Tag Archives: chinook

With Orcas In Mind, WA Salmon Hatchery Reform Policy Under Review

Three principles dictating salmon hatchery operations in Washington have been suspended by the Fish and Wildlife Commission during a policy review, a move in part reflecting a “change in attitude” about production practices.

It comes as the state begins to respond in earnest to the plight of southern resident orcas — one of which was reported missing and presumed dead over the weekend, bringing Puget Sound’s population to its lowest point in 30 years.

KIRAN WALGAMOTT PEERS INTO THE RACEWAYS AT THE WALLACE SALMON HATCHERY NEAR GOLD BAR. THE FACILITY REARS SUMMER CHINOOK, COHO AND STEELHEAD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“I’m afraid that a lot of potential sites where there could be Chinook enhancement to increase the prey base for killer whales will be disqualified by our own policy,” said Commissioner Don McIsaac of Hockinson, in Clark County, during Friday’s meeting of the citizen panel.

In mid-March, Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order directing WDFW to increase hatchery production of king salmon, the primary feedstock for resident orcas and the lack of which could be leading to their low reproduction rates.

Vessel traffic and pollution have also been identified as problems.

Saying that after 10 years it was time for a review, McIsaac made the motion to suspend the first three tenets of the commission’s CR 3619, Hatchery and Fishery Reform Policy, including using guidance from the Hatchery Scientific Review Group, and prioritizing broodstock from local watersheds.

He noted that genetic protections for wild Chinook would still be in place through Endangered Species Act restrictions.

“What I wouldn’t want to have anyone to believe is that this would be going back to what was characterized as the Johnny Appleseed days before of no hatchery constraints on operations,” McIsaac said. “We’re looking for good hatchery operations, and so what this is more about is just some slight differences here over the course of the next six months to allow for a good look at this and not to squelch any killer whale initiatives that are out there.”

IN A SCREEN GRAB FROM C-SPAN 3, DONALD McISAAC SPEAKS BEFORE A CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE IN JANUARY 2014. (C-SPAN)

He termed it “a change in attitude about our salmon hatchery policy” and indeed, his six- to 12-month review will look at results of those reforms, updating scientific knowledge and could include “changing language tone about the positive value of hatchery programs,” as well as consider adding mitigation facilities.

While Commissioner Kim Thorburn of Spokane expressed some concern about suspending portions of the policy, Commissioners Jay Holzmiller of Anatone and Larry Carpenter of Mount Vernon voiced their support of it.

“I don’t want to blame anybody here, but what we’re doing now, and I’m not just speaking to HSRG … across the board simply isn’t working. It’s not working for businesses, it’s not working for individuals, it’s not working for state government. The money’s drying up, the salmon are drying up,” said Carpenter.

In 1989, the state, tribes, feds and others released 71 million Chinook; in 2016, just 33 million were, due in part to WDFW budget cuts over the years.

Yet even with ESA listings,  hatchery reforms and millions upon millions spent on habitat work, wild king numbers are still poor, suggesting something different is at play — perhaps density of harbor seals, according to a just-released paper, not releases of clipped Chinook.

“I simply have a forecast in my view that if we don’t make a change in our programs and methodology, that we don’t have more than 10 years left to have a salmon fishery of any kind — of any kind — in this state,” said Carpenter. “Let’s figure something out and get going on it.”

“Of any kind” surely was a reference to tribal fishing, and in a June 14 letter to Inslee, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission lent their considerable weight to the issue.

NWIFC Executive Director Justin Parker wrote that his organization wanted to work with the governor’s office to “develop an appropriate and accountable co-manager scientific review process at the same time that the HSRG’s role is phased out of the State budget language and process.”

Certain elements in WDFW’s appropriations are tied to HSRG.

He suggested that it lacks accountability and process, doesn’t undergo enough peer review scrutiny, diminishing its “credibility,” and is scientifically stagnant.

Where the 1970s’ Boldt Decision split the two fleets for decades, more and more, tribal and recreational fishermen are finding common cause. The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association supported the tribes and feds side against the state of Washington in the culvert case that came before the Supreme Court, and Puget Sound Anglers president Ron Garner recently had the extremely rare honor for a nontribal member — let alone a sport fisherman — of being invited to an NWIFC meeting.

“Over and over I was told, ‘It took some courage for you to come here today.’ It didn’t take courage,” said Garner during public comment last Friday afternoon on HSRG. “It took us running out of fish. We are running out of fish … We are so aligned on our problems it’s nuts. We understand them. It’s going to take us and the tribes to fix them.”

DON PITTWOOD SHOWS OFF A HATCHERY CHINOOK CAUGHT OFF WHIDBEY ISLAND’S POSSESSION POINT DURING THE SUMMER MARK-SELECTIVE FISHERY. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Despite being the newest member of the Fish and Wildlife Commission, it’s the second major salmon-related shift McIsaac’s been involved with this year.

This past winter, with WDFW honchos folding to pressure from the National Marine Fisheries Service on Puget Sound Chinook management and which could have sharply curtailed already-reduced fisheries, he called for a conservation hatchery on a habitat-constrained river system, an example of thinking outside of the box rather than going along for the ride to ruin.

“Much more needs to be done outside of fishery restrictions,” he said at the time.

On Friday afternoon, in a voice vote on McIsaac’s salmon hatchery reform motion, no nays were heard. Afterwards, clapping from the audience could be.

