Tag Archives: chinook

ODFW Announces Steelhead, Salmon Rule Changes On Umatilla, Walla Walla

THE FOLLOWING IS AN ODFW PRESS RELEASE

Steelhead fishing on the Umatilla River will be closed from Oct. 15-April 30, 2019 to protect native steelhead.

Also, the bag limit for salmon on the Umatilla River (from the Hwy 730 bridge to the CTUIR reservation boundary approximately 0.7 miles above Hwy 11 bridge) will be lowered from 3 to 1 adult fall Chinook or coho salmon per day and 5 jack salmon per day from Oct. 15-Nov. 30. In addition, 5 mini jack (8-15 inches) coho or fall Chinook salmon can be taken per day in that stretch of the Umatilla River.

Steelhead fishing will also be closed on the Walla Walla River from Dec. 1, 2018-April 30, 2019, again to protect native steelhead.

Estimated returns for both the Umatilla and Walla Walla rivers are expected to be near historic lows, based on returns over Bonneville Dam. The steelhead closure and reduction in the fall Chinook and coho bag limits are needed to ensure enough fish are available for hatchery broodstock escapement to Threemile Dam.

For more information on regulations and fishing opportunities in the Northeast Zone, visit https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/northeast-zone

Fish Commissions Urged Not To Rollback Columbia Salmon Reforms

Ahead of a five-year review and public comment on Columbia salmon and steelhead reforms, fishing advocates are sending out red alerts the tide might be turning in the lower river.

IN A NEW VIDEO, FORMER OREGON GOVERNOR JOHN KITZHABER, SEEN HERE IN A SCREEN GRAB, URGES VIEWERS TO MAINTAIN THE COLUMBIA RIVER SALMON REFORMS. (GILLNETSKILL.COM)

“There’s absolutely no reason to change right now, it makes no sense,” says former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber in one of several short videos posted this month on Keep Gillnets off the Columbia’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

He was instrumental in the 2012 compromise that prioritized developing new alternative nontribal commercial gear in the mainstem, moving netting to off-channel areas near the mouth, and increasing allocation for sportfishers, moves also aimed to help more wild salmon and steelhead — some of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act — get through to upstream spawning grounds.

The reforms have proven contentious, with a major disagreement early last year over ESA-listed Snake River fall Chinook impact allocations, with Washington wanting to move to the planned 80-20 nontribal sport-commercial split but Oregon sticking to 70-30.

In another video, Larry Cassidy, a longtime former Washington Game Commission member and respected conservationist, called the reforms a “smart move”, and said they’re working well and there’s “no reason” not to continue them.

The importance of Columbia Chinook was recently highlighted by a joint state-federal review that found springers, tules and upriver brights among key feedstocks for struggling southern resident killer whales.

The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, which said in a weekly newsletter last Friday that it’s grateful for Kitzhaber’s continued interest in the issue, is urging its members to check out Gillnetskill.com and asking them to contact Oregon’s and Washington’s governors, Kate Brown and Jay Inslee.

The issue will be before the eight current Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioners during a Monday, Oct. 15, meeting that begins at 8:30 a.m.

Members will get a staff briefing on the reforms and view a presentation that includes color-coded report cards for how well it’s played out in terms of management purposes; recreational, commercial and tribal fisheries; allocations; new gear; and the economic results.

“The report is simply a tool to help commissioners evaluate whether the policy has been a success,” Bill Tweit, a WDFW special assistant, said in an agency press release out earlier this week.

Afterwards there will be an hour-long panel discussion and a chance for public comment.

A meeting agenda says that WDFW staffers will also “seek guidance and next steps.”

Later in the meeting, commissioners will hold their annual get-together with Inslee, and in early November the citizen panel appointed by the governor will meet with its Oregon counterparts on the issue.

Low Salmon Returns Lead To Restrictions On Parts Of Grays, Toutle Systems

THE FOLLOWING ARE EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICES FROM WDFW

WDFW FISHING RULE CHANGE   
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091
http://wdfw.wa.gov

October 3, 2018

Chinook salmon retention to close on Toutle, North Fork Toutle rivers

Action: Chinook salmon retention closes on the Toutle River and the North Fork Toutle.

\ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Effective dates: October 6, 2018 until further notice. 

Species affected: Chinook salmon.

