Tag Archives: cutthroat trout

Last Chance To Save Lake Washington Sockeye Fisheries?

Too few young sockeye are surviving as they rear in Lake Washington before going out to sea, and the runs — not to mention the famed salmon fisheries — could peter out in 20 years or so if nothing’s done.

SOCKEYE SMOLTS FACE AN INCREASING HOST OF PREDATORS IN LAKE WASHINGTON (THESE WERE PHOTOGRAPHED IN IDAHO), INCLUDING NATIVE SPECIES SUCH AS CUTTHROAT TROUT AND NORTHERN PIKEMINNOW, AND NONNATIVE ONES SUCH AS SMALLMOUTH, LARGEMOUTH AND ROCK BASS, YELLOW PERCH, AND NOW WALLEYE AND NORTHERN PIKE. (MIKE PETERSON, IDFG VIA NMFS, FLICKR, CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0)

That’s according to modeling put together by Dr. Neala Kendall, a WDFW research scientist, and shared for the first time publicly last night.

“Our analysis suggests that only small numbers of sockeye salmon will persist in Lake Washington under current conditions, much less provide future opportunities for tribal and recreational fisheries,” read one of her slides.

“Maintaining the run and restoring fisheries will be very challenging but not impossible,” it also said.

Kendall was presenting to 50 to 60 anglers and members of the Cedar River Council who’d gathered in a banquet room at Renton’s Maplewood Golf Course on an unusually warm evening for April.

The findings were grim news for the fishermen and state managers, as there are few salmon seasons as popular — or that provide the local economic jolt — as Lake Washington sockeye.

It’s been 12 years since the last one, held in 2006 after “insanely high” ocean survival for that year-class of fish brought home one out of every two smolts that left the lake.

RUB A DUB DUB! THREE MEN TROLL FOR SOCKEYE DURING THE 2006 LAKE WASHINGTON SEASON, WHICH YIELDED THE HIGHEST CATCH IN A DECADE BUT HAS ALSO BEEN THE ONLY FISHERY IN A DOZEN YEARS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Despite the promise and production of the new Seattle Public Utilities hatchery on the Cedar River, returns have only averaged 84,000 since then, with even the best of those years more than 200,000 fish shy of the mark to open the lake.

Aaron Bosworth, the state district fisheries biologist, was also on hand and said that smolt survival is now not only lower than it used to be but well below what it is to the north of the continent’s southernmost sockeye system, 2 to 4 percent versus 16 to 20 percent.

As for why that is, Bosworth said that University of Washington studies have ruled out forage and competition — there’s enough zooplankton in the lake to support the pelagic salmon as well as the huge biomass of longfin smelt.

A big and increasing problem is prespawn mortality on returning adults.

His data showed that between 1995 and 2013, from 45 to 85 percent of the sockeye that went through the locks turned up in the Cedar River. But since 2014 only 20 to 33 percent have. That may be function of warm waters in the ship canal making less-healthy fish more susceptible to disease. With the stock comprised of roughly 60 percent natural-origin fish, fewer spawners produce less eggs overall.

SOCKEYE MANAGERS SAY THAT THE PAST FOUR RETURNS OF SALMON THROUGH THE LAKE WASHINGTON SHIP CANAL (BACKGROUND) HAVE SEEN ABNORMALLY HIGH MORTALITY, WITH 67 TO 80 PERCENT OF THE FISH NOT SHOWING UP IN THE CEDAR RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Still, the “leading theory” now for why the runs aren’t better is predation by native cutthroat trout and northern pikeminnow, as well as nonnative species such as largemouth, smallmouth — Lake Washington was rated as the West’s eighth best for bass by Bassmaster as recently as 2016 — rock bass and perch.

The latter stocks might not eat as many smolts as the former, but they do exacerbate the problem, Bosworth said. With a warming climate, they’ll only do better too, it’s assumed.

Another invasive, walleye, are also now being found in the lake, and earlier this year a bass angler caught but unfortunately released a pike, the second known northern here in the past 15 months.

But sockeye snackers are also getting a helping hand from humanity.

Amy Windrope, who was WDFW’s director for the North Sound region before named acting deputy director for the agency, brought up a factor she’d heard a person in the audience mention: light pollution.

Essentially, between sunset and sunrise, all the bulbs we turn on to light the streets and highways, our sideyards, parking lots and more, create an overhead aura that has benefited the fish-eaters to the detriment of young sockeye as well as Chinook.

Kendall said that the effect has extended the time that salmon smolts are visible through the night, making them more vulnerable to predation and providing fewer hours for them to eat without risk.

