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SW WA Fishin’ Report

JOE HYMER, PSFMC)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – 35 bank anglers kept 2 steelhead; 6 boat anglers had no catch.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 38 winter-run steelhead during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator. During the week Tacoma Power employees released twelve winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and ten winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa. 

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,090 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, February 16. Water visibility is nine feet.

Lower Columbia from the I-5 Bridge downstream – 2 boats/4 anglers near Vancouver had no catch.

A Compact/Joint State Hearing is scheduled for February 18 to consider the 2010 mainstem Columbia recreational spring salmon seasons and modifications to the March-December 2010 lower Columbia mainstem sturgeon recreational fisheries.

Bonneville Pool – No effort for salmonids.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers averaged over 1.5 steelhead per rod.  Bank anglers were also catching some fish.  Two-thirds of the fish caught were wild and had to be released.

John Day Pool – Boat and bank anglers are catching some steelhead.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – 3 boats/4 anglers near Vancouver had no catch as did 2 bank anglers just below Bonneville Dam.

Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers averaged nearly 0.7 fish per rod when including fish released.  Bank anglers averaged one kept/released per every dozen rods.  Saturday Feb. 20 is the last day sturgeon may be kept from Bonneville Dam to The Dalles Dam (including tributaries) for the year.

The Dalles Pool – Slow for legal size fish.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers are catching some legals; slow from the bank.

WALLEYE AND BASS

Bonneville Pool – Light effort for walleye and no catch was observed.  No effort observed for bass.

The Dalles Pool – The few boat anglers sampled averaged 2 walleye kept per rod.  Some walleye were also caught by bank anglers.  No effort observed for bass.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers averaged 0.4 walleye kept per rod.  Boat anglers were also catching some bass.  No bank anglers were found in the sample.

TROUT

Kress Lake near Kalama – Planted with 20 surplus hatchery adult winter steelhead averaging 10 pounds each Feb. 8.  No report on angling success.

Klineline Pond and Battleground Lake – Both were planted with 1,500 half-pound rainbows Feb. 8.  No report on angling success.

SMELT

Cowlitz River – Lower numbers of smelt were confirmed caught during last Saturday’s (Feb. 13) sport fishery.  If you were around the Kelso Bridge, had waders and a long-handle pole plus a good back and a few hours, some fishers were able to get up to a few pounds of smelt.   Most of the dips were zeros with an occasional ones and twos.  Most of the fish caught were smaller, mature males.

Open only Saturdays Feb. 20 and 27 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Daily and possession limit 10 pounds (about ¼ of a five-gallon bucket) per person.

Mainstem Columbia from the mouth to Bonneville Dam – No reports on any sport dipping success. Through March 31, open 7 days/week, 24-hours/day.  Daily and possession limit 10 pounds per person.

All other Washington Columbia River tributaries – Remain closed.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

A few springers, a lot more steelhead and the late, late, late goose hunt opener in Southwest Oregon highlight weekend opportunities in the Beaver State.

But if you want to stay indoors, there’s the big outdoors show in Roseburg too — we’ll be there giving away free mags and sweet deals on subscriptions (the dagger deal is back!!).

