Tag Archives: coho

Sea Lions, Other Marine Mammals Discovering South Sound Anchovy Boom

A large suite of marine mammals has discovered Deep South Sound’s new bounty of anchovies, schools of which are now so numerous they’re routinely observed during regular aerial surveys.

For three months this past winter, WDFW biologist Steve Jeffries observed hundreds of California sea lions, as well as harbor seals, harbor porpoises and long-beaked common dolphins feeding on a massive pod of the skinny, silvery baitfish in Case Inlet north of Olympia.

IN THIS SCREEN SHOT OF AN IMAGE FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY’S JUNE EYES OVER PUGET SOUND REPORT, MARINE MAMMALS INCLUDE CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS SWIM IN A SOUTH PUGET SOUND INLET WHERE THEY FEED ON HUGE SCHOOLS OF ANCHOVIES. (COURTESY D.O.E.)

Anchovy populations have boomed in these waters since 2015 and the Blob’s warm waters.

What’s more, the pinnipeds and cetaceans appeared to be teaming up on them.

Jeffries says he would watch them forage in a 3/4-mile-wide by 3-mile-long oval from Herron Island up to Hartstine Point south to McMicken Island.

From his boat he could only guess at what was going on under the glass-calm surface, but it’s possible that as the sea lions and dolphins slashed through the anchovies, the other marine mammals waited close by to pick off stunned fish, he says.

“You wouldn’t even know they were there for four to six minutes. Everybody would be down,” Jeffries recalls.

As the sea lions swim along on top, the surface boils with them, a video taken by a Department of Ecology aerial photographer shows.

To double check what they were feeding on, Jeffries says biologists “scooped poop” and jigged the depths, reconfirming anchovies were on the menu.

Sea lions have another tactic as well.

“It looked to us like they pushed the bait into the cove; basically, they cornered them,” he said of another instance in Carr Inlet.

That can also lead to die-offs as the sheer volume of fish can “create a localized, low-oxygen event,” which may have been to blame when a bunch turned up dead in May 2018 in Liberty Bay near Poulsbo.

In one South Sound beach seine net set, scientists caught a staggering 250,000 anchovies in 2017.

ANCHOVIES CAUGHT IN A BEACH SEINE IN OCTOBER 2017. (PHILLIP DIONNE, WDFW)

High tidal fluctuations can also strand the fish as the water recedes.

The feast on the salty fish ended in March when another marine mammal discovered the sated sea lions — 25 transient orcas that sailed through the Tacoma Narrows to Case Inlet.

Transients are the ones that nosh on sea lions and seals; weaker-jawed southern resident killer whales only eat softer salmon and steelhead primarily.

SO WHAT DOES THIS EXPLOSION of anchovies mean?

“I think it bodes well for salmon in the future,” says Jeffries. “Marine mammals are not the only ones that eat anchovies.”

He suggests that anglers also might switch to lures that look like the skinny, 3-inch-long baitfish.

“Put an anchovy-mimic fly on,” Jeffries says.

ANCHOVY HAVE OCCURRED INTERMITTENTLY IN PUGET SOUND OVER THE DECADES AND ARE NOW IN THE BOOM PART OF THEIR POPULATION CYCLE. (PHILLIP DIONNE, WDFW)

Pinnipeds are drawing the ire of fishermen as studies show that they’re intercepting outmigrating smolts, which has been highlighted in part by spring’s Survive the Sound online challenge, not to mention returning adult salmon and steelhead.

As WDFW’s point man on sea lions Jeffries finds himself in the thick of that debate, so I asked him if this all might lead to “prey switching.”

“If you were a sea lion, would you chase one (salmon or steelhead) smolt or a school?” he asked me in return.

Based on Jeffries’ counts of 150 to 250 sea lions in Case Inlet over a three-month period and the needs of the 350- to 700-pound animals to eat 5 to 7 percent of their body weight each day to sustain themselves, WDFW forage fish researcher Phillip Dionne came up with a back-of-the-envelope estimate that they consumed between 118 tons to 551 tons, with a midpoint of 283 tons, more than half a million pounds.

“… Assuming they were only eating anchovy, the sea lions may have eaten more biomass of anchovy in three months than our estimate of spawning biomass of herring (south of the Tacoma Narrows bridge) was for 2018 spawning season,” says Dionne.

Jeffries says anchovies represent “an alternate prey source” that’s in high abundance.

A paper published in the journal Deep Sea Research Part II in January notes that survival rates on acoustically tagged winter steelhead smolts leaving the nearby Nisqually River jumped from 6 to 38 percent between 2014 and 2016.

“Predation buffering by abundant anchovy is one hypothesis to explain this change,” it states.

THE DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY’S LATEST EYES OVER PUGET SOUND REPORT SHOWS NUMEROUS SCHOOLS OF FISH IN MARINE AREA 13, LIKELY ANCHOVIES. (COURTESY D.O.E.)

ANCHOVIES HAVE BEEN INTERMITTENTLY ABUNDANT over the past century and a half, according to the paper, which looked at their historical fluctuations.

They apparently appeared in big numbers in the late 1890s — “they could be dipped up with a common water bucket” in a Port Townsend bay and were recorded as such in the late 1920s, late 1960s, mid-1980s, 2005, and again since 2015.

In the deeper past, “anchovy were the third most abundant fish in First Nations archaeological sites up to 3000 years old” in Burrard Inlet, on which Vancouver, B.C., sits.

It’s hard to say how long this latest anchovy boom will continue or how fast it may fade away and bust like in the past.

Though salmon and steelhead prefer cooler water, WDFW’s Dionne says that if warmer water sticks around, it could last longer than past ones.

While we yearn for clear-cut answers, that’s not the nature of Mother Nature.

“It’s difficult to say if this is going to be a good thing or a bad thing,” Dionne says. “California sea lions certainly love it.”

Northwest States, Tribes Apply To Feds For OK To Kill More Columbia Sea Lions

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), along with a consortium of state and tribal partners, today submitted an expanded application to lethally remove California and Steller sea lions preying on threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia River and its tributaries.

SEA LIONS GATHER INSIDE THE MOUTH OF THE COWEEMAN RIVER AT KELSO, MOST LIKELY FOLLOWING THE 2016 RUN OF ESA-LISTED EULACHON, OR SMELT, UP THE COLUMBIA RIVER. (SKYLAR MASTERS)

California sea lions — and increasingly, Steller sea lions — have been observed in growing numbers in the Columbia River basin, especially in the last decade. These sea lions prey heavily on salmon and steelhead runs listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including thousands of fish at Bonneville Dam each year.

The impacts come at a time when many Chinook salmon runs are already at historic lows.

The recovery of sea lions since the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) in 1972 is a success story, said Kessina Lee, Region 5 director with WDFW. But that recovery has also brought challenges.

“The vast majority of these animals remain in coastal and offshore waters, but several hundred have established themselves in upriver locations,” Lee said. “Where salmon and steelhead numbers are low, any unmanaged increase in predation can cause serious problems.”

Predator management is a key part of a multi-faceted effort to restore salmon and steelhead populations in the Pacific Northwest.

“For decades, we’ve made strides in habitat restoration, hydropower policy, hatchery production, and fishery management, and we continue to work with our partners to further those initiatives,” Lee said. “Predator management remains an essential part of the equation.”

The application submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) by WDFW and its partners is the first since Congress passed an amendment to the MMPA in December 2018. That amendment, spearheaded by the Pacific Northwest congressional delegation, passed with strong bipartisan support and offers greater flexibility to wildlife managers when determining if a sea lion should be lethally removed in waters that host ESA-listed runs of salmon or steelhead.

“Based on years of experience working within the bounds of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Columbia River fishing tribes contend that predator management is necessary to restore balance to the Columbia River system,” said Ryan Smith, chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “Strong partnerships and collaboration with the states, northwest congressional delegation, federal authorities, and nongovernment organizations resulted in this amendment, which applies robust tools to manage sea lions in the lower Columbia River and recognizes tribal sovereignty in that management.”

WDFW and its partners have taken steps to deter California sea lions in the Columbia River basin for more than a decade, but non-lethal measures have proven largely ineffective, driving animals away for only short periods. These hazing measures appear similarly ineffective against Steller sea lions. Non-lethal measures continue to be used as a short-term deterrent when appropriate.

Wildlife managers have conducted lethal removal operations of California sea lions in the Columbia River basin since 2008, when NMFS first issued a letter of authorization under section 120 of the MMPA. From 2008-2019, wildlife managers removed a total of 219 California sea lions that met the federal criteria for removal below Bonneville Dam.