Locations: The Toutle River from the mouth to the forks; the North Fork Toutle River from the mouth to the posted markers downstream of the fish collection facility.

Reason for action: Fall chinook salmon returning to the North Toutle Hatchery, located on the Green River, are tracking well below the pre-season forecast and are not currently projected to meet the hatchery broodstock goal. These fish must first migrate through the Toutle and North Fork Toutle rivers. Closing the Toutle River and North Fork Toutle River to chinook salmon retention will increase the number of hatchery fish available for broodstock and help ensure fishing opportunities in future years.

Additional information: The Green River is also currently closed to chinook retention. Retention of hatchery coho remains open on the Toutle, North Fork Toutle and Green rivers. All other permanent rules remain in effect. Please refer to the Sport Fishing Pamphlet for complete rule information.

Information contact: Tom Wadsworth, District Fish Biologist, (360) 906-6709.

Grays and West Fork Grays rivers to close for hatchery coho retention

Action: Closes the Grays and West Fork Grays rivers to retention of coho.

Effective date: October 6, 2018 until further notice.

Species affected: Coho salmon.

Location: The Grays River to the mouth of the South Fork Grays River and West Fork Grays River from the mouth upstream.

Reason for action: The Grays River Hatchery coho return to date is below what is needed for hatchery broodstock. The 2018 return has been influenced by poor ocean conditions and reduced juvenile releases in previous years. Closing coho retention in the Grays River and West Fork Grays River will increase the number of hatchery fish available for broodstock and help ensure fishing opportunities in future years.

 Additional information: Fishing remains open on the mainstem Grays River upstream of the mouth of the South Fork as well as the South and East Fork Grays Rivers under permanent rule as described in the 2018/2019 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

 Information contact: Region 5 Office, 360-696-6211 *1010

Forgo Eating Chinook? There Are Much Better Ways To Help Orcas — NWIFC

Last month, when a Seattle public radio station tweeted out a link to a segment entitled “Should I eat Chinook salmon,” @NWTreatyTribes clapped back, “Yes, you should eat chinook salmon.”

Inserting myself into the conversation, I said, “Finally! Something we agree on!! ?.”

CHINOOK ON THE GRILL. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It was meant to be a light joke, as tribal and recreational anglers have certainly been at odds over salmon in the past, but these days the fate of our fisheries are linked more closely than ever and there’s increasing recognition on our part that habitat really is key, as the tribes continually note.

So while not eating Chinook might make Emerald City residents feel like they’re doing something noble for struggling orcas, it only makes recovering the key feedstock even more difficult.

That’s the gist of Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission chair Lorraine Loomis’s column this month.

In part it’s a response to a Seattle chef’s decision to pull the salmon species off the menu of her restaurants amidst the orca crisis.

“If restricting harvest were the solution to salmon recovery and orca survival, we would have accomplished both long ago,” Loomis writes.

Instead, she says if diners and others want to help, they should get in touch with their lawmakers to ask for increased hatchery production in select watersheds; more habitat restoration; quicker culvert work; and dealing with Puget Sound pinnipeds, which are literally stealing food from the southern residents, among other fixes.

Loomis acknowledges they’re all heavy lifts — many are also part of the governor’s SRKW task force’s potential recommendations out for public comment now — but they need to be implemented to help out the fish and thus the orcas.

Yes, it would benefit fishermen, but find me another part of the population that cares like we do.

“Indian and non-Indian fishermen are the greatest advocates for salmon recovery and the most accountable for their conservation. Contributing to the economic extinction of fishing will only accelerate the salmon’s decline,” Loomis writes, adding, “We need everyone in this fight. If you love salmon, eat it.”

Warming To A Very Unwild, Very Unscenic Salmon River

It took me awhile to warm to the Duwamish.

Several years of sharing a bank with it, in fact, and I may never be a fan of the diminished river that flows through Auburn, Kent, Tukwila and Seattle like I am of other waters.

THE DUWAMISH IN TUKWILA, WASHINGTON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Perhaps if I’d grown up in this gritty, highly industrialized part of Pugetropolis it would be easier.

But the Skykomish, Sultan, Wallace, as well as the Sauk, forks of the Stilly, Icicle, the upper Snoqualmie trio and other streams on either side of Washington’s Central Cascades were where I tramped and wade-fished in my younger days, and they became what I know of as “rivers.”

