Category Archives: Headlines

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.

The Rush To Save Yakima Bighorns

We first learned about the pneumonia outbreak among the bighorn sheep herd in Washington’s Yakima Canyon through local reporter Scott Sandsberry’s story last month, and now the race to save the herd — and prevent the illness from spreading to other groups — has made regional radio.

Anna King follows the path of three dead sheep from the canyon to a necropsy lab halfway across the state in a report on KUOW.

How do you know a bighorn has pneumonia? The same way with humans: they cough. Wildlife biologists chase the animals for a short stretch with a helicopter over rugged and cliffy terrain, and then stop and listen for coughing.

The outbreak is very similar to what happened in Asotin County in the mid-1990s when that herd was nearly wiped out. The worry here is that when spring comes, the Yakima Canyon’s bighorns will move and potentially mix with some of the 800 or so other wild sheep that inhabit Yakima and Kittitas counties.

Notes King: “That means the disease could spread rapidly across the region. When (necropsy) results come back on these three bighorns, wildlife officials will decide whether to act, or let the disease play out.”

Massive Bull Trout Protections

A re-examination of bull trout needs in the Northwest led the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service yesterday to propose a much larger area for critical habitat than what the agency had suggested in 2005.

It would increase the amount of stream miles in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Nevada by 18,851 miles and the amount of lakes and reservoirs by 390,208 acres, according to a press release.

(USFWS)

Under the previous administration, 3,828 miles of rivers and 143,218 acres of lakes were proposed for protection.

No change is proposed in the 985 miles of marine shoreline in Washington that
were designated as critical habitat in 2005, the press release says.

The agency says that bull trout once existed in 60 percent of the Columbia Basin, but that’s been reduced to 30 percent. They say the species has very specific needs even more demanding than salmon.

“Bull trout require the coldest water temperature; they require the cleanest stream substrates for spawning and rearing; they need complex habitats, including streams with riffles and deep pools, undercut banks and lots of large logs; as well as a connection between river, lake and ocean habitats to headwater streams for annual spawning and feeding migrations,” the agency writes.

As for the effect the habitat designation would have, Matthew Preusch of The Oregonian writes:

If the proposal goes through, federal agencies that manage forests for recreation and logging; grasslands for grazing, or hydropower dams for electricity would have to take a closer look at whether their actions degrade waterways in huge portions of the West where the trout resides.

“It’s kind of like putting a big yellow caution flag along these streams and lakes that are habitat for bull trout,” Jack Williams, senior scientist for the group Trout Unlimited.

Public comment is open through March 15.

Eight meetings will also be held around the region starting in early February. They include stops:

• February 2, 2010, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: Bend, Oregon: Hollingshead Barn, 1235 NE Jones Road

• February 3, 2010, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Chiloquin, Oregon: Chiloquin Community Center, 140 S.1st Street

• February 4, 2010, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: LaGrande, Oregon: Blue Mountain Conference Center, 404 12th Street

• February 11, 2010, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Post Falls, Idaho: Red Lion Templins Inn, 414 East 1st Avenue

• February 16, 2010, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Missoula, Montana: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Headquarters, 3201 Spurgin Road

• February 17, 2010, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Elko, Nevada: Elko Convention Center, Gold Room, 700 Moren Way

• February 23, 2010, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Wenatchee, Washington: Wenatchee-Okanogon National Forest Headquarters, 215 Melody Lane

• February 25, 2010, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Boise, Idaho: Boise Centre on the Grove, 850 W. Front Street.

Tribe Admits Error, Prosecutor Drops Case

The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe has admitted that two of their officers were in error when they approached nontribal elk hunters near Brinnon, Wash., last October with guns drawn and then handcuffed and detained the men. And with that, the local county prosecutor earlier this week announced she will not charge the officers.

That according to the Sequim Gazette.

“After conducting our own internal investigation, along with reviewing the reports provided by the Jefferson County Sheriff and State Fish and Wildlife, we have determined that, although our officers acted in good faith, they acted outside the scope of their authority,” Tribal Chairman Jeromy Sullivan wrote in the statement, the newspaper reports.

On Oct. 3, Adam Boling shot a bull elk legally while hunting on private ground he had permission to hunt. Reports of a poaching sparked the tribal officers to respond, even though the S’Klallam Reservation is on the other side of Hood Canal and well north.

The tribe had previously stated “the officers were within their jurisdiction and operating on the tribe’s ‘usual and accustomed hunting grounds,’” according to articles in the Peninsula Daily News and Port Townsend Leader.

The claim of “usual and accustomed” was disputed by WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci.

A spokeswoman for the Port Gamble S’Klallams had told NWS that the law showing how those officers had jurisdiction to respond would be revealed after the tribe saw final copies of the state and county’s investigations.

According to the Daily News, the tribe now says, “This incident has made it apparent that we need to review the current guidelines set forth by Natural Resources Enforcement.”

The tribal Fish & Wildlife captain, Gus Goller, was dismissed, according to the Leader’s story. And the Daily News reports that prosecutor Julie Dalzell is “out to get him never hired in law enforcement again.”

The other officer was a reservist and following Goller’s orders, reportedly.

Dalzell had “agonized” over the case, the Daily News reports, quoting her as saying, “I can never give the victims back that day. I can’t make them whole. All I can do is try to protect the public in the future.”

A photo slideshow on the Leader’s Web site shows men loading Phipps’ elk into Boling’s Toyota pickup and then being approached by the tribal officers with at least one gun drawn. The hunters are handcuffed and more police eventually arrive on the scene.

Boling filed a complaint with the county alleging illegal detention.

