Tag Archives: curt Melcher

DFWs’ 2020 Columbia Salmon Agreement Draws Push Back

The latest chapter in the seemingly never-ending Columbia River salmon reforms is raising hackles this afternoon.


Less than two hours after the DFWs sent out press releases that their directors had agreed to split 2020 spring, summer and fall Chinook sport-nontribal commercial allocations at 75/25, 80/20 and 70/30, and again OKed gillnets above the Lewis for fall kings, the Coastal Conservation Association of Washington sent out an email subject-lined “Block WDFW’s Efforts to Increase Columbia River Gillnetting.”

“The Legislature is our best hope for reversing these alarming decisions. Please act now,” CCA urged in an online campaign.

According to WDFW’s press release, the agreement does allow for tangle nets — not gillnets — to be used in the mainstem Lower Columbia if a mid-May spring Chinook runsize update shows enough are available for harvest.

It does keep gillnets out of the river during the summer Chinook run.

And it would allow commercial gillnetters to fish above the mouth of the Lewis River in what are known as Zones 4 and 5 for fall Chinook, “in order to maintain concurrency with Oregon,” per the DFWs.

Last season that happened in August and again in early October on a handful of days, with 8,824 kings weighing 131,672 pounds netted.

The DFWs’ press release states that the 75 percent sport allocation of spring Chinook for 2020 represents a 5 percent increase from Washington’s policy, but last year’s fishery was actually managed on an 80-20 basis, per management documents.

No mainstem netting occurred for springers, as the commercial fleet was restricted to off-channel areas last year.

The agreement also includes what one observer described as a “flip-flop-flip,” by again requiring barbless hooks for salmon and steelhead on the Columbia from Buoy 10 to the state line just east of McNary Dam beginning March 1.

After a period of years when barbless were required due to the reforms that began in 2013, ODFW OKed barbed hooks again last June while WDFW made their use voluntary.

On Friday, a 2016 blog post by California guide JD Richey that hook placement was more important than whether the hook was barbed or not was making the rounds on Facebook, but some anglers feel that with all the ESA listed stocks on the Columbia barbless is the better way to go.

Earlier this year both states’ Fish and Wildlife Commissions dissolved their joint Columbia River Policy Review Committee and turned season negotiations over to Directors Curt Melcher for ODFW and Kelly Susewind for WDFW.

WDFW, ODFW Agree On 2020 Columbia Fisheries; Barbless Hooks Required For This Season


The directors of the Washington and Oregon departments of Fish and Wildlife reached an agreement this week on allocations and gear types for Columbia River salmon fisheries in 2020.


The Washington and Oregon Fish and Wildlife commissions earlier this year delegated development of 2020 Columbia River fisheries to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Director Curt Melcher and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Kelly Susewind.

“Consistency in the regulations between our two states is always a top priority when talking about management on the Columbia River,” Susewind said. “This agreement is similar to what occurred last year, and brings Oregon and Washington in line with each other on some key issues.”

“Consistency between the states is important, and I am pleased we could come to an agreement,” said ODFW Director Curt Melcher.

Under the 2020 plan, 75 percent of the spring Chinook would be allocated to recreational anglers – a 5 percent increase from the allocation outlined in Washington’s Columbia River policy – with the other 25 percent allocated to the commercial fishery. Only tangle nets would be allowed in the mainstem during the commercial spring fishery after the run size update in mid- to late-May.

The summer fishery will feature an 80 percent and 20 percent split for the recreational and commercial fisheries, respectively. No gillnets will be permitted on the mainstem for the summer Chinook fishery.

The 2020 fall Chinook fishery will be the same as 2019, with a maximum of 70 percent allocated to the recreational fishery, and no less than 30 percent allocated to commercial fishers. Gillnets will again be allowed during the fall salmon fishery upstream of the Lewis River on the lower Columbia River, in order to maintain concurrency with Oregon.

“This new agreement does include limited allowance for gillnets in areas where they are currently allowed under Oregon’s rules,” Susewind said. “This helps us stay concurrent, even as we continue to explore possible alternative gear for commercial fisheries.”

Additionally, the use of barbless hooks in Columbia River fisheries will again be mandatory under the new agreement. This is a change from 2019, when the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission made barbless hooks voluntary after June 1. Barbless hooks will be required for salmon and steelhead fisheries on the mainstem Columbia River from the mouth to the Washington/Oregon state line upstream of McNary Dam, effective March 1.