‘Here’s a roundup from OFDW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Steelhead fishing continues to hold up on many southwest rivers and streams.
  • Cooper Creek Reservoir and Lake Selmac have been recently stocked with trout.
  • Several area lakes and reservoirs continue to offer good fishing for holdover trout stocked last fall. These include the Coos County lakes, Expo Pond, Galesville Reservoir, Lost Creek Reservoir and Reinhart Pond.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • A few early arrival spring chinook are being taken on the Willamette River.
  • Winter steelhead fishing is good in the Clackamas and Sandy rivers and Eagle Creek. Steelhead are spread throughout both systems and some good catches have been reported.
  • Sturgeon fishing is good on the lower Willamette River.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Nestucca River: Steelhead angling should be fair to good. Fish are spreading out in the river system, but as flows drop more fish will hold up lower in the system waiting for rain. Look for a mixture of hatchery and wild fish. Drifting lures or bait near the bottom has been productive. With flows dropping, bobber and jigs will be more effective. Spinners are generally a good bet in the upper river also. With rain forecasted through the weekend fishing may improve as flows increase.
  • Siletz River: Winter steelhead angling is slowing but still fair overall. Many hatchery fish have moved into the upper river but some are expected to continue returning through the month. Good numbers of native steelhead are showing up. River conditions for the week should allow anglers to fish the entire river.
  • Siuslaw River: Steelhead angling is good. Recent rains have moved a new group of fish up into the system. Good catches of hatchery and native steelhead are coming from the lower river up to the Whittaker Creek area. River conditions should be good for this week.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • For fly fishers, warm spring-like days have been triggering caddis and blue-wing olive hatches on the lower Deschutes River.
  • Fishing also has been good on the Crooked River.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Ice fishing on Unity and Wolf Creek reservoirs has been very good. But ice conditions are changing so please use caution.
  • Because their water temperatures stay fairly constant throughout the year, both Ana River and Ana Reservoir can offer good winter fishing opportunities.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Anglers continue to report good fishing on the Grande Ronde, Wallowa, Imnaha and John Day rivers.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Sturgeon angling is excellent for boat anglers in the Bonneville Pool.
  • Counting fish released, steelhead fishing is excellent in The Dalles Pool and good in the John Day Pool for boat anglers. Bank anglers are also catching a few fish.
  • Walleye fishing is excellent in The Dalles Pool and good in the John Day Pool for boat anglers.

Columbia Fishing Report

Well … you’d expect a few more springers to turn up in the catch, but the latest from ODFW shows that anglers checked in the Lower Columbia weren’t landing much.

Better bets, courtesy of Jimmy Watts:

* Sturgeon angling is excellent for boat anglers in the Bonneville Pool.
* Counting fish released, steelhead fishing is excellent in The Dalles Pool and good in the John Day Pool for boat anglers.  Bank anglers are also catching a few fish.
* Walleye fishing is excellent in The Dalles Pool and good in the John Day Pool for boat anglers.

Here’s the rest of Watts’ weekly report for ODFW

SALMON STEELHEAD

COLUMBIA RIVER MAINSTEM, Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington Border:  Under permanent regulations this section of the Columbia River is open January 1-March 31, 2010 to the retention of adipose fin-clipped steelhead with a daily bag limit of two fish. The retention of spring chinook is prohibited.  Modifications to the 2010 spring chinook fishery will be considered at the February 18th Compact hearing.

Steelhead anglers did well in both The Dalles and John Day pools last week.  Many anglers are plying the water on the lower Columbia in anticipation of the arrival of the 2010 spring chinook run, but success was very limited last week.

Gorge Bank & Boat:

No report.

Troutdale Boats:

No report.

Portland to Longview Bank & Boat:

Weekly checking showed no catch for 36 bank anglers and no catch for 30 boats (69 anglers).

Estuary Boat (Above Tongue Point):

No report.

Bonneville Pool:

No report.

The Dalles Pool:

Weekly checking showed three adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept plus two adipose fin-clipped steelhead and 12 unclipped steelhead released for six boats (11 anglers); and one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept for four bank anglers.

John Day Pool (Columbia River above John Day Dam and John Day Arm):

Weekly checking showed one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept plus two unclipped steelhead released for three boats (five anglers); and one unclipped steelhead released for 14 bank anglers.

STURGEON:

Effective January 1-April 30, 2010 the lower Columbia River from Buoy 10 to the Wauna power lines is open to the retention of white sturgeon seven days per week with a daily limit of one fish between 38 and 54 inches (fork length) and an annual limit of five sturgeon.

