Tag Archives: colville tribes

Chinook Released Into Lake Roosevelt

Another week, another 30 Chinook swimming where ocean-returning salmon haven’t been in the Upper Columbia for decades and decades.

A tribal newspaper based in North-central Washington reports that the Colville Tribes’ latest release occurred near Keller, above Grand Coulee Dam, which blocked anadromous fish runs 80 years ago.

GRAND COULEE DAM AND LAKE ROOSEVELT. (BUREAU OF RECLAMATION)

It’s a ceremonial move, one that’s “very sacred to us, very important,” Business Chairman Rodney Cawston said, according to the Tribal Tribune.

“We have strong prayers today, because our ancestors, our elders at the Ceremony of Tears, they had strong prayers that one day we would see these fish return back to the river, back to our people,” he said.

The summer kings were surplus to spawning needs at Wells Hatchery. Just as the 30 the tribes put into Lake Rufus Woods recently, they were screened beforehand by WDFW for an infectious fish virus before the release.

The paper reports that 30 more acoustically tagged Chinook were also let go in Rufus as an experiment, with another batch slated to go into dam-blocked Upper Columbia waters next week.

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Colvilles Aim To Release Returning Chinook Into Rufus Woods, Lake Roosevelt

The Colville Tribes hope to move surplus Chinook above two upper Columbia dams where the ocean-returning salmon haven’t been for as much as three-quarters of a century.

GRAND COULEE DAM AND LAKE ROOSEVELT. (BUREAU OF RECLAMATION)

Construction of Grand Coulee Dam and then Chief Joseph Dam without fish ladders ended passage past Bridgeport, but the tribes want to release adults that returned to Wells Hatchery into the reservoirs behind each this summer.

They’ve got a state permit to do so in Lake Rufus Woods, according to an article in the Tribal Tribune earlier this week, and plan to get another for Lake Roosevelt.

The news outlet describes the bid as “part of a ‘cultural release'” and report it is dependent on whether the salmon first pass testing for IHN, an infectious virus that affects fish.

The salmon are otherwise distributed to tribal members.

Ahead of any possible action, tribal fish and wildlife managers put out a call to elders and other Colvilles for comment.

“We’re to the point that we could have fish ready to move by the end of this month or the first part of August,” CTFW Director Randy Friedlander told the Tribune.

There have been increasing talk about bringing salmon back to Washington’s Upper Columbia and the British Columbia side of the international river.

It does seem a bit of a long shot as a way to jumpstart a run, as for any salmon that are released in the reservoirs, the next challenge would be for the fish to find gravel, for the eggs to hatch, for the smolts to make it over or through the first two dams without any kind of surface collectors, survive the rest of their downstream and ocean migration, and then return to some point below the dams and be collected to spawn the next generation.

But you gotta start somewhere and it’s clearly very important to do so to the tribes.

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Geezers (And Others) Will Now Have To Walk Down To Grand Coulee Fishing Beach

Despite a reported 33 of 34 commenters being opposed to banning parking at Geezer Beach, parking will no longer be allowed at the popular lower Lake Roosevelt bank fishery.

A FISHERMAN TENDS THEIR LINE AT GEEZER BEACH ON JAN. 8, 2019. (HANK WIEBE)

Local anglers and the town of Coulee Dam had fought the Bureau of Reclamation’s proposal this past winter, but citing “safety concerns” the federal agency will now block off vehicle entry to the fishy spot on the reservoir’s north bank just above Grand Coulee Dam.

Trouters and others will still be able to fish there, but will now have to walk in from a parking area at roughly the 1,300-foot-elevation mark down to the water, the level of which can fluctuate as low as the 1,220-foot mark over the course of a year. This year it went as low as 1,258 feet.

“It’s just bullsh*t,” reacted Northwest Sportsman reader Hank Weibe, who earlier this year said that due to his disabilities, the beach was “one of the few places I can access.”

For fellow angler Bob Minato, who reported that he suffers from heart disease, diabetes and poor circulation, Geezer is perfect for fishing out of his vehicle.