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty

(OREGON STATE POLICE FISH AND WILDLIFE DIVISION PRESS RELEASE)

Six people involved in the unlawful taking of four bull elk near Cottage Grove in October 2009 pled guilty to numerous wildlife violations in Lane County Circuit Court. The sentence for the person responsible for shooting the elk includes jail time and a lifetime suspension of his hunting privileges.

Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division troopers began an investigation into the unlawful shooting of four bull elk on October 20, 2009 in the Melrose wildlife management unit south of Cottage Grove.  During the late morning hours the four bull elk described as a 3 point, 5 point, 6 point, and a 6×7 point, were shot on private property south of London Road.  Immediately following the incident, OSP Senior Troopers Martin Maher and Marshall Maher had contact with area landowners who reported hunters trespassed on private lands to retrieve the poached bull elks which were part of a year-round herd.

The investigation identified JOHN K. ATWATER, age 50, from Cottage Grove, as the person responsible for shooting the four bull elk.  The elk season was not open for the unit in which the elk were killed. After shooting the elk, ATWATER was assisted by his son and four others in retrieving the elk by trespassing onto several different pieces of private property. Some of the elk were removed after they drove their vehicles onto the property where the elk were killed.

JOHN K. ATWATER'S HANDIWORK, FOUR DEAD BULL ELK TO WHICH HE PLED GUILTY TO SHOOTING OUTSIDE SEASON AND WHILE TRESPASSING, ACCORDING TO THE OREGON STATE POLICE. (OSP)

During court appearances in late December and early January, the six men pled guilty to several charges related to the investigation.  The other men were identified as DUSTIN ATWATER, HOMER RHODES, DAVID PRUITT, BRYAN SHEPARD, and CHRISTOPHER STEVENS.  All are from the Cottage Grove and Creswell areas.

JOHN ATWATER pled guilty to:
* Four (4) counts of Unlawful Take of Bull Elk
* Two (2) counts of Hunting on the Enclosed Lands of Another
* Two (2) counts of Borrowing a Big Game Tag
He was sentenced to:
* Forty (40) days in the Lane County Jail
* 24 months probation
* Ordered to pay $6,000 in restitution to ODFW
* $6,674 fine
* Ordered to forfeit his rifle
* Lifetime suspension of hunting privileges

DUSTIN ATWATER, age 26, pled guilty to:
* Aiding in Game Violation
* Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree
He was sentenced to:
* Fifteen (15) days in the Lane County Jail
* 18 months probation
* Ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to ODFW
* $892 fine
* 48 month hunting license suspension

DAVID PRUITT, age 78, pled guilty to:
* Aiding in Game Violation
* Loaning Big Game Tag
* Hunting while in violation of Criminal Trespass
He was sentenced to:
* 24 months probation
* Ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to ODFW
* $2,304 fine
* Complete 100 hours of community service
* 36 month hunting license suspension

HOMER RHODES, age 74, pled guilty to:
* Two (2) counts of Aiding in Game Violation
* Loaning Big Game Tag
He was sentenced to:
* 24 months probation
* Ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to ODFW
* Complete 60 hours of community service

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS, age 35, pled guilty to:
* Aiding in Game Violation
He was sentenced to:
* 24 months probation
* Ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to ODFW
* $1,202 fine
* Complete 160 hours of community service
* 36 month hunting license suspension

BRYAN SHEPARD, age not available, pled guilty to:
* Aiding in Game Violation
He was sentenced to:
* 24 months probation
* Complete 100 hours of community service
* 24 month hunting license suspension

At the time of the incident the unlawfully killed four bull elk were salvaged by the troopers and the meat was taken to the Eugene Mission.

Green Closing Early For Steelhead

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

Close the lower portion of the Green (Duwamish) River in King County to all fishing beginning Jan. 16 and the upper portion of the river beginning Feb. 1.

Species affected: All game fish species.

Location and effective closure dates:

  • The lower Green River from the 1st Ave. South Bridge in Seattle upstream to the South 277th Bridge in Auburn will be closed from Jan. 16, 2010, through June 4, 2010.
  • The upper Green River from the 277th Bridge in Auburn upstream to the Tacoma Headworks Dam will be closed from Feb. 1, 2010, through June 4, 2010.

Reason for action: To reduce incidental mortality of wild steelhead. The 2009-2010 forecast of wild steelhead returning to the Green River is only 458 fish, well below the spawning goal of 2,000 steelhead. This action will reduce the incidental hooking mortalities of wild steelhead.

River Cleanup Planned On Nooksack This Saturday

Following up on volunteer cleanups put on by Sportsmen for the Preservation of our Rivers and Streams in south and central Puget Sound, a fishing guide is organizing one on the Nooksack this Saturday, Jan. 16.

Nick Petosa tells Doug Huddle of the Bellingham Herald, “It’s a positive thing to do as a fisherman. Litter takes away from the aesthetics of the fishing experience.”

If you’re interested, the plan is to meet at the Nugents Corner access site near the intersection of Highways 542 east of Bellingham and 9 northwest of Deming at 11 a.m. for assignments.

Huddle reports that Petosa hopes for bank and boat-borne volunteers.

He also says that Yeager’s Sporting Goods is offering those who help a bonus, an “in-store gift certificate that is equal to the refuse disposal (tipping) fee plus 50 percent of it. If your dump fee was $20, the Yeager’s gift certificate value would be $30. To be eligible, you must both register at 11 a.m. and return to the gathering point to go to the county’s collection station.”

For more, call Petosa at (360) 854-0259.

Meanwhile, Rosendo Guerrero of Sportsmen for the Preservation of our Rivers and Streams announced that he’s teaming up with Trout Unlimited’s Tacoma chapter for 2010. He’ll have a booth at the sportsmen’s show in Puyallup Jan. 27-31.

Guerrero and Sportsmen led cleanups on the Puyallup and Skykomish rivers and won kudos from Gov. Gregoire for their work.