This agreement only applies to the 2020 season. Conservation measures remain unchanged, and no additional fishing pressure was approved beyond the annual amount allowed in full compliance with all salmon and steelhead Endangered Species Act requirements and sustainable fishery management practices.

The allocations in Columbia River fisheries refer to the proportion of impacts to wild fish allowed under Endangered Species Act guidelines, not the proportion of overall catch.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission continues to review and evaluate its Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy, which went into effect in 2013 and provides long-term guidance for Columbia River fisheries.

Oregon Gov. To ODFW: Support For Wolf Delisting Was ‘Incorrect’

In a staggering turn, Oregon’s governor told federal officials that her fish and wildlife director was “incorrect” in supporting the delisting of wolves in the western two-thirds of their state and elsewhere in the Lower 48.


“The state of Oregon and its agencies do not support the delisting of wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act across their range in the 48 contiguous states,” Gov. Kate Brown also wrote in a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

That contradicts comments sent just the week before by ODFW’s Curt Melcher that said he agreed with the feds that it was time to remove the species from the ESA list, the state was ready to take on the responsibility across Oregon, and “few changes would occur” as a result.

Asked by a reporter at a news conference late this morning if Melcher should have checked with her office before entering the comments on the Federal Register, Brown said, “That probably would have been a good idea.”

In effectively reversing the state’s position, she said it was “critically important that we maintain rangewide recovery for wolves across the entire Western United States and I think it’s critical they maintain their listing status for that to happen.”

Dominic Aiello of the Oregon Outdoor Council disagreed sharply with the governor’s move.

“The proposed removal of the wolf  — or any species — from the federal Endangered Species Act should be cheered as a conservation success story. Unfortunately, the ESA continues to be used by local and national environmental groups and some politicians as a means to force their political agenda. It is extremely disappointing to see Governor Brown undercut science and the state’s biologists,” he said.

Indeed, wildlife management is based in science — but politics does invade the realm, sometimes more nakedly than others.

Earlier this month, the nomination of a Northeast Oregon hunter, outfitter and conservationist to serve on ODFW’s Fish and Wildlife Commission was scuttled after environmental groups objected, and then changed their tune about why they were objecting.

Objections from environmental groups also led to what’s believed to be a first in Washington, Gov. Jay Insee’s 2015 order to the Fish & Wildlife Commission to reverse a decision involving slightly increased cougar quotas in parts of Eastern Washington.

This is the second time this decade that the USFWS has proposed delisting gray wolves in the western two-thirds of Oregon, Washington and elsewhere outside the Northern Rockies (which include the eastern thirds of both states, where wolves were Congressionally removed in 2011).

The other time, in 2013, it was derailed through the courts.

Meanwhile, the species is clearly recovered and not in any danger of failing in the Northwest, thanks to strong protections put in place by ODFW, WDFW and other state wildlife management agencies.

Comments on this latest proposal were due Tuesday, but USFWS has since extended the deadline until July 15, and Brown’s will now stand as the state’s statement.

“ODFW appreciates and respects the governor’s clarification of the state’s position on federal wolf delisting in the Lower 48,” said agency spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy.

Melcher Reappointed As ODFW Head, Commission Hears About Columbia Sturgeon


The Commission reappointed Curt Melcher of Molalla to another four-year term as ODFW Director at its meeting in Portland today. Melcher has been with ODFW for 34 years, starting his career doing fish creel surveys on the Columbia River. He has served as ODFW Director since 2014.


Commissioners heard an update on Lower Columbia River white sturgeon populations and fisheries and results from ODFW’s ongoing stock assessments. Population indicators for white sturgeon are mixed, with positive signs for the abundance of legal-sized fish but more cautionary ones for juvenile and young-of-year recruitment. Because of these concerns, fisheries managers continue to take a precautionary approach to white sturgeon fisheries.

The Commission also heard a briefing on the state’s razor clam fisheries, including ODFW’s decades-long monitoring program. Razor clamming is a popular activity on the north coast, especially on Clatsop beaches, where 5,000-6,000 people can be out clamming on a good low tide.

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The 2018-19 razor clam season on Clatsop beaches was delayed from its traditional opening date of Oct. 1 this year because the population was dominated by undersized clams. The season remains scheduled to open March 1, 2019 though some clams are still small.

Also today, Chair Finley announced that the adoption of a revised Wolf Plan scheduled for March 15 would be postponed to a future meeting, to allow everyone more time to review the Plan and Commissioners more time to talk with constituents. ODFW staff intend to make a draft Plan available for review in early March.

The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in Oregon. Its next meeting is March 15 in Salem.