The Columbia River between Wauna power lines and Bonneville Dam is open to the retention of white sturgeon three days per week (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) during January 1-July 31 with a daily limit of one sturgeon between 38 and 54 inches (fork length) and an annual limit of five sturgeon.

The Columbia River from Bonneville Dam upstream to The Dalles Dam is open to the retention of sturgeon seven days per week with a daily limit of one sturgeon between 38-54 inches (fork length) and an annual limit of five sturgeon. Effective 12:01 AM Sunday February 21, 2010 the retention of sturgeon in the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam upstream to The Dalles Dam will be prohibited because the catch guideline of 1,400 fish is projected to be reached.

The Columbia River between The Dalles Dam and McNary Dam (The Dalles Pool and John Day Pool) is open for the retention of sturgeon seven days per week with a daily limit of one sturgeon between 41 and 54 inches (fork length) and an annual limit of five fish until the respective guidelines of 300 and 165 fish are reached.

As of February 1, 2010, the cumulative surgeon catch was 390 fish in the Bonneville Pool, 87 fish in The Dalles Pool, and 41 fish in the John Day Pool.  Catch rates really jumped in the Bonneville Pool during the first two weeks of February. Sturgeon angling on the lower Columbia is very slow.  During January 2010, sturgeon anglers on the lower Columbia made 1,700 trips and kept 25 white sturgeon.

Gorge Bank:

No catch for two bank anglers. Effort has been very light.

Gorge Boats:

No report. Effort has been very light.

Troutdale Boats:

No report.

Portland to Longview Bank:

No report.

Portland to Longview Boats:

Weekly checking showed 15 sublegal sturgeon released for 11 boats (36 anglers).

Bonneville Pool Boat and Bank:

Weekly checking showed four legal white sturgeon kept, plus one legal, one oversize, and 43 sublegal sturgeon released for 62 bank anglers; and 35 legal white sturgeon kept, plus six legal, 297 sublegal, and one oversize sturgeon released for 22 boats (60 anglers).

The Dalles Pool Boat and Bank:

Weekly checking showed two sublegal sturgeon released for 40 bank anglers; and 37 sublegal sturgeon released for 11 boats (24 anglers).

John Day Boat and Bank:

Weekly checking showed no catch for 25 bank anglers; and three legal white sturgeon kept, plus three oversize and 28 sublegal sturgeon released for 34 boats (66 anglers).

WALLEYE:

Bonneville Pool Boats:

Weekly checking showed no catch for one boat (one angler).

The Dalles Pool Boats:

Weekly checking showed one walleye kept for four bank anglers and 16 walleye kept for four boats (eight anglers).

John Day Pool Boats:

Weekly checking showed 16 walleye kept for 17 boats (41 anglers).

New Law Targets Feral Swine
ODFW biologists believe it is still possible to eradicate Oregon’s population of feral swine before the population gets out of control and wildlife habitat and agricultural crops are laid waste. To put some teeth in the fight, the 2009 Legislature passed a law that prohibits the sale of feral swine hunts and requires land managers to report and remove feral swine from their property.New rules adopted at the January meeting of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission give land managers 10 days after discovering feral swine on their property to contact ODFW and 60 days to work with the agency on a removal plan that includes a timeline.

“Landowners should contact their local wildlife biologist if they suspect they have feral swine on their property,” said Larry Cooper, Deputy Administrator of ODFW’s Wildlife Division. “We can help them with a removal plan and technical advice.”

Feral swine rooting
Feral swine can “rototill” a hillside in a night, destroying crops, pastureland and stream banks.
Photo courtesy of ODFW

It is legal to hunt feral swine, but opportunities are limited because most of the feral swine identified to date have been on private land, which requires landowner permission. On public lands, swine can be hunted with a valid hunting license. There is no limit or tag required, but on public property all hunting regulations must be followed.

Feral swine are free-roaming pigs, that is, they are not being held under domestic confinement. They are responsible for damage to habitat and depredation of livestock and wildlife as well as disease transmission to wildlife, livestock and humans. Read the Feral Swine Action Plan for Oregon on the Oregon Invasive Species Web site. For information on hunting feral swine .