“Before I became disabled, I used to spend all six weeks of my vacation in Grand Coulee. Now I spend even more time in Grand Coulee and Eastern Washington,” he wrote to BOR.

With the lake near full pool now, the change won’t realistically go into effect until some time in early 2020 when water levels will drop to make room for spring runoff, per BOR spokeswoman Lynne Brougher.

REMINGTON WIEBE SHOWS OFF A NICE RAINBOW CAUGHT OFF GEEZER BEACH WHILE FISHING WITH HER GRANDPA, HANK, WHO HOPED TO KEEP THE ACCESS SITE OPEN TO DRIVE-DOWN ANGLING. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The feds essentially went along with a request from the Colville Tribes.

“We support the use of suitable areas for fishing or other appropriate recreational activities. However, driving on the drawdown is not an acceptable practice,” stated Chairman Rodney Cawston in comments citing public safety, protecting archeological resources and a ban on driving on the lakebed everywhere else on the reservoir.

However, in comments to BOR, Coulee Dam officials said that over the past four decades they’d never heard of any vehicle ever going into the water at Geezer Beach.

A former worker at the dam told The Star of Grand Coulee, which followed the story closely since last December, that the area had been “reworked and completely modified through the construction of the Dam’s history” while being used for staging, though a BOR assessment says that three places at or near there do have tribal names.

Banning parking on the beach but continuing to allow fishing was one of three alternatives federal managers evaluated.

Another was completely barring access, while the third was no change.

“… Cars, trucks, all-terrain vehicles and recreational vehicles will be required to park in designated parking areas and will not be allowed to drive or park on the shoreline or drawdown,” BOR said in a press release announcing the change.

The new rules for what’s known as BOR’s Reclamation Zone will be enforced by the Colville Tribes, the feds say.

Central Washington Pronghorn Meetings Tonight, Tuesday Evening

Tonight and tomorrow evening state wildlife managers will host a pair of listening sessions in North- and South-central Washington to hear from residents about how to manage building pronghorn herds in the two regions.

PRONGHORN RACE ACROSS A GRASSY FLAT IN THIS WDFW AERIAL IMAGE TAKEN BY BIOLOGIST MARK VEKASY. (MARK VEKASY, WDFW)

The first is Monday’s at Pioneer Hall in the tiny Douglas County town of Mansfield from 7 to 9 p.m., and Tuesday’s is at the offices of the Benton Rural Electric Association (402 7th St.) in Prosser, in the lower Yakima Valley, during the same hours.

WDFW is looking for feedback as it begins to develop a management plan for the native species being brought back to Washington by the Yakama Nation and Colville Confederated Tribes.

Transplanted to their sprawling reservations since 2011 and 2016 respectively, dozens have wandered off onto public and private lands in surrounding counties.

A February aerial count found a minimum of 248 in Benton, Klickitat and Yakima Counties, while a survey in the northern Columbia Basin early last summer turned up at least 118.

“I think they’re great to have on the landscape, and we’re working with local communities to produce an effective plan to manage them,” said WDFW’s Rich Harris in a press release last month announcing the meetings.

For those unable to make either meeting, his agency has posted a quick online survey with background on past reintroduction efforts, attitudes towards the species and suggested management approaches.

Pronghorn are listed as big game but while they’re not open for hunting, ideally the population builds enough for permits to be available someday.

One problem for pronghorns is that much of their potential range also supports livestock operations, but unlike other open-country species like mule deer, antelope don’t jump very well, meaning they don’t get along well with fences. They also are partial to alfalfa, which could create conflict with hay growers.

But besides longtime strong support from Safari Club International’s Central Washington Chapter, antelope are also receiving attention from Conservation Northwest.

“Recovering pronghorn populations in Washington is important for the landscape, because they increase biodiversity and restore a part of the shrub-steppe ecosystem,” states the Seattle-based organization, which is working to link species and habitat in the state’s core sagelands.

 

28.2-pound Pike Caught In Roosevelt’s Sanpoil Arm

The largest pike yet was caught this month on Lake Roosevelt, a 28.2-pound egg-laden female, and it was a lot further down the 150-mile-long reservoir than nearly all other northerns captured so far.

