Tag Archives: fishing

Support For Lake Washington Sockeye Restoration Assessment At Meeting

With a show of hands last night in Renton, anglers and others asked a longtime Lake Washington sockeye advocate to request WDFW look into what it would take to recover the salmon stock and restore the fabled metro fishery.

ANGLERS AND SOME CEDAR RIVER COUNCIL MEMBERS RAISE THEIR HANDS IN SUPPORT OF HAVING FRANK URABECK (STANDING AT LEFT) ASK WDFW TO ASSESS WHAT IT WOULD TAKE TO RESTORE LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It’s a long-shot proposition with seemingly all factors now lined up against the fish, and two of the people who’d gathered in the Red Lion conference room supported just throwing in the towel instead.

But nobody was in favor of the status quo, which is modeled to lead to the extinction of the run in 40 years time — perhaps as few as 30 with this year’s lowest-ever forecast of just 15,153 back to the Ballard Locks is any indication, according to the local state fisheries biologist.

“The reality is, it’s going to be very, very, very tough to get all the players to do something,” acknowledged Frank Urabeck before calling for the vote from the 40 or so members of the public and 10 members of the Cedar River Council.

Not everyone held up a hand for any option, but Urabeck’s plan is to approach WDFW Director Kelly Susewind and ask that the agency conduct a feasibility assessment on what can be done and how much it would cost to bring sockeye back to fishable numbers.

Urabeck said it would likely require “a massive effort, a huge amount of money.”

But even as predation on smolts in the lake grows and more and more adult sockeye are dying between the Ballard Locks and the Cedar River, there are still some glimmers of hope.

The meeting followed on a similar one last year but which did not include Seattle Public Utilities.

Last night, SPU was at the table in the form of watershed manager Amy LaBarge, who gave a presentation about the utility’s Landsburg mitigation hatchery, completed in 2012 with a capacity of 34 million sockeye eggs, but which has only ever been able to collect 18 million due to low returns.

And since that 2018 gathering, Urabeck indicated that there had been talks going on behind the scenes too.

“I can’t say if I’m optimistic, but there has been dialogue,” he said near the end of the two-hour meeting.

Other players in the issue include the Muckleshoot Tribe and WDFW, the latter of which operates the sockeye hatchery for SPU.

Brody Antipa, the regional hatchery manager for the state agency, was in house and he talked about how he began his career as the guy who “lived in a trailer down by the river” at the old temporary facility on the Cedar, which was opened in the early 1990s over concerns that the run at the time was faltering.

The system produced reliably high returns of as many as 400,000 spawners into the river in the 1960s and 1970s, at the end of the era when Lake Washington was thick with blue-green algae that hid the smolts from predators.

Following cleanup efforts, water clarity went from as little as 30 inches in 1964 to 10 feet in 1968 to up to 25 feet in 1990, according to WDFW district fisheries biologist Aaron Bosworth.

Native cutthroat and northern pikeminnow primarily but also nonnative bass, yellow perch and other species suddenly had the advantage over the young sockeye.

The years of 400,000 reds on the redds were over just as anglers had figured out how to reliably catch sockeye in the lake with just a plain old red hook.

In the 1990s, Antipa said that testing at the hatchery determined that feeding the young sockeye was helpful before turning them loose to rear in the lake a year to 14 months.

By the early 2000s, fisheries went from once every four years to once every other year — 2002, 2004, 2006.

But since then there’s been nothing but a string of increasingly bad years, with last fall seeing just 7,476 of the 32,103 sockeye that went through the locks reaching the Cedar, despite no directed fisheries and only a small biological sampling program operating at Ballard.

IF WE DON’T GET OFF OUR COLLECTIVE ASS, THAT FLAT LINE REPRESENTS THE FUTURE OF LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE, BUT A FEW ARE READY TO THROW IN THE TOWEL WITH THE ENORMITY OF THE JOB AND CHALLENGES THE FISH FACE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The rest died from prespawn mortality caused by fish diseases that may have become more deadly and prevalent due to warmer water in the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

During last night’s question-and-answer period, the audience and Cedar River Council members focused on tweaking the hatchery operations — whether or not Baker and Fraser sockeye could be used to reach full eggtake capacity; if the facility was able to hold the fry longer for a feeding and later-release programs that show promise; and if it could be used to just raise coho and Chinook instead.

The short-term answer to all that was “no” — the current management plan that the hatchery operates under doesn’t allow it.

So, asked a member of the council, how do we change that plan?

LaBarge, the SPU staffer, said that would need to go through stakeholders to get buy-in.