Scott Stolnack, a King County watershed ecologist, said data showed that 20 years ago there was a definite period when cutthroat were not feeding, but for the past five years, their stomachs are now full at all hours.

“It’s always dusk for cutthroat,” he said.

Driving home afterwards as night fell on Seattle, that really hit home for me.

As I crossed the bridge between Bellevue and Mercer Island, I looked to the south and saw a particularly bright bank of big lights by the lake. And zipping along Interstates 405, 90 and 5 while illuminated for vehicle safety from above, it was like me and the other cars were smolts, any staters in the shadows cutts.

The question of the night really boiled down to: Do we want to do something about this in hopes of having sockeye fisheries again, and if so, What is that path?

Kendall’s modeling suggests the best way would be increasing survival of the young salmon, and that lifting it to rates of 4 to 8 percent yields a good response.

DR. NEALA KENDALL EXPLAINS LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE MODELING. A MODEL SUGGESTS THAT INCREASING SMOLT SURVIVAL WILL HELP REBUILD THE SALMON’S POPULATION OVER TIME. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

She did face questions from the audience about how confident she was in her work, which is based on current conditions continuing.

Tom Allyn, vice chair of the Cedar River Council, wanted to know how much increasing survival and other tweaks might cost.

When fellow panel member and sportfishing advocate Frank Urabeck called for a show of support for asking WDFW to crunch the numbers, most if not all fishermen raised their hands.

In other words, for our part we’re not ready to give up on the salmon.

“After having heard how difficult a challenge it will be to restore Lake Washington sockeye sport fisheries, the public attending the meeting last night overwhelmingly voted for us to continue to see if that can be done,” said Urabeck. “This means convincing the Department of Fish and Wildlife and other entities like the Muckleshoot Tribe, King County, City of Seattle, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, etc., to engage in a feasibility assessment of a sockeye recovery action plan. I hope that my colleagues on the Cedar River Council will work with me to this end.”

Even as the Muckleshoots plan another year of walleye studies in the lake and WDFW biologists will again sample for diet and abundance of spinyrays in the ship canal, when talk centered around whether there were any current plans to actively remove predators — there are not — one fisherman pointed out, “You have a room full of volunteers.”

SW WA, Lower Columbia Fishing Report (4-17-18)

THE FOLLOWING FISHING REPORTS ORIGINATED WITH WDFW AND WERE TRANSMITTED BY JOE HYMER, PSMFC

Washington lower Columbia mainstem sport sampling summary – Sat. April 14

From Bonneville Dam downstream to the top of Puget Is., nearly 1,200 salmonid boats and over 600 bank anglers were counted during last Saturday’s flight.

WASHINGTON SIDE CATCH STATS FOR BOAT ANGLERS ON THE APRIL 14 COLUMBIA RIVER SPRING CHINOOK REOPENER. (WDFW)

MASON WEINHEIMER STRUGGLES TO LIFT A 20-POUND HATCHERY SPRING CHINOOK CAUGHT ON THE APRIL 14 REOPENER. HE WAS FISHING IN THE VANCOUVER AREA WITH HIS DAD, JOSH, WHO REPORTED PRETTY FAST ACTION “THAT WAS A GREAT DAY, STARTED AT 12:30 AND BACK ON THE TRAILER AT 3:30,” HE EMAILED. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Washington Columbia River tributaries and lakes sampling summaries – April 9-15

Salmon/Steelhead

Cowlitz River – From the I-5 Br downstream: 120 bank rods kept 2 adult spring Chinook and 2 steelhead. 17 boat rods kept 1 adult spring Chinook. Above the I-5 Br: 146 bank rods kept 14 adult spring Chinook and 20 steelhead and released 2 steelhead. 199 boat rods kept 3 adult spring Chinook and 49 steelhead and released 4 steelhead.

Most of the spring Chinook were checked at the barrier dam; steelhead at the trout hatchery.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 775 winter-run steelhead, 39 spring Chinook adults and two jacks during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power employees released 40 winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and they released 14 winter-run steelhead and one spring Chinook adult into the Cispus River, near Yellow Jacket Creek.

Tacoma Power also released 33 winter-run steelhead and one spring Chinook adult into Lake Scanewa near Randle.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 6,340 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Monday, April 16. Water visibility is 6 feet and the water temperature is 44.6 degrees F.
Kalama River – 33 bank anglers released 1 steelhead. 7 boat anglers had no catch.

Mainstem Lewis River – 15 bank rods released 1 adult spring Chinook. 1 boat angler had no catch.

North Fork Lewis River – 20 bank rods had no catch. 17 boat rods kept 3 adult spring Chinook and released 2 steelhead.

Wind River – 3 boat anglers had no catch.

Drano Lake – 4 boat anglers had no catch.