The 43.3-inch nonnative invasive fish was netted in the Sanpoil River arm, the mouth of which is just 17 miles from Grand Coulee Dam.

THE COLVILLE TRIBES CAPTURED THIS 28.2-POUND NORTHERN PIKE IN LAKE ROOSEVELT’S SANPOIL ARM. (COLVILLE TRIBES)

Even as state and tribal fishery managers are working more and more intensively to keep pike from getting below that dam and Chief Joseph into the salmon and steelhead zone, that a huge one turned up in the arm worries the Colville Tribes too.

“The Sanpoil River hosts the largest wild redband trout run in Lake Roosevelt. We are very concerned about northern pike increasing in abundance in the part of the reservoir,” said Holly McClellan, the tribes’ principal fisheries biologist.

Last year a 6.2-pound pike was caught just 10 miles from the dam, but the fish have mostly been found in the impoundment’s upper arm, up around the mouths of the Kettle and Colville Rivers, though they have been moving downlake towards Hunters and beyond.

An intensive joint state-tribal-utility effort to suppress pike numbers ahead of the spring spawn just wrapped up in those waters.

The previous largest northerns were a 27.7-pounder caught at Signers Bay, at Kettle Falls, and a 27.5 in the Spokane Arm.

The implication of a 28.2-pounder showing up so relatively far downlake takes awhile to sink in.

A fish that large will have been capable of breeding for quite some time, and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, which first reported the catch, said the big female had gonads, where the eggs are stored, that weighed 4 pounds.

Various sources suggest that a near-30-pound pike could carry up to 300,000 eggs.

BEFORE BEING CAUGHT IN A NET, THIS 31-INCH-LONG, 10-POUND LAKE ROOSEVELT PIKE SWALLOWED A TROUT HALF ITS BODY LENGTH. THAT’S NOT MUCH BIGGER THAN THE ADULT SOCKEYE RETURNING TO THE BREWSTER POOL. (WDFW)

That the fish was found so relatively close to the dam underlines grim warnings in a recent presentation from a larger report on predator issues in Roosevelt and the Columbia that the council was given. On northerns it stated:

It is likely that pike will eventually invade the anadromous zone — even with the best efforts in public education, early detection, and control or eradication.

Suppression in Lake Roosevelt could reduce risks of downstream establishment by reducing the number and average body size of downstream dispersers.

Even though the invasion is almost assured to occur in time, there is value in delaying it.

It advises managers that early detection and rapid responses are essential for nipping new outbreaks, that they must come up with those plans now before those occur, and they should monitor areas where it’s likely illegal introductions by bucket biologists would occur.

And it suggests it’s likely that young Chinook would be the most vulnerable to pike, followed by chum salmon.

Subsequent to our posting this story, the Colvilles’ McClellan told the Spokesman Review that at the current pace down the upper Columbia, ” … we think they are maybe three years away from being down below Chief Joseph Dam.”

Sheep Pneumonia Kills 11 Okanogan Bighorns; Monitoring Continues

A pneumonia outbreak may have run its course in a herd of Okanogan County bighorn sheep after killing nearly a dozen this past winter, but wildlife managers will keep monitoring the animals.

A BIGHORN RAM LOOKS OVER THE LOOMIS AREA OF NORTHCENTRAL OKANOGAN COUNTY. (JUSTIN HAUG, WDFW)

“Today the herd looks healthy, the lambs are healthy and fun to watch,” said WDFW wildlife biologist Jeff Heinlen, who was observing the Mt. Hull sheep this morning. “Boy, they’re active, up on the rocks, jumping around.”

It’s been a month and a half since the last new mortality and Heinlen counted 44 sheep, including 10 two-week-old-or-so lambs, along with 15 rams amongst the herd that roams across the mountain just southeast of Oroville.

In mid-March, WDFW reported one ram had been confirmed to have died from Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae — M. ovi for short — and afterwards asked the public to keep an eye out for any others displaying symptoms of the highly contagious bacteria.