“The conversation is starting about that,” she said.

Another issue is all the predators in Lake Washington.

Antipa said that where once just getting 40 million fry into the lake all but guaranteed a fishery a few years later, the 70 million that swam out of the Cedar in 2012 didn’t result in anything.

Partly that’s due to the circular feedback of PSM issues affecting how many eggs are available at the hatchery and in the gravel , but rock bass have joined the suite of piscovores, along with walleye and at least one northern pike.

A bill on its way to Gov. Inslee’s desk would require WDFW to drop daily and size limits on largemouth and smallmouth in Lake Washington, along with all other waters used by sea-going salmonids in the state.

Realistically that won’t do diddly to bass populations, but gillnetting efforts the Muckleshoots have begun more seriously next door in Lake Sammamish might.

TWO THUMBS UP FOR SEATTLE SOCKEYE FROM THIS ANGLER DURING THE 2004 SEASON. (RYLEY FEE)

Before the show of hands, Max Prinsen, the chair of the Cedar River Council, recalled how in 1979 he came north from California at a time when bald eagles and condors were “gone” in the Golden State.

“But with changes we made as a society we brought those species back,” he noted.

After Urabeck’s vote, he spoke again.

“These fish aren’t just important as a fishery, but as a part of Northwest life,” Prinsen said. “I think it’s important to conserve this resource. It’s great to see this much interest.”

I would quibble with his use of the word “resource” — by chance this morning on the bus while proofing our Alaska magazine I read a quote from the author Amy Gulick about a Tlingit woman in Sitka who taught her that “The word ‘resource’ implies an end product, a commodity. But ‘relationship’ is so much deeper and multi-faceted. If you have a relationship with salmon, then you also have a relationship to a river, a home stream and the ocean. And you probably have relationships with people in your community connected to each other by way of salmon. We show gratitude for healthy relationships because they make our lives richer.”

But Prinsen was also among those who’d raised their hands, and I’ll bet something along the lines of a relationship with the sockeye was what he meant anyway.

SW WA, Lower Columbia Fishing Report (4-23-19)

THE FOLLOWING REPORTS WERE TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Preliminary Washington lower Columbia River mainstem sport sampling summary

April 20-21, 2019

Bonneville bank anglers: 101; kept adult Chinook: 7
Camas area banks anglers: -; kept adult Chinook: –
I-5 area bank anglers: 1; kept adult Chinook: –
Vancouver area bank anglers: 25; kept adult Chinook: 0

Bonneville boat anglers: 23; kept adult Chinook: 1
Camas area boat anglers: 24; kept adult Chinook: 0
I-5 area boat anglers: 39; kept adult Chinook: 0
Vancouver boat anglers: 171; kept adult Chinook: 2

A SPRING CHINOOK ANGLER IN THE WESTERN COLUMBIA GORGE HOPES FOR A BITE DURING A RAINSTORM. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Fishery Reports:

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 39 bank rods released 3 Chinook and kept 1 steelhead..

Above the I-5 Br:  15 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.  25 boats/80 rods released 2 Chinook and kept 8 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 432 winter-run steelhead adults, 13 spring Chinook adults and one cutthroat trout during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 27 winter-run steelhead adults and one cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and they released 21 winter-run steelhead adults and two spring Chinook adults into Lake Scanewa located in Randle.

Tacoma Power tagged and recycled 114 winter-run steelhead adults to the lower river.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,990 cubic feet per second on Monday, April 22. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 47.8 F.

Kalama River – 27 bank anglers had no catch.  10 boats/18 rods kept 3 Chinook and released 2 steelhead.

Lewis River – 9 bank anglers had no catch. 1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Wind River– 1 bank angler had no catch.  10 boats/15 rods kept 1 Chinook and released 1 Chinook.

Drano Lake – 16 boats/27 rods kept 1 Chinook.

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Catchable Trout Plants:  

Lake/Pond                           Date Species Number    Fish/lb Hatchery

Horseshoe (COWLITZ)            April 17, 2019     Rainbow 3,360           2.80 Mossyrock

Kress Lake (COWLITZ)            April 17, 2019 Rainbow 3,080           2.80 Mossyrock

Battle Ground (CLARK)          April 15, 2019 Rainbow   2,000 1.90 Vancouver

Sacajawea (COWLITZ)            April 15, 2019 Rainbow 3,375           2.51 Goldendale

WDFW License Bills Moving Again As End Of Regular Legislative Session Nears

After hibernating for the past two months, WDFW’s fee bills have woken up and are moving again, but what will emerges from the den that is the Washington legislature remains to be seen.