Steller sea lions have not previously been subject to lethal removal.

“Prior to this legislation, wildlife managers were severely limited in their ability to effectively manage sea lions in these areas,” Lee said. “Additional action is required to protect these troubled fish stocks before they are completely eliminated. This is an unfortunate, but necessary step in the salmon recovery process.”

If approved, WDFW expects to begin humanely removing animals under the terms of the expanded application beginning in 2020. The application is subject to a public comment period and review by NMFS. Members of the public can review the application at https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2019-06/MMPA-120f-application.pdf.

Other entities submitting the application with WDFW include the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon (CTWSR), The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, and the 3.6.D Committee, which includes ODFW, CTUIR, CTWSR, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community, and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians of Oregon.

Washington’s Ocean Salmon Season Opens June 22; ‘Great Ops’ For Coho

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

Sport anglers will have the opportunity to reel in salmon off the Washington coast starting Saturday, June 22.

That’s when all four marine areas open daily to fishing for Chinook and coho salmon, said Wendy Beeghley, a fishery manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

GARY LUNDQUIST AND GRANDDAUGHTER MARIAH SHOW OFF A PAIR OF HATCHERY COHO CAUGHT OFF WESTPORT LAST SUMMER ABOARD LUNDQUIST’S BOAT, THE “SKYHOOK.” (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“Anglers can expect some great opportunities to fish for coho this summer,” Beeghley said. “With increased numbers of coho projected to return, we have a much higher catch quota for coho this year in comparison with the last few years.”

The coho quota for 2019 is 159,600 fish, up 117,600 over last year. Meanwhile, the Chinook catch quota is 26,250 fish, which is 1,250 fewer fish than 2018’s quota.

In marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport), anglers can retain two salmon, only one of which can be a chinook. Anglers fishing in marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) will have a two-salmon daily limit. In all marine areas, anglers must release wild coho.

Anglers should be aware the daily limit for the section of Marine Area 4 east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line is listed incorrectly for June 22-July 31 in 2019-2020 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. The daily limit for the area during that timeframe is two salmon.

Although all four marine areas are scheduled to close Sept. 30, Beeghley reminds anglers that areas could close earlier if the quota is met. A section of Marine Area 3 also will re-open Oct. 1 through Oct. 13, or until a quota of 100 Chinook or 100 coho is met.

Throughout the summer, anglers can check WDFW’s webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports/creel/ocean for updates.

More information about the fisheries can be found in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, available at license vendors and sporting goods stores and online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

Lake Sammamish ‘Warm Water Test Fishery’ Netting Raises Questions

Lee Getzewich had heard that there was some gillnetting going on on Lake Sammamish, a water he’s fished for more than 25 years, and it gave him some pause.

But believing it to be just a “study,” the Issaquah resident decided to hit it earlier this month anyway.

A MUCKLESHOOT NET BOAT SITS MOORED TO A DOCK AT THE LAKE SAMMAMISH STATE PARK BOAT RAMP. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“What we love about it is that it is such a diverse and quality fishery,” Getzewich says of the 4,900-acre King County lake. “We regularly target warmwater species such as bass, crappie, and perch, but we also enjoy the great cutthroat trout fishing, particularly during colder weather.”

When fresh fish is on their menu, yellowbellies and sometimes specks are the target, but that midspring weekday morning, he and his neighbor planned to catch and release cutts and smallies.

“This time of year, when the trout are keying in on the smolts, we regularly catch 20 to 30 cutts in a day, some going over 25 inches,” Getzewich states. “Twenty-seven inches is the biggest I can recall.”

The plan was to cast into the pods of coho just released from the state salmon hatchery in hopes of catching cutthroat preying on the young fish, but after launching at Lake Sammamish State Park’s southeast corner boat ramp they saw nets being deployed off the mouth of Issaquah Creek.

AN ANGLER FISHES OFF THE MOUTH OF ISSAQUAH CREEK, PROBABLY FOR CUTTHROAT TROUT OR SMALLMOUTH BASS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Motoring over to learn more they began talking to the two-person crew. Getzewich says they were shown totes with the previous night’s catch.

“He held up and showed us a sucker fish about 1 pound, but I could see several smallmouth bass and what looked like small crappie in the bin,” Getzewich recalls.

The crew told them that the fish were all being kept so their stomach contents could be studied, and that they were just doing what they’d been told to by biologists.

Getzewich and his neighbor left and fished elsewhere on Sammamish. The day was slow, and they only caught a few small perch and saw some small bass in the shallows at the lake’s north end, where the slough forms.

Afterwards, though, he talked to a buddy with a fisheries degree about what he’d seen and now he isn’t so sure it can be considered a study.

“What I really want to know is, Why is this permitted? Who said this was OK? Why aren’t the people being kept in the loop about this? Where is our DFW?” asks Getzewich. “There is going to be a serious revolution amongst sportsmen if it keeps going.”

A FISHERMAN WATCHES HIS LINE FOR BITES AT LAKE SAMMAMISH STATE PARIK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

ON A MISTY MAY FRIDAY MORNING I decided to go check out things on Sammamish for myself.

With my luck I figured that if any nets were in the water, they would be halfway down the lake, well out of my smartphone camera’s range, so I grabbed my big Nikon and a telephoto lens and headed for the state park.

I parked at Sunset Beach, near a long row of upturned picnic tables, then wandered out on the trail to the mouth of Issaquah Creek, where a wading angler stood in water midthigh high about 30 yards offshore, casting and retrieving a lure.

With his tackle box back on dry land, he kept a wary eye on what I was up to as I peered into the murk for buoys marking strings of nets, but the only ones to be seen were the floats delineating the swimming area. Over on the other end of the string, an angler sat fishing the edge of the lily pads.

Turning around I went back and struck up a conversation with a plunker set up next to a long since fallen cottonwood. He said he was fishing for cutthroat and as we talked some salmon smolts began breaking the surface of the little bay he was on.

He told me that earlier in the day he’d seen a couple larger fish swim by together, but wasn’t quite sure whether they were trout, bass or something else. More and more of the young fish started jumping and as I zoomed in, there were a couple big swirls among the pod.

The angler didn’t really have anything to say about the netting and seemed more focused on trying to catch the fish making those swirls, so as the mist turned to a light sprinkle I left him to it and drove over to the boat ramp.

BUOYS MARK THE EDGE OF THE SWIMMING AREA AT LAKE SAMMAMISH STATE PARK’S SUNSET BEACH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

IT’S BEEN A LONG, LONG TIME SINCE I’VE USED this launch, though back when my dad lived in North Bend we’d put in his aluminum boat and fish it somewhat often.

I remember catching a really, really nice trout one time while we were anchored up just to the right of all the ramps. We ate that one as well as some bass we caught another time.

The last time I was on Sammamish was maybe 15 years or so ago with fellow F&H News staffer Jamie Parks. We hit the other southern corner that early spring day to fish for largemouth then zipped north to smallie waters, and on this morning three bassers were launching two boats.

Moored at the end of the leftmost dock was a net boat.

As he readied his craft, I asked the lone angler if he’d heard about the netting and after initially drawing a blank, he recalled fellow anglers mentioning some being dragged through the water.

The other two gents putting in were far more in tune with what’s been going on and they were not exactly happy about it.

As he swiped through pics on his phone of beautiful — and big — bronzebacks, Chris Senyohl, who operates a fly fishing guide service called Intrepid Anglers, told me that the nets had wiped out one of his best smallmouth spots.

His buddy said I’d just missed the net crew and that he’d seen them lift two largemouth out of their boat.

He said they’d been on the water every day during the work week, which is when he said he prefers to fish Sammamish.

HUNGRY PREDATORS GATHER AT THE SOUTH END OF LAKE SAMMAMISH IN SPRING TO SNARF DOWN JUST-RELEASED SALMON SMOLTS LIKE THESE COHO THAT SPILLED OUT OF THE BELLY OF A TROUT CAUGHT BY FAUSTINO RINCON. (FAUSTINO RINCON)

SLIGHTLY DAMP I CALLED IT A MORNING, drove past BMC West, where I worked for awhile after college loading lumber, fighting with customers over bent boards and drawing cartoons at the back gate, and headed in to my office.

I started working on this story on May 9, the day that the Muckleshoot Tribe sent out a notice showing they were intensifying their test fishery for warmwater species on Lake Sammamish and, coincidentally, the day that Lee Getzewich and his neighbor had fished there.