WHERE RIVERS ARE SUPPOSED TO COME FROM. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Nothing wishy-washy about them.

Brawny, emerald-hued streams, bottomed by salt-and-pepper-speckled granite, lorded over by bald eagles.

Gravel bars and plentiful skipping rocks, ever-shifting side channels, the roar of rapids, big downed trees that were no match for the power of relentless currents, logjams, deep eddies, Carrock-sized boulders.

They’re the kind of Western waters that get admitted into the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act as birthright.

BLACKBERRIES ALONG THE DUWAMISH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The Duwamish?

A guide marker for winter morning and evening flights of crows.

Deceptively brown as it slithers over its silt bed.

Carrier of flotsam, and overgrown by brambles and other invasives.

Damned to indecision, reversing itself twice a day in late summer and fall, and carrying the occasional dead body first towards saltwater, then sending it back upstream as if realizing it would be immoral to dump it in the Superfund zone when the tide changes but not having any better ideas either.

Ahem.

Apparently it’s possible to be an elitist snob about rivers, because that’s what I was, someone who looked down his nose at a stream running a course that geology, a volcano and more than a little help from mankind have dealt it.

But I’m working on it, and salmon fishing has been that path.

DUWAMISH RIVER COHO. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

I WOULD HAVE REMAINED IGNORANT OF THE DUWAMISH — other than it being somewhere underneath one of the many bridges between home and the Columbia — had we not moved the offices of Northwest Sportsman magazine and our other titles from Seattle’s stadium district to an office park a hail Mary away from the river in late 2013.

By then, that year’s pink, coho and kings had long become nutrients, and the chums and hatchery steelhead were in its upper end, so it was too late for any before-work, lunch-hour or after-work casts.

I ignored 2014’s silver run, as I’m admittedly a rather late devotee of freshwater coho (saltwater is something else), so it really wasn’t until August 2015 that I began sniffing around the river with an eye for access points to odd-year humpies.

Fishermen’s paths through the brambles took me down to a foreign water, one with a different smell, a dirty hem line that marked high tide on leaves trailing into the river, and the slickest looking mud you’ll ever see disappearing into unknown depths.

Danish bogman country.

AN ANGLER’S SHADOW ON THE DUWAMISH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Gingerly, I gave it a go and before long I thought I had figured out how to catch Duwamish pinks, but the fish would soon show me that in fact I did not know very much at all.

Afterwards I began to discover that the river carries an amazing story.

At one time the valley its lower end sidles through was actually a saltwater channel, a sheltered marine passage between what would become the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, according to the Burke Museum.

In those days, returning pinks, kings, coho and chums would have swam past what you might call “SeaTac Island” to enter the Duwamish.

Eventually that channel was filled in by multiple mudflows that came off of Mt. Rainier and gradually pushed the mouth of the river north.

In its Waterlines exhibit, the Burke says that 2,000 years ago, the estuary was right here in Tukwila, somewhere by the Fun Center, the Sounders’ practice facilities, Southcenter Mall, the casinos.

But then a huge earthquake 11 centuries ago lifted the land on the south side of the ominous Seattle Fault by 20 feet, moving the river’s mouth to where it is on Elliott Bay today.

THE SUN SHINES ON THE DIMINISHED DUWAMISH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

At that time, the Duwamish was a far mightier river, collecting the runoff from a nearly 1,700-square-mile watershed that stretched from Everett, Mukilteo and Mill Creek in the north, to Redmond and Stampede and Naches Passes on the Cascade Crest in the east, to the massive Emmons Glacier on the northeast side of Mt. Rainier in the south.

It was fed by the Sammamish and Cedar Rivers, which drained into Lake Washington and out as the Black River.

And the Black met the combined flows of the Green and White Rivers at Fort Dent to form the Duwamish.

The system was “highly productive” for salmon, according to the Burke, and Native American villages and longhouses once stood near the mouth and along Elliott Bay. The area where Longfellow Creek flows off of West Seattle might have even been the site of a tribal smelt fishery, the museum suggests.

AMONG THE WILDLIFE I’VE SEEN ALONG THE BANKS OF THE DUWAMISH ARE BEAVERS, RACCOONS, WEASELS, KINGFISHERS, WOOD DUCKS AND PACIFIC TREE FROGS. SEA LIONS AND HARBOR SEALS ALSO SWIM UP THE RIVER IN SEARCH OF SALMON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

DUWAMISH COHO ARE NOT THE EASIEST FISH TO CATCH, at least in my experience the past three falls.