Both the House and Senate versions include the 15 percent increase to fishing and hunting licenses and extend the Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsement, but also contain sharp differences that will need to be reconciled before the end of the session.

“This is pretty intense, from zero bills moving to two bills moving,” said Raquel Crosier, WDFW’s legislative liaison, this morning.

The upper chamber’s bill would sunset the angling fee hike after six years, extends the endorsement two years instead of four like the House, and would not allow the Fish and Wildlife Commission to impose surcharges to keep up with rising costs.

That’s different from the Senate’s Operating Budget proposal, released earlier this month without any fee increase or the endorsement and which leaned on General Fund instead.

The lower chamber’s bill, which like the House Operating Budget proposal had the hike and endorsement, would limit the commission’s fee-raising authority to only cover costs lawmakers add to WDFW’s gig and no more than 3 percent in any one year.

Though the Senate version presents something of a fiscal cliff in 2025, the fee increase would produce $14.3 million every two years, the endorsement $3 million.

As for WDFW’s big hopes for a big General Fund infusion to pay for its myriad missions, improve its product and dig out of a $31 million shortfall, any new money it receives will likely be allocated for orcas instead, and that is putting the onus squarely on passing a license increase.

The sudden activity on the fee bills after February’s twin hearings comes with the scheduled Sunday, April 28 end of the session and follows a House Appropriations Committee public hearing yesterday afternoon and an executive session in the Senate’s Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee this morning.

During the House hearing on HB 1708, representatives from the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Northwest Marine Trade Association and Coastal Conservation Association along with some anglers — all still smarting from the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Columbia fishery reforms vote early last month, some at louder volumes than others — voiced opposition to the fee bill though generally said they wanted a fully funded WDFW.

NMTA’s George Harris was among those trying to “thread that needle,” saying he couldn’t support the increase because he didn’t believe the agency had followed through on the reforms or mark-selective fisheries.

SPEAKING IN OPPOSITION TO THE FEE BILL DURING THE HOUSE HEARING ON MONDAY APRIL 22 WERE JASON ZITTEL OF ZITTEL’S MARINA NEAR OLYMPIA WHO SAID THE BURDEN OF FUNDING WDFW COULDN’T CONTINUE TO BE PUSHED ONTO LICENSE HOLDERS WHEN THE PROBLEMS ARE STATEWIDE … (TVW)

… AND CARL BURKE, REPRESENTING NMTA AND NSIA, WHO SAID THAT WHILE ANGLERS PROVIDE SIGNIFICANT FUNDING TO WDFW, “THAT DOESN’T SEEM TO MATTER.” (TVW)

Speaking in favor of full funding, however, was Ron Garner, statewide president of Puget Sound Anglers, member of the WDFW budget advisory group that did a deep dive into the agency’s finances and part of the governor’s orca task force.

“This is not enough money for the agency, and one of the problems is, if we do take this $30 million hit or don’t get the $30 million, what hatcheries are going to get cut next?” Garner said.

WDFW has identified five that could be and which together produce 2.6 million salmon, steelhead and trout.

He said where other state agencies had recovered from General Fund cuts due to the Great Recession, WDFW hadn’t.

“To keep them healthy and the outdoors healthy, we really need to fund it,” Garner said.

RON GARNER OF PUGET SOUND ANGLERS VOICED SUPPORT FOR A FULLY FUNDED WDFW DURING THE HEARING … (TVW)

… AND TOM ECHOLS OF THE HUNTERS HERITAGE COUNCIL SAID IT WAS THE FIRST TIME IN HIS SEVEN YEARS WITH THE UMBRELLA ORGANIZATION THAT IT WAS SUPPORTING A FEE BILL, SPECIFICALLY THE HUNTING SIDE, SAYING THEY BELIEVED IT WAS “TIME TO SUPPORT THE DEPARTMENT’S DIRECTION.” (TVW)

Both committees ultimately gave their versions do-pass recommendations after adopting several amendments, which overall mainly dealt with fallout from the Columbia vote.

The House bill now tells the citizen panel to work with Oregon’s to recover salmon and steelhead in the watershed and WDFW to “work to maximize hatchery production throughout the Columbia River, reduce less selective gear types in the mainstem of the Columbia River and improve the effectiveness of off-channel commercial fishing areas.”

“I support fully funding WDFW so that we can restore hatchery production and restore our fisheries,” said prime sponsor Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) this morning.

And in his natural resources committee earlier today, Chair Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) substantially altered the Senate fee bill, SB 5692, to address those Columbia issues.

