In Bid To Reopen Skokomish, WDFW To Propose 2018 Salmon Fishery

After two years without a chance to fish the Skokomish for state-reared Chinook and coho, salmon anglers might soon be back on the southern Hood Canal river.

WDFW will propose a fishery there during the upcoming North of Falcon negotiations with Western Washington tribes.

“We cannot — and pretty strong words — go another year without fishing in the Skokomish River,” agency Fish Program manager Ron Warren told the Kitsap Poggie Club on Wednesday evening, according to a Kitsap Sun article.

WHILE FELLOW ANGLERS HOPE TO LAND THEIR OWN HEFTY SKOKOMISH HATCHERY CHINOOK, RANDY HART SHOWS OFF HIS ESTIMATED 25-POUNDER, CAUGHT IN AUGUST 2010. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Access to the river has been in question since 2016 when a federal solicitor’s opinion sided with the Skokomish Tribe that the entire width of the stream was included in their reservation boundaries.

That effectively blocked recreational anglers from fishing for the plentiful salmon returning to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s George Adams Hatchery.

A SIGN POSTED ALONG THE SKOKOMISH RIVER BY THE SKOKOMISH TRIBE WARNS ANGLERS AWAY FROM THE SOUTH BANK AS 2016’S RETURN OF CHINOOK TO THE STATE HATCHERY FILLED THE RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Last year, the tribe harvested 55,000 fall Chinook, according to sportfishing advocate Frank Urabeck, while another 35,129 hatchery adults and 8,353 jacks returned to the state facility, 37,812 of which were surplus to spawning needs.

Urabeck suggested that had the river been open, anglers might have caught around 15,000 of those kings, but instead could only fish for them in the canal, where they’re notoriously difficult to catch, and perhaps took home fewer than 500.

“What a waste, what unfairness. Time to bring this to a head,” he said.

He’s been instrumental in bringing pressure to bear on the situation, including a rally at the hatchery, and questioning the transfer of eyed sockeye eggs from the Baker River to the Skokomish, as a means to get the state to reopen the salmon fishery, and it appears WDFW in concert with the state Attorney General’s Office will now make a hard push on that front.

ANGLERS LISTEN TO A SPEAKER DURING THE 2016 RALLY AT WDFW’S GEORGE ADAMS HATCHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The Sun‘s report states that Mike Grossman, a deputy attorney general, says that state officials feel that the solicitor “erred” in that decision, that — and here I’m using reporter Tad Sooter’s paraphrasing — “they don’t believe Congress intended to bar the state from taking ownership of the river as a navigable waterway when creating the reservation — one legal test established by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

With sovereign immunity laws protecting the Skokomish Tribe and federal government from a state lawsuit in this case, putting anglers on the river essentially forces the other party or parties to sue the state.

“And why would they do that if we’re not fishing? … I think we need to get back in the river and fish,” Grossman said, according to the paper.

He advised the Poggies — this would extend to fishermen in the general public as well — “not to get furious at the Skokomish,” likening the situation to when two neighbors have a property disagreement. Those are better settled in a court of law than how Rand Paul and Rene Boucher like to sort things out.

Urabeck credited Norm Reinhardt, the Poggie’s president, for organizing this week’s meeting, though he was disappointed that the chairman of the Skokomish Tribe, Guy Miller, or tribal representatives weren’t in attendance.

He says he’s repeatedly reached out to them “to help the state resolve issues that motivates the tribe to deny us a very popular and important fishery,” but to no avail.

According to the Kitsap Sun, Miller was not surprised by the state’s push, and he continued to claim the entire river was the Skokomish’s.

He also implied that without anglers on the river, “conditions have improved since the tribe reasserted control,” Sooter wrote. Fisherman poo was blamed for a 2009 tribal shellfish harvest closure in nearby Annas Bay.

Urabeck says those problems had been resolved by the state as of the last fishery, in 2015, but he extended an offer to “do more.”

“As the representative for five sport fishing/conservation groups that are working together to regain our salmon fisheries, I was very proud to see the respectful and civil discussion by representatives of Puget Sound Anglers, Steelhead Trout Club of Washington, Bremerton Sportsmen’s Club, Coastal Conservation Association, as well as a room full of Poggie Club members,” he says. “Walked away a bit more hopeful and very proud to have been a participant in the discussions.”

The next steps are for the state and Western Washington tribes to put out their 2018 salmon forecasts, craft proposed fisheries such as one for a Skokomish River Chinook and coho season, negotiate a deal and send the package to federal fishery overseers for approval.

3 thoughts on “In Bid To Reopen Skokomish, WDFW To Propose 2018 Salmon Fishery”

  1. According to returned catch record cards. Area 12 Salt over 4,000 kings were caught. With 8,000 caught in the river. I believe that this was 2013 records.

    1. Hi, Gil, I took a look at 2013 and other years and found varying Chinook catches. The following figures focus on the summer fishery, which should generally correspond more closely to returning Skokomish fall Chinook, but that’s not to say some resident Chinook aren’t part of the catch.

      2015-16: 297 Chinook in August and September (761 entire season)
      2014-15: 630 Chinook in July and August (710 entire season)
      2013-14: 609 Chinook in July, August and September (838 entire season)
      2012-13: 2,073 Chinook in July, August and September (2,546 entire season)
      2011-12: 626 Chinook in July, August and September (1,167 entire season)
      2010-11: 354 Chinook in July, August and September (746 entire season)

      Thanks for reading,
      AW
      NWS

  2. This article gets my dander up and I am what I will refer to as a “No Net Fisher” here in this comment section ! –
    (1) In my mind The Boldt Decision should be referenced and should take some precedence in this case too ! It however has never even been mentioned yet –
    (1A) The article mentions the tribe harvested 55,000 fish and another 38,000 were marked as “surplus ” for spawning needs by the State of Washington –
    This equates to the Tribe getting a total of around 93,000 fish for the past Season –
    Boldt decision dictates the Tribes be allotted 50 % of the total catch for the season !!
    I ask – Does this not also indicate that The Tribe and ” No Net Fishers” caught a TOTAL of 186,000 fish for The Season ! Thus reasoning the Tribe be granted their 50 % for 93,000 fish ?
    IF NO – WHY NOT ? This borders on Discrimination !!
    (2) I also investigated on-line, about the original reservation boundary settlement and it specifically indicates the South Reservation Boundary runs along the North Bank of the Skokomish River in the location listed as closed to ” No Net Fishers “as dictated by the tribe in this latest quagmire !!
    Guy Miller — Your Claim is False ! You best look it up !
    (3) The State George Adams Salmon Hatchery is actually located on what is Purdy Creek which technically is NOT ON RESERVATION LAND – In fact Purdy Creek does NOT tributary into the South Side of the Skokomish River at all , (except during flood stage)-
    It tributaries into Mussel Shell Creek first and then into the Skokomish River well downstream of the closed to ” No Net Fishers ” area !
    SO -I also ask – Why was Purdy Creek even included in this dictated closure in the first place ?
    (4) Another Shady Area is that State Game Wardens were directed to Patrol Purdy Creek for violators as it was somehow Included in this dictated closure of the Skokomish River !
    We “No Net Fishers”are responsible for the State Game Wardens Salaries –They are NOT paid by the tribe !
    I won’t even get started on Sovern Immunity & State Park Waterfront Land and boat launch trade-offs that seem to be the NORM around here recently.

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