The notice showed that the effort could be expanded from two boats to three, with the maximum number of 3.75- to 6-inch-mesh gillnets tripling, from eight to up to 24.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that happened, but the regulation restated that the nets could be fished from 6 a.m. Monday until 6 p.m. Friday, by which time they’re to be removed for the weekend.

I left a voice mail on the Muckleshoot Fisheries department’s phone not long afterwards, but it hadn’t been returned as of Tuesday morning, May 28, so to figure out what’s going on, you have to zoom in on a couple different documents.

Probably the most important source of information is inside the LOAF — the 2019-20 List of Agreed Fisheries that was concurred to and signed on April 22 by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission coming out of the annual North of Falcon season-setting process.

The LOAF essentially lays out all of Western Washington’s salmon fisheries in salt- and freshwaters negotiated between the state and 20-plus tribes, and in the back are a number of appendixes.

Pages 83 to 85 detail what is termed the “2019-2020 Warm Water Test Fishery” to collect data whether a directed fishery on spinyrays in the Lake Washington watershed could be “commercially viable” while also avoiding impacts on Endangered Species Act-listed salmon and steelhead.

“Using large mesh gillnets will eliminate impacts on age-0 Chinook and any potential steelhead smolts migrating out to sea,” the project description states.

The Muckleshoots also state they want to “instrument” walleye they catch with acoustic receivers to see how much their range overlaps with outmigrating coho smolts to target those areas in the future.

Another document, the tribe’s 2016 watersheds report, adds context: “A recent tribal study found that fewer than 10% of coho smolts released from the Issaquah Hatchery survived their freshwater migration to Puget Sound. The Lake Washington basin’s miles of docks, bulkheads, rip-rap, warm water, and the many native and exotic fish predators favored by those degraded conditions are likely at fault.”

Their announcement that they were increasing netting efforts roughly coincided with this month’s release of millions of coho as well as Chinook smolts — the fish I saw jumping in the mist.

SALMON SMOLTS LEAP OUT OF THE LAKE, PERHAPS JUST HAPPY TO HAVE BEEN RELEASED FROM THE NEARBY ISSAQUAH HATCHERY OR MAYBE ATTEMPTING TO FLEE PREDATORY FISH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

THIS IS THE THIRD YEAR THE MUCKLESHOOT test fishery has been going on — it initially included Lake Washington — and it follows 2015’s unexpected discovery of more than a dozen walleye, including an egg-dripping 13-pound hen and six males close by her.

To paraphrase a retired state fisheries manager, whomever recently put walleye (and then northern pike) in the system was no friend of fellow anglers who’ve chased warmwater species for decades, but the Muckleshoots are more blunt; they use the word “criminal” to describe the act.

Besides its many native stocks, crappie have been in the watershed the longest, in Lake Washington since at least 1890, followed by largemouth in 1918, and smallmouth there and in Sammamish since sometime in the 1960s, perhaps earlier.

Lake Washington is ranked as one of the top 100 bass lakes in the entire country by Bassmaster magazine, and is 16th best in the Western U.S.

Local clubs regularly hit it and according to WDFW tournament fishing records, the average bass landed there during the last 10 years weighed 2.22 pounds; the average on Sammamish was 2.31 pounds.

As popular as they’ve become, the times they are a’changing. The plight of the orcas and their primary food has put a target on the fins of spinyrays.

Earlier this month Gov. Jay Inslee signed Second Substitute House Bill 1579 which primarily — and finally — gives WDFW some actual teeth to protect shoreline habitat for Chinook and their forage fish.

It also contains a clause that the Fish and Wildlife Commission must now “liberalize bag limits for bass, walleye, and channel catfish in all anadromous waters of the state in order to reduce the predation risk to salmon smolts.”

The latter idea came out of the governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force’s recommendations last year and it echoes current regulations on the Columbia.

Limits were dropped on the three species in the big river system several years ago following pushing from federal fishery overseers.

How WDFW and the commission interpret “liberalize” and “anadromous” has yet to be determined (no limits? using SalmonScape?), but the bill goes into effect July 1 and will surely include Lakes Sammamish and Washington.

I’m no biologist, but my bet is that bass really don’t have much to fear from sport pursuit because of current support, Northwest anglers’ general preference for other fish on the table and conservation practices, and health advisories.

In other words, it’s a feel-good measure, though with more and more efforts throughout our region to supress or kill off nonnatives like lake trout, northern pike — even rainbow trout — this also feels like it could be a potential inflection point.

LAKE SAMMAMISH STRETCHES FOR 7 MILES FROM ITS NORTH END AT REDMOND TO ITS SOUTH AT ISSAQUAH, WHERE A SALMON HATCHERY RAISES AND RELEASES COHO AND CHINOOK FOR STATE AND TRIBAL FISHERIES. BUT THE SMOLTS MUST FIRST TRANSIT A LAKE FULL OF HUNGRY FISH. (JELSON25, WIKIMEDIA, CC 3.0)

ONE GROUP THAT ESSENTIALLY SUPPORTS the netting on Lake Sammamish is FISH, the Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, a nonprofit that leads tours at WDFW’s most-visited production facility and does a lot of youth education with third- and fourth-grade students.

But the organization has also been moving into the realm of advocacy lately, said Larry Franks, its vice president and longtime salmon and steelhead angler.

“We’ve tried to identify things that benefit fish,” he said.

Franks, who retired from Boeing and also has a fisheries degree from the University of Washington, said that despite 2.5 million Chinook being released from the hatchery, last year saw a return of just 1,800 adults, or .07 percent survival.

Part of that is the productivity, or lack thereof, of the North Pacific, as well as harvest by all fleets, but primarily low smolt survival, just 8 to 10 percent from Issaquah to Shilshole Bay, outside the Lake Washington Ship Canal, he said.

“The deck is stacked against them. Our goal is to have better returns,” Franks said.

One problem, he said, is the increasingly narrow band of Lake Sammamish that salmon must swim through between too-warm surface waters and its anoxic depths.

The other is the predators that sit and wait in the zone for the smolts to swim through, then chow down.

Franks believes that the number of warmwater species in the lake and their populations have grown, and that that is impacting salmon outmigration and thus returns that are “dropping precipitously.”

“We’re of the position these are cause and effect, not correlation,” he said.

He acknowledges the growth of the state bass fishery and that smallmouth and largemouth anglers are every bit as dedicated as he is to chasing salmon. He believes that WDFW doesn’t want to piss off spinyray anglers either and is afraid to act — at least without more hard scientific data.

“It comes down to a choice: If you want to retain bass fishing, it’s going to be hopeless, in Larry’s opinion, to save Chinook,” Franks said.

A state staffer close to the situation didn’t want to be quoted for this story, but if official WDFW comments during its recently held Walleye Week on Facebook are any indication, they will be managing salmon and steelhead waters for salmon and steelhead first, and spinyrays where it makes the most sense.

(WDFW is also in the third year of a Lake Washington Ship Canal study to determine abundance and diets of smolt-eating fish there.)

Another option might be trucking Issaquah Hatchery’s smolts and Franks said experiments are ongoing. But anecdotally, it didn’t produce bigger returns last year, though more results are expected this year and next.

That leaves removing the predators, like the Muckleshoots are doing.

“We’re supportive of efforts that would increase the Chinook return,” said Franks.

ISSAQUAH CREEK ENTERS LAKE SAMMAMISH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

AS FOR HOW MANY FISH ARE BEING GILLNETTED in Sammamish, the LOAF — that marine area by river by lake rundown of agreed-to fishing state and tribal seasons and constraints — contains a short statement that caught my eye.

It says that with “the potential for interaction with the public,” the Muckleshoots propose providing monthly reports on their test fishery, including gear used, where it was fished and for how long, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

So I asked NOAA for that information, and a week and a half later a federal spokesperson provided me with summaries of catches in March and April for what are known as Zones 7 and 8, the northern and southern halves of the lake.

According to the figures, nearly 2,850 fish were caught and removed from the system during those two months, roughly 60 percent of which were native species, 40 percent nonnatives.

Just over 53.5 percent of the overall catch (1,525) was comprised of largescale suckers, a native fish, followed by introduced smallmouth bass (577) at 20 percent and fellow transplant black crappie (258) at 9 percent.