An effect statement says his amendments:

  • Specifies Columbia River fishery reforms including improving the selectivity of recreational and commercial fisheries, prioritizing main stem recreational fisheries, and transitioning gill net fisheries to enhanced off-channel areas.
  • Restricts main stem gill net fisheries, effective July 1, 2019, to not exceed six days per year for salmon and steelhead below the Bonneville dam.
  • Directs the DFW to establish an observer program to monitor at least 10 % of the nontribal gill net salmon and steelhead catch on the Columbia River.
  • Directs the DFW to fund activities that maintain or enhance current recreational and fishing activities with fees from recreational fishing and hunting, and expires the requirement on July 1, 2025.
  • Authorizes the DFW to approve trial fisheries for the use of alternative gear for the mark-selective harvest of hatchery-reared salmon and to establish permit fees by rule for alternative gear fisheries.
  • Authorizes the use of pound nets to harvest salmon on the Columbia River and sets the license fee at $380 per year for a resident and $765 for a nonresident

Without getting too wonky and in the weeds, the differences between the House and Senate fee bills must be concurred on, passed by the legislature and signed by the governor before any hike goes into effect. It would be the first since 2011.

WDFW’s Crosier forecasted some “tough conversations in the coming five days” as lawmakers will have to come to an agreement on outstanding policy issues including the Columbia, hatcheries, predators and more, and how to fund her agency.

“I’m feeling optimistic,” she said. “I think this is the closest we’ve gotten. There’s motivation (by legislators) to get something passed, and fees will be a big part of it.”

And without getting too high up on my stump, the end package will also need to show hunters and anglers that there is a better future ahead from the negative malaise currently gripping the state’s sportsmen as more than a century and a half of habitat loss, hatchery production reductions, increasing ESA listings and fishery restrictions, social media, and, simply put, other legislative priorities have come home to roost, most obviously in the plight of starving southern resident killer whales that might also symbolize today’s opportunities.

Lower Skagit Opening For Springers May 1-31, First Fishery In ‘Nearly 30 Years’

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

For the first time in nearly 30 years, anglers will get the chance to fish for spring chinook salmon in the lower Skagit River next month.

State and tribal co-managers recently agreed to move forward with this year’s fishery, based on the number of wild and hatchery fish projected to return to the river, said Edward Eleazer, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“We’ve seen a sufficient number of spring chinook returning to the Skagit River in the last several years to allow us to open this section of the river,” Eleazer said. “This is essentially a new opportunity for most anglers. We hope it provides some great fishing this spring.”

The fishery will be open for hatchery spring chinook from May 1 through May 31. Anglers fishing this section will have a daily limit of two hatchery chinook, which are marked with a clipped adipose fin, but must release all other species.

The lower Skagit fishery includes the area from the Highway 536 Bridge (Memorial Highway Bridge) in Mount Vernon to Gilligan Creek.

Eleazer noted that the upper Skagit River, from the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to the Cascade River Road, will open June 1 to fishing for spring hatchery chinook, as will the Cascade River, from the mouth to the Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge. More details on those fisheries can be found in the 2018-19 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.

Lake Washington, Cedar River Sockeye Subject Of Tuesday Night Meeting

Lake Washington and Cedar River sockeye are on the agenda of an “important” Tuesday night public meeting that may help figure out where the troubled program goes from here.

With increasing inlake predation on smolts and more and more returning adults dying before they can even reach the spawning grounds or hatchery, there hasn’t been a season on the big lake since 2006 and this year’s forecast of just 15,153 is the lowest ever.

LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE FACE AN INCREASING HOST OF PREDATORS, INCLUDING NATIVE SPECIES SUCH AS CUTTHROAT TROUT AND NORTHERN PIKEMINNOW, AND NONNATIVE ONES SUCH AS SMALLMOUTH, LARGEMOUTH AND ROCK BASS, YELLOW PERCH, AMONG OTHERS, WHILE RETURNING ADULTS ARE FAILING TO MAKE IT TO THE GRAVEL DUE TO RISING PRESPAWN MORTALITY. (MIKE PETERSON, IDFG VIA NMFS, FLICKR, CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0)

The “godfather” of the fishery, Frank Urabeck, says he’ll be asking anglers whether to just throw in the towel, maintain the status quo or request WDFW assess what could be done to restore the runs to harvestable levels.

That show of hands will follow presentations on the fish and hatcheries by WDFW’s Brody Antipa and Aaron Bosworth, and Amy LaBarge of Seattle Public Utilities, which operates a sockeye production facility on the system.

