Tag Archives: columbia river

Night On The Columbia Leads To Big Walleye Catch

While you were dreaming of catching fish last night, a crew was pulling some pretty hefty walleye out of the Columbia, including two new boat records for a local guide.

CHAD DAWSON GOT THE TRIP OFF TO A GREAT START WITH A THEN BOAT RECORD 15-PLUS-POUNDER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Four fish with a combined weight of nearly 60 pounds came over the gunnel for Tri-Cities angler Jerry Han, a local dentist, and two friends.

“We were hoping to get a quality fish or two, but never expected what was about to happen!” Han emailed just after 2:00 this morning as he thawed out from his late evening on the water.

JERRY HAN FOLLOWED WITH AN 11-PLUS-POUNDER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

With the moon coming off full, they were out with Isaac Case, who has been posting a string of pics of nice-sized ‘eyes caught in the overnight hours in recent days and weeks.

“We trolled plugs for a little while and had nothing for an hour or so and then my buddy Chad Dawson hooked up and landed a huge walleye that went 15 pounds, 11 ounces,” Han reports.

KEN HOWARD’S FIRST WALLEYE WENT 13 POUNDS, 3 OUNCES. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“We thought that was great and would have been happy, but I got the next one at 11 pounds, 11 ounces. Then my buddy Ken Howard got one at 13 pounds, 3 ounces,” he says.

“The star of show, however, was the next fish that Ken caught that shoved the scale to 18 pounds, 13 ounces! The 15-pounder was the new boat record that lasted four hours until the almost 19-pounder came along,” Han notes.

A DIGITAL SCALE SHOWS KEN HOWARD’S SECOND WALLEYE WEIGHING IN AT 18 POUNDS, 13 OUNCES. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

If this was still the first years of the millennium, it would have been a new Washington record fish too. The current high mark is John Grubenhoff’s 20.32-pound walleye, caught in late February 2014.

WDFW doesn’t do creel checks for the species, but local fisheries biologist Paul Hoffarth tries to keep up on the scene.

“Heard they were doing well this winter. Decent numbers and mostly nice fish, size wise,” Hoffarth notes.

So, uhhh, Jerry, what sort of setup did you say the skipper was running, again?

ISAAC CASE SHOWS OFF THE BIG ONE OF THE NIGHT. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“I can say that color didn’t seem to matter, as all the fish bit a different plug each time,” he cagely reveals.

“I can say for sure that it was pretty rough getting up this morning — thank goodness for coffee!”

You can say that again!

Columbia Above Warrior Rock To Open For Springers; Cowlitz, Lewis Stay Open For Steelies

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

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon today approved a sport fishery for spring chinook salmon on the Columbia River that reflects a significant reduction in the number of fish available for harvest this year.

A SPRING CHINOOK NEARS THE NET FOR ANGLERS FISHING THE WESTERN COLUMBIA GORGE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

According to preseason projections, about 99,300 upriver spring chinook will reach the Columbia this year, down 14 percent from last year and 50 percent below the 10-year average. Those fish return to hatcheries and spawning areas upriver from Bonneville Dam.

In addition, fishery managers are also expecting much lower returns than last year to several major lower Columbia River tributaries, particularly the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers. On the Cowlitz, this year’s spring chinook run is projected to reach just 11 percent of the 10-year average and fall short of meeting hatchery production goals.


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Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said those projections are largely the result of poor ocean conditions, which have complicAted fisheries management in recent years.

“Anglers will still find some good fishing opportunities in the Columbia River Basin this spring, but conservation has to be our first concern,” Lothrop said. “We have a responsibility to protect salmon runs listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and get enough fish back to the spawning grounds and hatcheries to support future runs.”