Other species caught include:

Northern pikeminnow (146), 5 percent, native
Brown bullhead (126), 4 percent, nonnative
Cutthroat trout (85), 3 percent, native
Largemouth bass (78), 3 percent, nonnative
Peamouth chub (24), 1 percent, native
Common carp (11), .4 percent, nonnative
Yellow perch (10), .3 percent, nonnative
Hatchery-origin Chinook (3), .1 percent, native
Mountain whitefish (3), .1 percent, native
Hatchery-origin coho (1), .03 percent, native
Rock bass (1), .03 percent, nonnative
Walleye (1), .03 percent, nonnative

No rainbow trout or natural-origin Chinook were caught, NOAA’s catch breakout shows.

Kokanee, which are at low levels in the lake but also a pelagic, or open-water, fish were not listed in the catch tally.

Under the terms of the test fishery, if three wild steelhead are netted, the effort will be shut down immediately. In the LOAF, the Muckleshoots state that there is a “very low to zero” chance of any turning up, and if one did, they suggest it would probably be a Green River stray.

Gillnetting is set to run through June 15, and I am interested to see what turns up in the catch during the final seven weeks of the program, what with the release of all those coho and Chinook smolts into the system — will the catch percentages change?

The test fishery is also scheduled to resume next January through April.

FEDERAL FISHERY OVERSEERS PROVIDED THIS TABLE SHOWING HOW MANY NATIVE AND NONNATIVE FISH WERE CAUGHT DURING WEEKLY GILLNETTING ON THE NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN HALVES OF LAKE SAMMAMISH. LARGESCALE SUCKERS DOMINATE THE CATCH, BUT SMALLMOUTH BASS COMPRISE A QUARTER TOO. (NOAA)

SOMETHING LARRY FRANKS SAID STUCK WITH me after our talk:

“It’s a thorny problem.”

Understatement of the century.

As a salmon angler, like many other Northwest sportsmen these days I’m howling that something, anything needs to be done about predators — be they sea lions, harbor seals, Caspian terns, cormorants or piscivorous fish — to get more smolts out and more adult fish back.

That means there’s no way I can support killing pikeminnows in the Columbia, northern pike everywhere in our region, birds at the mouth of the river, and pinnipeds at Bonneville and Willamette Falls without also giving the thumbs up to removing smolt-eating fish in Lake Sammamish.

At the same time, my inner spinyray angler is revolted by what feels like a targeted attack on a fish I like — I literally nearly went bankrupt trying to write a story inspired by catching a huge smallmouth on the Grande Ronde — one that’s widespread across the Northwest and is a great entry-level fish that’s easy to catch.

I’m all for hatcheries, but, holy sh*t, here’s a species that doesn’t require the world’s largest fish production infrastructure to perpetuate in perpetuity, plus they’re ready-made for climate change.

Yet as a Washington native, tell me why our fisheries have to be exactly like what you can already find in Michigan, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Quebec, Tennessee, Iowa, New Jersey, Minnesota, New York, Ontario, Missouri, the Dakotas, New England, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana? We’re not the Old Northwest, this is the Pacific Northwest, home of silver fish, not green ones, and proud of it.

Then again, I’ve also read my King of Fish: The Thousand Year Run of Salmon — with all the problems that our kings, silvers and steelies face, you tell me that smallies and their Midwestern and Southern cousins aren’t what’s going to come out of the other end of things here as the sole survivors.

The utter mess we have made of this region obliges us to do our best to fix it.

At what cost, pray tell?

So as you can tell, I’ve got mostly mixed feelings here.

I do, however, have a problem with the illegal release of walleye in Lakes Sammamish and Washington, and northern pike in the latter. Doing so was among the most asinine, destructive and disrespectful things perpetrated on the watershed since the Great Glacier smothered it. I’ll tar and feather the a@$hole bucket biologist(s) myself.

The comanagers aren’t talking, but I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t doubt for a second that those crimes were among the tipping points that set their test fisheries in motion. And now everybody but the guilty are paying.

A BLUE HERON WAITS FOR PREY TO SWIM BY. MANY THINGS PREY ON LAKE SAMMAMISH’S SALMON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

I’M DOUBTFUL THERE WILL BE A “COMMERCIALLY VIABLE” fishery for bass in Lake Sammamish or elsewhere in the system some day, but I could be wrong.

I just hope that the netting shows whether targeted removals of smolt predators at select times and places is worthwhile for increasing salmon survival and expanding harvest seasons — while also preserving native and nonnative fish and fisheries that aren’t going away any time soon.

I’m willing to put a nickel down that while introduced exotics like the bass do have an impact, it’s mostly limited to the two months or so that the young coho and Chinook are transiting the system, and that like over on Lake Washington with sockeye smolts, cutthroat and northern pikeminnow are the actual primary predators.

Again, I could be wrong, but I’d love to learn what is in the stomachs of the thousands of fish the Muckleshoots pull out of the lake this spring. I’d hate to see this all go to waste.

THE SOUTH END OF LAKE SAMMAMISH FROM POO POO POINT, THE TAKE-OFF SPOT FOR HANG GLIDERS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Yuasa: Fishing Hits ‘Full Throttle’ In May; Planning Guide For Summer Salmon

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

May 2019

The month of May is a pleasant time. Flowers are in full bloom. The weather is improving. Days are getting longer. But, it’s also a time when fishing hits full throttle for a wide variety of fish and anglers can start making plans for summer salmon fisheries.

First off there’s nothing better than a batch of steamed spot shrimp on the dinner table and the season for these denizens of the deep gets underway on May 11 for most areas of Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hood Canal.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“It will likely be an average spot shrimp season,” said Don Velasquez, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) shellfish biologist. “In general, last year was a fair to good season.”

Spot shrimp are the largest – averaging 8 to 12 inches long – of more than 80 shrimp species in local marine waterways, but only seven are commonly caught by anglers. Most are lurking at depths of 30 to 300 feet.

The western Strait (Area 5) is open daily beginning May 11; and eastern Strait (6) is open Thursdays to Sundays of each week beginning May 11. Each area will close once the catch quota is achieved. The Discovery Bay Shrimp District (within 6) will be open May 11, 15 and 29 and June 1 from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. each day.

The San Juan Islands in Area 7 South is open May 11-12, May 16-19 and May 23-24; Area 7 East is open daily May 11-12, May 16-19, May 23-26 and May 30-June 2; and Area 7 West is open Thursdays to Sundays each week beginning May 11 and closes once the catch quota is achieved.

The east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2) is open May 11 and May 15 from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. each day. Northern Puget Sound (9) is open May 11 and May 15 from 7 a.m.-11 a.m. each day.

Elliott Bay (within 10) is open May 11 from 7 a.m.-1 p.m.; central Puget Sound (10) is open May 11 from 7 a.m.-11 a.m.; and south-central Puget Sound (11) is open May 11 from 7 a.m.-1 p.m.

Hood Canal (12) is open May 11, 15 and 29 and June from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. each day. Southern Puget Sound (13) is closed for the 2019 season due to low abundance levels of spot shrimp.

In all Puget Sound areas, the daily limit is 80 spot shrimp per person during the month of May. Additional dates and times will be announced if quotas aren’t achieved.

Velasquez points out traps can be set one hour before official sunrise during any open period in Marine Catch Areas 4, 5, 6 (except for the Discovery Bay Shrimp District), 7 East, 7 South, and 7 West only. As an example, one hour before sunrise is approximately 4:40 a.m. on May 11.

WDFW conducted test fishing for spot shrimp and the northern section of Hood Canal around Seabeck showed an increase but was weak in the Hood’s central section.

“Area 7 West saw a slight increase in pounds per trap from last year,” Velasquez said. “Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2, 9 and 10 is pretty average compared to what we’ve seen in past years.”

Last year, the total sport harvest of spot shrimp was 194,863 pounds and the non-tribal commercial take was 97,578 pounds for a total of 292,441 pounds. Sport and non-tribal commercial fishermen split a 300,000-pound spot shrimp yearly catch quota with 70 percent going to the sport fishery. The tribal fishery has a 300,000-pound catch quota.

Bottom-fishing also takes centerstage with lingcod opening May 1 in most areas of Puget Sound and Strait; and halibut on May 2 off the coast and Marine Catch Areas 5 to 10. The coastal lingcod and rockfish fishing season have been going strong since it reopened back in March.

The statewide halibut quota of 277,100 pounds is up from 225,366 in 2018 (237,762 in 2017, and 214,110 in 2016, 2015 and 2014). Anglers should go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut for more information on additional dates and regulations.
For those who still want to get their fix on hatchery chinook then head to southern Puget Sound south of the Narrows Bridge where fishing is open year-round.