They will be speaking before the Cedar River Council, and during last year’s meeting on sockeye issues state research scientist Dr. Neala Kendall said that if nothing is done, her models said that the run could peter out in 20 years or so.

She said that restoring the fishery would be hard but it also wasn’t impossible.

Among the problems to overcome are smolt predation by native cutthroat trout and northern pikeminnow, as well as nonnative species such as largemouth, smallmouth, rock bass and yellow perch. Walleye and at least one northern pike are also in the lake and represent some level of threat to the young salmon.

Ocean conditions have been poorer for Lake Washington sockeye since 2006’s year-class enjoyed “insanely high” survival at sea, with one out of every two smolts that went out returning that year for an estimated Ballard Locks count of 472,000.

And in recent years a high percentage of sockeye have just disappeared between the locks and the Cedar — 77 percent last year, 80 percent in 2016 — likely victims of prespawn mortality.

The combination of too-warm water in the relatively shallow ship canal the fish have to transit before reaching the cool depths of the lake and preexisting diseases appear to be a one-two punch many aren’t surviving.

Potential solutions might include increased focus on removing piscivorous fish and trucking returning adults from the locks to the lake, but those would likely face headwinds from fans of those species and the cost.

Still, for how popular and productive the fishery once was, it would be interesting to know whether it’s feasible or not.

The April 23 meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Renton Red Lion, 1 S. Grady Way, which is exit 2 on I-405.

Rainbows And More To Catch On Eastside Trout Opener, Y-R Lakes

Washington’s big late April trout opener is just eight sleeps away and Westside lakes are sure to be packed.

While there may be fewer lowland lakes in Eastern Washington, it’s just as big doin’s as west of the crest, and not just for rainbows.

We checked in with a pair of state fisheries biologists to get their thoughts on how this year’s season will go in two of the best regions on the Eastside.

PHIL REICH HOLDS A NICE RAINBOW HE CAUGHT AT AN EASTERN WASHINGTON LAKE A COUPLE SPRINGS AGO. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

PERHAPS SOME OF THE BEST PROSPECTS can be found in Spokane-based biologist Randy Osborne’s district.

“I would guess that Badger is going to be one of the better trout lakes this spring,” he said about the upper Channeled Scablands lake which was rehabbed in 2015 and then restocked with a very heavy hand. “There’s a lot of fish there to be caught.”

“Williams Lake should fish good as well,” he adds. “West Medical – we killed that after last fall, but it will be stocked with a healthy dose of catchables and broodstock fish to get it going.”

Yellow perch are starting to cut into the productivity at Fish Lake near Cheney, but it still should fish “OK” this season, forecasts Osborne.

He also expects Clear Lake near Medical Lake to be consistent.

Osborne also has two year-round options: Lake Spokane/Long Lake, which has been producing good trout fishing this past winter and last year.

It also has walleye, and he encourages anglers to target them. “We’ve sampled some to 10 pounds.”

And Pacific Lake, north of Odessa, for rainbows.

“I went out there last year and it was crazy good,” says Osborne. “I was just sampling with rod and reel and in two hours caught 36 fish. They ranged from 14 to 17 inches. When the ice gets off, it should be good.”

A WILLIAMS LAKE ANGLER SHOWS OFF A WDFW STATEWIDE TROUT DERBY-TAGGED RAINBOW, CAUGHT ON LAST YEAR’S OPENER AT THE SPOKANE-AREA WATER. (WDFW)

YES, RAINBOWS GET A LOT OF ATTENTION, but they’re far from being the only fish to catch in spring, especially in the Okanogan.

That’s where Ryan Fortier is based, and he gave us his best bets for this season.

“Kokanee fishing has been gaining in popularity, with Alta and Conconully Lake being the two most popular and consistent fisheries,” the WDFW District 6 fisheries biologist says.

“The Alta pressure is getting a bit heavy, but Conconully can handle the larger crowds well. Patterson Lake near Winthrop has a good age-class coming up this year compared to the last five years. The other stocked lakes are Bonaparte, Spectacle and Conconully Reservoir. Palmer is not expected to have a fishery for another two more years.”

On the spinyray front, there are plenty of options too.

“Palmer, Leader, and Washburn Island Pond have been the most popular fisheries,” says Fortier. “There are lots of campers staying at the DNR campgrounds at Palmer and Leader who fish and swim on the lakes. Washburn Island was stocked with some largemouth two years ago and has produced some good sizes.”