Lower Columbia, Gorge Pools, SW WA Fishing Report (6-18-18)

THE FOLLOWING FISHING REPORTS ORIGINATED WITH ODFW AND WDFW AND WERE TRANSMITTED BY TANNA TAKATA, ODFW, AND JOE HYMER, PSMFC

Columbia River Angling Report

Salmon, Steelhead and Shad

On Saturday’s (6/16) flight, 113 salmonid boats and 52 Oregon bank anglers were counted from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Bonneville Dam.  Boat anglers fishing in the Goble to Beaver area, averaged 2.40 steelhead and 0.60 sockeye caught per boat.  Bank anglers fishing the Portland to Westport area, averaged 0.04 Chinook and 0.13 steelhead caught per angler.

STURGEON RETENTION ON THE LOWER COLUMBIA ENDED EARLIER THIS MONTH, BUT NOT BEFORE ELISE PASSMORE CAUGHT THIS ONE ON THE SECOND TO LAST DAY OF THE SEASON BELOW CATHLAMET. CATCH-AND-RELEASE REMAINS OPEN. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Gorge Bank: Weekend checking showed no catch for six salmonid bank anglers; and 1,844 shad kept, plus 92 shad released for 176 shad anglers.

Gorge Boats: Weekend checking showed 220 shad kept, plus 50 shad released for five boats (18 anglers).

Troutdale Boats: Weekend checking showed no catch for three salmonid boats (four anglers); and two shad kept for one boat (three anglers).

Portland to Westport Bank: Weekend checking showed four steelhead kept, plus two adult Chinook and two steelhead released for 46 bank anglers.

Portland to St. Helens Boats: Weekend checking showed no catch for three salmonid boats (nine anglers); and one shad kept for one boat (two anglers).

Goble to Beaver (Clatskanie) Boats: Weekend checking showed eight steelhead kept, plus four steelhead and three sockeye released for five boats (20 anglers).

Wauna Powerlines to Clatsop Spit Bank: No report.

Westport to Buoy 10 Boats: Weekend checking showed no catch for five boats (16 anglers).

Bonneville Pool (Bonneville Dam upstream to The Dalles Dam): Weekly checking showed no catch for 10 salmonid bank anglers; and no catch for two salmonid boats (five anglers).  Shad anglers caught 98 shad for 53 bank anglers, and 12 shad for one boat (three anglers).

The Dalles Pool (The Dalles Dam upstream to John Day Dam): Weekly checking showed no catch for two salmonid bank anglers; and no catch for 10 salmonid boats (16 anglers).  Shad anglers caught 28 shad for six bank anglers, and 54 shad for two boats (10 anglers).

John Day Pool (John Day Dam upstream to McNary Dam): Weekly checking showed no catch for two salmonid bank anglers; and three adult Chinook kept, plus one coho released for 12 salmonid boats (25 anglers).  Shad anglers caught 2,065 shad for 61 boats (200 anglers).

STURGEON

Gorge Boats:  Closed for retention. No report.

Troutdale Boats:  Closed for retention. Weekend checking showed one sublegal sturgeon released for one boat (three anglers).

Portland to Wauna Powerlines Boats:  Closed for retention. No report.

Wauna Powerlines to Clatsop Spit Bank:  Closed for retention. No report.

Buoy 10 to Wauna Powerlines Boats:  Closed for retention. Weekend checking showed 15 sublegal and 15 oversize sturgeon released for one boat (four anglers).

Bonneville Pool (Bonneville Dam upstream to The Dalles Dam): Closed for retention.  Weekend checking showed six legal white sturgeon kept, plus 20 sublegal and six oversize sturgeon released for 42 bank anglers; and 99 legal white sturgeon kept, plus 796 sublegal, nine legal and 22 oversize sturgeon released for 94 boats (253 anglers).

The Dalles Pool (The Dalles Dam upstream to John Day Dam): Closed for retention.  Weekend checking showed three legal white sturgeon kept, plus 12 sublegal sturgeon released for 14 bank anglers; and 24 legal white sturgeon kept, plus 228 sublegal, five legal and 14 oversize sturgeon released for 21 boats (67 anglers).

John Day Pool (John Day Dam upstream to McNary Dam): Closed for retention.  Weekend checking showed four sublegal, eight legal and nine oversize sturgeon released for six boats (21 anglers).

WALLEYE

Bonneville Pool: Weekly checking showed no catch for one boat (three anglers).

The Dalles Pool: Weekly checking showed 43 walleye kept, plus three walleye released for 11 boats (25 anglers).

John Day Pool: Weekly checking showed 109 walleye kept, plus 19 walleye released for 30 boats (91 anglers).

Washington Columbia River mainstem and its tributaries sport sampling summaries for June 11-17

Salmon/Steelhead

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br. downstream:  6 bank anglers had no catch.  Above the I-5 Br:  17 bank anglers released 2 cutts.  25 boat anglers kept 2 adult spring Chinook and 11 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 83 spring Chinook adults, 40 summer-run steelhead,  and one winter-run steelhead during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

Tacoma Power also released ten spring Chinook adults into Lake Scanewa near Randle.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,100 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Monday, June 18. Water visibility is 15 feet and the water temperature is 49.9 degrees F.

Kalama River – 6 bank anglers had no catch. 6 boat anglers kept 3 steelhead.

Lewis River (North Fork) – 15 bank anglers had no catch.

Lower Columbia mainstem from the Megler-Astoria Bridge upstream to Bonneville Dam – Up to 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained.  Release all sockeye.  Fishing at night is permitted in Washington waters.  Release all adult Chinook through June 21 and July 5-31.

Sturgeon

Bonneville and The Dalles pools – During the one-day retention fishery last Friday, boat anglers averaged just over a legal kept per boat from each pool..   Bank anglers averaged a legal kept per every 7 rods in Bonneville Pool and one for every 4 rods in The Dalles Pool.

Trout

Tacoma Power released 5,200 rainbow trout into Mayfield Lake.  No report on angling success.