CSI: Enterprise

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

The efforts of numerous sportsman groups’ paid off with the conviction of four suspects in a Wallowa County case where DNA results were a critical component of an Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish and Wildlife Division investigation.  Normally known as a valuable investigative tool helping to identify and convict suspects in criminal cases, this is the first conviction in a case where the DNA results helped prosecute Oregon wildlife violators.

Three of the four suspects convicted in Wallowa County Circuit Court are from Oregon.  The fourth suspect is a Ridgefield, Washington resident.  They are identified as:

George Chechelnitski, age 53, from Ridgefield, Washington, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of Taking Elk without a Valid Tag.  Sentencing included:
* Two year Hunting Suspension
* Two years probation
* $2108.00 in fines and fees

Aleksandr Katko, age 53, from Gresham, Oregon, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of Aiding in a Violation of Wildlife Laws.  Sentencing included:
* Two year Hunting Suspension
* Two years probation
* $2008.00 in fines and fees

Vadim Titoukh, age 44, from Boring, Oregon, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of Aiding in a Violation of Wildlife Laws.  Sentencing included:
* Two year Hunting Suspension
* Two years probation
* $2143.00 in fines and fees

Vasiliy Pitsul, age 48, from Portland, Oregon, who pled guilty to a violation charge of Aiding in a Violation of Wildlife Laws.  Sentencing included:
* Two year Hunting Suspension
* $1208.00 in fines and fees

The OSP Fish & Wildlife Division had been researching new ways to help a trooper investigating an illegal big horn sheep killing and met with the Oregon Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS).  When the FNAWS organization asked how they could help, DNA analysis support was seen as an answer.

FNAWS and Oregon Hunters Association (OHA) presented a proposal for a two-year pilot project to evaluate the needs and effectiveness of a DNA program to user organizations. These organizations raised $25,000 to fund a pilot project in partnership with OSP and Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG).  IDFG is home to a premier, cutting-edge wildlife forensic program that offers a full-service biological testing program, including DNA services (species comparison, gender determination, individual identification, and time/cause of death).

On November 7th, 2007, Oregon State Police Senior Trooper Mark Knapp of the received information regarding an elk that was illegally killed in the Chesnimnus Big Game Unit in Wallowa County.  A subsequent investigation determined that on November 3, 2007, the opening morning of the Chesnimnus Elk Season, the group of four hunters had harvested two spike elk. It was later determined that only one of the hunters possessed a valid elk tag for that unit. In addition, parts of the second illegally killed elk were left behind and some of the elk meat was wasted. Numerous evidentiary items were seized at the crime scene.

With the assistance of several individuals who had been hunting in the area, the Oregon State Police was ultimately able to identify the four suspects. Interviews were later conducted, one search warrant was executed and additional evidence was seized. Some of the seized evidence from the scene and the residences of two suspects were analyzed at the Oregon State Police Forensic Crime Lab in Springfield, Oregon.

A critical part of the investigation also involved DNA analysis conducted by Dr. Karen Rudolph of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife Forensic Program in Caldwell, Idaho.  The analysis was done on evidence seized from the scene and during the execution of the search warrant.  A positive match on the DNA of the illegally taken elk was made.  The results of the forensic evidence from the labs in Oregon and Idaho helped lead to the arrest and ultimate conviction of the four suspects in the Wallowa County Circuit Court.

EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS PRESS RELEASE ORIGINALLY CALLED F.N.A.W.S. A FEDERATION RATHER THAN A FOUNDATION.

Lake Tahuya Fishing Access Case Heads To Court

Entrenched landowners, fishermen and WDFW are headed to court tomorrow as a “bitter” battle over whether public access should be allowed to Lake Tahuya through state land there comes to a head.