But if your sights are set on trout, he has options for those too. He expected Pearrygin, Alta and the Conconullies to produce as usual at the opener last month, and that is likely to continue into May.

“Wannacut near Tonasket has produced the largest fish on average over the previous two summers,” he says.

Unfortunately, Fish Lake, not too far to the south, is “in need of a rehab” to get rid of overabundant bullheads, Fortier says.

It sounds like he expects quality trout waters like Aeneas, Blue, Chopaka and Davis to continue as they have, but there are two other lakes to start plugging into your radar.

“Buzzard (Loup Loup Pass) has been growing in popularity, and Campbell (Winthrop) has received low pressure despite better than usual sizes since the 2014 fires,” he hints.

Speaking of fires, Black Pine Lake high in the mountains west of Carlton was closed much of last summer due to wildfire activity, so it “should probably have some good carryovers for cutthroat when the snow clears in late May,” Fortier says.

And if you’re looking for something a little exotic that affords a chance to break a state record, you could do worse than Bonaparte Lake and its brook-brown hybrids.

SPRING IS ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL TIMES TO CHECK OUT THE HIGHLAND LAKES OF EASTERN WASHINGTON. HERE’S THE VIEW DOWN ONTO BONAPARTE LAKE, WHERE THE SIZE OF TIGER TROUT BORDERS ON BEING “TALL TALES,” ACCORDING TO THE DISTRICT FISHERIES BIOLOGIST. THE STATE RECORD 18.49-POUND HYBRID CAME FROM HERE IN MAY 2015. (USFS)

“The tiger trout sizes reported in the lake have been bordering on tall tales,” says Fortier. “We will try to do a more intense survey this year to get an idea of what has changed and if the rumors are true.”

And don’t forget Lake Rufus Woods! It will be stocked with 22,000 2-plus-pound triploid trout between March and June, according to tribal managers’ plans.

Oregon Family Free Fishing Events Begin This Weekend

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

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will host about 30 different Family Fishing events throughout the state from April to November 2019.

Detailed information about these opportunities to take your family fishing can be found here: https://myodfw.com/articles/take-family-fishing.

AN INSTRUCTOR TEACHES A YOUNG ANGLER AT A 2017 ODFW FISHING EVENT. (ODFW)

All family fishing events are free and open to all ages. Children 11-years old and younger do not need a fishing license. However, those 12-17 will need a youth license, which can be purchased from any ODFW license agent or online via MyODFW.com for $10. Adult anglers will also need an Oregon fishing license. Licenses won’t be issued at the event so those who are required to have one should obtain their license ahead of time.

ODFW will also hand out rods, reels, tackle and bait to participants while supplies last. Pre-registration is not required and participants are welcome to bring their own fishing equipment if they prefer. ODFW staff and volunteer instructors will be present to assist with everything from gearing up, casting, landing and cleaning fish.

“Family fishing events are wonderful ways for new or beginner anglers to get out and experience fishing,” said Amanda Boyles, ODFW Angler Education Coordinator. “Volunteers and staff are more than willing to help with all fishing-related questions and all you need to bring with you is your license (if you’re 12 or older) and a smile on your face! Good luck, have fun, and say ‘thank you’ to all the ODFW volunteers you see out there because they make these events possible,” Boyles added.

Each Family Fishing pond will be regularly stocked with trout by ODFW. Review the Stocking Schedules to find out what’s being stocked throughout the year.

Anyone unable to participate in these fishing events can explore many other fishing, hunting or wildlife viewing opportunities at ODFW’s recreation website, including classes and workshops held for all ages, at  MyODFW.com.