Cutbacks to some 2019-2020 salmon fisheries

The salmon seasons on the coast for coho are the shining beacon of light compared to 2018 but major cutbacks were numerous to Puget Sound fisheries.

State, federal and tribal fishery managers met last month at Rohnert Park, California, to set fisheries and those cuts occurred after WDFW became more focused on the Puget Sound chum issue instead of focusing on important chinook and coho opportunities and wild chinook stocks of concern.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The delay virtually slammed the door of a normal public involvement during the North of Falcon meeting in Lynnwood on April 3 when only two hours was devoted to the Puget Sound sport salmon fisheries discussion.

“While it’s often a frustrating process, I have never seen a year that involved the public less than this cycle,” Carl Nyman, a WDFW Puget Sound recreational fishing advisor and President of the Charter Boat Association of Puget Sound said in an NMTA news release. “For the first time since I have attended, there were no initial set of proposed fisheries modeled for public comment.”

The news release went on to say all the vital public input during this complicated process on salmon fishing season preferences that reflect social and economic consequences of WDFW’s decisions was moved out of reach for most constituents to California. Hopefully it was a “lesson learned” and the WDFW staff and their nine-member commission will look at this differently in the immediate future before we head into a Black Hole of no return.

Lost fishing opportunity ranges from weeks to months closed but represents about half of the 2018 season for the most popular summer and winter chinook fisheries in the Strait, San Juan Island, and northern, central south-central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11).

Cuts include closing all salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands (Area 7) in August and January; closing western Strait (5) for hatchery chinook for two weeks in February; closing eastern Strait (6) in February; closing east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2) in December and January; delaying the northern Puget Sound (9) summer hatchery chinook fishery until July 25 (last year it began on July 16) plus a smaller quota of 3,491 compared to 5,400 in 2018 and closing fishing in January; central Puget Sound (10) summer hatchery chinook fishery opens July 25 (last year it opened July 16) and will likely be reduced by two to three weeks under a smaller quota of 3,057 compared to 4,473 in 2018; and south-central Puget Sound (11) closed June 1-30 with a reduced quota of 2,805 hatchery chinook (5,030 in 2018) and closed October through December.

Moving past the dire situation will be some great salmon opportunities off the coast and a few other inner-marine and freshwater locations.

“We came up with a plan for the mark coho fishery in Area 9 to flip it and make it non-select in October to expand more time on the water if the in-season numbers show it’s a possibility,” said Mark Baltzell, the WDFW Puget Sound recreational salmon manager.

Baltzell also says the Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers are open Sept. 1-30 with a one coho daily limit. If the run is larger than predicted they could liberalize the season around the first week of October. This will be done through data collected in a test fishery.

WDFW and PFMC also developed a more liberal ocean salmon fishery for hatchery coho due to an expected higher return of Columbia River-bound fish while chinook is still in a recovery mode.

“We are very optimistic for coho and you have to go back to 2015 since we’ve had any good coho fishing,” said Wendy Beeghley, the WDFW head coastal salmon policy manager.

The total allowable sport and non-tribal commercial catch is 190,000 hatchery coho up considerably from 47,600 last year; and 52,500 chinook down slightly from 55,000. The Columbia River coho forecast is 1,009,600 compared to 349,000 in 2018.

Ilwaco has a 79,800 hatchery coho quota (21,000 in 2018) and a 7,150-chinook quota (8,000 in 2018); Westport is 59,050 (15,540) and 12,700 (13,100); La Push is 4,050 (1,090) and 1,100 (1,500); and Neah Bay is 16,600 (5,370) and 5,200 (3,024).

Salmon fishing opportunities:

(Here is a glimpse of what anglers will find in 2019-20 and for more refer to the WDFW regulation pamphlet or go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/)

• All four coastal ports – Neah Bay, La Push, Westport and Ilwaco – will be open daily from June 22-Sept. 30 or close once each area’s catch quota is achieved. Daily limit at Ilwaco and Westport is two salmon and no more than one may be a chinook. Daily limit is two salmon at La Push and Neah Bay. The La Push bubble fishery will be open Oct. 1-13.

South-central Puget Sound (Area 11) closed June 1-30 but open July 1-Sept. 30. Salmon fishing closed Thursdays and Fridays. Once quota is met fishing will be open daily with a two coho daily limit and non-retention of all chinook.

Inner-Elliott Bay opens for chinook on Aug. 2 to Aug. 5 at 12 p.m. Additional weekend openings are possible if in season data shows a stronger return.

East side of Whidbey Island (Area 8-2) opens Aug. 16-Sept. 15 for hatchery coho from Mukilteo/Clinton to Area 9 northern boundary. Area 8-1 is open for coho in October.

• The Skagit River from Memorial Highway Bridge in Mount Vernon to Gilligan Creek) is open for spring chinook from May 1-31; Stillaguamish is open Sept. 16-Nov. 15 for coho; Skykomish is open for hatchery chinook the Saturday before Memorial Day through July 31; and Minter Creek is open for salmon Sept. 15-Dec. 31.

Baker Lake opens for sockeye starting July 6 and a sockeye fishery on the Skagit River opens June 16. The Baker Lake sockeye forecast is 33,737.

Buoy 10 near the Lower Columbia River mouth opens Aug. 1-20 for adult chinook and hatchery coho retention; and is open from Aug. 21-Dec. 31 for a hatchery coho directed fishery (release all chinook and wild coho).

San Juan Islands (Area 7) is open July 1-31 for hatchery kings and has been an early-season hotspot the past several years so put in as much time before the August closure. The preseason prediction of legal-size chinook encounters in Area 7 is 3,622 and WDFW manages this fishery as a season from beginning to end. Coho become fair game Sept. 1-30.

Tulalip Bubble Terminal Fishery within Area 8-2 is a hatchery salmon directed fishery and the season remains status quo from last year. If forecasts hit the bullseye action could be decent when it opens June 1 (closed on June 15 for a tribal ceremonial fishery) through Sept. 2. Fishing is allowed from 12:01 a.m. Fridays through 11:59 a.m. Mondays only. Then it switches to a Saturday and Sunday only of each week from Sept. 7-29.

Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 5 and 6) from Sekiu to Port Angeles opens July 1-Aug. 15 for a hatchery-marked king fishery. For the past several years, the eastern Strait has been a worthwhile journey on the opener with areas from Sekiu to Freshwater Bay coming on by mid-July. Look for coho and pink action to ramp up from Aug. 16-Sept. 30. The preseason legal-mark encounter for chinook in Area 5 is 8,294 and WDFW ensures it doesn’t exceed 9,953. In Area 6, WDFW will manage the fishery as a season from beginning to end.

Statewide opening day of trout fishing was a success with plenty still to catch

While the weather was somewhat windy for the statewide lowland lakes trout opener on Saturday that didn’t stop thousands from trying their luck at catching fish.

“Everyone I talked to said that fishing was really good, but the winds were pretty blustery across the state late (Saturday) morning, which probably shortened some people’s trips somewhat,” said Steve Caromile, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish program manager. “Many places, there seemed to be an early morning bite.”

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The windy weather Saturday afternoon many have been a hinderance but those who fished Sunday found a much different picture with warmer temperatures, sunny skies and a few extra snappy trout.

In general, it appears success rates were decent overall, and popular lakes on west- and east-sides were crowded with anglers tossing just about everything from Power Bait, worms, salmon eggs, marshmallows, flies, spoons, gang-flashers and spinners.

Caromile said catch rates and harvest numbers per angler were right on par with last year’s opening day.

Top Puget Sound region lakes where anglers averaged good catches were: Langlois (one derby fish and largest was 12.4 inches); Cottage (boats more successful than bank anglers and largest was 15.5 inches); Margaret (one derby fish and many five-fish limits); Pine; Erie (largest was 17.5 inches); Bosworth; Echo (Maltby); Howard (11 holdover trout caught and largest was 17.5 inches); Ki (largest was 17 inches); Storm; Wagner; Silver, Whatcom County (many limits, excellent pancake feast by Ferndale Kiwanis); McIntosh; Carney; Silver, Pierce, (lots of 15- to 17-inch carryovers), Aberdeen; Horseshoe; Sandy; Panther; Haven; and Wooten.

In eastern Washington, many reports indicated windy weather put a damper on fishing, but some trout were the larger carryovers ranging from 16 to 21 inches long.

Even better news is that anglers who missed out or overslept on the opener will be happy to know that with 15 million-plus trout planted in more than 500 statewide lakes and ponds there should be plenty of fishing love to spread around for months to com.