Although salmon fishing is currently open from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Interstate-5 bridge, spring chinook usually don’t arrive in large numbers until mid-to-late March. The new fishing regulations approved today will take effect in the following areas:

  • Columbia River below Bonneville Dam: Salmon fishing will open March 1 through April 10 on the Columbia River upstream from Warrior Rock boundary line to Bonneville Dam. Anglers may retain two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each per day, but only one salmon may be a chinook. The lower river downstream from Warrior Rock will be closed to fishing from March 1 through April 10 to conserve spring chinook returning to the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers.
  • Tributaries: The Cowlitz and Lewis rivers will also close to salmon fishing March 1 to conserve spring chinook for hatchery escapement needs, but will remain open for hatchery steelhead retention. The Kalama River will remain open to fishing for salmon and steelhead, but the daily limit of adult salmon will be reduced to one fish on March 1.
  • Columbia River above Bonneville Dam: Waters above Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington state line above McNary Dam will open to salmon fishing April 1 through May 5. Anglers may retain two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each per day, but only one salmon may be a chinook.

In all open waters, only hatchery salmon and steelhead identified by a clipped adipose fin and healed scar may be retained.

Along with new area restrictions in the lower Columbia, fishery managers also reduced initial harvest limits for upriver spring chinook returning to the upper Columbia and Snake rivers. If those fish return as projected, anglers in the Columbia and Snake rivers will be limited to a total of 4,548 fish, compared to 9,052 last year, prior to a run size updated in May.

Lothrop noted that this year’s projected return of 99,300 upriver spring chinook is the lowest since 2007, but still well above the record-low return of just 12,800 fish in 1995.

“Experience has shown that warm-water ocean conditions present a challenge to salmon survival,” he said. “As in the 1990s, we have observed that cyclical warming effect during the past few years with similar results. During these times, we have to be especially cautious in how we manage the fishery.”

Anglers are strongly advised to review the rules for the waters they plan to fish, available on the department’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/

Lower Columbia, SW WA Tribs, Gorge Pools Fishing Report (2-20-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Salmon/Steelhead:

Mainstem Lower Columbia River

Washington only creel checks:

  • Sec 5 (Woodland) bank – 2 salmonid anglers had no catch.
  • Sec 6 (Kalama) bank – 3 salmonid anglers had no catch.
  • Sec 8 (Longview) bank – 4 salmonid anglers had no catch.

PLUNKING RODS SET UP FOR SPRING CHINOOK LINE A LOWER COLUMBIA BEACH EARLY IN A PAST SEASON. (CHRIS SPENCER)

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 4 bank anglers had no catch.  1 boat/2 rods released 1 steelhead.

Elochoman River – 18 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead and released 6 steelhead.  2 boats/6 rods released 5 steelhead.

Abernathy Creek – 7 bank anglers had no catch.

Germany Creek – 10 bank anglers had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 21 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  13 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.  16 boats/45 rods kept 11 steelhead and released 4 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered five winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

All of the fish collected last week were held at the hatchery for broodstock needs.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 9,650 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 41.9 F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility

East Fork Lewis River – 32 bank anglers released 4 steelhead.


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Salmon Creek – 8 bank anglers had no catch.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- No report.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool- 5 bank anglers had no catch.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- No report.

The Dalles Pool- No report.

John Day Pool- 4 boats/8 rods released 8 walleye.

Catchable Trout Plants and stocking schedules:

Lake/Pond Date Species Number Fish per
Pound
Hatchery Notes
BATTLE GROUND LK (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5
Feb 04, 2019 Rainbow 2,500 2.1 VANCOUVER HATCHERY  
 
KLINELINE PD (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5
Feb 04, 2019 Rainbow 2,500 2.1 VANCOUVER HATCHERY

 

 
LK SACAJAWEA (COWL)
Cowlitz County – Region 5
Feb 05, 2019 Rainbow 4,469 2.9 MOSSYROCK HATCHERY
 
 
 
 

 

Columbia Springer Seasons To Be Set; No Fishing Below Warrior Rock?

Columbia salmon staffers will recommend that spring Chinook fishing only be open in the lower river from Warrior Rock up to Bonneville to help protect low returns to two Southwest Washington tribs.

A fact sheet out ahead of Wednesday morning’s 10 a.m. joint ODFW-WDFW hearing to set seasons says that that framework would yield a catch of 4,050 kept fish on the mainstem through April 10, though popular waters and beaches at Cathlamet/Westport, Longview/Rainier and Kalama/St. Helens would be closed.