Typically it starts with infected animals licking their lips, then coughing before eventually foaming at the mouth right before they die.

The agency’s early April bimonthly Wildlife Program report states that all totaled nine rams, one ewe and one of last year’s lambs are known to have succumbed, but that no new cases have been seen since March 30.

Heinlen says that six carcasses were sent to a Washington State University lab which confirmed they had all died from sheep pneumonia. Typically it is picked up from domestic herds.

It wasn’t clear why mortality was so concentrated among rams,  but possibly because a bachelor group came into contact with someone’s sheep.

Both WDFW and the Colville Tribes, which comanage the herd, withdrew the two ram and four ewe permits that were otherwise going to be available for this fall’s seasons due to the outbreak.

“There are still some pretty nice rams,” noted Heinlen.

While his latest count of 44 sheep is well below the 71 he saw in February and 80 to 82 tallied by the tribes during a January aerial survey, the animals have been using more forested terrain that makes it harder to get a headcount.

Heinlen said it’s easier to spot dead rams on the landscape due to their body size and large horns, but also said he wasn’t seeing eagles or magpies, which would suggest more carcasses on the ground.

This is the first time that M. ovi has been found in the Mt. Hull herd, he reported. It has struck others in Washington, including Yakima River Canyon, Tieton River and Snake-Grande Ronde populations.

“Bottom line, we’re not seeing the catastrophic die-off of other herds. We don’t know if it’s run its course, but we will continue to monitor the herd,” Heinlen said.

They’ll be watching those playful newborn lambs closely in hopes none come down with symptoms.

Central Washington Pronghorn Management Subject Of 2 Meetings, Survey

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wants to hear from residents on how to manage pronghorns on portions of central Washington. The agency will host two public listening sessions to gather stakeholder feedback on pronghorn antelope management.

PRONGHORN WANDER ACROSS FRIGID DOUGLAS COUNTY FIELDS IN LATE 2016 FOLLOWING COLVILLE TRIBES TRANSLOCATIONS TO THE RESERVATION ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER FROM THERE. (ERIC BRAATEN, WDFW)

“Pronghorn are some of the rarest and least-known large mammals in Washington. Historically, they’ve been a natural part of our ecosystems across the flat grassland areas of eastern Washington, though loss of habitat and changes in climate have made it difficult for a sustainable population to survive,” said Rich Harris, game division section manager. “I think they’re great to have on the landscape, and we’re working with local communities to produce an effective plan to manage them.”

The first meeting is 7 p.m. Monday, June 3 at Pioneer Hall in Mansfield. The second meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 4 at the Benton Rural Electric Association, 402 7th St, Prosser.

WDFW is seeking the public’s feedback to develop a pronghorn antelope management plan. At the meeting, WDFW staff will give a background of pronghorn in Washington, address issues and concerns, and identify opportunities for pronghorn management.

In addition to the two public listening meetings, we invite the public to provide their feedback in our online pronghorn survey (https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/pronghorn-antelope-management). The survey will go live later this week.

Pronghorn antelope are small, between 70 and 150 pounds, and eat small flowering plants. They coexist with livestock, but can cause damage to crops. Unlike mule deer, pronghorns do not jump well, so fencing can cause problems when they try to escape predators.

Pronghorn antelope populations declined significantly in Washington prior to the 19th century, when they were extirpated or locally extinct in Washington.

Washington state officials previously attempted to reintroduce pronghorns on several occasions in the 1900s. In 2011, the Yakama Tribe reintroduced 99 pronghorns onto their reservation. In 2016 and 2017, the Colville Confederation Tribes reintroduced roughly 150 pronghorns onto their reservation.

Since these reintroductions, the pronghorns have migrated from the reservations onto state-managed lands. WDFW is working with local communities to create a pronghorn management plan for Washington.

Major Northern Pike Gillnetting Effort Set To Begin On Lake Roosevelt

State and tribal fishery managers will begin one of their largest, most intensive efforts yet to suppress invasive northern pike in Lake Roosevelt by setting as many as 500 gillnets in early May during the species’ spawn.