Shad

Bank anglers just below Bonneville Dam averaged 4 shad per rod based on mainly incomplete trips while boat anglers averaged just over 8 fish per rod based on completed trips this past weekend.

Nearly 2.6 million shad had been counted at Bonneville Dam through June 17.  .

Yuasa: South Sound Crab Aside, Lots Of Good Fisheries To Hit

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

Hold on! Wait a minute! It’s truly hard to believe the calendar already reads June as the days are flying by at warp speed.

Spring was a blur, and by now many have already made their early summer salmon fishing trips to southeast Alaska; opening day of trout season is a distant memory; pots have been filled with spot shrimp and topped on salads or grilled on the BBQ; razor clams are now vacuum sealed in the freezer; and lingcod and halibut fishing was decent from the coast clear into open areas of Puget Sound.

This is time of year when turning over a new leaf on another season is set to take place with anglers switching into summer fishing mode.
But, before we get too deep into what opportunities exist we should weigh-in on a dire situation facing Puget Sound Dungeness crab.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

It appears the glory days of Puget Sound Dungeness crab fisheries could momentarily be in the rear-view mirror as areas south of Seattle (Marine Catch Areas 11 and 13) are closed this summer due a dramatic dip in population levels. Tribal fisheries are also shutdown in those areas.

Don Velasquez, a WDFW Puget Sound shellfish biologist says anglers haven’t been faced with such a low abundance since 2012 and lousy success in 2017 were a signal of what was to come.
Dungeness crab abundance test fishing in early spring around south-central and southern Puget Sound found the situation wasn’t very rosy.

What fishery experts are seeing – or in this matter aren’t seeing – in those two areas is a two- and three-year-old male Dungeness crab class (averaging 4.4 inches) and four-year-old class (averaging 5.4 inches) are also greatly reduced. Legal-size is usually the five-year-old and older age class crabs averaging 6 ¼ inches or more.

“We’ve had some pretty extreme surface water events in 2014 and 2015, and it is a possibility the abnormally high-water temperatures could have played a role in the downtrend,” Velasquez said. “When young of the year Dungeness crab are faced with these types of conditions they tend to die at a much higher rate.”

Other reasons for the decline are a distant source of brood stock for larval production and inconsistent larval advection; low dissolved oxygen levels; ocean acidification; restricted water flow south of the Tacoma Narrows; and excessive harvest.

To make matters worse extremely low density of Dungeness crab could affect successful mating for future generations.

In Puget Sound catch areas, the total Dungeness crab harvested was 9,285,912 pounds during 2017 in all fisheries compared to 10,645,000 pounds in 2016.

The record catch was 2015 when state and tribal Puget Sound fisheries landed 11.8 million pounds, exceeding the previous 2014 record by 1.2 million pounds.

While crab opportunities have declined I must go back to my one of my old mantras: “You can gripe about where you can’t fish or head to greener pastures.”

And in this case those greener pastures will likely be found in northern Puget Sound and San Juan Islands. Specific dates haven’t been determined but fishing usually gets underway in early July. For details, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

Many other fishing options abound this summer

Now let’s move onto what’s happening this month and beyond.

The WDFW statewide trout derby is happening on 100 lakes now through Oct. 31. A common theme since opening day – which seems more pronounced than last year – is the number of tagged derby fish caught of late. Last year more than 50 percent of the tags were turned in so if it’s better so far this season that is great news!

More funding was diverted into 2018 with about $38,000 in donated prizes and more than 1,000 tags of which one-third (300 total) were placed in 22 Puget Sound region lakes.

Prizes range from gift cards to fishing gear, plus one tag lurking in a local lake is a getaway to Roche Harbor Resort in San Juan Islands.

Trout action remains steady and should continue until it heats up although deep-water bodied lakes will be good clear into summer. Bass, walleye and perch are also gaining more traction.

Shore-bound anglers shouldn’t overlook coastal surf perch fishing, which has been good since early spring from Neah Bay south along the Oregon coast.

The hatchery chinook season in Tacoma area of south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) reopened June 1. Since the winter/spring season ended on a high note with baitfish teeming off the Clay Banks it should no doubt attract some early-feeding kings into the area this month.

Southern Puget Sound (Area 13) chinook fishing in May was better than it had been in previous years with good catches off Point Fosdick, and Fox Island’s east side at Gibson Point, Toy Point and Fox Point.

Other marine salmon fisheries on horizon include Sekiu, San Juan Islands and a portion of Hood Canal all opening July 1 for hatchery chinook; and Port Angeles opening July 3. The Tulalip Bubble fishery is open Fridays to Mondays of each week but closed on June 9.

Central Puget Sound is open in June for coho only and I’d earmark the shipping lanes off Jefferson Head. On coast, Ilwaco, Neah Bay and La Push open for salmon on June 23; and Westport on July 1.
On river scene, the Cascade, the Skagit above 530 Bridge and Skykomish opened June 1 for hatchery chinook; and a section of Skagit opens June 16 for sockeye.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

Next up on Northwest Salmon Derby Series is PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15 and Big One Salmon Derby July 25-29 at Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

It’s also not too soon to start getting excited about a coho season in central and northern Puget Sound during the prime fishing month of September. I’ve confirmed the PSA Edmonds Coho Derby is Sept. 8, and the biggest derby on West Coast – the Everett Coho Derby is date stamped for Sept. 22-23.

That is where we’ll draw the lucky name to win a grand-prize KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. It is fully rigged with Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics, a WhoDat Tower and a Dual Electronic Stereo – for a $65,000 value. Not bad to get your name pulled out of a hat or maybe a cement mixer like we did last year in Everett. Details: www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

Now excuse me while I tie a bunch of leaders, prep the boat and zoom out the door to go fishing. See you out on the water soon!