It seems like I’ve primarily been engaged in moving product off of the rack at Outdoor Emporium and putting it up on the wrack that is all the submerged obstructions in the river.

Needless to say, I’ve had plenty of time to ponder why coho jump. Just because? The sheer thrill? To shake loose sea lice? Coming up on unexpected underwater obstacles? One after another does seem to leap in the exact same spots, I’ve noticed.

Recently as I was making a steeply slanted bank more hospitable to stand and cast from I came across alternating layers of brown-orange and dark gray soils. I’m no geologist but it suggested flood deposits from different sources.

The farmers who began working the Green and Puyallup Valleys in the late 1800s had differing ideas about where the silty White should drain.

Growers on the King County side would dynamite a logjam to get the river to flow west instead of north, and then farmers on the Pierce County side would blow up a bluff to force it north instead of west.

It went on for decades, with rifle-armed patrols watching warily what the other side was up to.

THE GREEN-DUWAMISH FLOWS THROUGH AN INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR AND ALONGSIDE RAIL LINES LEADING TO THE PORT OF SEATTLE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Then in 1906, “it all became moot,” reports Washington’s HistoryLink.org. One of Mother Nature’s infamous November atmospheric rivers sent such a flood downstream that it permanently shifted the White into the Puyallup River and its waters now meet Puget Sound at Commencement Bay instead of Elliott Bay.

A decade after losing that major tributary, the Duwamish was abandoned by the bulk of three more — all of the Sammamish and Cedar and nearly the entire Black — when the ship canal was opened and Lake Washington dipped 9 feet.

The Black is now just a trickle but it will periodically and temporarily rise with murky water when a dam releases water from a nearby riparian area. The watershed has shrunk to only 492 square miles.

Meanwhile, downstream, the estuary of the Duwamish was being filled in to make a deeper, better harbor for shipping interests.

Development backed up the valley, like the river itself rises at high tide. Riprap and flood protection levees straight-jacketed its course.

Whistle-stops and burgs became towns, towns became cities — a fake city even sprang up during World War II when the roof of Boeing’s B-17 factory on the lower river was camouflaged.

OIL SHEEN ON PAVEMENT IN A PARKING LOT NEAR THE DUWAMISH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

No doubt that the bombers that came out of the plant were instrumental in winning the war, but what also came out of the facility in the form of PCBs and other effluents was devastating to the home front and the area was declared a Superfund site. Cleanup there wrapped up in 2015, with a mile’s worth declared “award-winning new habitat areas” by the EPA.

Even as work continues on other polluted sites in the lower river, anglers are advised in nine different languages not to eat resident fish or shellfish.

My family and I have eaten several Duwamish coho the past three falls, and I plan to serve up some more, as sea-going salmon are on the safe list.

I think with the change in the weather this week that is more likely — as long as it doesn’t rain too hard. Even as contaminants are removed from near the mouth, storms are flushing street runoff into the river and it’s now believed that something in our vehicles’ tires is especially toxic to coho.

RAIN FALLS ON I-5 NEAR THE RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

TODAY MARKS THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and I recently ran a photo essay on Northwest streams protected by the Congressional legislation signed by President Johnson in 1968.

There’s the muscular Rogue and Sauk, the deeply remote Imnaha and Owyhee, and the fishy Chetco and Klickitat.

The Duwamish couldn’t be more different — to fish it is to hear the roar, hammering and squeal of the cogs of the industrial world’s engines in motion — and I doubt it will ever join that prestigious club, but it has helped me see that messy, overlooked, down-on-their-luck rivers are important too.

In recent summers I’ve found myself fretting about its water temperatures, and drawing up plans for fish habitat projects.

And it’s got something else going for it. Earlier this fall, guided by the advice of a fellow angler I met on the banks last year, I caught my first two Chinook out of the river.

DUWAMISH FALL CHINOOK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Duwamish kings were recently identified as among the most important stocks for our starving orcas, as key as salmon from the pristine and well-protected Elwha and Skagit Rivers.

Yes, there are wild and scenic elements of the river — Flaming Geyser — but the portion that I’ve gotten to know is anything but. Yet in doing so I’ve come to appreciate that there are more kinds of rivers. As long as there are salmon and salmon fishermen of all kinds are able to fish its runs, it will help keep the pressure on to clean up and restore the Duwamish. I think we owe that to a river we have so altered.