THIS SEASON’S LOWER COLUMBIA SPRING CHINOOK FISHERY WOULD BE CONCENTRATED ABOVE WARRIOR ROCK TO PROTECT LOWER RETURNS OF COWLITZ AND LEWIS FISH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“The recommended season for the fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam is expected to minimize the harvest of Cowlitz and Lewis river spring Chinook and provide the protection to hatchery broodstock,” the document explains.

Randy Woolsley, a member of the Columbia River Recreational Advisory Group, says the returns are so low that managers can’t afford any impacts on those stocks from fisheries below the Lewis.

Poor ocean conditions in recent years are being blamed.

Woolsley says the situation is usually the opposite, with fishing focused lower in the big river to target typically more plentiful hatchery fish returning to westside streams and to try and protect ESA-listed springers headed to headwaters in Idaho and elsewhere.

Warrior Rock sits just above the mouth of the Lewis, up which 1,600 springers are forecast back. For the Cowlitz, that figure is just 1,300. Both figures are below last year’s preseason prediction and actual returns, and are also less than hatchery needs.


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The fact sheet — which arrived by email unusually late in the day — states that in a 2018 guidance letter federal overseers said that both tribs’ hatchery fish are “critical” to efforts reintroducing springers into the upper ends of both watersheds.

Still, on the mainstem Columbia, prime stretches along Sauvie Island, plus the Interstate stretch between I-5 and I-205 and the western gorge would be open for fishing with a limit of one hatchery king a day.

With action typically picking up in early April, however, the limited number of boat ramps between Warrior and Beacon Rocks could make for “pretty crowded” launching conditions, Woolsley forecasts.

The water from Beacon to the dam would be open only for bank fishing, as usual.

Between the Columbia’s upriver springer forecast of 99,300 and the 30 percent run buffer, there are 3,689 mortalities available below Bonneville, just under 500 from the dam to Oregon-Washington state line, and 357 in Washington’s Snake River.

Staffers are recommending that the Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day and first few miles of the McNary Pools be open for a 35-day season starting April 1.

If there’s any good news, it’s that while the Willamette forecast is down but a bit better than 2018’s actual return, it is expected to be open seven days a week, with a modeled harvest of 11,000 springers.

‘Slight Improvement’ Expected For 2019 Columbia Fall Chinook Runs

THE FOLLOWING IS FROM WDFW’S U.S. VS. OREGON TECHNICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE SUBGROUP

COLUMBIA RIVER FALL CHINOOK

2018 Forecast/Actual Returns and 2019 Preseason Forecasts The forecasts shown here are estimates made in February in preparation for the North of Falcon season-setting process. Once the North of Falcon process is complete, these February forecasts will change slightly. Final forecasts will be available in mid-April.

1Subset of URB

2First year for predicting LRB which was formerly a component of BUB stock.

2019 Forecasts

? LRH – Similar to last year’s actual return, about 60% of the 10-year average.

? LRW – Improved over 2018 actual return, 85% of the 10-year average.

? LRB – Forecast is more than twice the 10-year average.

? BPH – Improved over 2018 actual return, about half of the 10-year average.

? URB – Similar to last year’s actual return.

? PUB – Improved over 2018 actual return, about two-thirds of the 10-year average.

? SAB – Forecast is 27% of the recent 10-year average.

? Total Return – Slight improvement over 2018 actual return. Several years of poor ocean conditions are likely contributing to the decreased returns.


Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click HERE to learn more.

 

Washington Bass, Walleye, Channel Cats Would Remain Game Fish But With Liberalized Regs Under Bill Amendment

Walleye, bass and channel catfish would not be declassified as game species in Washington, but the Fish and Wildlife Commission would need to liberalize limits on them in all waters where sea-going salmonids swim.

STATE LAWMAKERS RECOMMENDED THAT LIMITS ON LARGEMOUTH BASS, LIKE THIS ONE CAUGHT AT A NORTHWEST WASHINGTON LAKE, AS WELL AS SMALLMOUTH BASS, WALLEYE AND CHANNEL CATFISH LIMITS BE LIBERALIZED IN WATERS BEARING SEA-GOING SALMONIDS LIKE CHINOOK. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committee this morning voted 8-6 to amend HB 1579 to that effect.