Salmon Fishing Closures Announced In BC Waters Across From Washington

Canadian salmon managers have announced a series of closures and reduced Chinook limits in British Columbia saltwaters across from Washington and up the coast, bids to help out orca whales and conserve fish stocks.

A large swath of the northern half of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Renfrew — opposite Neah Bay — to just west of Sooke — across from the Joyce area west of Port Angeles — will be closed to all salmon and finfish angling from June 1 to September 30.

(DFO)

Waters northwest of Orcas Island in the Gulf Islands and off the mouth of the Fraser River will also see Chinook closures.

(DFO)

“These measures include closures that will help increase the availability of this critical food source for southern resident killer whales,” the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said in a statement. “The closures will take place in three key foraging (feeding) areas.”

While the goal is to reduce fishing boat traffic, it wasn’t clear what might be being done about all the other vessels using the same waters.

DFO also announced that daily limits are being chopped in half on the north coast.

Overall, Canada’s two-pronged move aims to reduce commercial and recreational catches by 25 to 35 percent to boost numbers of kings returning to southern BC’s Fraser River and northern BC’s Skeena, Nass and other streams.

On the former front, it’s part of an international effort to help out struggling orcas.

(DFO)

It follows Washington’s closure of Chinook retention in the San Juan Islands in September, a good month to fish for Fraser-bound fish that are also preyed on by orcas.

WDFW also implemented new voluntary go-go zones along the west side of San Juan Island, a key feeding area for the giant marine mammals, but which were panned by a local angler as a feel-good move that doesn’t address root causes of the orcas’ plight — too few Chinook anymore.

DFO’s moves were also met with skepticism from the Sport Fishing Institute of BC.

“It is clear to see that decisions have been made to appear as though they will make a significant difference to the recovery of SRKW although there is little or no evidence of this,” the organization said in a statement. “While the recreational community has indicated a willingness to participate in measures that can lead to recovery of Chinook (and SRKW), the measures announced today are much more restrictive than the department itself explained was necessary to satisfy conservation objectives.”

SFI said that habitat, predator and “strategic enhancement” work for Fraser Chinook has “gone no where (sic)” and asked whether DFO really thought it could restore runs through the “now tiny exploitation rate associated with recreational fishing? Chinook and all those that depend on them deserve solutions and investment.”

Reacting to the developments, Nootka Marine, located further up the west coast of Vancouver Island from the closure zone, tweeted out a link to regulations for Nootka Sound and Esperanza Inlet.

DFO says the Straits, Gulf and Fraser mouth closures will be monitored “to assess the effectiveness.”

A WDFW official says besides the state’s closing of September Chinook retention and the voluntary stay-away areas, no more fishing measures to benefit orcas are anticipated to be implemented this year.

 

Survey Finds Good Krill Numbers Again Off Oregon, But Even More Pyrosomes

An annual spring survey off the Northwest Coast came up with some good and bad news for key stocks.

Krill — hugely important near the base of the ocean food web — and young Dungeness crab numbers were as high as they’ve been in some time, but there are even more pyrosomes off Oregon’s Central Coast and to the south than last year.

RESEARCHERS CALLED THE RETURN OF KRILL TO THEIR SAMPLING NETS “A WELCOME SIGHT SINCE THESE IMPORTANT FORAGE HAVE LARGELY BEEN ABSENT OVER THE PAST COUPLE YEARS SINCE THE ANOMALOUS WARMING” FROM THE BLOB. (NWFSC)

Jennifer Fisher, fresh off a 10-day survey between San Francisco Bay and Newport, reported the findings on the Northwest Fisheries Science Center blog.

“These are the most Dungeness larvae and juveniles we’ve collected in a long time, and we have not seen krill numbers like this since before 2015,” Fisher followed up via email.

That year, 2015, was the height of The Blob — the huge pool of warmer than usual water in the Northeast Pacific that messed things up at sea and on land — and it was also a year after pyrosomes first began to be found in our coastal waters.

By last year, the tropical gelatinous, sea-pickle thingies that are actually colonies of organisms were clogging fishing gear off our coast and even turned up as far north as the rim of the Gulf of Alaska, also a first.

While rockfish were observed feeding on pyrosomes, it’s not clear how their numbers will affect the food web. Another NOAA blog from last October states, “At this point, there are more questions than answers.”

But the May survey answered the question whether they’re still out there.

“The pyrosome catches appear slightly larger and the colonies are larger compared to last year,” reports Fisher.

They can be found starting about 10 miles off the coast, living on the bottom during the day and rising to the surface at night.

PYROSOMES FILL A COOLER ABOARD THE NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION’S VESSEL, THE BELL M. SHIMADA. (NWFSC)

The Science Center will soon conduct another closely watched spring survey, collecting information on young Chinook and coho off Oregon.

Last year’s produced very low catches while one a couple years ago found very small fish. But the resurgence of krill is a hopeful sign that the food web could be rebuilding coming out of the hangover from the Blob.

Fisher also reported on Science Center’s blog that copepods are in a state of flux between winter warm-water communities and summer, cold-water ones that come with the upwelling.

So what does it all mean?

“The krill is a good sign, but the pyrosomes are not, since they are indicative of warm water,” she says. “And the transitional copepod community is also not a great sign for salmon. But it’s still early in the summer upwelling season, so things can certainly change.”

San Juan Islands Angler Leery Of Voluntary No-boat Zone For Orcas

Kevin Klein has done his part to feed starving southern resident killer whales in Puget Sound.

As he fought a very big Chinook in the San Juans a few summers ago, a bull from J-pod swam over from a quarter mile away and chomped off the meatiest bits of the salmon.