And now to catch one of its coho.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this mistakenly called Flaming Geyser Flaming Gorge. 

WDFW Closes More Sections Of Willapa Tribs, But Reopens Bay For Coho

THE FOLLOWING ARE EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Salmon fishing to close in Willapa Bay tributaries 

Action: Sections of Willapa Bay tributaries will remain closed for salmon fishing until further notice.

WILLAPA BAY TRIBUTARIES LIKE THE NASELLE, WHERE THIS COHO WAS CAUGHT, ARE BEING CLOSED DUE TO A LOW CHINOOK RUN, BUT NOW THAT FALL STOCKS HAVE CLEARED THE SALTWATER STATE MANAGERS HAVE REOPENED MARINE AREA 2-1. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective dates: Oct. 1 until further notice

Species affected:  Salmon.

Location: North Nemah River from Nemah Hatchery barrier dam to N700 Rd.; Willapa River from Fork Creek to Hwy. 6 Bridge; Fork Creek from Forks Creek Hatchery rack upstream 500’ at fishing boundary sign; North River from Hwy. 105 Bridge to Fall River; and Smith Creek from mouth to Hwy. 101 Bridge.

Reason for action: These sections of Willapa Bay tributaries were scheduled to open Oct. 1 for salmon fishing. WDFW previously closed the lower stretches of these tributaries to protect returning fall chinook.

Fall chinook are returning to tributaries of Willapa Bay in significantly lower numbers than preseason predictions in all fisheries. Closing the salmon fisheries will increase the number of hatchery fish available to make egg take goals at this time.

Additional information:  Managers will continue to assess Chinook returns and re-open if warranted. 

The following sections of Willapa Bay tributaries remain closed to salmon fishing until further notice:

Bear River from mouth to Lime Quarry Road; Naselle River from mouth to Naselle Hatchery attraction channel; Middle Nemah River from mouth to Middle Nemah A-Line; North Nemah River from HWY 101 to bridge on Nemah Valley Road; South Nemah River, from mouth upstream; Willapa River from mouth to Fork Creek; and South Fork Willapa River from mouth to Pehl Rd. bridge.

Salmon fishing to re-open in Marine 2-1 and the Willapa Bay Control Zone 

Action: Marine area 2-1 (Willapa Bay) and the Willapa Bay Control Zone to re-open for coho and chum salmon fishing. The daily limit is six salmon, up to two adult salmon may be retained. Release chinook.

Effective dates: Sept. 27 until further notice

Species affected:  Salmon.

Location: Marine Area 2-1, Willapa Bay Control Zone.

Reason for action: Fall chinook returns to tributaries of Willapa Bay have been significantly lower than preseason predictions and hatchery returns are lower than needed to make egg take at this time. Historic run-timing and stock composition data suggests minimal fall chinook encounters are likely to occur in marine area fisheries.

Additional information: Anglers must stop fishing for salmon after the adult portion of the daily limit is retained.

Managers will continue to assess chinook returns and species composition of marine area fisheries in order to determine if additional actions are warranted.

Chance To Comment On Orca Recommendations

You have two weeks to submit comments on potential proposals that Washington’s southern resident killer whale task force‘s three working groups rolled out yesterday.

The task force as a whole will review the public’s submissions in mid-October and send a final report with its agreed-to recommendations to Governor Jay Inslee in mid-November.

AN ORCA BREACHES IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS. (BLM)

Some of the ideas that will catch the eyes of fishermen include:

  • Boost hatchery Chinook production: There are three proposals, with 1A calling for increased releases, 1B for pilot projects and 1C, a combination of both along with habitat improvements. Upping production would require funding for more infrastructure and to complete scientific reviews;
  • Fund habitat purchases and restoration projects benefiting key Chinook stocks;
  • Develop a system to be able to close sport and commercial fisheries when orcas are in key feeding zones. This could go into effect by next spring and would appear to be dependent on setting up more hydrophones to better track SRKW movements, which is another potential recommendation;
  • Ask fishermen and boaters to switch their fish- and depthfinders from 50 kHz to 200 kHz within half a mile of orcas;
  • Buyout nontreaty commercial licenses and work with the tribes to consider the feasibility of doing so with treaty fishermen or switching to gear with lower impacts on Chinook;
  • Establish a half-mile-wide, 7-knots-or-less go-slow zone around orcas;
  • Create new no-go zones on the west side of San Juan Island and elsewhere in the islands and Strait of Juan de Fuca;
  • Continue studying the problem of pinniped predation on Chinook or begin a pilot program to immediately start removing the haul-outs of salmon-eating harbor seals, or both, as well as continue pushing the federal government for more management options to deal with sea lions in the Columbia and its tribs;
  • Reclassify walleye and bass as invasive, which would remove the “game fish” designation and subsequent rules against wastage;
  • Study whether altering the McNary Pool’s elevation would reduce the numbers of salmonid smolt-eating fish in the reservoir;
  • Develop a better understanding of Puget Sound forage fish populations;
  • Support Chinook reintroduction into the Upper Columbia and prioritize removing fish passage barriers that would benefit stocks elsewhere;
  • And continue to be involved in the conversation surrounding what to do with the four dams on the lower Snake River to varying degrees.

A HARBOR SEAL STEALS A CHINOOK OFF THE END OF AN ANGLER’S LINE IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS. (HUGH ALLEN)

There are many more, including potential recommendations addressing habitat, hydropower operations, contaminants and marine vessels.

The task force was convened earlier this year when the governor signed an executive order directing state agencies to begin doing what they could to help out the orcas, which are struggling due to lack of Chinook and other factors.

WDFW STAFFER EDWARD ELEAZER PARTICIPATED IN A TRIAL TO SEE WHETHER IT WAS POSSIBLE TO FEED AILING ORCA J50, NOW PRESUMED DEAD. A LACK OF CHINOOK IS STARVING LOCAL PODS. (KATY FOSTER/NOAA/FLICKR)

Since members of the panel — which includes Puget Sound Anglers’ Ron Garner, the Northwest Marine Trade Association’s George Harris, Long Live the Kings’ Jacques White, WDFW’s Brad Smith and Amy Windrope, tribal members and legislators Rep. Brian Blake and Sen. Kevin Ranker — began meeting two whales have died, including a newborn and a three-year-old adding urgency to the mission.

Some ideas did not make the cut from the working groups, but near the end of the public survey a question asks if they would otherwise be part of your top five strategies.

Those include further reducing fishing time in the Straits and San Juans in summer; coming up with a limited-entry recreational fishing permit system for key orca foraging areas; increasing WDFW’s hydraulic code enforcement budget; working with the Burlington Northern Sante Fe railroad on habitat work along the tracks as they run up Puget Sound; and pushing for the Corps of Engineers to quit the four dams on the lower Snake and then take them out, among others.

Managers Look For Ways To Reopen Lower Columbia For Coho

Don’t put those lures away just yet, Columbia salmon anglers.

Washington managers say they’re looking to see if they can reopen a large section of the lower river for coho, but it depends on Snake-bound Chinook getting out of the way first and federal buy-in.

COHO RETENTION HAD BEEN SCHEDULED TO CONTINUE DEEP INTO FALL ON THE COLUMBIA BUT WILL CLOSE EARLY DUE TO CONCERNS ABOUT LOW RETURNS OF CHINOOK. (CHRIS SPENCER)

The good news comes after a sharply downgraded fall king forecast earlier this month put nontreaty fisheries on that ESA-listed stock over allowable impacts by half a percentage point, leading to the big river being shut down to salmon fishing all the way from Buoy 10 to the Tri-Cities.

Yet as Idaho Chinook begin to clear the Lower Columbia, angling has already been greenlighted in side channels at the mouth starting this coming Monday, and more water below Bonneville could be reopened as well.

“We know there are healthy numbers of harvestable coho returning to the Columbia over the next month that could be harvested, so we are making every effort to explore the options,” said WDFW Fish Program head Ron Warren in an unusual statement posted to the agency’s website yesterday.

He added that while managers will be going over all of the fisheries, he didn’t anticipate that the river above the dam will be reopened.

October does produce coho below Bonneville, but not like above there as late stocks return to east Gorge tribs like the Klickitat River next month and in November.

This month’s “rare” closure of the Columbia displeased anglers who have otherwise enjoyed stellar salmon seasons this decade.

And they want to raise our fees for next year?” Timothy Hermsen posted on our Facebook page in response to the news.

