predators, such as salmon, marine mammals and seabirds. NOAA Fisheries has proposed listing the species as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and is expected to announce its decision this year.

It’s Official, Sauk, Skagit Trophy Fishery To Close

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE)

Wah … but at least I’ll save gas money, I suppose.

Action: Close the Skagit and Sauk Rivers to all fishing.

Species affected: All game fish species

Location and effective closure dates:

Skagit River from the mouth upstream to Highway 536 (Memorial Hwy. Bridge) at Mount Vernon will be closed Feb.16, 2010 through April 30, 2010.

Skagit River from the Highway 536 (Memorial Hwy. Bridge) at Mount Vernon upstream to the Gorge Powerhouse will be closed Feb.16, 2010 through May 31, 2010.

Sauk River from the mouth upstream to the Whitechuck River will be closed Feb. 16, 2010 through June 4, 2010.

Reasons for action: The closure will reduce incidental hooking mortality on wild steelhead. The 2009/2010 forecasted return of wild winter steelhead to the Skagit Basin is expected to be below the escapement floor of 6,000.

Other information: The rivers will reopen to fishing as listed in the 2010/2012 Fishing in Washington Sport Fishing Rules.

Information Contact: Region 4 (425) 775-1311.