“I THINK ALL OF US WANT THE BEST FOR THE ORCAS. THAT’S NUMBER ONE,” SAYS SAN JUAN ISLANDS ANGLER KEVIN KLEIN, HERE WITH ALL THAT WAS LEFT AFTER A KILLER WHALE SNARFED A BIG CHINOOK OFF HIS LINE IN JULY 2013. (KEVIN KLEIN)

The encounter left Klein temporarily deflated and holding a 5-pound fish head, but also gave him a new appreciation for the “giant marine super predator.”

That might help explain why he’s not too crazy about WDFW’s request yesterday for boaters to voluntarily avoid a quarter- to half-mile-wide strip along much of the west side of San Juan Island, prime feeding and fishing grounds for orcas and anglers alike.

The goal is to reduce human activity there and follows federal overseers’ call to do more to protect the endangered pods in Washington waters.

But Klein says it won’t do a bit of good to help out the killer whales and instead is just a “feel-good ‘win'” for the species’ enthusiasts.

“They did something. Picked some low-hanging fruit so now the grant money can keep coming in. If there is no problem with the killer whales, then professional orca advocates don’t have funding or jobs. So it’s in their best interests to perpetuate a problem rather that actually addressing the tougher issues that would help the whales,” says the Anacortes-based angler and yacht brokerage employee.

Lined up against fixes such as increasing hatchery salmon production and reducing pinniped and fish-eating bird predation are groups like the overly litigious Wild Fish Conservancy and PETA, which Klein claims are ready to sue the state as well as “take on even the Puget Sound tribes and boycott casinos if you start culling cuddly seals and sea lions.”

Other challenges include northern fleets’ interception of salmon bound for Northwest rivers, which in some cases have severe habitat issues.

He says he doesn’t want people to chase whales and notes that there are laws against that already.

The state legislature passed a measure in 2008, and a 2011 rule from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration bars “vessels from approaching any killer whale closer than 200 yards and forbid vessels from intercepting a whale or positioning the vessel in its path” in Washington’s inside waters.

But NOAA has been pushing for more and more action, and earlier this year Governor Jay Inslee signed an executive order directing WDFW and other state agencies to do all they could to help out the killer whales.

That included bumping hatchery production, though it will take several years for those fish to become available, and pruning salmon seasons in some areas.

When we posted WDFW’s press release on its “difficult request” to San Juan Islands fishermen Tuesday afternoon, anglers generally reacted against it.

They’ve already kicked us in the teeth taking September Chinook away. So … no,” wrote Bellingham angler Rory O’Connor, referring to the closure of the popular Chinook fishery that time of year in the islands.

Besides seven likes of the post, there were no supportive comments, though there was more on the agency’s version.

According to WDFW, the voluntary no-go zone — a quarter-mile strip of shoreline from Mitchell Bay to Cattle Point, with a half-mile bubble around Lime Kiln Lighthouse — is the “most frequently” used feeding and lounging area for southern residents.

(WDFW)

“This step will help support killer whale recovery and prevents a potential delay in federal approval for our salmon fisheries throughout the entire Sound,” Fish Program chief Ron Warren said in a press release.

He takes the long view, adding that recovering orcas “will mean more salmon returning to Puget Sound each year, which will benefit anglers” too.

Ultimately, the request is another straw on the usual camel’s back, sportfishermen, who are already bearing the burden of Washington’s failure as a whole to stem the loss of salmon.

Is it one straw too many this time, or the wrong straw?

“Really, we all know that the orcas aren’t bothered one bit by our 20- to 30-foot rec boats trolling at 2 mph,” says Klein. “The best thing a small rec boat can do is just keep trolling and let the whales react to you on a predictable path. If anything, they are attracted to us and curious. I think they know exactly what we are doing and might even think it’s funny.”

“They are highly advanced super predators. Top of the food chain, with sonar and perceptions of their world that we can’t begin to fathom,” he says. “Give them some credit. They’ll thrive with more fish in the water.”

‘A Difficult Request,’ But WDFW Asks Boaters To Avoid Strip Along Fishy Western San Juan Island

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

State fish and wildlife managers are asking anglers and other boaters to avoid an area along the west side of San Juan Island in an effort to protect a dwindling population of southern resident killer whales.

Despite state and federal government protection, the population of southern resident killer whales has declined from 98 whales in 1995 to just 76 in December 2017. Major threats to the whales include a lack of prey – chinook salmon, in particular – disturbance from vessel traffic and noise, as well as toxic contaminants.

(WDFW)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will be working with partner agencies and stakeholder groups to help educate people about the voluntary “no-go” zone, which applies to all recreational boats – fishing or otherwise – as well as commercial vessels.

The no-go zone is located on the west side of San Juan Island, including:

  • From Mitchell Bay in the north to Cattle Point in the south, extending a quarter-mile offshore for the entire stretch.
  • In an area around the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, the no-go zone extends further offshore – half of a mile.

A map of these areas is available on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/orca/, where boaters also can find existing regulations on properly operating vessels near orcas.

These waters represent the areas in the San Juan Islands that southern resident killer whales most frequently use for foraging and socializing. To improve conditions for the whales, WDFW is asking vessel operators to stay out of these key areas to allow the whales a quiet area to feed.

“This voluntary no-go zone is a good step in helping to reduce human impacts in an important foraging area for southern resident killer whales,” said Penny Becker, WDFW’s policy lead on killer whales.

In March, the governor signed an executive order creating a task force and directing WDFW and other state agencies to take immediate action to benefit southern resident killer whales. In designing this year’s salmon fisheries, the department reduced fisheries in areas – such as the San Juan Islands, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Admiralty Inlet – important to orcas.

In late April, NOAA Fisheries asked the state to take additional action to protect southern resident killer whales during the upcoming fishing season. In response, the state included the voluntary measure in a set of actions NOAA should consider as the federal agency develops authorization for Puget Sound salmon fisheries.