“We need to put a dent in them,” says WDFW’s Chuck Lee. “They’ll be easier to control if we get a handle on this earlier. The longer we wait, the more expensive it gets.”

THIS NORTHERN PIKE CAUGHT IN A GILLNET SET IN LAKE ROOSEVELT MAY HAVE BEEN ATTRACTED BY THE RAINBOW TROUT ALSO SNARED IN THE MESH. MANAGERS WANT FEWER OF THE NONNATIVE FISH AND MORE OF THE NATIVE ONES. (WDFW)

His agency along with the Colville, Kalispel and Spokane Tribes, Chelan and Grant Counties PUD, National Park Service and the Northwest Power Planning Council are all participating in the intensive four-day, May 6-9 effort that follows on several years of netting since the fish first turned up in the reservoir in 2011.

Ten crews will set nets on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and pull them on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The effort is being timed to water temperatures that spur northerns to get more active and start looking for habitat to broadcast their eggs and milt and thus become more susceptible to netting.

“We’re trying to catch mature adults before the spawn,” Lee says.

According to a notice from the Colville Tribes, nets will be set in waters 20 feet deep or less that attract staging pike and which “should also help reduce bycatch of non-target species.”

A COLVILLE TRIBES MAP BREAKS DOWN THE ZONES EACH AGENCY WILL WORK DURING THE MAY 6-9 EFFORT. (CCT F&W)

The generally cool water temps also means better survival rates for walleye and trout caught in the nets.

The latter species appears to be a favorite of the nonnative species that was flushed out of the Pend Oreille River system after being illegally introduced there, probably from Idaho’s Couer d’Alene watershed.

“We see a lot of hatchery trout in their guts, a lot of unknown trout too — wild redbands? hatchery trout?” says Lee.

BEFORE BEING CAUGHT IN A NET, THIS 31-INCH-LONG, 10-POUND PIKE SWALLOWED A TROUT HALF ITS BODY LENGTH. (WDFW)

Past years’ suppression efforts do appear to be paying off.

He says that where 5- and 6-year-old pike had been turning up in nets, they’re now primarily pulling in 1-, 2- and 3-year-old fish.

“If we can continue to keep on top of these females before they mature and spawn,” that will help keep the population under control, he says.

The Colvilles have also been paying anglers a bounty for pike heads.

The ultimate worry is that if northerns escape Roosevelt and get through Lake Rufus Woods below it, they’ll have a feast in the form of hatchery and wild ESA-listed salmon and steelhead smolts awaiting at the mouth of the Okanogan River — perhaps even returning adult sockeye.

Lee says that pike are slowly moving down Roosevelt. Where populations were focused around the mouths of the Kettle and Colville Rivers, fish are turning up at Hunters and outside the Spokane Arm where the impoundment swings west.

Along with the tribes whose reservations border Roosevelt, the Upper Columbia United Tribes will be on hand to observe the effort, Lee says.

“I’m kind of excited to see us get this group together to suppress pike,” he says of all the participants.

WDFW Asks For Public Help Monitoring Okanogan Bighorns After 1 Dies From Sheep Pneumonia

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) asks members of the public to report sightings of bighorn sheep that are obviously ill in Okanogan County after a bighorn ram from the Mt. Hull herd was recently confirmed to have died from pneumonia caused by a highly infectious bacteria. While posing no health threat to humans, Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, known as M. ovi, can decimate bighorn populations and kill lambs for many years, preventing herds from repopulating.

A BIGHORN RAM LOOKS OVER THE LOOMIS AREA OF NORTHCENTRAL OKANOGAN COUNTY. (JUSTIN HAUG, WDFW)

At this time, only a single ram from the herd near the Canadian border has tested positive for pneumonia. Testing on additional animals is currently underway. While WDFW biologists and veterinarians await results, they are partnering with biologists at the Colville Tribes to increase visual monitoring of the Mt. Hull herd. And they are asking for help from the public.