ZONE, DATE AND TIME LOCATION NEAREST TOWN
Northwest Zone
April 20, 9 am – 2 pm Hebo Lake Hebo
April 27, 9 am – 2 pm Devils Lake (Regatta Park) Lincoln City
May 4, 9 am – 2 pm Vernonia Lake Vernonia
June 8, 9 am – 2 pm Cleawox Lake Florence
July 7, 9 am – 2 pm Dundas Pond Siletz
Southwest Zone
April 27, 10 am – 2 pm Empire Lakes Coos Bay
May 4, 9 am – 1:30 pm Reinhart Volunteer Park Grants Pass
May 18, 10 am – 2 pm Powers Pond Powers
June 8, 10 am – 2:30 pm Denman Wildlife Area Central Point
July 4, 9 am to 1 pm Mingus Park Coos Bay
July 20, 9 am to 1 pm July Jubilee North Bend
Willamette Zone
April 20, 9 am – 2 pm St. Louis Ponds Gervais
April 20, 9 am – 12 pm Walter Wirth Lake Cascades Gateway Park Salem
April 27, 9am – 2 pm Trojan Pond Rainer
May 4, 9 am – 2 pm Sheridan Pond Sheridan
May 5, 9:30 am – 1:30 pm Alton Baker Canoe Canal Eugene
May 25, 9 am – 2 pm Mt. Hood Pond Gresham
June 15, 10 am – 2 pm Alton Baker Canoe Canal Eugene
October 12, 9 am – 2 pm St. Louis Ponds Gervais
October 19, 9 am – 2 pm Mt. Hood Pond Gresham
November 26, 9 am – 12 pm Walter Wirth Lake Cascades Gateway Park Salem
Central Zone
May 4, 8:30 am – 1 pm Bikini Pond (Mayere State Park) Mosier
May 11, 8:30 – 2 pm Camp Baldwin Dufur
May 18, 8:30 am – 2 pm Middle Fork Pond Parkdale
June 20, 9 am – 12 pm Shevlin Pond Bend
Northeast Zone
April 13, 10 am – 12 pm McNary Channel Ponds Hermiston
May 18, 10 am – 12 pm McNary Channel Ponds Hermiston
July 6, 9 am – 2 pm Jubilee Lake Pendleton

Canadian DFO Considering Larger Orca Measures In Strait, Islands

Canadian fishery officials are looking for input on a number of “recovery measures” being considered for orcas, including new no-go zones, voluntary no-fishing areas and expanded vessel slowdowns in waters directly across from Washington, and that has fishing interests worried.

The “online consultation” period opened today and highlights actions Department of Fisheries and Oceans took last year on the British Columbia side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Gulf/San Juan Islands and lays out scenarios “A” and “B” for the same areas for 2019 and beyond.

A DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES AND OCEANS MAP SHOWS ONE OF TWO MANAGEMENT SCENARIOS FOR THE CANADIAN SIDE OF THE STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA. (DFO)

Maps outline newly designated “enhanced management areas” that DFO says are key foraging waters for southern residents, and inside and adjacent to those are proposed no-go/reduced use zones such as at Swiftsure Bank and on portions of the southern sides of Pender and Saturna Islands.

The Swiftsure boat ban would be bordered on its west and east sides by no fishing areas under one scenario, but not in the other, though both scenarios overlay a voluntary no-angling area on most of the western and central Strait.

Paraphrasing a member of the regional local government, the  Sooke News Mirror wrote that that would have “a devastating effect for Sooke and Port Renfrew.”

“I am asking all residents of the Juan de Fuca electoral area and the District of Sooke to read the proposals and, if you agree that some fishing should take place, e-mail DFO.SRKW-ERS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca and express your support for scenario A with an amendment to remove the No Go zone on the Swiftsure,” Mike Hicks of the Capital Regional District board of directors wrote in a letter to the paper.

Under both scenarios, those waters could also see “expansion of fishery closures to include additional recreational fisheries and/or commercial fisheries.”

It wasn’t clear what that meant, but for the Gulf Islands shellfishing — crabbing and shrimping — is listed as a possibility there.

In areas identified as critical foraging waters at the mouth of the Fraser River is another proposed voluntary no-fishing zone, next to areas that were closed last year and will be this year.

Earlier this week DFO announced large-scale changes to salmon fisheries in the Dixon Entrance, off Vancouver Island and in the Fraser itself to protect Chinook coming back to the river and benefit orcas.

Canadian managers are also proposing voluntary and mandatory changes for small boaters and commercial vessels in areas designated critical habitat, enhanced management and no-go zones.

Comments are open through May 1 for Canadians, First Nations and stakeholders, with meetings planned next week in Sooke, Victoria and Richmond.

Brown Sends Oregon Senate List Of 5 New Commission Nominees

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has submitted a slate of Fish and Wildlife Commission candidates to the state Senate for consideration next month.

The field includes a double Purple Heart recipient/Northeast Oregon hunting guide; Willamette Valley winery owner/former Department of Fish and Wildlife staffer; Siletz guide/crabber; chair of the ODFW legislative funding task force; and a Wild Rivers Coast Alliance board of directors member/South Coast rancher.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES LUKEMAN PRESENTS 1ST LT. JIM NASH OF THE 2ND TANK BATTALION WITH ONE OF TWO PURPLE HEART MEDALS HE RECEIVED ON MARCH 6, 2013 FOR WOUNDS SUSTAINED IN A MORTAR ATTACK AND FROM AN IED WHILE DEPLOYED IN AFGHANISTAN. (CPL. AUSTIN LONG, DVIDS)

Those nominees are Capt. James Nash, Jill Zarnowitz, Robert Spelbrink, Mark Labhart, and Mary Wahl.