The bill mostly deals with enforcement of hydraulic codes, but targets the nonnative smolt eaters as part of its suite of changes meant to help out struggling orcas and their key feedstock.

I think we should do everything we can to encourage recreational fisheries to catch as many of those fish as possible so that they’re not predating on Chinook salmon,” prime sponsor Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Burien) said during a public hearing last week.

There already are no size or catch limit restrictions on smallmouth, largemouth, walleye and channel cats in the Columbia below Chief Joseph Dam and Snake and both of their tribs, a move WDFW implemented in 2016 following ODFW’s lead.

Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click HERE to learn more.

But as written the change would liberalize regulations for the species on Lakes Washington and Sammamish and a host of other stillwaters connected to streams that serve as spawning and rearing habitat for not only Chinook but also coho, sockeye, steelhead, bull trout and other anadromous species.

For instance, Cottage Lake near Woodinville, Big Lake near Mt. Vernon, and Lake Sawyer east of Auburn.

WDFW’s SalmonScape illustrates the scope of other potentially affected waters.

And it also shows ones that may not, at least under the bill as it’s currently written — important spinyray lakes such as Banks, Billy Clapp, Moses, Potholes, Scooteney and Sprague in Eastern Washington, along with Seattle’s Green, Snohomish County’s Goodwin and Roseiger, and Bellingham’s Whatcom.

The state mapping product shows those have not been documented to have salmon present in or above them.

But eventually Rufus Woods and Lake Roosevelt could, if efforts to reintroduce Chinook to the Canadian Columbia go through.

Walleye and smallmouth are primarily in the Columbia system and largemouth are ubiquitous in lakes across Washington, and all can spawn naturally, but channel cats, which tend to only be able to spawn in the warmest of our relatively cool waters, have been planted in select lakes when funding has been available to buy them from other states.

While the issue of how to classify fish that are from the Midwest and elsewhere east of the Rockies is of concern to WDFW and the state’s warmwater anglers and guides, the bill has primarily elicited pushback for the elements strengthening how the agency permits work around water, including repealing all but automatic approvals for residential bulkheads on the saltwater, which can impact forage fish spawning habitat.

Rep. Bruce Chandler, a Republican from eastern Yakima County, called the bill “an imposition of changes that really apply to Puget Sound.”

Chairman Brian Blake, a Democrat who represents Washington’s South Coast, termed it a “work in progress,” but nonetheless asked fellow lawmakers to move it forward.

All eight Democrats voted for a slate of amendments to the bill, while six of the seven Republicans voted against, with the seventh absent.

The bill also would require anglers who fish for smelt in saltwaters to buy a license, a move that would annually yield an estimated $37,400, according to a legislative analysis.

A version in the Senate, SB 5580, had a public hearing yesterday. It was supported by WDFW and tribal and environmental groups, and opposed by building and business associations, with concerns from the state farm bureau.

To go into law, they would have to pass both chambers and be signed by Governor Inslee, and then, at least as far as bass, walleye, and channel cats go, the Fish and Wildlife Commission would need to make the changes to the regulations, though it could be also be done via an emergency rule.

Editor’s note: An earlier version reported HB 1579 received a do-pass recommendation out of committee. In fact, the vote was whether to amend the bill, which occurred. It remains to be given a recommendation.

SW Washington, Columbia Gorge Fishing Report (2-5-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 13 bank anglers kept 2 legal sturgeon and released 5 sublegal sturgeon.  14 boats/30 rods released 17 sublegal and 1 oversize sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool– Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool– 31 bank anglers kept 1 legal sturgeon.  9 boats/18 rods released 2 sublegal sturgeon.

FRANK URABECK AND GRANDSON SPENCER EWING GOT INTO A PRETTY NICE GRADE OF WINTER STEELHEAD DURING A RECENT OUTING ON THE QUINAULT INDIAN RESERVATION. (SPENCER EWING VIA FRANK URABECK)

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 2 boats/4 rods kept 1 walleye.

The Dalles Pool– No report.

John Day Pool– 16 boats/28 rods kept 18 walleye and released 5 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 10 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.  2 boats/4 rods had no catch.

Elochoman River – 17 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead and released 3 steelhead.  1 boat/2 rods released 2 steelhead.