Klickitat River – 4 bank anglers had no catch.

Trout

Recent plants of catchable size rainbows and cutthroats. No report on angling success.

Lake/Pond
Date
Species
Number
Fish per Pound
Hatchery
Notes

LACAMAS LK (CLAR)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=LACAMAS+LK+%28CLAR%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Clark County – Region 5
Apr 09, 2018
Rainbow
6,000
2
VANCOUVER HATCHERY

BATTLE GROUND LK (CLAR)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=BATTLE+GROUND+LK+%28CLAR%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Clark County – Region 5
Apr 10, 2018
Rainbow
2,000
2.5
GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

BATTLE GROUND LK (CLAR)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=BATTLE+GROUND+LK+%28CLAR%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Clark County – Region 5
Apr 11, 2018
Cutthroat
4,179
2.5
SKAMANIA HATCHERY

HORSESHOE LK (COWL)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=HORSESHOE+LK+%28COWL%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Cowlitz County – Region 5
Apr 11, 2018
Rainbow
3,367
2.6
MOSSYROCK HATCHERY

KRESS LK (COWL)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=KRESS+LK+%28COWL%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Cowlitz County – Region 5
Apr 11, 2018
Rainbow
3,120
2.6
MOSSYROCK HATCHERY

Tacoma Power released 1,600 rainbow trout into South Lewis County Park Pond.

Lower Columbia, SW WA Fishing Report (3-26-18)

THE FOLLOWING FISHING REPORTS ORIGINATED WITH WDFW AND WERE TRANSMITTED BY JOE HYMER, PSMFC

Washington lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam sport sampling summaries for March 19-25

Fishing for spring Chinook is improving for boat anglers from Vancouver downstream. Bank angling remains SLOW!

DAVID GRANT OF OREGON CITY CAUGHT THIS SPRING CHINOOK ON THE LOWER COLUMBIA THIS PAST SATURDAY WHILE FISHING WITH GUIDE BILL MONROE. THE FISH FELL FOR A HERRING TROLLED IN COMBINATION WITH A FISH FLASH. (VIA BUZZ RAMSEY)

On Saturday March 24 there were 631 salmonid boats and 277 bank anglers counted during the flight. Last year during the same time there were just over 100 salmonid boats and 100 bank anglers counted. Of course, last year flows were nearly 460,000 cfs compared to the 212,600 cfs now.

Washington Columbia River tributaries sport sampling summaries for March 19-25

Salmon/Steelhead

Cowlitz River – From the I-5 Br. downstream:  65 bank rods kept 1 adult spring Chinook and 2 steelhead and released 3 steelhead.  4 boat rods kept 1 steelhead.  Above the I-5 Br:  35 bank rods kept 4 adult spring Chinook and 6 steelhead.  139 boat rods kept 2 adult spring Chinook and 43 steelhead and released 2 steelhead and 1 cutthroat.

Kalama River – 16 bank anglers released 3 steelhead.  7 boat angler kept 1 steelhead.

Mainstem Lewis River – 1 bank angler had no catch.

North Fork Lewis River – 19 bank anglers kept 1 adult spring Chinook.   1 boat angler had no catch.

Trout

Recent plants of catchable size rainbows.  No report on angling success.

Lake/Pond
Date
Species
Number
Fish perPound
Hatchery
Notes

BATTLE GROUND LK (CLAR)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=BATTLE+GROUND+LK+%28CLAR%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Clark County – Region 5
Mar 19, 2018
Rainbow
2,000
2.4
VANCOUVER HATCHERY

KLINELINE PD (CLARK<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=KLINELINE+PD+%28CLAR%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Clark County – Region 5
Mar 19, 2018
Rainbow
1,500
2.4
VANCOUVER HATCHERY

Status Quo Management For Priest Lake Fish, IDFG Decides

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

Fish and Game will continue managing Priest Lake as primarily a lake trout fishery while also protecting native cutthroat trout and bull trout in Upper Priest Lake.

Over the past several years, F&G fisheries managers have done extensive public outreach to see if a management change was warranted at Priest Lake, but found there was not clear public sentiment that favored it.

JAMIE CARR HOISTS A LARGE PRIEST LAKE MACKINAW. MANY LAKE TROUT IN THE NORTH IDAHO SEA ARE MUCH SMALLER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“Simply put, fishing opportunity in the foreseeable future is likely to be about the same as it has been in recent years,” regional fish manager Andy Dux said. “Lake trout will continue to be abundant, kokanee will persist at low densities, but large in size. Cutthroat trout will also be present in moderate densities, and smallmouth bass will remain abundant.”