“There will be plenty of fish left, and fishing will be good for another few months until the water warms up,” Caromile said. “Some lakes will continue to get small amounts of fish for a few more weeks.”

WDFW TROUT CHECKS

King County: Cottage, 44 anglers with 55 trout kept for 1.3 fish kept per rod average and 90 total fish released for 3.3; Langlois, 45 with 107 for 2.4 and 440 for 12.2; Margaret, 22 with 57 for 2.6 and 100 for 7.1; Pine, 15 with 27 for and 52 for 5.3.

San Juan County: Cascade, 33 with 20 for 1.5 and 48 for 2.1.

Skagit County: Erie, 29 with 19 for 3.3 and 97 for 4.0; McMurray, 51 with 16 for 1.9 and 99 for 2.3; and Sixteen, 51 with 12 for 1.8 and 91 for 2.0.

Snohomish County: Bosworth, 47 with 78 for 1.7 and 110 for 4.0; Echo (Maltby), 20 with 59 for 3.0 and 30 for 4.5; Howard, 21 with 53 for 2.5 and 53 for 4.2; Ki, 34 with 77 for 2.3 and 58 for 4.0; Martha (Alderwood Manor), 26 with 47 for 1.8 and 29 for 2.9; Serene, 16 with 22 for 1.4 and 15 for 2.3; Stickney, 18 with 37 for 2.1 and 15 for 2.3; Storm, 38 with 76 for 2.0 and 70 for 3.8; and Wagner, 14 with 34 for 2.4 and 59 for 6.6.

Whatcom County: Cain, 34 with 117 for 3.4; Silver, 143 with 417 for 2.9 and 284 for 4.9; and Toad, 43 with 67 for 1.6 and 44 for 2.6.

Klickitat County: Horsethief, 15 with 30 for 2.0 and four for 2.3; Rowland, 37 with 108 for 2.9 and 68 for 4.8; and Spearfish, eight with 22 for 2.8 and three for 3.1.

Lewis County: Carlisle, 55 with 34 for 0.6 and 224 for 4.7; and Mineral, 80 with 189 for 2.4 and 239 for 5.4.

Thurston County: Clear, 51 with 131 for 2.6 and 41 for 3.4; Deep, six with nine for 1.5 and four for 2.2; Hicks, 23 with 42 for 1.8 and eight for 2.2; McIntosh, one with one for 1.0 and five for 6.0; Pattison, seven with 12 for 1.7; Summit, six with 11 for 1.8 and 10 for 3.5; and Ward, nine with 18 for 2.0.

Pierce County: Bay, eight with 14 for 1.8 and three for 2.1; Carney, two with seven for 2.0 and seven for 5.5; Clear, 31 with 84 for 2.7 and 14 for 3.4; Jackson, one with three for 3.0 and two for 5.0; Crescent, 14 with 30 for 2.1; Rapjohn, 10 with 20 for 2.0 and four for 2.4; Ohop, six with 14 for 2.3 and six for 3.3; Silver, 16 with 42 for 2.6 and 36 for 4.9; and Tanwax, 12 with 22 for 1.8 and 17 for 3.3.

Grays Harbor County: Aberdeen, 59 with 95 for 1.6 and 208 for 5.1; Inez, 36 with 22 for 0.6 and 19 for 1.1; Sylvia, 23 with 44 for 1.9 and eight for 2.3; Bowers, 27 with 27 for 1.0 and four for 1.1; and Failor, 52 with 144 for 2.8 and 58 for 3.9.

Pacific County: Black, 43 with 33 for 0.8 and 18 for 1.2.

Jefferson County: Sandy Shore, 35 with 92 for 2.6 and 106 for 5.7; Silent, seven with 21 for 3.0 and 12 for 4.7; and Tarboo, 47 with 98 for 2.1 and 89 for 4.0.

Kitsap County: Bucks, 25 with 40 for 1.6 and 27 for 2.7; Horseshoe, 23 with 81 for 3.5 and 51 for 5.7; Mission, 30 with 94 for 3.1 and 80 for 5.8; Panther, 14 with 49 for 3.5 and 36 for 6.1; Wildcat, 20 with 83 for 4.2 and 20 for 5.2; and Wye, three with four for 1.3 and one for 1.7.

Mason County: Benson, 21 with 48 for 2.3 and six for 2.6; Don (Clara), 19 with 77 for 4.1 and five for 4.3; Devereaux, 23 with 33 for 1.4 and 102 for 5.9; Haven, five with 25 for 5.0 and 34 for 11.8; Howell, five with 16 for 3.2; Limerick, 33 with 39 for 1.2 and 86 for 3.8; Magee, 18 with 32 for 1.8 and eight for 2.2; Phillips, four with three for 0.8 and 12 for 3.8; Robbins, 18 with 61 for 3.4 and eight for 3.8; Tiger, 20 with 76 for 3.8 and five for 4.1; and Wooten, 24 with 49 for 2.0 and 150 for 8.3.

Ferry County: Ellen, 14 with 11 for 0.8 and 19 for 2.1.

Pend Oreille County: Diamond, 26 with 25 for 1.0 and 16 for 1.6.

Stevens County: Cedar, 49 with 95 for 1.9 and 36 for 2.7; Mudgett, 22 with 23 for 1.0 and 17 for 1.8; Rocky, 19 with 24 for 1.3 and 13 for 1.9; Starvation, 38 with 93 for 2.4 and nine for 2.7; and Waitts, 23 with 37 for 1.6 and 21 for 2.5.

Spokane County: Badger, 39 with 76 for 1.9 and 33 for 2.8; Clear, 35 with 25 for 0.7 and five for 0.9; Fishtrap, 45 with 67 for 1.5 and 15 for 1.8; Williams, 48 with 109 for 2.3 and 276 for 8.0; West Medical, 36 with 29 for 0.8 and 10 for 1.1; Fish, 66 with 68 for 1.0 and 46 for 1.7.

Grant County: Vic Meyers, 12 with nine for 0.8; Warden, 60 with 86 for 1.4 and 11 for 1.6; Blue, 34 with 91 for 2.7 and three for 2.8; Park, 48 with 141 for 2.9 and five for 3.0; and Deep, 46 with 83 for 1.8 and seven for 2.0.

Chelan County: Wapato, 64 with 204 for 3.2 and 85 for 4.5.

Douglas County: Jameson, 40 with 111 for 2.8 and 21 for 3.4.

Okanogan County: Pearrygin, 26 with 37 for 1.4 and five for 1.6.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

We’ve hit the pause button in the derby series although the boat has been making its rounds to various seminars and other fishing promotions.

The grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston. The boat is powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motor on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer and fully-rigged with Burnewiin accessories; Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronics stereo. Other sponsors include Silver Horde Lures; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; Harbor Marine; Salmon, Steelhead Journal; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Sportco and Outdoor Emporium; and Prism Graphics. It is trailered with a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.
Next up is the Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 12-14; and Lake Coeur d’ Alene Big One Fishing Derby on July 24-28.

There are 15 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at the conclusion of the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22. Details: http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’m filled with spring fishing excitement and will see you on the water!

Columbia Endorsement Still Needed Thru June 30 To Fish Salmon, Steelhead

Yes, state lawmakers just cut bait with Washington’s Columbia salmon and steelhead endorsement.

No, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to buy one if you finally decide to fish the big river should it reopen for springers, or hit Drano in prime time for kings or the Cowlitz for summers over this month and next.

WIND RIVER SPRING CHINOOK ANGLERS FISH DURING FOGGY CONDITIONS DURING THE 2011 FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“Anglers pursuing salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries will still need the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement through June 30, 2019,” WDFW Policy Director Nate Pamplin said Tuesday morning.

That date late next month is the end of the current budget biennium, but the $8.75 fee was not extended past that point as the legislative session came to a close this past Sunday.

What that means for WDFW and its recreational Chinook, summer-run, coho and sockeye fisheries held everywhere from Asotin to Brewster to Cathlamet between this July and June 2021 has yet to be determined, but should become clearer as staffers parse through the agency’s just-passed budget for the coming two years.

Though lawmakers passed neither the endorsement nor 15 percent fishing and hunting license fee increase, they did provide a one-time $24 million bump in state sales tax revenues to fill a $31 million shortfall.

The Columbia surcharge has been an important funding source.

“We relied heavily on the revenue from the CRSSE to monitor and enforce recreational fisheries, in particular above McNary Dam, to comply with our ESA permits,” said Pamplin.