Abernathy Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Mill Creek – 3 bank anglers had no catch.

Germany Creek – 10 bank anglers kept 2 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 26 bank rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  12 bank rods kept 2 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.  3 boats/6 rods kept 6 steelhead.

Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click HERE to learn more.
Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered four winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

All the fish collected last week were held at the hatchery for broodstock needs.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 4,920 cubic feet per second on Monday, Feb. 4. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 43.2 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

East Fork Lewis River – 18 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.

Salmon Creek – 26 bank anglers kept 3 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Trout Plants and stocking schedules:

WDFW Fish-Hunt Fee Hike, Other Bills Introduced In Olympia

The Olympia Outsider™ almost didn’t file an update this week after — true story — messing up his shoulder really bad while swiping his bus pass on the card reader as he boarded the 41.

The pain!!!!!!!

But duty calls, and so with the muscle relaxants kicking in, here are fish- and wildlife-related bills that Washington lawmakers have introduced this week, as well as a pair three (good grief) that he totally missed from earlier in the session.

Bill: HB 1708 / SB 5692
Title: “Concerning recreational fishing and hunting licenses.”
Sponsors: Reps. Blake, Fitzgibbon, Springer, Irwin, Chandler, Robinson, Riccelli, Lekanoff, Dye, Jinkins, Tarleton / Sens. Rolfes, McCoy, Takko, Wellman
Note: By request of WDFW
Bill digest: Not available, but this is the agency’s fee increase bill and while it would add 15 percent to the base cost for resident fishing and hunting licenses, by request of the Fish and Wildlife Commission it also includes a cap on how much more you’d end up paying overall. “It’s $7 on any combination of fishing licenses,” says Raquel Crosier, WDFW’s legislative liaison. “No fisherman will pay more than $7 more and hunter more than $15 more.” It pushes the age that kids first have to buy a fishing license from 15 to 16 and gives the commission authority to institute small surcharges after two years “to fund inflationary and other increased costs approved by the legislature in the biennial budget.” That could potentially mean “more frequent but smaller adjustments” to the cost of licenses compared to the effect of this bill, which would increase prices for the first time since 2011.

OO analysis: This is the second fee bill WDFW has floated since 2017 and Crosier is optimistic this one will do better than the last one. “It’s getting a lot more positive reach, at least in Olympia,” she notes, adding that some Republicans have even consponsored it this go-around. Overall, the agency is looking for a $67 million budget bump from lawmakers, with about three-quarters of that coming from the General Fund to make up for cuts from it since the Great Recession that haven’t been fully restored. It will be interesting to watch who testifies and what they say when the bills make it to a public hearing.


Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click here to learn more.

Bill: HB 1784
Title: “Concerning wildfire prevention.”
Sponsors: Reps. Kretz, Blake
Bill digest: None available but essentially adds “wildfire fuel breaks” to the tools land managers have for preventing catastrophic blow-ups on public ground.
Olympia Outsider™ analysis: Can’t say the OO is against taking better care of areas that also function as critter habitat. A recent DNR blog highlighted how tree thinning and preventative burning on WDFW’s Sherman Creek Wildlife Area and elsewhere nearby helped keep parts of last summer’s Boyds Fire on the forest floor instead of crowning out as it did elsewhere in burning over 4,000 acres.

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)

Bill: HB 1824
Title: “Addressing the impacts of pinnipeds on populations of threatened southern resident orca prey.”
Sponsors: Reps. Young, Kloba, MacEwen, Vick, Irwin, Chambers, Lovick, Tarleton
Bill digest: None available, but requires WDFW to file a permit with federal overseers “for the maximum lethal take of sea lions in order to enhance the survival or recovery of salmon species protected in Washington,” meaning ESA-listed Chinook which are a key feedstock for starting orcas.
OO analysis: The bill has cosponsors from both sides of the aisle, including the woman who represents the Ballard Locks, where Herschell et al et all of Lake Washington’s steelhead — see what I did there? California sea lions are at their habitat’s capacity, and a recent analysis estimated that the marine mammals as well as harbor seals and northern orcas have increased their consumption of Chinook from 5 million to 31.5 million fish since 1970. Between that and decreased hatchery production, there are fewer salmon available for SRKWs, not to mention fishermen. While thanks to recent Congressional action, WDFW is already applying for authorization to take out sea lions on portions of the Columbia and its tribs, this appears to call for a broader permit and without all the bother of RCW 43.21C.030(2)(c), something something something about big reports on environmental impacts something something. (Sorry, the Methocarbosomething something is kicking in pretty nicely.)