But they [just] opened the mouth of the Deshutes … makes sense … SMFH,” added Troy Broders.

And Jamie N Travis Larson theorized, Hanford Reach is going to get a whole lot busier.”

Yes, but even there the limit has been reduced to one adult king a day.

The upriver bright run, which returns to the Reach and Idaho, was originally forecast to come in at 205,060, but last week was downgraded to 122,600 fish, “60% of the preseason forecast,” and it potentially could end up as “the lowest return since 2007,” according to a fact sheet.

Accrued impacts by recreational and nontreaty commercial fishermen on Snake wilds hit 8.73 percent; the allowable rate at this runsize was 8.25 percent.

Warren said that keeping the river open, even under rules requiring kings to be released, would have been a violation of the Endangered Species Act because of potential additional mortalities.

“It is a rare event to exceed an ESA impact limit, and we take this apparent overage very seriously,” he said in what also reads in part as a mea culpa, the second offered by top salmon managers for the fall season on the Columbia. “Fishery managers take great care to plan fisheries that remain within the federally allowed ESA limit, and we will be considering changes to our management to avoid repeating this situation. After all, we expect project proponents and others whose actions affect salmon to adhere to ESA requirements, and we have the same expectations for our own areas of responsibility.”

This year’s preseason prediction was a far cry from recent ones, when as many as 954,100 fall Chinook were counted at Bonneville and over 1.3 million entered the Columbia.

Warren blamed the low numbers on 2015’s drought and the Blob, the effects of which lingered as this year’s fish were in the North Pacific, and he said that 2019 could see poor returns too due to the age structure of the run, comprised largely of 4-year-old fish.

But in the meanwhile, there’s a chance anglers will be able to get back on the lower river this fall as late coho roll upstream.

“For that to happen, fishery managers must be able to demonstrate that ESA-listed Snake River wild fish are no longer likely to be caught or handled in the fishery,” Warren explained.

Coded-wire tag data shows that angling near the mouth of the Columbia has “virtually no impact” on listed upriver kings after September’s third week, allowing for SAFE zones to reopen to recs and comms.

He said that WDFW and ODFW will coordinate with federal overseers to open “individual fisheries” where appropriate as number crunching shows it’s possible.

On Rivers, ‘Hallways’ And Rooms For Salmon To Grow

It was a tale of two rivers growing up.

OK, three, since we lived for several years just off the banks of the Sultan, a tributary of the Skykomish. Born in the mountains and cutting through canyons, they’ve always symbolized true rivers in my mind.

The other was the Sammamish, which in one section between Woodinville and Redmond runs as straight and true as any of my fishing rods.

Guess which one of those streams is the least natural and fish-friendly?

THE SAMMAMISH RIVER/SLOUGH ON A FOGGY DAY NEAR WOODINVILLE. (FENIXFYRE, WIKIMEDIA)

Yes, I’ve cast a line in “the slough” and actually caught stuff.

Pikeminnows at the mouth of Little Bear Creek during my teens with Dad while trying to catch rumored large rainbows.

Big, bacon-biting crawdads below the railroad bridge to the old DeYoung Feed Mill.

A huge horkin’ smallie and cutthroat trout below the lake in my 20s.

But shallow, weedy and heated by the summer sun, good fish habitat the Sammamish is not.

Especially that curveless north-south-bearing 1-plus-mile stretch alongside the turf and Christmas tree farms by the former Redhook Brewery.

A SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS SHOWS A STRAIGHT, DREDGED STRETCH OF THE SAMMAMISH RIVER BETWEEN WOODINVILLE AND REDMOND. (GOOGLE MAPS)

It can be hard to explain to folks what’s wrong with that picture, but I found a great quote in a story about the recent closure of Blewett Pass.

The early September project allowed WSDOT and its contractors to put in new fish passage structures in areas a creek had been straightened for Highway 97.

“The streams that we’re trying to restore are like a house that’s made just of hallways,” Scott Nicolai, a habitat biologist with the Yakama Nation, told reporter Eilis O’Neil.

“Imagine walking into a house and there are no bedrooms, no kitchens, no bathrooms,” Nicolai said. “And that is what a lot of our streams look like today. They’re very straight—only one wet spot along the bottom of the floodplain.”

At one time the Sammamish River was a winding 30-mile-long wetland complex between Lakes Sammamish and Washington.