Fish and Game, with help from the Priest Lake Fishery Advisory Commitee, presented anglers and the public with three management choices: status quo, reducing lake trout populations to boost the kokanee fishery and other game fish species, or slightly reducing the lake trout population in an attempt to get a corresponding increase in other species.

Fish and Game did several surveys and multiple open houses to gauge public interest in changing management for the lake.

  • The random mail survey of anglers showed 52 percent did not want change vs. 48 percent who wanted change.
  • An email survey of anglers showed 45 percent did not want change and 55 percent did want change.

Resident anglers who frequently fish Priest Lake showed the most support for maintaining the existing fishery. Anglers who used to fish Priest Lake, but don’t now, were most likely to support change. In general, resident and nonresident anglers had similar opinions, and so did anglers from all the counties surveyed.

“We were clear from the start that unquestionable support for change was necessary in order for a drastic shift in management to be publicly accepted and successful,” Dux said.

Changing the management of the Priest Lake would require substantial time and resources from the department and patience from the public. Without a clear mandate for change, fisheries managers decided it was best to continue with the current management.

“We had tremendous participation from the public during this process, which gives us confidence that we understand public desires for the Priest Lake fishery,” Dux said. “The Priest Lake fishery is a public resource, so periodically it is important to ask the public how they want to see it managed. We learned there isn’t quite enough support to justify major change, but we didn’t have a good read on that until we asked the question.”

Priest Lake’s fisheries have steadily changed over time. The lake’s native sport fish are cutthroat trout, bull trout and mountain whitefish. Non-native lake trout and kokanee were introduced decades ago, and for many years, kokanee supported the lake’s most popular fishery.

Kokanee were also an important food source for bull trout and lake trout, which attained trophy sizes. That balance between predators and prey fish lasted into the 1970s, then fell apart. Mysis, a small freshwater shrimp, was introduced in the late-1960s to provide more food for kokanee. Unfortunately, young lake trout feed on shrimp until the fish switch their diet to kokanee.

Mysis allowed the lake trout population to grow at the expense of kokanee, which also happened to a lesser extent as lake trout preyed on, or outcompeted, cutthroat and bull trout.

Fish and Game has curbed lake trout population growth in Upper Priest Lake to relieve pressure on those native fish.

Fisheries managers have in the past attempted to boost kokanee numbers by stocking more, but those efforts were thwarted by lake trout predation. Millions of kokanee fry, as well as hundreds of thousands of juvenile cutthroat, were stocked without a noticeable increase in the populations of either species.

While fishing at Priest Lake is different than decades ago, it’s still an attractive place for anglers who enjoy catching lake trout.

“Plenty of fishing opportunities lie ahead for Priest Lake anglers,” Dux said. “Anglers looking for unique fishing opportunities in a scenic location will find them at Priest Lake.”

 

Southwest Washington Fishing Report (11-8-17)

THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL ORIGINATED FROM WDFW, AND WAS TRANSMITTED BY JOE HYMER, PSMFC

Salmon/Steelhead

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br. downstream: 30 bank rods kept 3 adult coho and released 3 fish. 2 boat anglers had no catch. Upstream from the I-5 Br: 77 bank rods kept 34 adult and 1 jack coho and released 11 adult Chinook and 26 adult coho. 6 boat rods kept 6 adult coho and released 6 fish.

COHO ARE PROVIDING THE SEASON’S BEST FISHING OPPORTUNITIES AT THE MOMENT IN WASHINGTON’S SOUTHWESTERN QUARTER. BARRY DUBNOW CAUGHT THIS ONE ON THE HUMPTULIPS WHILE TWITCHING JIGS WITH GUIDE JARED CADY. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 1,989 coho adults, 333 coho jacks, 98 fall Chinook adults, two fall Chinook jacks, 43 cutthroat trout, and 16 summer-run steelhead during seven days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power employees released 106 coho adults and 24 coho jacks into the Cispus River near the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek, and they released 217 coho adults, 34 coho jacks and one cutthroat trout at Franklin Bridge in Packwood.

Tacoma Power released 838 coho adults, 182 coho jacks, six fall Chinook adults, one fall Chinook jack and nine cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and they released 579 coho adults, 76 coho jacks and two cutthroat trout into Lake Scanewa near Randle.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,900 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Monday, November 6. Water visibility is four feet and water temperature is 51.1 degrees F.

Mainstem Lewis River – 12 bank and 3 boat rods had no catch.

North Fork Lewis River – 72 bank rods kept 1 adult coho and released 1 adult Chinook and 3 adult coho. 40 boat rods kept 4 adult Chinook and 1 jack and 24 adult coho and released 4 adult Chinook and 5 jack and 8 adult coho.