Bill: HB 1662 / SB 5696
Title: “Concerning payments in lieu of real property taxes.”
Sponsors: Reps. Dent, Springer, Kretz, Blake, Dye, Tharinger, Chandler, Fitzgibbon, Peterson, Fey, Corry, Dufault, Young /  Sens.
Bill digest: None available but according to Crosier it essentially would mirror the way DNR pays counties through the state treasurer, allowing WDFW to more fully compensate counties for the million or so acres it has taken off local tax rolls as it has purchased farms, ranches and timberlands for wildlife areas. Crosier says it sets “a more consistent methodology and pay rate.”
OO analysis: If your eyes are as glazed over as the OO’s, we don’t blame you because this PILT bill is boring as hell, but could be helpful in restoring peace in counties where WDFW land ownership has caused friction and more critter habitat is needed.

THE 4-O WILDLIFE AREA IN ASOTIN COUNTY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Bill: HB 1261 / SB 5322
Title: “Ensuring compliance with the federal clean water act by prohibiting certain discharges into waters of the state.”
Sponsors: Reps. Peterson, Fitzgibbon, Stanford, Tarleton, Ortiz-Self, Lekanoff, Doglio, Macri, Pollet /  Sens. Palumbo, Carlyle, Wellman, Hunt, McCoy, Hasegawa, Kuderer, Nguyen, Saldaña
Bill digest: “Specifies that a discharge to waters of the state from a  motorized or gravity siphon aquatic mining operation is subject to the department of ecology’s authority and the federal clean water act.” Per a press release from Trout Unlimited, which is supporting the bills, the bills would “ban suction dredge mining in Endangered Species Act-designated Critical Habitat for listed salmonids.” Those watersheds include most of Puget Sound; the Cowlitz and other Lower Columbia tribs; Middle and Upper Columbia tribs in Eastern Washington; and Snake River tribs, so, much of the state outside the OlyPen and South Coast river systems.
OO analysis: We’d blame the muscle relaxers for overlooking this pair of bills, but they were actually dropped well before the OO suffered his grievous muscle something something. They’ve been routed to House and Senate environmental committees, where they will have public hearings early next week. Even with mining in my family history, the OO tends to side with fish these days — if the stocks need protection from even catch-and-release angling, they should probably have their habitat protected a little more too.

IMAGES FROM AN INTENT TO SUE NOTICE FROM SEVERAL YEARS AGO ILLUSTRATE TWO ORGANIZATIONS’ CLAIMS THAT WASHINGTON’S SUCTION DREDGING REGULATIONS WEREN’T ENOUGH AT THE TIME WHEN IT CAME TO PROTECTING ESA-LISTED FISH SPECIES.

Bill: HB 5597
Title: “Creating a work group on aerial pesticide applications in forestlands.”
Sponsors: Sens. Rolfes, Saldaña, McCoy, Conway, Hasegawa
Bill digest: Unavailable, but per the bill, it would establish a work group comprised of representatives from various state agencies, timber and environmental interests, among others, “to develop recommendations for improving the best management practices for aerial application of pesticides on state and private forestlands.”
OO analysis: Another bill from a couple weeks ago that the OO totally missed (possibly because he was enveloped by a cloud sprayed on the clearcut he reports all this stuff from), but will be an interesting one when it has a public hearing Feb. 7.

AS FOR OTHER BILLS THE OLYMPIA OUTSIDER™ HAS REPORTED ON so far this session, here’s a snapshot of those that have moved one way or another.

HB 1036, South Coast hatchery salmon production — hearing today in House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources.

HB 1061, Designating razors as the state clam — an open-and-quickly-closed public hearing was held by the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Relations .