That’s because to hold seasons over Endangered Species Act-listed salmon and steelhead stocks, the National Marine Fisheries Service requires WDFW to watch those fisheries much more intensely than, say, those on your garden-variety trout, bass and kokanee lake.

The endorsement was passed by the 2009 legislature to patch in part a gaping WDFW budget hole caused by the Great Recession and sharply decreased General Fund contributions.

From April 2010, when it went into effect, through 2017, it has been purchased 1.6 million times and raised $12.1 million, according to WDFW.

That money goes towards “the costly activities necessary for managing fisheries while minimizing impacts to several wild fish populations in the basin that are federally protected. These management activities include enhancing fishing access, conducting research, and monitoring and enforcing fisheries,” the agency stated in a pitch to lawmakers before this year’s session.

With the endorsement expiring in mid-2019, three bills extending it were introduced by legislators.

The initial versions of WDFW’s license fee increase request bills —  HB 1708 from Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) and SB 5692 from Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge) — would have OKed it through June 30, 2023.

And the stand-alone bill SB 5871 from Sens. Judy Warnick (R-Moses Lake) and Dean Takko (D-Kalama) had it running through that date too.

But following the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s early March vote to delay implementing Columbia reforms, in early April, the endorsement was pointedly not included in the Senate operating budget proposal and was also reduced to June 30, 2021 in an amended version of SSB 5692 by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), who included a number of policy items targeting fishery management on the big river as well.

Ultimately both license increase bills died — 1708 with a proposed amendment from Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-Covington) that would have limited the endorsement to two years instead of four and another from Rep. Drew Stokesbary (R-Auburn) that would have tied its extension to at least $14.9 million for hatchery production.

Then in the final hours of the session last weekend, SB 5871 was reactivated, and on the floor of the Senate Sen. Jesse Salomon (D-Shoreline) proposed an amendment with a one-year extension instead of four.

Neither were voted on, and they were dead in the House anyway, Rep. Blake said yesterday afternoon.

Here’s where it gets a little convoluted as fish politics come into play.

Yes, the endorsement was part of Blake’s HB 1708 and as chairman of the House natural resources committee, he said he has certain duties to the community and the state on fish and wildlife bills.

But no, he’s “never wanted to extend” the endorsement.

Blake said that the June 30 sunset clause forces WDFW to “chase the string” to get it reauthorized, and that he receives and sees a lot of complaints about the charge.

“The whining and crying is not worth it in my mind,” he said.

Anglers are angry about a lot of things these days, including decreasing runs and opportunities and piniped predation, among others, and the fish commission’s Columbia reforms vote certainly raised hackles.

In a post-session legislative wrap-up, the Coastal Conservation Association of Washington termed that decision “the greatest roadblock to its [the endorsement’s] reauthorization,” but Blake, who is known to advocate for commercial fisheries, maintains the citizen panel was being intimidated well beforehand to vote one way or WDFW’s license fee increase would die.

In the end, no fees were passed, leaving holes to fill.

Asked how he would instead fund the Columbia monitoring and enforcement that the endorsement pays for, Blake said he would roll it into an underlying fee bill so it is just part of the cost of a license, say, the Fish Washington package.

Blake said he would also like to take another stab at a fee bill as well as “stabilize” WDFW’s General Fund revenues next January, when the legislature reconvenes for the short session.

That one-time $24 million GF bump the agency received appears to be split into two-thirds for the first year of the 2019-20 biennium, one-third for the second.

“It is disappointing to be in a spot where in two years the $24 million expires and we’re back into a significant budget hole,” WDFW’s Pamplin told The Lens.

Pittman-Robertson Act allocations for state wildlife management are also expected to be down $5 million due to slower gun and ammo sales than earlier this decade.

Meanwhile, as WDFW staffers go through what they’ll have to work with and work on in the coming two years, Blake has a forecast for what will happen to angling on the Columbia and its tribs without the endorsement.

“I think the department will most likely keep the fisheries on the Columbia open as long as they have money,” he said.

With this year’s poor expected steelhead and summer and fall Chinook runs, that could be a little easier with, theoretically, fewer anglers on the water, but a big coho return is also predicted to come in later in the season.

Steelie ‘Smolts’ Again Set To Try To Survive The Sound

For the third spring in a row, dozens of steelhead “smolts” will try to make their way from southern Puget Sound and Hood Canal rivers to the Pacific, an interactive game meant to highlight the plight of the little fish against predators, pollution and other perils.

This year’s online Survive the Sound challenge kicks off May 6 and playing is now free (previously the public entered with a donation), with teachers also supplied with a new toolkit of activities for their students.

PARTICIPANTS PICK CARICATURES OF STEELHEAD SMOLTS THAT CORRESPOND TO ACTUAL YOUNG FISH FROM THE NISQUALLY AND SKOKOMISH RIVERS THAT WERE IMPLANTED WITH RADIO TAGS FOR THE PREVIOUS YEAR’S MIGRATION. ACOUSTIC DEVICES IN PUGET SOUND RECORD THEIR PASSAGE AND THAT DATA IS USED FOR THE CURRENT YEAR’S SURVIVE THE SOUND. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The project’s website has also been simplified, with participants encouraged to join teams.

“The team with the most surviving fish at the end of the five-day migration wins!” says Lucas Hall of Long Live The Kings.

In the first two years, Northwest Sportsman‘s smolts have not had the best of luck, and Hall’s organization is working to understand the reasons behind declining marine survival in Puget Sound and other inside waters for not only real-world steelhead but also Chinook and coho.

Some of that work is pointing towards the Hood Canal Bridge as a very bad chokepoint for steelies.

LONG LIVE THE KINGS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR JACQUES WHITE POINTS TO A SLIDE SHOWING HOW TWO SMOLTS FARED AT THE HOOD CANAL BRIDGE — THE ONE ON THE RIGHT, FAIRLY WELL, THE OTHER LIKELY AS DINNER FARE FOR A HARBOR SEAL. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

During a kickoff celebration to this year’s event held earlier in April at Anthony’s Pier 66, LLTK’s Jacques White shared a slide that showed how two different radio-tagged fish dealt with the structure, which lays across most of the canal and continues underwater at least 15 feet.

One fish was able to emerge from underneath the bridge, swim back to the top and continue on towards the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The other made a number of dives to depths that steelhead would otherwise avoid — probably in the stomach of the harbor seal or possibly a harbor porpoise after the young fish was eaten.

Those two fish are among the 500 or so implanted with radio tags in their home streams before their journey to the ocean. Acoustic devices in Puget Sound record their passage or lack thereof, and that data is used for the 48 representative smolts that make up the field of contestants in the challenge, as it were.

TOURISTS AND OTHERS ENJOY A VIEW OF PUGET SOUND ON A SUNNY SEATTLE SATURDAY, A TRANQUIL SCENE THAT BELIES THE MAJOR CHALLENGES FISH FACE IN THE INLAND SEA AND ITS TRIBUTARIES. THE SURVIVE THE SOUND GAME AIMS TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC ON THOSE AND HOPEFULLY HELP SUPPORT HABITAT AND OTHER ACTIONS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

With six days until the migration begins, 4,000 people have joined and nearly 740 different teams have formed so far (ours is Team Sealyalater, captained by Steely).

Deadline to join is May 5 but afterwards you can still follow the Journey Of The 48 on Survive the Sound’s map.

The experience is sponsored by a number of local tribes, Tacoma Power, Vulcan, and the Pike Place Market, among others.

A SIGN ADVERTISES A NEW BAR AND RESTAURANT COMING TO PIKE PLACE MARKET, BUT LITTLE FISH ARE ALSO SWIMMING PAST NOT FAR AWAY IN PUGET SOUND, OUTMIGRATING STEELHEAD, CHINOOK, COHO, CHUM AND SOCKEYE SMOLTS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

SnoCo PUD Touts Fish-friendly Modification At Sultan River Dam

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SNOHOMISH COUNTY PUBLIC UTILITY DISTRICT

The Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) continues to earn national praise for its efforts to protect and improve the environment. This month, the PUD was honored by the National Hydropower Association (NHA) with its annual Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters Award. This national award recognizes the PUD’s recently completed Water Temperature Conditioning Project at Culmback Dam, engineered to improve habitat for salmon and other aquatic life in the Sultan River downstream of the Spada Lake Reservoir.

IN THIS SCREENGRAB FROM A SNOHOMISH COUNTY P.U.D./IMCO VIDEO, PIPES DRAWING WARMER WATER OFF THE TOP OF SPADA LAKE BEHIND CULMBACK DAM ON THE SULTAN RIVER ARE SHOWN PASSING THROUGH BEDROCK. (IMCO/SNOHOMISH COUNTY P.U.D.)