“This is a highly visible herd. These sheep are in orchards and among houses,” said WDFW Biologist Jeff Heinlen. “Because we can’t be watching all the time, we are asking people to alert us if they notice sheep that appear lethargic, coughing or showing nasal discharge. This helps us assess the health of the herd.”

There is also a potential for wandering sheep to pass M. ovi to animals in other herds, such as the Omak Lake herd on the Colville Reservation to the south, the Sinlahekin herd to the west, or herds to the north across the border in British Columbia.

“In 2012 the Colville Tribes conducted a genetic analysis between the Sinlahekin, Mt. Hull, and Omak Lake herds, showing us that the Omak Lake herd was likely founded by individuals from the Sinlahekin herd, but may have been in contact through immigration event(s) with the Mt. Hull herd in the past,” said Colville Tribal Biologist Eric Krausz. “We have documented collared bighorn sheep traveling from Omak Lake to Mt. Hull, so we know bighorn sheep from these distinct herds travel back and forth on occasion and likely come into contact with one another.”

Because of this, WDFW asks to also be alerted if bighorn sheep are observed in places they aren’t normally seen. The Mt. Hull herd’s typical range is from approximately Tonasket to the Canadian border north of Oroville. If sheep are seen outside that area, or notably sick bighorn sheep are observed, please call Jeff Heinlen at (509) 826-7372 and leave a message or email Jeffrey.Heinlen@dfw.wa.gov.

While it is biologically possible for uninfected domestic sheep or goats to become infected by contagious bighorns, cross-species transmission of M. ovi is much more common in the reverse direction. The bacteria typically causes only mild and temporary symptoms in domestic sheep and can reduce growth rates, but serious illness and death is rare. In contrast, most bighorns that become infected due to close contact with domestic sheep or goats succumb to pneumonia, and some that survive pass it to newborn lambs that similarly lack immune protection.

There are approximately 17 bighorn sheep herds across Washington, two within the bounds of the Colville Reservation.

Washington Wildlife Commission To Hear About Eastside’s Pronghorns

Pronghorns popping up on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission agenda for this weekend’s meetings got my hunter’s heart racing.

“Just a briefing on status or should we look for something along the lines of potential permit hunt development?” I asked state speedgoat manager Richard Harris.

He got back to me pretty quickly and tempered my enthusiasm somewhat.

“Just a briefing, at the request of the Commission. Premature for the latter …,” Harris replied via email.

Dangit!

Still, if you’re interested in the expansion of antelope herds in the eastern half of the Evergreen State, his presentation to the citizen panel does make for some interesting viewing.

Its 26 pages covers the native species’ history, its extirpation by the very early 1900s, and state (mid-1900s) and tribal (2000s) reintroduction efforts, as well as maps showing where those captured in Nevada and released onto the Yakama and Colville Reservations with GPS collars primarily range and have wandered.

Some on the former reservation have gone as far east as I-82 between Tri-Cities and the Columbia, and as far south as almost to the giant landfill above Roosevelt in Klickitat County.

Some on the latter have gone as far south as near the mouth of Moses Coulee.

A HERD OF PRONGHORN ANTELOPE ON ALERT ON THE FROZEN TUNDRA OF NORTHERN DOUGLAS COUNTY, WASH. (ERIC BRAATEN, WDFW)

The presentation also touches on population monitoring (last summer we reported there were roughly 250 out there, and WDFW and the Yakamas are planning another joint late-January survey), landowner issues (pronghorns are prone to alfalfa addictions), and the state’s existing policies.

The request for a briefing came from Commissioner Kim Thorburn of Spokane, and with one-third of the antelope in Washington now occupying ground where WDFW has jurisdiction, Harris will brief the commission on future steps, which includes:

• Preliminary management plans for both Upper Columbia Basin and Lower Columbia Basin pronghorn groups
• Work closely with Tribes to develop complementary plans and strategies
• Public meetings to gather input and suggestions
Whether or not the tribal reintroductions ever result in limited state hunts, it’s still one to keep an eye on if you’re a Washington wildlife world watcher.

 

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