“This step will help support killer whale recovery and prevents a potential delay in federal approval for our salmon fisheries throughout the entire Sound,” said Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s fish program.

Warren acknowledged that this is a difficult request to make of anglers who fish the San Juans, given the reduced opportunities for salmon fishing in the area this year. But there are a variety of other salmon fisheries in Puget Sound this season.

In particular, he noted that in other areas of the Sound anglers have more opportunities to fish for coho salmon than in recent years. More information about this year’s salmon fisheries can be found online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Warren said there is an exception for vessels participating in a commercial fishery targeting Fraser River sockeye that takes place in the northern portion of the no-go zone, given the limited number of commercial openings (six to eight days) this year.

As part of the governor’s directive, WDFW is working with NOAA and state agencies to increase hatchery production of salmon to benefit southern resident killer whales. However, it will take three to four years for fish released from Washington hatcheries to be available as returning adults for the whales.

WDFW also will continue to work with tribal co-managers and other agencies to restore salmon habitat.

“Our efforts to recover killer whales ultimately will mean more salmon returning to Puget Sound each year, which will benefit anglers as well as orcas,” Warren said.

More information about the governor’s task force is available online at https://www.governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/energy-environment/southern-resident-killer-whale-recovery-and-task-force.

Yuasa Reviews Washington 2018 Salmon Seasons, Looks Ahead To Halibut, Shrimping

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

The months are flying by faster than a coho hitting your bait in the prop wash.

It felt like “Yesterday” – an ode to a classic Beatles song – when we gathered in Lacey on Feb. 27 to see what the salmon forecasts had in store for us. Now a season package is “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” – did you say Stevie Wonder? – for anglers to digest and begin making plans on where to wet a line.

The process known as “North of Falcon” (NOF) culminated April 6-11 in Portland, Oregon, and I was on-hand as a sport-fishing observer.

JUSTIN WONG HOLDS UP A NICE KING SALMON HE CAUGHT LAST SUMMER IN THE OCEAN OFF WESTPORT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

When proposed seasons came to light in mid-March it was like a feisty trophy king tugging on end of a line, which after a long battle unhooked itself at the boat causing the lead weight to smack you right in the eye.

While grief and a swollen black eye set in, you might have been down in the dumps. But, my mantra has been to never whine about what you can’t do or lost (the trophy king in paragraph above), and more on making the most of the present moment.

Life throws you lemons so make sweet lemonade because if you don’t your head will go into a swift-moving tidal tail-spin and turn your fishing line into a messy tangled web of hurt.

The initial good news is environmental conditions – El Nino, warm water temperatures, a “Blob” and droughts – that have plagued us with restrictions going back to 2015-16 appear to be in the rear-view mirror.

Secondly, was the warmth (albeit mixed feelings by some NOF attendees) of unity and transparency between user groups despite a usual difference in opinions over how the whole pie of sport, tribal and non-tribal fisheries was divvied up.

These are signals of “baby steps” in a complicated process that long has been filled with arguments, bitterness, cultural indifference, protests and a fight over that “last salmon” dating back to Boldt Decision.

The true litmus test of how long this “hand-holding” philosophy will last between all parties is essential as we move forward to ensure our iconic Pacific Northwest salmon runs will be around for generations to come. Even more so as we carry the torch of a long-term Puget Sound Chinook Management Plan to the federal fishery agency’s table later this year, which will dictate how we fish from 2019 to 2029 and beyond.

“Now that we’ve finished this process we need to work on being responsible with conservation, habitat issues and simply change our philosophy to create a long-term management plan,” Ron Warren, the WDFW salmon policy coordinator said at conclusion of Portland meetings.

While being mindful of that briny future, let’s go over highlights of our fisheries at hand.

A positive are extended seasons – something that hasn’t happened for several years – for hatchery coho in northern Puget Sound (Area 9) from July through September, and non-select coho in central Puget Sound (Area 10) from June through mid-November. The Puget Sound coho forecast is 557,149.

Another shining star is a South Sound hatchery chinook forecast of 227,420 up 21 percent from 10-year average and a 35 percent increase from 2017.

The northern Puget Sound summer hatchery chinook catch quota is 5,563 – a similar figure to 2017 – and is expected to last one-month when it opens in July.

The elevated forecast is a blessing when south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) opens June 1 especially in popular Tacoma-Vashon Island area. A central Puget Sound hatchery chinook fishery starts July 16 with a cap of 4,743. Area 10 has a coho directed fishery in June at popular places such as Jefferson Head-Edmonds area.

A hatchery king season opens at Sekiu on July 1, and Port Angeles on July 3. Both switch to hatchery coho in mid-August through September.

A summer king fishery in San Juan Islands (Area 7) opens July to August, but September is chinook non-retention.

Late-summer and early-fall coho fisheries will occur in Areas 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 8-2, 11, 12 and 13.

On coast, Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay open daily starting June 23, and Westport opens Sundays to Thursdays beginning July 1. Hatchery coho quotas are same as 2017 although chinook quotas are down a decent amount. The popular Buoy 10 salmon fishery opens Aug. 1.

On freshwater scene, a sockeye forecast of 35,002 to Baker River is strong enough to allow fisheries in Baker Lake from July 7-Sept. 7, and a section of Skagit River from June 16-July 15.

The Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie open Sept. 16 for coho. Sections of Skykomish, Skagit and Cascade open for hatchery chinook beginning June 1. For details on seasons, visit WDFW at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Bounty of May fishing options

There’s nothing more exciting than pulling up a pot loaded with prawn-size spot shrimp during a season that begins May 5.