HB 1230, Making more disabled sportsmen eligible for discounted licenses — hearing held and executive session scheduled today by House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources.

SB 5100, Restarting a pilot hound hunt for cougars in select counties — public hearing held by Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks with varying support, opposition and neutralness.

SB 5320, Nonlethal hound training program — hearing held, received widespread support and now scheduled for executive session by Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks today. House version set for public hearing later in February.

SB 5404, Fish habitat enhancement projects definitions — hearing scheduled next week in Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks.

HB 1579 / SB 5580, Chinook habitat protections and declassifying select game fish — public hearing held earlier this week before House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources with strong support from fishermen, tribes, others for major portion of bill addressing hydraulic approvals, but with angler concerns about designation drops for walleye, bass, catfish. Senate version set for hearing next week.

HB 1580 / SB 5577 Vessel disturbance and orcas — public hearing before House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources next week.

SB 5617, banning nontribal gillnets — officially, this bill hasn’t been given a public hearing date since being introduced late last week, but rumor is it will get one before Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks in February.

SSB 5148, OKing hunters to wear pink clothing during certain big, small game seasons — hearing held, received good support and was given a do-pass recommendation by Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks. Now in Senate Rules Committee for a second reading

AND AS FOR THE REST OF THE BILLS WE’RE FOLLOWING but which are awaiting committee assignments before the Feb. 22 deadline, those include:

Writing fishing and hunting rights into the state Constitution by a vote of the people — would be nice to get on the ballot, if only Washingtonians could be trusted to vote the right way

Estimating Northeast Washington whitetails — would be nice to get more refined data on the region’s flagtails

Studying human impacts on streambeds — would be nice to know

Turning Bainbridge Island (The Wolfiest!) into a wolf sanctuary — would be nice to visit, but bill not going anywhere

Barring WDFW from lethally removing livestock-depredating wolves — ironically, bill was shot and it limped off and died somewhere on Bainbridge

Banning hounds from being used to track down timber-depredating bears — unlikely to get a hearing

And asking Congress to open hunting seasons on sea lions — not going to happen, even if CNN seems ready to go.

Strong Salmon Habitat Bill Would Also Declassify Popular Fish Species

Washington fishermen and others spoke yesterday in Olympia in support of an orca bill that primarily would increase salmon habitat protections, but concern was also expressed over one part that targets popular game fish.

Under House Bill 1579 and similar legislation introduced in the Senate, walleye, smallmouth and largemouth bass and channel catfish would be removed from the list of regulated species in Evergreen State waters.

A TRI-CITIES ANGLER HAD A T-SHIRT MADE OF COLUMBIA RIVER WALLEYE AND CHINOOK HE’S CAUGHT AND THAT HAVE APPEARED ON THE COVER OF NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN MAGAZINE. (JERRY HAN)

The idea came out of Governor Jay Inslee’s orca task force last year, and citing the plight of southern resident killer whales and the lack of Chinook as one of the limiting factors for the state’s J, K and L pods, prime sponsor Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon called removing limits on the species a “common sense” solution.

I think we should do everything we can to encourage recreational fisheries to catch as many of those fish as possible so that they’re not predating on Chinook salmon,” the Burien Democrat said during a public hearing before Rep. Brian Blake’s Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committee.

The four nonnative warmwater species and Chinook primarily overlap in the Columbia below Chief Joseph Dam and in much of the Snake, but also occur in other places such as Lake Washington and portions of warmer rivers such as the lower Yakima and Grande Ronde.

No data was referenced during the hearing, which was televised on TVW, but a 2017 paper by federal researchers found Chinook smolts to be the second largest component of the diets of shoreline-running Snake River smallies between April and September from 2013 to 2015. Idaho kings are among important SRKW feedstocks, according to federal and state biologists.

But the removal of bass, walleye and whiskerfish from game fish status worries some anglers, even as they support the rest of the bill.

Ryley Fee of Puget Sound Anglers said that restoring and protecting habitat is the best long-term hope for recovering salmon and that the bill had “big teeth” in that regard.

We must give the state agencies the effective tools and civil-regulated authority to dissuade anyone from illegally damaging the remaining environment that we have,” he said.

However, Fee asked lawmakers to modify the broad-brush declassification of the four species.