It’s a hopelessly complex case for yours truly’s small brain — seems like it all boils down to whether Tahuya was a bog or a lake in the distant past (never mind that geologically bogs are basically dying lakes) — but Christopher Dunagan of the Kitsap Sun took a stab at it yesterday.

The lake is located 10 miles due west of Bremerton on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Shorter Bear Season, Guns For Bowmen

Chop a couple weeks off black bear season in three areas, close a couple Columbia River islands to deer hunting, open up the Blues to a general fall turkey season, allow bowhunters and muzzleloaders to carry handguns afield.

Just four proposals for Washington’s 2010-11 hunting seasons up for public comment through Feb. 24.

They, and a raft of others, can be found online.

The first rule above would move the fall bear opener from Aug. 1 to Aug. 14 in the Okanogan, South Cascades and Northeastern bear management unit. That’s because, according to WDFW, “indicators suggest that hunting seasons should be more conservative.”

The Okanogan bear area includes Okanogan County west of the Okanogan River as well as Chelan County lands on the north side of Lake Chelan. The South Cascades bear area includes the west side of the Cascades from I-90 south to the Columbia River. The Northeast includes the eastern half of Okanogan County, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille and Spokane counties.

As for the deer, Cottonwood Island (off the west side of Carrolls Slough) and nearby Howard Island would be made off limits to deer hunting because both “sites (are) proposed for Columbian white-tailed deer release to further Columbian white-tailed deer recovery.”

The unique species is protected under state and federal laws.

Also along the state’s southern border, but further east, WDFW proposes to switch from a fall permit turkey hunt to a general season in the Blues.

And they’d also like to add the Couse unit for spring permit bear hunting, with four tags on offer.

As for handguns for bowmen and blackpowder hunters, our colleague Dave Workman was filing a story for the March 1 issue of Gun Week that explains:

Prior to last year, neither bowhunters or black powder hunters were allowed to carry a handgun, with the exception of muzzleloader hunters carrying black powder revolvers or single-shot pistols. The new rule will allow the carrying of modern handguns, but still prohibit their use to dispatch a big game animal shot with an arrow or a muzzleloader bullet or ball.

Written comments can be e-mailed to Wildthing@dfw.wa.gov or mailed to Wildlife Program Commission Meeting Public Comments, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501

A public hearing with the Fish & Wildlife Commission is scheduled for 8:00 a.m. on March 12-13, 2010, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, First Floor Room 172, 1111 Washington St. SE, Olympia, WA  98504

Update On Upcoming Columbia Springer Seasons

The Columbia Basin Bulletin reported yesterday on what managers are thinking about in terms of seasons for this years forecasted record return of springers.

… Oregon policy makers did not consider specific season options, but were briefed on possible scenarios ranging from a 56-day season entirely below Portland’s Interstate 5 Bridge to a 30-day season with a mix of opportunities above and below the I-5 Bridge.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fishery managers also last week outlined their plans for the spring chinook fishery on the Columbia River that would ensure meeting conservation goals, catch-balancing responsibilities between tribal and state fisheries, and fishing opportunities throughout the river and its tributaries.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission during its Feb. 4-6 meeting also voiced support for reserving a portion of the catch until there is clear evidence the run is as large as expected.

5 Sound Rivers Closing Early To Steelheading

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Steelhead fishing will close Feb. 18 in five major river systems in the Puget Sound area to protect wild fish, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.

The closure will affect the Puyallup, Nooksack, Stillaguamish, Samish and Snohomish rivers and their tributaries.

Pre-season estimates developed by the department indicate that returns of wild steelhead will fall far short of target levels in all five river systems, said Bob Leland, WDFW steelhead manager.

“This is the fourth straight year that we’ve seen a downward trend in wild steelhead returns,” Leland said.  “These closures are necessary to meet the conservation objectives of our statewide steelhead management plan and comply with provisions of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).”