Nash is a member of a longtime Wallowa County cattle ranching family and served as a Marine Corps tank commander in Afghanistan. He describes his life on the ranch and his duty overseas in a compelling July 2018 video produced by Oregon optics maker Leupold.

Zarnowitz has a master’s degree from the University of Washington in fish and wildlands management and worked on water policy for ODFW, and has been the general manager and now coowner of Stag Hollow Wines outside Yamhill.

Spelbrink guides on the Siletz River and has operated the F/V Alliance fishing commercially for crab as well as salmon and albacore.

Wahl also comes from a ranching family, but in the opposite corner of Oregon, near Langlois. With a masters in public administration from Harvard, she managed toxic cleanups for the state and watershed operations in Portland before retiring “to focus on conservation efforts on Oregon’s south coast,” according to her commission application.

And Labhart worked for the Oregon Department of Forestry, served on a board looking into sudden oak death syndrome issues, retired after several years as a Tillamook County Commissioner, and chaired the state legislature’s task force that looked for ways to better fund ODFW before moving to Sisters.

They are scheduled to be considered by the Senate Rules Committee on May 8.

At full strength, Oregon’s commission has seven members, one from each of the state’s five Congressional districts, a sixth from west of the Cascades, the seventh from east of the crest.

Currently there is one open seat while the terms of Chair Michael Finley of Medford and members Holly Akenson of Enterprise and Bruce Buckmaster of Astoria all expire in the coming two months.

The nomination of Buckmaster four springs ago sparked well-founded unease amongst the sportfishing industry, though he was ultimately confirmed by the Senate. His term isn’t being extended for a second four years, but Brown has nominated him to serve on the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board — where he had been the Fish and Wildlife Commission representative since last year — in an at-large seat, according to a member of the governor’s staff.

The terms of Jim Bittle of Central Point and Greg Wolley of Portland run into next year, while that of Bob Webber of Port Orford had been extended past the end of his second term in February 2018 until new commissioners are named, when his service will end, according to the official.

Editor’s note, 9 a.m. April 22, 2019: The last two paragraphs have been tweaked to clarify that Mr. Buckmaster’s appointment to the watershed board would essentially transition from being the representative of the Fish and Wildlife Commission to a public at-large position if confirmed, and that Mr. Webber’s extended term on the commission would end in mid-May after Senate confirmation of new members.

2 More Days For Columbia Springers Coming Up

Columbia spring Chinook fishing will reopen this Saturday and Sunday, and water conditions — while still not ideal — should be better than last weekend.

SPRING CHINOOK BOATS RUN UPSTREAM IN THE WESTERN COLUMBIA GORGE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Oregon and Washington salmon managers made the call this afternoon.

The river will be open in the same areas as before, Warrior Rock to Bonneville Dam, with only bank angling allowed above Beacon Rock.

Officials estimate that around 696 springers will be kept, and that will bring the cumulative mortalities on upriver-bound fish to 2,023 of the 3,689 available before a runsize update, or 55 percent of the quota.

The Columbia is still turbid, with today’s fact sheet reporting visibility at 2 feet, less than half the average, and is a degree below usual but flows are running at a less-than-typical 219,000 cubic feet per second and 10.0 feet at the Vancouver gauge, 6 feet below flood stage, which it hit right before last weekend’s opener.

“Both effort and catch were very low on April 13-14 due to poor water conditions,” the fact sheet stated.

Buzz Ramsey reported that viz didn’t look as good as was listed in the fact sheet, however, when he stopped by Dalton Point this afternoon, more like 1 foot.

“It’s not like it’s chocolate, but it’s brown,” he said.

Test netting this week saw a big jump in catches, with a total handle of 75 springers on Monday, more than twice as many as the four previous periods combined and well up from the seven of the week before.

“There might be a few fish caught, but I don’t think it will be overwhelming,” Ramsey forecasted about the April 20-21 fishery.

The reopener allows NSIA’s big Spring Fishing Classic to also be held on the Columbia instead of just the Willamette and other open tribs.

“We’re looking for people to sign up and fight the good fight for sportfishing,” Ramsey said.

A rules change this year will allow participants and teams to fish off the shore instead of just out of a boat.

“The banks might be the place to be. One thing is for sure, if I was fishing from the bank, I wouldn’t be casting too far,” Ramsey said.