As part of its relicensing requirement for the Henry M. Jackson Hydroelectric Project, the PUD was tasked with warming the river below the dam to better reflect the river’s seasonal temperature differences. Prior to the project, water released into the Sultan River came from the base of the reservoir, which is naturally colder than water near the top. By contrast, a nearby intake tower allows water used for electricity to be drawn from near the reservoir’s surface, which is warmer.

PUD engineers designed a 715-foot-long solution. A new pipeline now diverts some of the warmer water flowing through the intake tower and power tunnel to the base of the dam where it mixes with the cold water. The result is a steady flow of water in the Sultan River with temperatures better suited to support future fish populations.

WARMER WATERS EXIT FROM THE TOP PIPE AS COLD WATERS FROM THE DEPTHS OF SPADA LAKE ARE RELEASED IN THE BACKGROUND INTO THE SULTAN RIVER BELOW THE DAM. (IMCO/SNOHOMISH COUNTY P.U.D.)

“These improvements will stimulate productivity, improve growth, expand distribution and add resiliency to the fish population, allowing salmon and others to thrive in the Sultan River prior to their migration to Puget Sound,” says Keith Binkley, PUD Natural Resources Manager.

The water temperature conditioning project follows a related 2016 PUD project that reopened a six-mile stretch of the Sultan River to migratory fish. Salmon were discovered in the newly reopened stretch within weeks, proof of the project’s immediate success. The 2016 efforts also earned praise and a national award from the NHA.

In March of this year, PUD biologists observed a healthy level of juvenile salmon making their way out of the river and toward Puget Sound, an encouraging sign the PUD’s efforts continue to have a positive environmental impact.

A WDFW SALMONSCAPE MAP FROM SEVERAL YEARS AGO SHOWED HOW FAR SALMON AND STEELHEAD COULD SWIM UP THE SULTAN RIVER (WHERE THE BLACK LINE ENDS) BEFORE THE REMOVAL OF A DIVERSION DAM AT RIVER MILE 9 AND CHANGE. SINCE THE OBSTACLE WAS REMOVED, COHO AND WINTER-RUNS HAVE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF THE 6 ADDITIONAL MILES OF SPAWNING AND REARING HABITAT. (WDFW)

NMFS Shares Salmon Habitat Gains, Flood-threat Reduction From Tillamook Estuary Work

THE FOLLOWING IS A NEWS STORY FROM THE NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE

NOAA’s work with community partners restoring estuary habitat in Tillamook Bay, Oregon is revitalizing tidal wetlands for threatened Oregon Coast coho salmon, and helping reduce flooding in the surrounding communities and farmlands.

The project’s benefits to fish were realized immediately—443 acres of different estuary habitats critical to juvenile salmon are now available, including mud flats, open water with vegetation, marsh and others. Often called “nurseries of the sea,” estuaries offer unique conditions, like slow moving water and tides that bring in nutrients, which keep fish safe and allow them to grow.

BEFORE AND AFTER IMAGES FROM THE TILLAMOOK ESTUARY PARTNERSHIP SHOW THE EFFECT OF REMOVING LEVEES AND TIDE GATES NEAR THE MOUTH OF THE TRASK RIVER. (TILLAMOOK ESTUARY PARTNERSIHP VIA NMFS)

A recently published report also confirms the project’s flood reduction goals were achieved. Shortly after project completion, in October 2017, a flood occurred at the site. Our restoration work resulted in widespread reduction in flood levels and duration including along Highway 101, a key commercial and transportation corridor. In total, about 4,800 acres around the project site showed reductions in flood levels.

This project, like many others we work on, shows how restoring habitat back to its natural functions can help coastal communities be more resilient against severe weather. Nature-based approaches are being shown to provide these, and many other economic benefits, along both the the east and west coasts of the United States.

Almost 90 percent of the Tillamook Estuary’s historic tidal wetlands have been lost to development and agriculture. Like many other species relying on estuary and wetland habitats, loss of these areas is a primary contributor to the decline of Oregon Coast coho salmon.

Additionally, Oregon’s winters bring storm surges, heavy rainfall, and snow melt. Combined with high tides, this often causes flooding in the area. Flood losses in Tillamook County exceeded $60 million from 1996 – 2000.

ESTUARIES ARE IMPORTANT HABITAT FOR COHO SMOLTS ALONG WITH THE YOUNG OF OTHER SALMON SPECIES. (ROGER TABOR, USFWS)

To achieve the mutually beneficial project goals, old levees, fill, and tide gates were removed to create tidal estuary habitat. This functions as a “flow corridor,” allowing flood waters to move freely and quickly away from the town of Tillamook. Now, nearby properties and more than 500 structures are protected from flooding. It’s estimated that $9.2 million in economic benefits will accrue from avoided flood damages over the next 50 years.

The project reconnected hundreds of acres of marsh habitat and restored 13 miles of new tidal channels. This will significantly benefit Endangered Species Act-listed Oregon Coast coho salmon. Historically, more than 200,000 of these salmon would return to Tillamook Bay each year. That number was down to just 2,000 in 2012. This habitat is critical for juvenile salmon to feed and grow, and will help with the broader goal of species recovery along Oregon’s entire coast.

The Southern Flow Corridor Project is the result of tremendous community support and collaboration. NOAA Fisheries’ Restoration Center, within the Office of Habitat Conservation, and the West Coast Regional Office, worked with more than a dozen local, state, federal, tribal and private partners on this effort.

BRYCE MOLENKAMP PREPARES TO NET A SALMON ON TILLAMOOK BAY. (MARK VEARY)

Key partners include the Port of Tillamook Bay, Tillamook Bay Habitat and Estuary Improvement District, Tillamook County, the State of Oregon, FEMA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Institute for Applied Ecology, and the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership. We provided funding for the project through the Community-based Restoration Program and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, and on-the-ground technical assistance.

Elwha Fishing Moratorium To Be Extended Into 2021; Good Chinook Forecast

The Elwha River will remain closed to fishing for another two years, until mid-2021, according to WDFW.

“Monitoring has shown that salmon and steelhead populations are expanding into newly opened habitats, but have not yet achieved recovery goals,” Director Kelly Susewind reported to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission this morning.

A CHINOOK SALMON EXCAVATES A NEST INSIDE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK FOLLOWING COMPLETE REMOVAL OF ELWHA RIVER DAM. (JEFF DUDA, USGS)

The north Olympic Peninsula river was closed to all sport and tribal fishing in 2011 ahead of the removal of the two dams on its lower end, Glines Canyon and Elwha.

Chinook, coho, chum, steelhead and bull trout are taking advantage of the new habitat in the pristine national park watershed, with the seagoing char observed as far as 40 miles upstream, above “five major canyons,” according to a Peninsula Daily News report from last fall.

A NATIONAL PARK SERVICE SNORKELER SURVEYS FOR SALMON ABOVE GLINES CANYON DAM. (NPS)

WDFW district fisheries biologist Mike Gross says there are also encouraging signs with Chinook, including this year’s conservatively estimated forecast of 7,400, which is well above 2018’s prediction of 5,200 and above the actual return of 7,100.

He says that last year’s strong showing of 3-year-olds should translate into a good number of 4-year-olds this fall and 5-year-olds in 2020.

That good three-year push of fish should help propel the Chinook population further and further up the Elwha

“These early re-colonizers play an important role in establishing spawning and juvenile rearing in habitats of the upper watershed,” Susewind’s director’s report states.

A SPAWNING FALL CHINOOK PATROLS SHALLOW WATERS OF THE ELWHA SYSTEM IN 2016. (NPS/USBR/USGS ELWHA RESTORATION PROJECT, FLICKR, CC 2.O)

The Elwha is fabled for once hosting returns of truly massive Chinook before the dams were built in the early 1900s.

“Hopefully the ocean cooperates the next few years,” says Gross.

As for coho, the ocean forecast is 1,679, and he expects between 1,000 and 1,200 to actually return to the river.

The extension of the moratorium, which was agreed to by WDFW, the National Park Service and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, is slated to run from June 1, 2019 through July 1, 2021.

“Recreational, subsistence and commercial fishing will resume when there is broad distribution of spawning adults in newly accessible habitats above the former dam sites, and when spawning occurs at a rate that allows for population growth and diversity, producing adequate escapement and a harvestable surplus,” Susewind’s commission briefing says.