“I am more positive this year on our spot shrimp projections than the last couple of years,” said Mark O’Toole, a WDFW biologist who is retiring May 18 after an illustrious 36 years with the department, and many thanks for your valued input on shrimp and other fish policies!

BIG PRAWN-SIZE SPOT SHRIMP COME INTO PLAY IN THE MONTHS AHEAD AROUND THE PUGET SOUND REGION. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“In general, last year was another good season with relatively high abundance,” he said. “The catch per boat ended up being higher for all areas.”

Look for good shrimping in Strait; San Juan Islands; east side of Whidbey Island; central, south-central and northern Puget Sound; and Hood Canal. Test fishing conducted this spring showed marginal abundance in southern Puget Sound.

Hit pause button on spring chores since trout fishing in statewide lowland lakes is now underway.

Justin Spinelli, a WDFW biologist says 460,000 trout went into Puget Sound region lakes on top of 500-plus statewide lakes planted with 16,840,269 trout – 2,171,307 of them are the standardized size averaging about 11 inches compared to 8-inches in past seasons.

If you prefer a large-sized halibut then head out on May 11. The Washington catch quota is 225,366 pounds down from 237,762 in 2017, and a bump up from 214,110 in 2016, 2015 and 2014. Dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport and Strait/Puget Sound are May 11, 13, 25 and 27. Depending on catches other dates are June 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, 28 and 30. Ilwaco opens May 3 with fishing allowed Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Once you get your halibut fix add some black rockfish and lingcod to the cooler. Ilwaco, Westport, Neah Bay and La Push are open for both, and some Puget Sound areas are open for lingcod.

NW Salmon Derby Series hits pause button

While we take a break from a spectacular winter derby series be sure to keep sight of the PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15.

2018 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES GRAND PRIZE BOAT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

More great news is Edmonds Coho Derby on Sept. 8 and Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 22-23 – the largest derby on West Coast – are likely back on “must do” list. In mean time, check out derby’s grand-prize KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with Honda 150hp motor and 9.9hp trolling motor at Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show on May 17-20 at Cap Sante Marina. The $65,000 boat also comes on an EZ-loader trailer, and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; custom WhoDat Tower; and Dual Electronic stereo. Details: http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’m sprinting out the door with rod in hand so see you on the water!

Lake Washington Sockeye, Fishing Subject Of April 24 Meeting

Lake Washington salmon and fisheries will be the subject of a meeting next week in Renton.

State biologists will be presenting on sockeye, coho, Chinook and steelhead at the Maplewood Greens Golf Course the evening of April 24.

LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE ANGLERS DURING THE 2006 FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

According to an agenda for the meeting of King County’s Cedar River Council, discussions will include escapement data over the past 20 years and lost sport and tribal fishing opportunities.

It also lists findings on the big metro lake’s sockeye runs as well as the outlook for the salmon stock.

Despite the promise of the new Seattle Public Utilities hatchery built on the Cedar River, there hasn’t been a sport sockeye season on Lake Washington since 2006, and this year’s forecast of just under 40,000 is well below the threshold for a fishery.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. The golf course is located at 4050 Maple Valley Highway, Renton, WA 98058.

Sportfishing Leaders React To 2018 Salmon Seasons

Northwest salmon anglers are digesting news from the just-concluded season-setting process, which brought — as it always does — a mix of tasty, so-so and stomach-turning results.

Puget Sound and Southern Oregon anglers should be happier than in recent years, Washington Coast and Buoy 10 fishermen will be somewhat disappointed, and Skokomish River egg drifters are gnashing their teeth — again.

SILVER SALMON ANGLERS FISH AMIDST A BLIZZARD OF SEAGULLS AT POSSESSION BAR DURING 2014’S EVERETT COHO DERBY. THE PAST TWO YEARS’ DERBIES HAVE BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO RESTRICTED FISHERIES, BUT THIS YEAR’S LOOKS TO BE BACK ON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Those are very broad brush strokes and we’ll all be able to drill deeper into the details of Chinook and coho seasons as the days and weeks go by and the LOAF, or list of agreed-to fisheries, is posted, singling out our waters for their 2018 opportunities or looking elsewhere for different ones.

In the meanwhile, there’s some reason for optimism in the sportfishing community, including from Gabe Miller, who says there’s “a lot to look forward to this season, particularly in the Puget Sound region.”

“We are looking at substantially more coho opportunity than we have the past few years, especially in North Puget Sound,” says Miller, who works at Sportco in Fife and is vice president of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. “Another bright spot is South Sound Chinook, which should provide anglers with plenty of harvest opportunity this summer and through the fall.”

He said that in the wake of 2016’s and 2017’s fishery restrictions, which affected coho the hardest, 2018’s seasons “should look a little more like what anglers were used to seeing in the past.”

A WDFW CHART OUTLINES MARINE AREA FISHERY TIMING FOR CHINOOK AND COHO. (WDFW)

Mark Yuasa, the boating and fishing director for the Seattle-based Northwest Marine Trade Association, said that these days salmon anglers need to be mobile with their boats.

“I’m pretty happy about what’s in store for anglers in late-summer and early-fall for coho fishing in Puget Sound, which is something we haven’t had for several years. We’ll also have some decent summer Chinook fisheries in certain areas,” he said.

While Puget Sound salmon are rebounding from the Blob, Columbia River Chinook are still in a bit of a rough patch, with this year’s Washington and North Oregon Coast quota dropping by 40 percent.

That’s not the best of news for Astoria, Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay, but there will still be good numbers of salmon caught out here, thanks to a coho quota of 42,000, the same amount as last year and which held up into early September.

“We are cautiously optimistic with the seasons set for Marine Area 1 and the Columbia River,” says Liz Hamilton, NSIA’s executive director. “The managers did a good job at getting close to management objectives, and we are hoping the seasons proceed as planned. The numerous stock constraints this year were challenging. With any luck, the upriver brights will show enough strength by mid-September to provide some extra fishing time to the river above Buoy 10.”