But between the lowering of the latter in the early 1900s and then a 1964 Army Corps of Engineers straightening project, it shrank to just 13 miles long.

That worked pretty well for farming the fertile soils and funneling off floodwaters — the hallway effect — but didn’t leave much room for fish to just chillax and scarf down bugs and whatnot.

An announcer in an old-time film clip dramatizing the famous boat races on the slough inadvertently made a great point about its diminished value as habitat: “It has about enough water in spots to accommodate a dozen minnows comfortably.”

But now more space for fish is coming online in the system, thanks to a recently completed restoration project in Bothell.

A CITY OF BOTHELL MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE SIDE CHANNEL AND HABITAT RESTORATION PROJECT, WHICH IS JUST ACROSS THE WOODEN BRIDGE FROM THE PARK AT BOTHELL LANDING. (BOTHELL)

An 1,100-foot-long side channel of the Sammamish at Bothell is now providing quarters, galley, game room and outhouses for young wild Chinook and coho, as well as cutthroat and any remnant steelhead.

It’s not precisely clear how highly Lake Washington basin fall kings rate in terms of killer whale forage, but I think with how key the river systems to the immediate north and south are for the struggling southern residents, it’s safe to say this was probably money fortuitously spent by the King Conservation District and state Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

Elsewhere in the county, a 700-foot-long constructed reach on the Green-Duwamish between Kent and Auburn known as Riverview was found to hold way more young kings and across all stream flows than four other surveyed stretches.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all in favor of a big increase in hatchery Chinook production where it makes the most sense.

Projects like this and others — which I’m also totally in favor of (here’s my own idea) — will take time to produce real results for salmon and orcas.

But here’s to remodeling rivers to make them more complete homes for fish in the meanwhile.

US, Canada Agree To New West Coast Salmon Treaty

Updated 4:29 p.m. Sept. 17, 2018

US and Canadian salmon managers have reached a new 10-year agreement on Chinook harvest and conservation, one that must still be approved in the countries’ capitals but calls for reduced northern interceptions when runs are poor.

GUIDE BOB REES NETS A CHINOOK AT BUOY 10. SALMON RETURNS TO THE MOUTH OF THE COLUMBIA WOULD SEE ADDITIONAL PROTECTIONS WHILE TRANSITING NORTHERN WATERS DURING YEARS OF LOWER RUNS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Fisheries off Southeast Alaska would be cut as much as 7.5 percent from 2009-15 levels in those years, while those off the west coast of Vancouver Island would be pruned up to 12.5 percent.

Those are key areas that Washington- and Columbia River-bound kings travel through during their ocean sojourn and a bone of contention for managers at all levels.

“I think that thorniness is why it took the countries two and a half years and numerous negotiation sessions,” said John Field, the executive secretary of the Pacific Salmon Commission.

The update to the international treaty would run from Jan. 1, 2019 through 2028 and be in effect down to Cape Falcon, Oregon. It also covers chums, sockeye, pinks and coho.

Field termed the section on Chinook a “long and complicated chapter” and said that all parties are acknowledging that the species isn’t recovering as well as we’d like, so the burden of harvest cuts is being spread out.

According to Governor Jay Inslee’s office, “Fisheries in Washington will remain tightly constrained unless runs exceed management objectives.”

Alaska salmon managers report that Washington and Oregon fisheries could see reductions from 5 to 15 percent.

Washington’s member of the salmon commission, Phil Anderson, the retired WDFW director, said the plan would “create a better future for salmon in Washington.”

Field, who counts himself as a sports fishermen, said that fellow anglers can rest assured that Chinook management will be improved with “augmentations” in the treaty, including improved tagging for mark-selective fisheries, a 10-year schedule to upgrade monitoring of “sentinel” stocks and a review after five years to see if the reductions are actually yielding better king runs.

The importance of Chinook has been in the spotlight of late with the plight of southern resident killer whales and the likely death of yet another one, J50.

According to Inslee’s office, US salmon commissioners will seek out more money from Washington DC for habitat and hatchery work.

“Additional federal funding is essential in order to make the key conservation work possible to recover salmon, and in turn, our orca,” Inslee said.

“Successful updates to the Pacific Salmon Treaty through 2028 will help ensure long-term sustainable and healthy salmon populations that are vital to the people of the Pacific Northwest, and to the entire ecosystem,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown in a press release.