Wild steelhead in the Puget Sound region have been listed as “threatened” under the ESA since 2007. Although anglers are required to release any wild fish they catch in those rivers, some of those fish inevitably die from the experience, Leland said.

Rivers closing to steelhead fishing Feb. 18 include:

Puyallup River system

  • Puyallup River mainstem from the 11th St. Bridge in Tacoma upstream to Electron Power Plant Outlet
  • Carbon River from the mouth to Hwy.162 Bridge
  • White (Stuck) River from the mouth to R Street Bridge in Auburn

Nooksack River system

  • Nooksack River from the mouth to the confluence of the North and South Forks
  • North Fork Nooksack from the mouth to Nooksack Falls
  • South Fork Nooksack from the mouth to Skookum Creek
  • Middle Fork Nooksack from the mouth to headwaters.

Samish River system

  • Samish River from the mouth to the Hickson Bridge.

Stillaguamish River system

  • Stillaguamish River from sloughs south of Marine Drive to forks.
  • North Fork of the Stillaguamish from the mouth to Swede Heaven Bridge.
  • South Fork of the Stillaguamish from the mouth to the Mt Loop Hwy. Bridge (above Granite Falls).
  • Canyon Creek from the mouth at the South Fork of the Stillaguamish to the forks.

Snohomish River system

  • Snohomish River from mouth (Burlington-Northern railroad bridges) to the confluence of the Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers including all channels, sloughs, and interconnected waterways.
  • Snoqualmie River from the mouth to the boat launch at Plum Landing (~1/4 mile below Tokul Creek).
  • Skykomish River from the mouth to the forks.
  • North Fork of the Skykomish from the mouth to Deer Falls (about ? mile upstream of Goblin Creek).
  • South Fork of the Skykomish from the mouth to the Sunset Falls Fishway.
  • Pilchuck River from mouth to the Snohomish city diversion dam.
  • Sultan River from mouth to the diversion dam at river mile 9.7.
  • Tolt River from mouth to the confluence of the North and South Fork.
  • Raging River from the mouth to the Highway 18 Bridge.

The Wallace River, Tokul Creek and Snoqualmie River above the boat ramp at Plum Landing will close Feb 28.

Reopening dates for all of these waters will be noted in the 2010-11 Fishing in Washington fishing rules pamphlet.

Study Finds Half Young Steelhead Die In 2 OR Estuaries

The Salem Statesman-Journal is reporting on a new Oregon State University study that “found that up to nearly half of the ocean-bound juvenile steelhead surveyed in the Alsea and Nehalem river systems appear to have died in the estuaries, before they could reach the ocean.”

Before, it was believed that the ocean was the driver in steelhead smolt survival, but this study seems to indicate otherwise.

There are many questions to answer, but researchers found some tags from fish at a seal colony.

Hearing Date Set For Bill To Abolish WDFW

A Washington Senate committee is holding a public hearing next week on a bill that would abolish the Department of Fish & Wildlife and move it into the Department of Natural Resources.

The Natural Resources and Ocean & Recreation committee is slated to hear testimony on SB 6813 on Feb. 17. The meeting begins at 8 a.m.

A fiscal note prepared by in the last week by WDFW staffers indicates merging would initially cost $1 million a year through 2013 and then a savings of $1.5 million a year starting in 2015.

The note identifies where cuts might be made. Among the agency’s 1,444 employees,  somewhere around 7 to 8 full-time jobs could be eliminated because of overlap. Among other savings it identifies is $50,000 for road maintenance and $30,000 for fire suppression; DNR and WDFW manage vast swaths of the state’s timber and sagelands.

The guys on Piscatorialpursuits.com are also talking about SB 6813.

The State Parks and Recreation Commission would also be abolished and moved into DNR under the bill.

Senators Ken Jacobsen, Kevin Ranker, Bob Morton, Karen Fraser, Jim Hargrove, Brian Hatfield, Val Stevens and Dan Swecker all sit on the Natural Resources and Ocean & Recreation committee.