For instance, he suggested only removing the game fish designation in habitats where ocean-going salmon occur and “not in lakes where there are valuable recreational fishing opportunities.”

RYLEY FEE OF PUGET SOUND ANGLERS SPEAKS BEFORE A STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON A BILL THAT WOULD ADD “BIG TEETH” TO SALMON HABITAT PROTECTIONS BUT WOULD ALSO DECLASSIFY FOUR FISH SPECIES POPULAR WITH ANGLERS. (TVW)

He proposed two options, listing them as “exotic species” in select watersheds to make the regs more clear, or retaining the game fish designation but liberalizing the bag limits where need be.

Currently in the Columbia and its tributaries below Chief Joe there are no minimum size or daily limits on walleye, bass or catfish, but elsewhere the species generally fall under statewide rules with certain size and bag restrictions.

The bill comes as walleye are increasingly popular to fish for in the big river, with anglers flocking from as far away as the species’ Upper Midwest home waters to try and land the next world record, while local fishermen hope to best John Grubenhoff’s 20-pounder.

And bugeyes, as they’re also known, were among the hits at last weekend’s Washington Sportsmen’s Show in Puyallup.

After the hearing, WDFW legislative liaison Raquel Crosier said that the agency was working on tweaks to the game fish designations.

“We want to make sure anglers are a part of the solution, so we are working with the sponsor to see if we can amend that section of the bill to liberalize bag limits without removing those species from the game fish list,” Crosier said. “Hearing lots of concerns from bass anglers and want to see those concerns addressed. The sponsor is eager to work on addressing these concerns.”

As for the rest of the bill, agency assistant director Jeff Davis expressed support, calling it “really darn important” for protecting SRKWs, salmon recovery investments and comanaged fisheries.

HB 1579 primarily addresses state hydraulic codes and enforcement and among those also speaking in favor were representatives from two tribal organizations and Jacques White of Long Live The Kings.

A SUMMARY OF HB 1579 BY NONPARTISAN LEGISLATIVE STAFF LAYS OUT THE CURRENT BILL’S IMPACTS ON GAME FISH SPECIES AND HYDRAULIC CODE ENFORCEMENT. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

White spoke to how armoring of Puget Sound’s shorelines has affected forage fish spawning areas and that 50 percent fewer Chinook smolts make it out of the inland sea than they once did.

It turns out that the forage fish are a critical element in the health of those juvenile Chinook,” he told lawmakers. “Juvenile Chinook populations 10 or 15 years ago relied heavily on herring in their diet and now they’re relying on crab larvae. Now, I like crab larvae better than I like herring, but apparently our salmon really want to see herring in the water column and in their diet.”

He said forage fish like herring also represent an alternate food source for harbor seals that are otherwise having to prey on Chinook.

“So this bill, I think, is a critical step in us protecting this important habitat,” he said.

However, a representative from the Association of Washington Businesses expressed concerns about the bill’s Hydraulic Project Approval provisions, while another from the Farm Bureau reminded lawmakers that it would affect operations across the state, not just in Puget Sound, and a third from the building industry association was opposed because it impacts how streamlined the process for putting in bulkheads currently is.

No, It’s Not Now Legal For Just Anyone To Kill Sea Lions, Even With A Permit

Hold your fire!

A CNN story out yesterday that suggests anyone who wants to lethally remove sea lions in the Northwest just needs to get a permit and kill the pinnipeds in a humane manner is not really accurate.

FIXED IT FOR YOU.

The lede of a story on the website of the cable news network whose hashtag is #FactsFirst states:

“Animal control in the western United States just got more extreme. A new law allows people to kill sea lions that have been devouring the region’s endangered salmon and steelhead — as long as they first get a permit.”

When this reporter inquired of a federal official this morning where and when I could get pick up said permit, I am pretty sure I could hear them slap their forehead via email.

The real story is that a bill passed last month in Congress and signed into law by the president authorized the states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington along with a handful of tribes to take out up to 920 California sea lions and 249 Steller sea lions in certain parts of the Columbia River annually through an amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

ODFW got on Twitter to correct CNN:

And it sounds like CNN will now do a correction.