“Fingers crossed,” she added.

GUIDE BOB REES NETS A CHINOOK AT BUOY 10. THIS YEAR’S FISHERY WILL BE A DEPARTURE FROM RECENT ONES, WHAT WITH ITS ONE-SALMONID LIMIT FROM AUG. 1-24 DUE TO ONE OF THE SMALLER RETURNS OF THE PAST DECADE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Well south of the mouth of the big river, Chinook anglers will be able to get back on the ocean between Humbug Mountain and the California border, which was closed last year, and ODFW is touting a “strong forecast” of fall kings back to the Rogue as one of the coast’s “bright” spots.

Oregon Coast coho are down, but there’s still enough for a 35,000 hatchery silver quota, with limited September fishing for wild and clipped coho.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the biologists and run modelers and fishery managers are breathing a collective sigh of relief that, finally, it’s all over, and the whole pile of paperwork is now headed for the feds’ desk for them to, hopefully, make faster work than they have with the Skagit-Sauk steelhead sign-off.

At least one state source says that this year’s extraordinary “plenary session,” which brought Washington and tribal fisheries leaders together last week, was a “huge success” and played a key role in helping the comanagers reach an agreement on schedule.

THE STILLAGUAMISH TRIBE’S SEAN YANNITY SPEAKS DURING THE PLENARY SESSION. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

In 2016, talks between the state and tribes dragged on for a month and a half before a deal was struck.

“This year there was a feeling of unity among all parties involved in a process that has long been a bitter battle filled with arguments, cultural indifference and over who was going to catch that ‘last salmon’ dating back to the Boldt Decision,” said NMTA’s Yuasa. “It was a good feeling to get everyone for the most part on the same table to address issues for the upcoming fishing seasons and save salmon populations, which are an iconic piece of Northwest history. We all need to swallow a bitter pill from time to time, but in the end you’ll find some exciting fishing this year.”

He was on hand during that one-hour say-what-you-wish confab in which sport and tribal fishermen talked about the importance of salmon habitat, heritage and the problems of pinnipeds.

So too was Tom Nelson, cohost of 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line. He expressed mixed feelings about what he heard in that packed Lynnwood hotel room and what eventually came out of another in Portland.

THE OUTDOOR LINE HOST TOM NELSON (RIGHT) LISTENS AS NWIFC’S LORRAINE LOOMIS SPEAKS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“I’m disappointed that the nontribal part of the allocation took the biggest part of the cut and the Makahs will keep fishing at the same level as last year,” he said on a last-minute Chinook hangup yesterday. “Even a token movement on their behalf would have given something to the feeling of the plenary session.”

Essentially, impact rates on low mid-Hood Canal Chinook stocks put Puget Sound fisheries in jeopardy, so state managers reduced the coastal king guideline and there were losses in Areas 8-1 and 9.

“That said, we’re going coho fishing in Admiralty Inlet in September,” Nelson said.

That’s the best place, by catch stat, to put out herring strips or cast from the beach for silvers in late summer. Last year it wasn’t even available to boaters, and only through Labor Day for shore fishers, due to very low forecasted Skagit and Stillaguamish coho returns.

And while Nelson called losing September Chinook fishing in the San Juan Islands “brutal,” he noted it would help address starving orca issues, as Fraser-bound kings are a key feedstock for the marine mammals.

The Makah Tribe’s Russ Svec was among those who spoke during the plenary session, saying, “Today is a good day to see everyone talking with one voice.”

But one person who wasn’t buying the good feels was longtime sportfishing advocate Frank Urabeck, who was angry that there still is no resolution to the Skokomish River problem, which leaves recreational anglers unable to access state-hatchery-reared Chinook and coho in the southern Hood Canal stream.

“What is a shame is that the other Puget Sound tribes let this happen, making a mockery of the recent NOF state/tribal ‘Kumbaya’ plenary session,” Urabeck said.

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

He also laid blame at the feet of WDFW Fish Program Manager Ron Warren and other state officials for failing to get the fishery restarted, and expressed doubt that it’s all about a reservation boundary dispute for the Skokomish Tribe.

“It is more likely there are other self-interest reasons and the tribe is just using the land ownership claim to significantly increase their harvest of Chinook salmon, including ESA-listed natural origin fish,” Urabeck said.

He’d gone so far as to call for a new nontribal commercial fishery in Hood Canal, where fall Chinook can otherwise be difficult for recreational anglers to catch, to access the state share.

Urabeck claimed that some observers feel the river has been lost to sport fishing and said that many anglers don’t feel public money should fund WDFW’s George Adams hatchery.

FRANK URABECK, LEFT, CHECKS HIS NOTES DURING A RALLY HELD AT THE STATE OF WASHINGTON’S GEORGE ADAMS SALMON HATCHERY THE FIRST SUMMER THAT THE SKOKOMISH WAS NOT OPEN FOR SPORT FISHING DUE TO A CLAIM THAT THE ENTIRE WIDTH OF THE RIVER WAS PART OF THE SKOKOMISH RESERVATION. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Radio’s Nelson might have summed up the whole months-long salmon-season-setting process best for all parties.

“Every North of Falcon you’re sort of left with that kissing-your-sister feeling,” he quipped.

He reiterated his support for working with the tribes on a host of problems facing Western Washington salmon.

“Now let’s move forward from here with the tribes,” Nelson said. “Let’s reach out to the Stillys [Stillaguamish Tribe] and stand shoulder to shoulder with them” on a Fish and Wildlife Commissioner’s recent proposed conservation hatchery and marine predation issues.